Trust and Self-Control

I am in a non-monogamous relationship with my partner of about 18 months. We are both inexperienced in that we have both only ever had monogamous relationships before and have only been open for about 6 months now. My previous monogamous relationships did not end well and I have been cheated on, though my partner has said he has never been unfaithful in any of his previous monogamous relationships. My partner and I are still figuring out our boundaries. We started exploring by going out on dates together and a few months ago my partner found himself attracted to someone that I do not feel an attraction for. We have discussed this and he has been out on a couple of dates with this person in order to get to know them better. I have not been out on a date with anyone without my partner, but am comfortable and open to the possibility of dating another. We have discussed being transparent and open about our dates, and when he has told me about his dates I find myself reacting poorly by making snarky comments and then feeling awful about myself afterward when initially I felt comfortable discussing the situation/our boundaries and have told my partner to go have fun.

My partner has been as patient as he can be, but we have talked about it and my actions are pushing him away. I’m not entirely sure why I act the way I do when I know that I trust him, we love each other and he is not doing anything that we haven’t already discussed prior to a date with another person. We haven’t been intimate with anyone else outside of our relationship, but my partner has kissed others.

I feel like part of my reaction is a feeling of jealousy and my insecurities/baggage from my previous unfaithful “monogamous” partners. I know in my rational brain that my current partner is not lying to me and in fact is being completely transparent with me about everything, but I have this sort of knee-jerk reaction and act poorly when he’s trying to have a conversation with me about a date which of course, leaves us both feeling bad. I’m not sure how to deal with these feelings in a healthy way that will not harm my relationship and I don’t know if I could be completely comfortable with a don’t ask/don’t tell policy.

Are there ways to get over feelings of insecurity/jealousy or am I just not cut out for non-monogamy?

 

I’m not seeing anything that has me wincing or concerned that you’re fundamentally not suited for non-monogamy. And by the way, “I just don’t want monogamy” is a completely valid reason for not doing it, though then you need to find a partner who feels the same way about it.

It does seem like there are trust concerns, at least because you’re dealing with a historical trust problem with partners.

So, let’s step outside of romantic relationships for a minute. I think a huge mistake we tend to make when dealing with romantic relationships is to set them aside and give them different rules than other relationships. At a very basic level, you don’t need to. For instance, you do have non-romantic relationships. Do you have any people you really trust? Who are they? Why do you trust them?

Once you get to that point, you’ll have a starting point in what creates trust for you. When you know that, compare it to your partner’s behaviors. Do you see a common thread? If so, does it make you feel more relaxed?

If it doesn’t, while feelings are not facts, if you keep getting a niggling feeling you shouldn’t be trusting, re-examine the facts. Did you miss something? Yeah, I know. It’s subtle and that’s a pain. Something that little voice is telling you something important, and sometimes you’re reacting to the past and the present. I wish there were an easy way to tell the difference.

Thing is, that takes a lot of digging and self-exploration. You have a slightly more immediate problem – the snark when you feel insecure. Oh, do the personal work, but I’m telling you that this kind of thing takes a long time. While you’re doing that, practice a habit.

Self-control.

Wait before you speak. I am not going to say you should not show your feelings or express what’s on your mind. A real relationship is utterly impossible if you don’t know what’s going on in the heads of the people you love and they don’t know what’s going on in your head. But expressing your emotions has a range. A three year old who can’t play a video game she is excited about playing might throw herself on the floor, or cry. That’s even developmentally appropriate, though we do try to channel her feelings towards self-control. An adult who is really excited about playing a video game and is thwarted is still going to feel upset. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate to feel uncomfortable feelings when thwarted (surprise, being a self-responsible adult doesn’t mean you don’t feel stuff!). It’s what you do in the face of it. And adult would mention that it is her turn, say that she doesn’t like it when she is denied her turn. It’s expressing the same feelings as the kid, but the adult has a much bigger toolbox to deal. Thank goodness, or I’d be never be able to make a living. I’ve read many an email, thought (or even said), “You !()#$($#*&, why are you being such a !)#)$#(%$* about this issue?” I really do walk away and then think about how I want to respond.

Learning to choose how you’re going to express your feelings is tough, too. I recommend trying to notice your feelings as much as possible, then asking yourself, “How do I really want to express this, and is it better to express it now or wait?” Notice I’m not telling you to be “good” and always be convenient. I’m saying to choose consciously by being as aware in the moment as you can be.

I get wanting to rant or be highly emotive. I totally get the snark. All I can say is do your best to pick your moments.

And while you’re doing all that, keep in mind to constantly ask yourself, “Why and when do I want to trust. What makes it easy? When is it hard? Am I taking an appropriate risk here, or am I really making excuses?”

