A faithful reader asks:
My partner, Bill, and I have been together for 3 years. During that time I’ve had 5 other relationships, and he has had one continuous relationship for the past 2 years.
Last fall, I moved across the state to pursue my Masters degree. I underestimated how painful and difficult it would be to transition from local to long distance. Here is the skinny:
- I hang out with him about twice a month. Meanwhile, he spends almost every day that I’m not in town with his other girlfriend. This is extraordinarily challenging for me, and I find myself having a lot of rage/hurt/insecurities stemming from it, despite reassurance that it’s not a personal slam, it’s a reality of geography.
- I am friends with his other girlfriend, but lately have been avoiding her because I feel terrible about how every single mention of her name or reminder of her drives me bonkers with a degree of jealousy and fear I haven’t had before.
- Our relationship has been struggling somewhat since, a year ago, we realized that he no longer shared our old dream of being partners and cohabitating, and he doesn’t want that with anybody right now. I’ve been slowly getting over it.
- I have an anxiety disorder. My therapist finally talked me into starting meds for it, and now as I look back on all of the various meltdowns I’ve had, I am afraid I’ve irreparably broken our relationship.
- We have almost broken up many many times, and finally just made the commitment to start trying to fix things, since we clearly really suck at breaking up, and love each other despite the difficulties.
- I have a local girlfriend that I see maybe twice a month as well.. She’s quite busy with her primary relationship.
- I recognize that my jealousy is probably also part envy… I want what he has, a happy, stable, calm relationship, and that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me right now.
I know it’s a broken relationship, I’m just never sure when broken is Too Broken To Fix, especially when we both are actively trying to repair. I am fearful that maybe I am really just awful at polyamory, and tricking myself into thinking that I am- that the past 3 years have been a fluke. I’m not sure what here is loneliness from a new city, guilt over having anxiety issues, envy, mourning a dream, jealousy, me being insecure, or maybe he’s not communicating well. I’m approaching it by taking charge of and changing the things I have control over, but I am curious about how you would handle losing a dream, your partner suddenly spending every evening with somebody else because you moved across the state, and being envious of your partner’s healthy love situation. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.
How I handle losing a dream? Well, first off, I go off by myself and cry awhile, if I’m being honest with myself. If not, I tend to get into a right royal rage first, then go off and cry. Sorry, not unflappable. There are times when I wish I were.
Sometimes relationships transition intent well, and sometimes they don’t. It seems to me especially to be the case when the desire for the different form or goals in the relationship isn’t entirely mutual. You’re alluding that it isn’t entirely.
I would find your life situation challenging, myself, and I’m pretty good at getting my own emotional needs met –well, usually. Right now, you are genuinely, no kidding, under a lot of stress. Have you ever done one of those stress assessments where they say you need to be in the funny farm if you’re over 300 points? Guess what, m’dear? Moving, relationship problems, starting or ending school, and changes in therapy aren’t at the top of the list, but you’d have to go to prison or lose a family member before you’d get any of the top stuff. So, yeah, stress. You and your therapist know better than I do what stress does to an anxiety disorder.
As far as “awful at polyamory”? I’d be hard put to slap that label on you without a lot more info. Certainly anxiety disorders are no help to polyamorous relationships, but one of the realities of polyamory is that not all relationships, even really good ones are necessarily life-long. The thing is, that’s okay. Sure, sure, you can choose badly in relationships (I have!) but there’s no shame in moving on and evolving, either.
Are you jealous that your partner is getting time with a partner when you’re often lonely? Clearly! That doesn’t make you horrible at polyamory. It makes you human. Even the crustiest of introverts, such as Your Faithful Scrivener, need human interaction on a fairly regular basis. You might want to consider finding a partner with whom you can spend some more time. There are times when poly giveth and poly taketh away J
Now, I’ve no idea in the world how much time your studies actually take, but I’ll pay your school the compliment of assuming that its graduate studies program is demanding. So maybe your time for The Hunt isn’t really all that copious. That’s where you bump your nose against one of the realities of polyamory. Love may be infinite; time is not.
I’d say at this point you would do well to give some thought to your real priorities. I do encourage you to take a good, hard look at your mental health. Getting square with mental health issues can only improve everything else. You can have, and even repair, relationships that have been through mental health problems on the part of the people involved, but not without getting a good handle on the issues, first.
Since you do have a reasonably regular schedule of seeing some partners, one thing you might want to consider is why you moved in the first place! You’re going to school, yes? There’s no shame in pouring your energy into that, and going ahead with that few times a week schedule with your partners.
You might want to switch to a version that plugs in… Batteries are sooo expensive!