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 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.


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