A question for other sibs: when you have a new partnerPosted: February 15, 2011
I’ve mentioned that I just started seeing someone new, and I was impressed by his ability to discuss my sister as a person. We just had another interesting set of conversations involving Lily. There was a moment during which I was trying to explain how remarkable it was that he had acknowledged her humanity, because it really has been a bit rare that people haven’t seriously flinched when I’ve talked about her. He admitted that he was a bit scared by the fact of her complicated life, and what that would mean about my responsibilities for her care and well-being in the future. I told him that I felt that that was a totally fair thing to feel and say, and I said that it sometimes scared me, too. Because that’s the truth: sometimes it does.
(An aside: I sense that he’s also been around too much of the SuperCrip image and caretakers who tend towards positive stereotyping as a coping mechanism, based on some other things he said, but hey: that’s relatively easy to address.)
Look, it’s way too soon to be thinking about anything beyond our next date or two, if you ask me. Yet I am, because there seems to be something honest and good between us. His mentioning Lily’s long-term care suggests that he might be feeling something similar. This is both lovely and terrifying, especially since there’s so much for us to learn about each other first and so many details to work out that have nothing to do with my family. And yet my family keeps being a topic of conversation, and my sister’s medical needs and her living situation and my relationship with her and with my parents because of her are all things that keep making themselves obvious, to me, as affecting how I am around him.
So, how do you do it? How do you talk to your partners about your siblings? And when? I mean, it’s one thing to learn how to discuss Lily with new friends who don’t have any romantic potential, or with new colleagues or supervisors. But when it’s a potentially serious romance – doesn’t that change things? Lily first came up in conversation for relatively innocuous reasons, but I’m also going through some stress right now as I am sort of helplessly watching her independent living plans crumble and be rebuilt (my folks are looking for a new program for her at the moment), and any man I’m dating will end up seeing that affect me. (Thankfully, I have amazing friends who are invaluable supports right now, and that takes a lot of the edge off of the stress of juggling my family stuff and the dating stuff.) And as any relationship intensifies, you’ll eventually need to talk about things you’re looking for – if you want kids, if you want marriage, if you want neither, etc., and when it’s a full committed relationship, you need to decide where to live and who does what around the house and where to spend holidays. None of that has to be discussed in the first few months of dating, although some of it arises naturally – like, I know I have travel plans in the near-ish future for family related stuff, so I know I’m not free to spend time with him then. (Or anyone else, like the two or three other friends with whom I’m trying to arrange social time.)
I’ve always been afraid that Lily’s presence in my life would scare off potential partners, would prevent me from ever achieving my own desired family – which I envisioned as a partner and children. I never dated anyone with whom I could truly picture a serious long-term relationship, until now, and I’m a bit flummoxed: I do not want to have Lily (or my parents) be an issue at the moment, but it’s important to me that anyone who is a part of my life know what she means to me and how she affects me.
I know that a lot of people do find partners, who get married and have kids and often have even more direct responsibilities for their sibs than I currently have for Lily. So if anyone out there is reading this and is willing to share, I’m eager for input…