I’ve just met a really great guy. We’ve been dating for about a few months now, and every day, I fall more for him in little ways. I know I should just assume this is the honeymoon phase, but it feels a little different than that. Intangible.
He is polyamorous, and has been with his other partner for about a year (they are not primaries to each other, and he has told me she is far from being “The One” (What a phrase, for a poly, eh? Haha)). Anyway… This is the first poly relationship I’ve been in, and from the utter oppression I felt in my last relationship, I really enjoy the idea of freely loving someone, and vice versa. I in no way ever really intended to go down this path, but I think there’s potential here, in this method of loving, and I am optimistic about the possibilities…
This hurts. This hurts terribly. He’s very open with me with regards to who his other partner is, what they do together, and that sort of thing. He listens when I have things to say and is understanding and offers advice and affection when I need it. I’ve read The Ethical Slut. I’ve read blogs. I’ve taken up meditation and yoga…
When does it stop hurting? When does jealousy and fear and insecurity and everything else fade? Is there something else I’m missing? Should I do something else?
My biggest fear is that this poly isn’t the thing for me, and I’m going to lose him because of it.
I’ve just spent an hour writing and erasing replies to this. Why?
- It triggered last week’s rant because I really don’t see love here, but addiction.
- I’m wincing at the whole, “My other partner isn’t really ‘The One'” thing, as it smells like bait for a trap and manipulation.
Making yourself be poly if that’s not your thing to keep a partner is moronic. It won’t get any better if you’re not wired that way. There are over seven billion people in this world. If you’re monogamous, you only need one that will be a good partner for you. Why run with what is essentially an addiction? I’m not saying losing him won’t hurt if it happens. It will, hoo boy will it ever! But pain fades, and you can learn from it.
Since it’s entirely possible that I’m completely off-base with where you’re coming from, let’s address that jealousy, and get really specific. When do you get that ouch that gets you in the guts?
- Is it when you feel left out?
- Is it when you’re not sure what you mean to your partner?
- Is it because you’re not sure where the relationship is going?
- Is it when you’re feeling lonely?
You’ll start to notice a pattern when you start answering these questions for yourself.
I’ll give an example. The left out thing came to mind because I really dislike feeling left out. Yet, I’m an introvert. That means I need great heaping mounds of alone time to be mentally healthy. So, an extroverted partner might (in an genuine attempt to be kind) refrain from asking me along to events very often. Then I might start feeling neglected, left out and unimportant to that partner who was trying to do me a kindness and help me take care of my emotional needs.
Being a big girl, I am responsible for analyzing it, and then talking to my partner about it. So I tell my partner how I’m feeling. The partner suggests that he’ll just invite me to every event where my company would be welcome and let me decide whether or not I want to go or need to be alone. Because my partner understands that turning down events isn’t rejection, this works for both of us. (Though if he had a problem with rejection, we’d probably have to talk more to come up with another solution that worked for us).
Now that likely isn’t your problem, but I wanted to outline the process. You need to poke at the jealousy. You need to find out where the insecurity is coming from. Then you’ll have a clearer idea of how to handle it.
Now if you’ve read any early Twentieth Century psychology you might have this expectation that once you find the key log in your jam of emotions and move it, everything else will go tumbling down the stream without any problem at all. Freud and Jung both tended to imply this when they wrote about their patients. Nothing could be further from the truth. What’s more likely, when working on any emotional issue, is that you’ll be chipping away at it day by day, making tiny bits of progress over time to the point that you may not notice in the moment what kind of progress is being made. Change is more often a matter of consistent, tedious work rather than big, dramatic epiphanies.
Either way, good luck!
7 thoughts on “When Does it Stop Hurting”
Addiction is one way to look at what is going on for this person, but perhaps it could be looked at from the point of view of attachment style. I am just learning about this, but it may be a very useful model for polys. I heard a talk on it at NW Polycamp last August, and the speakers thought that polys might have different attachment styles with different partners at the same time. This seems to be born out in my own experience. The speakers also reccommended a book:
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind?and Keep?Love [Paperback]
Amir Levine (Author), Rachel Heller
Here is a synopsis of it I found on the Seattle Public Library site:
Is there a science to love? In this groundbreaking book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller reveal how an understanding of attachment theory-the most advanced relationship science in existence today-can help us find and sustain love. Attachment theory forms the basis for many bestselling books on the parent/child relationship, but there has yet to be an accessible guide to what this fascinating science has to tell us about adult romantic relationships-until now. Attachment theory owes its inception to British psychologist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, who in the 1950s examined the tremendous impact that our early relationships with our parents or caregivers has on the people we become. Also central to attachment theory is the discovery that our need to be in a close relationship with one or more individuals is embedded in our genes. In Attached , Levine and Heller trace how these evolutionary influences continue to shape who we are in our relationships today. According to attachment theory, every person behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways: *ANXIOUS people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. *AVOIDANT people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. *SECURE people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mates) follow. It also offers readers a wealth of advice on how to navigate their relationships more wisely given their attachment style and that of their partner. An insightful look at the science behind love, Attached offers readers a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections.
I think that book certainly sounds interesting, and may well be worth reading, but the “anxious/avoidant/secure people” thing rubs me the wrong way. I’ve been all of those things, in poly and monogamous relationships, given the context and the person I’m involved with and the state of our relationship/s.