Yes, that’s a fine line. There are times when I’ve given the advice, “Don’t bother. This isn’t likely to work for you.” In your case, I think you’d do fine trying for the self-analysis.

Mawwaige

So, legal poly marriage is something that many people in the community are pushing for. 

I get it.   You want all the rights and protections for all your partners that you could have with a single, legal spouse.

I’m not actually in favor of it.  At least not yet.  There are issues that we need to address first before it gets Mama Java’s seal of approval.  You could argue that I’m saying it because I had a group marriage fail.

Damn right that’s why I am saying it.  Any sort of monogamy+ one size fits all marriage for OLQ would have been a gut-wrenching nightmare when we broke up.  Our legal system hasn’t even caught up with the realities of modern marriage among the monogamous, so I’ll never be in favor of group marriage without a serious revamp.

I’d like to see the health care system ironed out so it doesn’t revolve around the Paterfamilias being a Company Man with benefits for his household. (Yes, women get benefits, but that’s what the paradigm revolved around and it’s not working well)

I’d like to see how they’re going to handle issues of parenting and responsibility, group ownership of property, and most especially how divorce will be handled.  I see a lot of theory thrown out about these matters should be with almost zero references to people who have lived through these issues and what they wish the legal system could or couldn’t have done.

So, I need to know.  If you want poly marriage, why do you want it, how do you think it will benefit you and your family and what do you expect it should do for you that has nothing to do with the very real and human need for party and ceremony for big life events? (Yes, of course that’s a real emotional need, but that doesn’t need a law passed)

Extra points for people who have lived through group marriages for five years or more — still going or breaking up.

A Poly Holiday

Poly writers often get asked for happy poly stories. Here’s one:

The Prince and I have had a tradition of throwing a party to decorate the Christmas Tree. We instituted it in a small way when our son was an infant and it’s continued for nearly two decades now.

The Prince, the Bird, Muscle Boy, Button, FWB, three of their kids, Madame Bernhardt, an old family friend and some of The Bird’s friends were there.  The small children piled most of the ornaments they could lay their hands on at the lower part of the tree, and FWB commented that since he was tall, he felt a responsibility to hang them higher up.  We had all the standard Tree Decorating Party treats, played Christmas music and just had a good time.

We didn’t talk about poly. I mean, I introduced people who didn’t know each other with proper relationship titles, but past that, no-one cared. It was cookies and Button’s oldest remembering we had Spiderman ornaments and claiming the right to put them on the tree. It was the little girl feeling a bit ill and unfortunately throwing up in the living room (look, it happens with kids. If you can’t deal, don’t have a social circle with kids).  It was the baby who had just learned to walk figuring out he could open a closed door and being very proud of being able to get into a room that was Not for Babies.  It was Mme Bernhardt and Muscle Boy tag teaming a rendition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  It was classifying whether the cocoa people wanted would be Evil, Naughty or Innocent.*

It wasn’t extraordinary, and no, the fun times had zero to do with sex.  But it was warm and loving and fun.

This is what poly can often look like, and it’ll always be the times I love the best.

__________________

*Evil Grown-up Cocoa is basically intensely chocolately cocoa with Ice 101.  Delightful stuff!

What it Means to Be Polyamorous

I haven’t written for awhile.  Being a victim of brute force attacks on my blog, as well as a huge paying gig for my business has left me little time either to write or fix my site.

Relationships?  That’s hard right now.   I’ve been joking that I don’t have a life, I have a work. There’s more truth to that than I like to admit.

You could say it is a sad thing, but it’s not.  I’m excited about the professional challenge.  It’s important to me.  And there’s where polyamory is really important.

My family gets this.  My loves are supportive.  Why?  They love me.  Me, not some idealized version of me who is always sweet and available.  No, they love, cranky, workaholic, easily peopled-out me as I really am.

I don’t care if you’re poly, monogamous or whatever.  That is what you look for in partners.

(Though if you think that doesn’t mean that I am not yearning to visit FWB and his menage, I have news. I love my people at home and I miss every one of the ones I cannot see as often desperately.)

Jealousy: A Coffee Metaphor

Vrimj has kindly consented to allow these wise words to be reprinted here:

Jealousy is not something to be gotten rid of in my world. It is something to listen to. Emotions are the insight I am given to my less than conscious brain.

What it is telling me is always very situation dependent. I find jealousy is, for me, often a signal telling me what I want am not getting. Sometimes that is for good reasons, but it doesn’t mean my feelings on the matter are wrong, just that my actions are not following my emotions in that case.

