Proximity, Social Pressure, and Same Sex Erasure in Polyamorous Relationships

a picture of a park bench with the words "this seat taken" and a downward pointing arrow written on it
Image by JapanBlack / CC BY

Today’s guest post is from LH, a poly, kinky, queer lady, who identifies as a lesbian. She feels lucky to have found a primary partner who is sweet and loving and makes her feel valued, and a secondary partner whose steady support is a foundation for her. She has been challenged and grown a lot safely, surrounded by the love of these two people. She is planning a home with her primary partner, metamour, and their brood of pets.†

And check out what LH wrote for Poly Land:

Proximity, Social Pressure, and Same Sex Erasure in Polyamorous Relationships

When you’re a part of a same sex relationship, it’s sometimes hard to be recognized. A lot of erasure happens, and when it happens a lot in a short period of time, it can be really hurtful and traumatic.

I’ve been dating someone for a while. Constantly asking for more time. She isn’t touchy-feely, she says. She’s not a snuggler, she says.

I come into the kitchen of her new roommate who she touches lightly in passing. They snuggle on the couch later while I feel neglected.

We go on a trip — our first trip — and her long term friends are along. One of them jumps into the empty spot in the bed I was preparing to occupy. Keeps trying to sit next to her, in the seat beside her, on the floor near her.

Her other partner is in the other seat next to her and her friend’s intentions are unknown to me, but the social implication is not: He has more right to her space because he’s a man who wants it, and I am just the girlfriend.

It is probably not this individual’s conscious intention, but it feels that way.

Social Pressure and Erasure

Because my relationships are often same sex ones, those relationships are frequently challenged through a series of microaggressions.

It’s even harder still when it’s a poly relationship in which I am the newest partner. Even if that partner and I are calling ourselves primaries, the lack of social recognition on the same fronts as the other primary relationship can make one feel less important.

This compounds the first issue when the other partner is a man, because so much more social support is automatically given to heterosexual relationships. In those cases, it’s especially important that friends of partners respect my relationship.

That Seat Is Definitely Taken

Proximity is the study of spatial distance between people and the sociological implications of those we allow in those spaces. Our intimate space is reserved for the people closest to us, and allowing them into that space is a readable sign to the outside world that this person is special to us.

For queer people, especially we older LGBTQIA people, that form of recognition is especially important when public displays of affection are unavailable.

Resource Scarcity and Strained Tolerance

I often wind up dating people with limited capacity for physical contact. The partners I have had who aren’t as touch-needy as I am often try to accommodate me in that regard, by providing snuggles when possible. In response I try to create opportunities for them to share space with me in social settings without smothering them. It’s especially galling when I want to be touching them and am trying to honor their space needs, and someone who isn’t a partner flops on them.

While the world doesn’t always see me as someone’s partner, I do want reassurance that my partner does, and I want that expressed in ways that make that relationship explicit.

Avoiding Erasure by Making Same Sex Connection Visible

I personally would be happy wrapped around one of my favorite humans for the entirety of a movie, as I’ve gone long chunks of my life without relationships or in long distance ones. I am currently loving having frequent access to physical affection. Touch is one of my primary love languages.

For some reason or another, many of my partners have preferred less physical affection, so we find little ways to compromise on those needs. Hand holding is a way my partners and I also make our connection visible.

This is especially important for same sex relationships and exponentially so for same sex poly relationships.

While we try to figure out what our space looks like with this person, it is essential that our partners are holding that space for us until we know if we need it.

*

†Note: The things LH writes about reflect the experiences of growing up queer in a rural conservative area, being polyamorous and single, queer erasure in romantic relationships, and the struggle to find support for relationships that have no blueprint. The characters in her work refer to a collection of events over a number of years of frustrating and at times, alienating poly experiences, and not a specific person.

 

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