One book I’d HIGHLY recommend is Tristan Taormino’s “Opening Up,” which goes over a LOT of different “flavors” of poly, and talks with real people (including a few friends of mine, coincidentally) about how they manage their relationships and process any negative stuff that they’re dealing with.
One thing that stood out to me was this:
“He’s very open with me with regards to who his other partner is, what they do together, and that sort of thing.”
Now, that could ABSOLUTELY be the sign of a partner who is trying to be completely up-front and honest, by keeping you informed.
However, some people, myself included, actually aren’t entirely comfortable hearing about details of our partners’ other relationships — we discuss sexual-health issues, everyone gets tested, we make sure that the other person is reasonably stable and not a drama llama, and then my partner goes about [in this example] his relationship with her, I know they’re sexually and romantically involved, I hear about *events* that happen in their relationship (she’s stressed at work, or they tried a new restaurant), but I actually prefer not to hear sexual details.
It’s not a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation, it’s just that I feel uncomfortably intrusive “eavesdropping” on their sex life. We’re all friends, we hang out, she and I feed each other’s cats if we go out of town — but I don’t need to know the details of what my boyfriend does with his other girlfriend, and since he and I talked and he understands that it’s not a matter of denial, I just feel squicky hearing sexual stuff about someone I’m not involved with, we’re all cool. And this has been going on for years.
And in other relationships, it may well be different — my other two partners are married to each other, and I’m *delighted* to hear any details they happen to share with me, because I think it’s hot to imagine my lovers together, and it makes me happy to know that they’re still madly in love and desirous of each other.
So — just something to chew over. You can absolutely have compersion and be totally cool about your boyfriend’s other partner, but that doesn’t mean that hearing “what they do together” might not be triggering some jealousy/insecurity.
The Goddess of Java has some really good advice — think back on the times when you’ve had the worst jealous/insecure feelings, and try to nail them down. If it’s being left out, or needing reassurance of your partner’s feelings, or where your relationship is going, or feeling lonely — THAT is stuff that you can talk to your partner about, and try to find ways to work together to minimize those feelings.
Something as simple as “It would help me a lot if you gave me a kiss and told me you loved me before you headed out on your date” can mean a great deal emotionally 🙂
And, as the Goddess also said — if you’re sad and hurting MORE than you’re joyful and content, poly, or poly with this person, may not be for you. And that’s not a failing.
— A <3
I was always of the “You do not have to tell me all, just follow the spirit and letter of the rules we’ve set out and I trust you.” school when it came to my partner’s dates. “We went out to the movies and back to her place.” was all I needed to know, ya know?
And yeah, asking for the little things you need can really help!
I don’t think feeling jealous is somehow unenlightened or insecure, necessarily, nor is it an indicator of addiction-not-love, all on its own. I’ve used jealousy-is-bad as a pretty big stick when it came to fear and avoiding real intimacy and deep connection with partners in the past and I’m kind of off that way of thinking right now. Jealousy can contain valuable messages about what’s really going on and it’s important to listen to those messages and investigate.
Sometimes listening and investigating all that will take you down paths you didn’t plan on going down. When my current partner and I got together, we went into our relationship each of us with other partners. Both of us have experienced HUGE jealousy and possessiveness around each other, and that was a little freaky because neither of us had ever really dealt with that one before. We were oh ever so enlightened, before. But there you are. Whammo! Jealous like whoah sometimes. Caveman time.
We could force the poly thing, sure. It’s who we’ve each been for years. But I don’t want to force myself to live some ideal poly lifestyle because it’s somehow what I *should* be doing. That way lies misery. What’s true is, I don’t *want* either of us to have another partner right now. The truth was, neither did he. It was a moment of profound relief to cop to that. It was hugely scary and has been a great opportunity to get off my high horse about how enlightened I am. To admit that I’m capable of jealousy and possessiveness. Phew! All that secret shame is in the air now! Me? Jealous! Boy howdy. It felt like admitting to an affair after decades of secrecy. It felt GREAT. What came after all that relief was a whole lot of work on all the underlying reasons. I’m still there, btw. Doing that work. No epiphanies or magic bullets here. But it’s a lot cleaner than it was and we are both pretty happy that sh*t just got real. No more 3 am processing, for one thing.
It can feel like dying to contemplate the loss of someone you love. But you have to be willing to examine that potential reality. The fear of that pain, the desire to get what we want at any cost, can cause us to do some truly wonky stuff… That’s relationship death right there. Long, slow, baffling death.
<3 you, Rainy!! It's good to hear from you! 🙂
Yes, I agree with the other poster that less is sometimes more. In our first foray into our poly life, my love had her first secondary. I told her over and again that I didn’t want to know, and in an effort to keep a healthy seperation between the three of us. When she was with the other, I kept contact to a minimum and tried to let them enjoy the time they had. In the end it didn’t work. We also are M/s and the secondary is also a slave, in the end she could not submit to a woman and my Lady was very, very hurt. On the other hand I have been with my secondary for almost 7 months now. She also has a primary, my Lady enjoys hearing about our time together. She is not jealous in the slightest and we are all friends.
I say all this to say, you can enjoy poly very much but you may not enjoy it if it is the wrong person for you. You may not be able to hear all about their activities, but it sounds like what mama java has said you may be in this for all the wrong reasons. Please find someone you can be happy with, no matter the relationship style. Also find hapiness with yourself. Until that happens you will not find contentment.
You know, you have a good point. Polyamory may be a relationship style, but all poly people are certainly not happy with all other poly people!