I am, for example, jealous of people who have exceptionally nice coffee makers at work. It is because it is a sort of tangible commitment to the people that work there that I know I will probably never get in my current career path. I am employed almost always by organizations that resent my presence and salary. Even when I have wonderful bosses, the lack of providing even basic coffee is a reminder.

So I talk about the work people do in the places with nice coffee machines. And I find that it is almost always something I would find unpleasant and/or troubling. So I can remind myself that I am doing work I enjoy and that this is the cost for that. And then the coffee club stuff and other minor irritations like bitter brew and poorly designed carafes seem at times almost a badge of honor.

But it doesn’t stop the jealous feeling when someone asks me if I would like a mocha when I am visiting their office.

Giving something up as an act of will doesn’t mean you have not given something up.

Telling me that such coffee makers don’t really exist is gas lighting. Telling me I don’t actually want one is telling me I am too stupid to understand my own desires. Telling me I shouldn’t drink coffee or have materialistic desires is being a jerk; that is what I call someone who instructs me without me asking. Telling me I can have one is likely to make me angry, but is at least honest. So please just tell me that yea, they are awesome and make it ok that this is something I want.

Jealousy: A Coffee Metaphor

© 2013, Vrimj

Used by permission

Vrimj disdains twee bios…

First of May

I tend to celebrate the First of May in a couple of ways.  First, I listen to this non-worksafe song, which I encourage you to buy for your very own at this link.  It’s only a buck, and it’s fun!

Then I read Spring Running.  It always moved me pretty profoundly, even when I was too young for such thoughts.

Just my thang to celebrate Spring and all it means.  *grin* At least, all I’m going to discuss in detail in a public blog… ;)

Don't Treat People as Things

I reposted Secondary Clarity on Tumblr yesterday, and got a very interesting response. I thought it was actually worth a column. The original post was mostly the following graphic written by a couple of buddies of mine who have been poly a looonnnngg time and have Learned Stuff.

After posting it, I was asked:

As a person in a monogamous marriage that may at some point move to being poly but isn’t sure if poly will work for the relationship, do you have any advice for approaching things without falling afoul of douchebaggery?

This is a good and valid question, but buddy, it opens up one heck of a bag o’ noodly appendages, let me tell you what!

Understand this discussion is not coming from a person who went from monogamy to polyamory. No, this isn’t about pride in Gold Star Polyamory or any of that idiotic nonsense. It’s an admission that I genuinely do not know what happily opening up a relationship looks like. I’ve never observed such a thing close hand and haven’t the faintest idea what it looks like.

What I do know, is what a good relationship looks like. What I do know is how to treat human beings.

Most of the problems illustrated on this card revolve around treating people as things. It revolves around treating them as objects for gratification. That’s not what love looks like, but I’m sure you know that. So let’s analyze all of these points and the mindset they come from, and see if doing so will come up with strategies on how to avoid them. I could just as easily invoke the Wheaton Rule1 for all of them, but that’d make for a short column.

  • I will be dumped if I become inconvenient

    Sweet mother of mercy, people, relationships are inconvenient.

    While there is a significant difference between genuine needs and being a damned vampire, the reality is that you have the right to relationships that are mutually supportive. Hellfire, I have friends I could call at two in the morning for help if I had to. It would really bother me to think I didn’t have the right to do so with a partner!

    So, if you’re not comfortable with giving the person the same concern you’d give a friend, possibly poly, though certainly the relationship, isn’t right for you.

  • I will be dumped if I ask to be treated with the same respect as your other partner.

    Respect and ass-kissing are not the same thing. Respect is pretty simple. Are you giving them human dignity? Are you willing to have an actual conversation where you listen to what is said as well as express your own thoughts? Courtesy is a great place to start, of course, but human feelings are human feelings.

  • I will be dumped if I become pregnant

    I’m just gonna refer you to Jurassic Park Secondary. But… Safer sex and maybe some surgery on the part of guys who don’t want to sire more children is a wise move.

    Before you do the deed, certainly this is worth a conversation.

  • I will be dumped if I say the word “love” in a romantic context

    This one really blew me away. If you’re not okay with someone else loving your partner, you are soooo not into polyamory. Just wow.

  • I will be dumped if another partner requests it, regardless of the reason

    I have certainly been in a situation where someone’s behavior in the relationship circles has been problematic to the point where it was extremely serious. In the face of that, I’m uncomfortable with asking a partner to dump another partner.

    If there’s a problem, address it. For instance, “Honey, while I’m cool with your boyfriend coming over and having dinner, he’s bringing his daughter, her three sons and their wives, and then they’re all sleeping in the living room about three times a week. While I don’t want to be ungracious, we’re getting to the point that they’re almost living here. I do not want all of them to move in, so I need to know what you want so we can talk about it and come to an agreement.”

