So with all the hullabaloo going on with Girlfriend’s family and in-laws, it got me thinking about my family. If I were to travel home and bring Girlfriend with me, would they refuse to see her? If I brought my children with me to see their grandparents, would my parents decline the opportunity to see my children just because Girlfriend happened to be in the car with me? Would they shout her off their property?
I realize it probably wasn’t the wisest thing for me to do, but I was feeling quite shocked at what Girlfriend was being subjected to. I don’t know. Maybe I felt like I wanted to share the misery with her. Maybe I felt like if she were having to tell all of her family to go to hell, it wouldn’t be fair if I weren’t willing to do the same thing with mine. I’m not sure exactly. But I contacted my mother. “Hey,” I said. “I haven’t got any definite plans made, but I’m just kicking around the idea of maybe taking a week-long vacation with Girlfriend later this summer and maybe stopping in town to see you guys for a few days. What would you think?”
Silence. Except for the low whir of the cogs turning in her head. Then: “If you come, would you plan on staying here with us?”
Ah. Right to the nitty gritty. That was exactly what I wanted to know. “If we were welcome, yes.”
Another pause. “I can’t speak for your father, but for my part, it would be fine as long as you respect our wishes not to sleep together in our house.”
Whew. Okay. One hurdle passed, but I was curious about the limits of what she was okay with. I know. I should have stopped there. But I pressed on. “When you say ‘sleep together,’ is that a euphemism for sex, or are you saying you would only be comfortable if we were in separate rooms?”
“I meant separate rooms. That may seem silly to you, but I’m sure your father and I would feel more comfortable,” she said. And then, just a breath later and before I could respond, she followed up with: “Of course, as long as you didn’t feel the need for confession come morning, once Dad and I are asleep, you could do whatever you wanted.”
If I had been talking to her in person, I think I would have been tempted to give her a high five. As it was, I thanked her for being receptive to Girlfriend as a person and for allowing me the right to make decisions in my life. I reiterated to her that this was only the early planning stages and who knew? maybe the trip would never happen. And I hung up. Ecstatic.
Wow. Did you see that? It’s possible for religious people to care enough about the people involved that they can overlook the sinful lives those people are leading, and love them regardless. I was pretty excited that my parents were open enough to accept me and those I loved into their lives as well.
But after basking in that small victory for a while, I realized it wasn’t enough. Call me greedy. I decided to call up my sister. The one who had chewed me out because I had kissed Girlfriend in public before my divorce was finalized.
“Hey, Sis,” I said. “I was just sitting here thinking about you and wondering, you know, now that the divorce is official and everything, if maybe you’d be okay meeting Girlfriend some time.”
“Well,” she said, her voice thick with indecision. “I’m actually pretty conflicted about it.”
“I think I can understand that,” I told her. “You feel like you have spent a lot of years building a strong relationship with ex-Wife and meeting someone new would almost be a sort of betrayal to her?”
“Actually, that’s not it at all.” That surprised me. I was under the impression that it was for that very reason that she had been so upset with me for having kissed Girlfriend in public. “It’s actually that I’m really mad at her.”
“Oh. For breaking up my family?” I asked.
“Not really, no. I mean, that was your decision and ex-Wife’s decision, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s done with. I’m just mad that you’ve given up everything for her, and she’s given up nothing for you.”
“Well, that’s only because you don’t know.” I thought of everything that had been going on with Girlfriend lately, and I didn’t even know how to start telling her about it all in a single conversation. “I don’t really want to bore you with all the details, but trust me, she has given up a lot for me.”
“No. I’m sure she has, but what I mean is that you’ve left your wife and children and are living alone in a tiny apartment, and meanwhile she’s still got her husband and her children surrounding her and living comfortably in her home. I’m mad that she’s asking you to make all the sacrifices so that you and she can have a relationship and she’s still got everything she had before in addition to you. It just feels like she’s using you.”
I could sense that she was still struggling trying to understand our relationship in terms of monogamy. Like the only way it would be right for me to give up my wife was for her to give up her husband. Then Girlfriend and I could be a new monogamous couple. I said, “Okay. Let’s back up a little bit. I explained to you about polyamory, right? Where one person isn’t owned by another person? That relationships should be between the two people involved and not have external parties dictating what can and can’t happen?”
“Yes,” she said, “I understand the concept of polyamory.”
“Okay. So I explained my desire to be polyamorous to my wife, and she divorced me. Girlfriend explained her desire to be polyamorous to her husband, and he said he thought he could live with that. So you have to look at that and realize that we have both sacrificed monogamy. She doesn’t really view herself as married anymore. She has rejected the institution of marriage and is living a polyamorous lifestyle with both me and Mr. Wonderful. She is still physically living with her husband because logistically it makes sense. They have a bigger house. They share children together. She still needs to be there for them.
“In addition, she has been very open with her family about her new lifestyle choices and has been spurned and rejected because of it. Her own mother is hardly speaking to her right now. Mr. Wonderful’s parents would probably delight in seeing her stoned to death for adultery if they could figure out a way to make it happen without someone ending up in prison. Most of her siblings vocally oppose her. And right now, Mr. Wonderful is having second thoughts about polyamory and although I don’t know what he will end up doing, there is the real possibility that their marriage hangs in the balance. You only think she hasn’t given up anything for me because you don’t know the whole story.”
Yes. I got a little long-winded. I know.
“Okay,” she said. “I feel a lot better knowing that. I was just so worried that after you’ve given up everything she’d just drop you when things got difficult for her. And then what would you be left with?”
“Now that you understand the situation a little better, do you think you’d be willing to meet her? I’ve been wanting you two to get to know each other for a long time. I’m sure you would like each other.”
“Hmmm,” she said, and I could hear the indecision dripping from her voice again. “I’m not sure. I’m still a little … I don’t know. I guess I won’t be able to like her until after I’ve met her. So … yeah. I’ll meet her.”
We worked out a tentative plan to see if we could meet for lunch some time next week at a fast food restaurant that had a child’s play area so that Girlfriend could bring her children and they wouldn’t make conversation completely impossible.
I dunno. That went better than I feared. Before last week, I would have expected the best from my family, but after what I saw with Girlfriend’s family, I just had to know for sure. I can definitely see them still wrestling the inclination to shun, but I’m really pleased to know that their relationship with me is more important to them than their desire to punish or reject those whose actions they disagree with.