brooksmoses: (Brooks and Suzanne)
[personal profile] brooksmoses
The word "family", in the sense of "chosen family" (which may or may not include one's "blood family"), can mean a lot of different things to different people. Likewise, especially in the poly world but even in the world of standard-appearing monogamous relationships, "partner" (in the relationship sense, not the business sense) can mean a remarkable lot of things.

As a result of some recent miscommunications, I'm chewing over what these mean to me, and I'm feeling very curious: What do these words mean to you, if and when you use them for your relationships? Do they have implications about what sorts of things you can rely on someone for, or what they can rely on you for? Are there expectations of willingness to perform emotional labor, or physical labor, or provide resources? (In exceptional circumstances? As a normal pattern?) Are there expectations of where the relationship fits in daily life? Of there being particular emotions that tend to come from the relationship?

Date: 2016-04-03 11:12 pm (UTC)
snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
From: [personal profile] snippy
What do these words mean to you, if and when you use them for your relationships?
Family are the people I want to visit me in the hospital. Family are the people I would ask for help if I needed it (e.g., recovery from major surgery). Some family are partners. Partners are people I made a commitment to, the commitment varies but usually includes "I will do my best to continue our relationship in a mutually satisfying form" where the alternative is "I make no commitment to work things out if I decide it's time for me to not be in a relationship with you."

Do they have implications about what sorts of things you can rely on someone for, or what they can rely on you for?
I prefer not to have implications but to negotiate and state expectations, but sure, implications creep in. I think the big one for me is that family can ask. Family can ask for help, for social time together, for recognition and acknowledgement. And I will give serious consideration before saying no. Whereas with more distant/less intimate relationships my default answer is no, and a yes requires consideration.

Are there expectations of willingness to perform emotional labor, or physical labor, or provide resources? (In exceptional circumstances? As a normal pattern?)
I think there are expectations, on all sides, but from my side, I try to take people's demonstrated capabilities and willingness into account, and I try to be honest about what I am capable of providing. Generally YES all of these things are part of being in a more intimate relationship than that of friendship or co-worker, for example.

Are there expectations of where the relationship fits in daily life?
Not from me, because I am very clear about what I want in daily life and I communicate it. It's challenging to be in relationship with people who don't communicate the way I do, but almost all of my family/partner relationships are in that category.

Of there being particular emotions that tend to come from the relationship?
I at least like very much all the people in my family and I love my partners. I love most of my family. I hope they feel that way about me, but I count as family at least one person that is changeable and ambiguous due to mental health issues: sometimes zie hates me, and sometimes zie doesn't like me, and zie certainly doesn't want to spend time with me most of the time. Still family to me, though.

Date: 2016-04-05 08:12 pm (UTC)
griffen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] griffen
Family used to mean "danger zone" and "place where I got hurt." I never used to understand why people would give two shits about their parent's sibling's child. It's just the luck of the draw, right? You are related by pure chance; why make such a big deal about it? I love my kids, but I don't love them because they're my kids. I love them because they're awesome human beings that I would want to have in my life anyway.

Then I began to find chosen families. Faire was the first big one, I think. My temple is another. And of course, my Joe and the several people who are my very, very close friends whom I'd lay down my life for.

A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of "mishpacha," or "family," in a different sense than I'd heard the word before. The idea is: I've got your back. I'll be there if things go south. You can count on me.

So today, the word "family" only means "chosen," and it means "the people for whom, if things go south for them, I'll be there to help in any way I can."

Date: 2016-04-07 03:07 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Um. That's a good question. And I realized that I've been having my fatigue issues for a long enough time that I've been wandering through life long enough that I haven't really thought about them. Well, not until I was about to fly and hand to create an emergency contact and chose it to be Milli as the closest physically and chosen-familially. But I don't have well defined notions.

I do know that when I'm thinking of someone as something akin to chosen family, there's willingness to provide what I reasonably can - emotional or physical labor or resources - on an as-needed basis. And, of course, "reasonable" and "needed" can be very fluid. A big enough crisis stretches what may be ordinarily reasonable and what can be called a "need" varies based on circumstance. (A tired person might "need" enough rest to have someone fetch a few minor things if it's convenient and along the way; but a person unable to move due to physical disability needs some method of accessing things out of reach.)