  • I will be dumped if I am seen as a threat by anyone else

    Have I ever had someone try to break up a partner and I? Sorta… But I can say in all honesty, that if someone else can “take away” a partner, buy ‘em flowers. They’ve done you a favor.

    The problem with this one is that it seems to be the secondary’s job to make up for someone else’s insecurity. I mean, really? That’s obnoxious when you think about it. “Hey, we’re going have all this great sex, but my partner feels insecure about it, so you have to pretend you’re not into me.”

    *Snerk* Though if someone said that to me… It would kind of solve the problem, because I wouldn’t feel very valued and would make some choices on my own.

  • I will not be invited to family vacations or holiday events

    No one in any relationship worth the name should ever feel the need to stay in their room, making no noise and pretending they don’t exist. If they’re worth having as partners, they’re worth being involved in your life.

  • I will be dumped if I get a boyfriend or girlfriend of my own

    It’s a bit rich to require someone to stay in their room, making no noise, and pretending they don’t exist and then punish them for having a life outside of you, ya know. Poly’s at least in part about people being able to form relationships as they wish, yes?

  • I will be required to keep the relationship secret from your family, friends, or others

    No-one likes to be a dirty little secret. If you have a job that would be in danger from being poly, well… You’ve got some priority decisions to make. But make ‘em before you start playing with people’s hearts.

Most of this boils down to not treating HUMAN BEINGS as disposable experiments. You’d think this would be obvious, but apparently there’s a lot of people in this world who really treat other as commodities.

Don’t be that person.

________________________________

1 Don’t be a dick

More on Consent

I ran across some utter nimrod spouting the “Consent is HARRRD” whine in a new and gloriously idiotic way. The assertion?

“Women like it when a man takes charge, therefore they don’t like being asked for their consent. It turns them off.”

*facepalm* Dewd, are you really that unimaginative an idiot? First off, not all women like that, any more than all men have a particular taste. If you run with that sort of script, chances are good you’re a mediocre lover at best. Treat your lovers as individuals and get to know personal quirks. I know this is radical and all, but in theory, you’re doing something kinda intimate. Being intimate about it might just work.

Nevertheless, for the not insignificant fraction of people who do like to be dominated to a greater or lesser degree in bed, it still does not preclude consent. Without getting into too much TMI, I share the taste. I am also happily involved with a man who checks in frequently about what I like, don’t like, want, etc. This is not even close to a paradox. Don’t believe me?

You can turn it into a bit of a dominance game, if that’s your fancy. Whisper in your partner’s ear and insist on a description of what the partner wants. STOP whatever it is you’re doing and say, “If you want this, you’ve got to tell me you want it…”

Throw out the idea that asking and checking in is somehow a turnoff because the man isn’t “taking charge.” Not only is it nonsense, it’s unimaginative nonsense. Throw out the copout and use your brain.

Rule One*

This was an ask on my Tumblr, but I just had to repost it.

Hi there! I have a bit of a dilemma at the moment. I’m in a long term poly relationship (together 6 years, poly for 1.5) I’ve recently found myself very attracted to a professor at my school- I’m 21, he’s 30. The attraction seems to be very mutual in that there is chemistry and some flirting, but never anything inappropriate. But, he’s married. I have never been with anyone that much older than me, much less had experience asking a person in an assumed mono relationship if they are poly. Help?

You bet I have some advice.

Don’t be a fucking idiot.

A) He’s a professor, for pity’s sake.  Even if he is not YOUR professor, that’s a bit of an ethics violation.

B) You have no reason in the world to believe he’s poly.

There’s literally millions of suitable men in the world that would be great for you.  Pass this one by.

________________________________________

* Rule One is “Don’t be a fucking idiot.”

Polyamory on Purpose Guide to Polyamory and Pregnancy

 

Jessica Burde, polyamorous writer, has released a nice little book on polyamory and pregnancy.

This is a good, clearly-written guide to considering pregnancy, contraception and the baby talks within a polyamorous relationship. I especially like its practicality and the way that it does not encourage wishful thinking. Babies and parenting are a big deal and she does not gloss over it. The book, as you might guess by the title, does deal with pregnancy and childbirth more than contraception (as it should), dealing with sensitive sensibility to the unique challenges a polyamorous family might face when deciding to have a baby. Not only that, it has good suggestions about what to do with them!

If you’re of child-bearing age, whether you want kids or not, it’s a good read to get going discussing those things you need to before you do the deed. You can get the Polyamory on Purpose Guide to Polyamory and Pregnancy in either paperback or electronic format.