As many of you who read my work know, I consider myself to be solo-poly. I practice polyamory in a way that does not entangle my life with the life of a romantic partner. I currently prefer to live alone, I don’t share my money, and I highly value my autonomy. I travel and do my thing without asking for permission or having discussions about those things with my partners.
This does not mean, however, that I don’t have a life partner. Because I do. I talk to this person about the really big things, like how to manage and afford having my knees totally replaced while living abroad and when to manage that process so it most benefits me as well as our future activities. They’re awesome, amazing, and the most precious relationship to me. When my marriage came crashing down around me, they were the person I called, asking, “Can I come home?’
My person, my life partner, the person who transcends all other people and situations is my best friend. I always write about her as my BFF. (Someday she needs to pick her book name, so I have something better to call her than that!) We met when we were in our early 20’s. That means we’ve been together longer than we were old when we met- 26 years now. I had just finished college and she was in her last year. We were both working full-time at the JC Penny department store in the mall. Funny, I believe people find each other if they are supposed to be together. We didn’t even work in the same department. We met when I was returning clothing to her department. Something clicked. A smile, a laugh, a crazy busy line at the cash desk and helping each other out.
You cannot be with someone for 26 years and not have arguments or disagreements, but we have done really well over the years. I can only remember one time when things were really tenuous between us. I was dating a man she did not like, not even a little bit, so she started to avoid spending time or talking with me because he was all I could talk about. He didn’t last long, but she’s still here.
The same can be said for both of our marriages. She got married about 2 years before me and was divorced almost exactly a year before I was. We married the same narcissistic alcoholic men. How the hell did THAT happen? We are both strong, hard-headed, opinionated, self-confident women, yet, when push came to shove we saddled ourselves with almost the same burden. Weird.
Actually, it’s kind of funny, because all along, our romantic partners have always been kind of a “side” thing to our relationship. I never got close to any of her former partners, nor her current one. She never really had any kind of connection with my partners either. It has always been me and her. Except for her daughter and our families, our focus has always been on each other. I am not sure how to explain it, except we’ve always known that WE will always outlast THEM.
We’ve been together so long now that we’ve been described as a “self-contained unit.” And if I’m being perfectly honest, spending time with us when we’re together probably isn’t that much fun for other people. Especially now that I’ve moved out of the country and we’re lucky if we see each other more than once a year. Our annual holiday together is the only time we spend concentrated, totally together, time, and we do it in a fierce very connected greedy and selfish way. I want all of her attention and she wants all of mine.
My flatmate really struggled with feeling left out the whole month BFF was here. A few years ago she invited one of her friends on holiday with us, and that poor gal often felt like she was excluded from our conversations and ideas. Truthfully, they were excluded. We have a way of just “knowing” what the other is thinking, wants, or plans to do, so we instinctively act on that knowledge and anyone who might be in our wake could get left behind.
Even though I no longer live in the US all my legal information is at her house. I have a room there. It is always available to me, no matter what. It’s a great comfort to know I can always go home. The house is big. It’s not “growing old” friendly. There are too many steep stairs for old people to live in. The plan is for her to sell the house eventually and for us to buy something together. It’ll probably be a two-family (we still do appreciate our own space) so there is an income option until I am 100% sure I’m ready to live back in the US.
GROWING OLD TOGETHER
Most of us reading this blog live in western cultures that value romantic relationships far above friendships. There is both social and legal couple privilege that permeates our societies. We assume a life partner is a “romantic couple” relationship. So what about us? The other thing that is not “growing old” friendly, is a life partner who is “just” a friend.
If you are married (or most states now recognize legal domestic partnerships) it’s easy to grow old together. Our social and legal infrastructure is set up for that. Your spouse is automatically the person who can answer medical questions. They inherit your money. They pull the plug (or not.) They can sign paperwork with/for you. You can easily buy a house and/or car together. Your spouse (or domestic partner) is assumed to be the one with the answers, legally.
We don’t live together, so we would never be able to claim legal domestic partnership. I live abroad and plan to for the foreseeable future. So how do we grow old together, as “just” friends, together apart? We want to be able to manage each other’s money someday if the other is not able to. When one of us dies, the other has the funeral arrangements to make and implement. If one of us is unable to take care of herself, we want the other to be able to make legal decisions. I don’t have children. She has an amazing daughter who calls me her second mom. But we don’t want her daughter to have the burden of making decisions we have mostly already made. And I don’t have anyone else to do it for me.
As we get older, we’ll continue to sort out these things. Already, she has power of attorney to manage any financial issue that might surface when I’m out of the country. We are both limited beneficiaries on each other’s insurance plans so we have enough money to bury the other without additional financial strain. We’ve also talked about sharing a checking account in case of emergency, right now our accounts are connected for transfers, etc. Slowly but surely we are finding ways to manage this life partnership for the very long term.
This past month while we were together we decided, “This is bullshit!” We totally fell into the old cliche, if we haven’t found the next love of our lives by 70 we will get married! Heck, we might anyway, never marrying the romantic lover, and saving that legal bond for each other. Because at the end of the day, there is always the two of us.
Everyone in our circles would understand. Everyone knows we’re already connected for life. They call us each auntie, daughter, sister, cousin. When my family says hello to me, they send greetings to her and vice versa. We don’t have to SAY that we’re life partners for most people who know us to inherently understand that this is how this works and nothing and no one is going to change that.
I have never included her in my diagrams of my polycule because she is not a romantic partner, but she is the most significant relationship in my life. Maybe I will start showing her as a permanent fixture on the chart. It might help people, like our husbands (who never understood our bond and were often jealous of our friendship) understand what they are getting into when they become involved in a relationship with me!
If you want to learn more about my polycule, check out this post.