Date: 2016-04-03 07:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Though I did not declare this at the time, in hindsight, we have agreed that the moment at which my not-related-to-me-by-blood sister became my sister was at one o'clock in the morning when she was sitting with me on the floor of my family's kitchen, chiseling linoleum off the floor. (My parents were redoing the kitchen. Stripping old flooring turned out to be a much bigger pain in the ass than anybody anticipated.) Chiseling up linoleum in the middle of the night is not a thing a guest to the house does; it's something a family member does. But I don't really mean that I define family by a willingness to perform physical labor, per se; it's more that family is where the formalities drop away. Family doesn't have to wait for you to offer them a drink, because they know they're free to just go get one out of the fridge themselves. (And this is part of why I don't quite feel like my in-laws are family: because when we come to visit, they're still offering me food and drink as if I were a guest. I know they don't mean that as a distancing act, but that's how it registers to my subconscious.)

"Partner" isn't a term I've thought about much. I think it implies mutuality to me in a way that "family" doesn't necessarily: partners are equals, co-invested in something (the relationship, daily life) on roughly comparable terms. Whereas with family, the relationship is often asymmetric (parents/children).

Date: 2016-04-03 09:56 am (UTC)
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rosefox
Power asymmetry doesn't mean relationship asymmetry, though. There might be a situation where a parent says "You, child, are my family" and the child says "No I'm not", or vice versa, but those are pretty rare edge cases. For the most part, person A and person B either are family to each other or they aren't.

Date: 2016-04-03 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I didn't mean that the "yes, you are family" part was asymmetric -- just the way the people in the dyad relate to one another. Partners (to me) are equals operating on roughly equivalent terms; parents and children aren't, even when the children are grown up, because the roads the parent and the child took into the relationship are so radically different.

Date: 2016-04-03 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can tell you the moment when I knew my in-laws had become family. I was very sick--the beginning of what would become my chronic health problem, woo--and [ profile] markgritter and I were in the middle of an eight-hour drive to a friend's wedding in Chicago. I blurted out, "I just want to go home to your folks' in Milwaukee instead." Before then, while I was fond of his folks, I wasn't yet at the point where I would have ever called it "home" or wanted to be there when I was miserable--I would rather have been in a comfy nice hotel than dealing with my in-laws.

And there are members of my family with whom that is still so, and they're still my family, but--that was the moment when I knew, with my in-laws, that we had crossed that line from Mark's parents to my parents-in-law.

Date: 2016-04-03 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can absolutely see that. And yeah, if I were sick, I'd rather be in a nice comfy hotel -- which is a metric of how things stand in my particular case.

Date: 2016-04-03 11:15 am (UTC)
rosefox: Lots of hearts with lines connecting them and the caption "Love begets love". (polyamory)
From: [personal profile] rosefox
*shrug* *handwave* I've pretty much moved away from using those terms other than as useful shorthand when talking with people outside the relationships. I just say "my people" or "my [name]". At some point several years ago, it stopped making any sense to me to distinguish between types of connection based on degree of life-entanglement, especially because we just don't have good single words or terms for my connections to the people who are important to me. So I choose to prioritize the people and the relationships over the vocabulary.
Edited Date: 2016-04-03 11:16 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-04 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I haven't been close to my relatives in a long time and while I love my in-laws I also tend to be somewhat guarded around them. I'm a shy introvert; that's just me.

My family of choice at any given time is where I let my boundaries down. Unfortunately I tend to move frequently and lose track of those people. Right now my family are my spouse and kids.

Partner is a more temporary position than spouse. I don't have multiple spouses, I have one and a partner. I can count on my partner for the usual things we do, for some emotional support, and for an occasional emergency. But when the chips are down, I don't expect my partner to drop everything and come to my rescue like I expect my spouse to. On the other hand perhaps that's not so much about family and partners and more about my marriage and the fact that we are a solid team.

Date: 2016-04-06 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Partner" is descriptive rather than valuative for me. I have a long-term partner, and we are very connected, but the areas in which I rely on him or can be confident that he will be what I hope for are limited (significant, but limited).

"Family" for me is more about what I will do for someone than about what they will do for me. Everyone is different about how and what they can give, want to give, are prepared to give. I know someone is family when I reflexively or automatically go out of my way for them, when that moment of "is this right or is it misusing myself" is missing, and I jump right into what is needed. The way that "family" is commutative is much less about what my family will do for me than how important we are to each other, how the connection matters to both of us and missing each other or being delighted to be with each other feels equal.
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