The Brave Little Toaster

This week’s column is by guest writer Rainy Hannah

A few years ago, while in the throes of a very bad breakup, I stopped participating in the larger polyamorous community. I unsubscribed from everything and spent the next year and a half on sabbatical from the poly community at large. I needed time to think about things and make some decisions about what living a poly life looked like for me.

I’ve recently started dipping my toes back into the community pool and I see a trend over and over that really bothers me. I don’t think it’s restricted to new poly folks either, because I see it coming from people who have been in this community for a long time. I think they ought to know better.

We’ve all seen the scenario where partner A tries to fill up all his or her empty with a new shiny toy (or toys) while partner B stays home, neglected, and hopes that their empty will get attended to eventually by A. Maybe Partner B posts to a lot of poly communities online and we try to counsel them through the process, while secretly wanting to take a baseball bat to Partner A. We’ve all seen the scenario where someone bulldozes over all of the objections, concerns, and fears of their “old” partners in their rush to get to the new. How about the folks who end up with eight secondaries and one primary, and then can’t seem to take care of anybody’s needs?

I’ve been Partner A, just for the record, so I get to go there. I used to have a summer home there. Eventually, I wised up and moved on and began to treat my partners with the respect that they deserved, but not before it ruined some relationships I regret, bitterly, to this day. I don’t have anything to say to Partner A today. Frankly, I think Partner A needs a swift kick in the ass, but that’s not my job. I want to talk to Partner B. And C, D, E, F, G, H…. you get the idea.

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you.

“I am a brave little toaster and will soldier on through the mistreatment and drama that my partner(s) dish out, because of Love. I love them and know that someday, if I am Very Good, I will get my reward and things will be happy.”

Yes, and one day, monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Anything resonating there for you? I know it does for me. I have also been there, done that, from the perspective of Partner B. In light of this well-rounded experience, I feel I am uniquely qualified to cry bullshit on the whole idea. I think we ought to rephrase things.

“If my partner consistently treats me with anything less than a level of respect, consideration and love that works for us both, if he/she does not keep the agreements we have made (both the letter and the spirit), and if they are not willing to engage in an ongoing effort to keep things that way, I will kick his/her ass to the fucking curb. I am not a doormat.”

That sounds a lot better to me.

Here is the truth. There is no eventual Reward on the other side of all the drama and pain. You do not wake up one day happy because you were A Very Good Girl and someone finally anted up with the cookies you earned with your patience, love and self-sacrifice. All you will get is an empty plate.

The reward is NOW.

Live happy now.

Demand respect, now.

DO it NOW.

Chaos is not fun. It is also not love. Don’t be a doormat. Someone who knowingly, unrepentantly inflicts chaos on a life you are trying to build together, who walks on your feelings, who neglects you, who does not give your concerns, fears and needs equal time and weight is not acting with love. It is not okay. Why are you letting them? Because here is the part where it gets really difficult. It is your choice to stick around for that. It is your choice to be trod upon, to live in chaos, and to live with your truth unheard. You are the only person forcing yourself to live with that.

We have places of choice in our lives. Places where we come to a corner or to the end of our rope, places where we are alone in our hearts with the unvarnished truth. Those places hurt and are filled with fear and uncertainty. So often we choose the familiar, even though it is dysfunctional or pain-filled. It is what we know, after all. The point I am trying to make right here is that, every time you sit down and think about how unhappy you are, about how much you wish things would change – you are at a place where you can choose. You are, in fact, making a choice.

Partner B, I am begging you to do something. I am begging you to sit down with Partner A and demand that they make some changes. If you can’t do that or they won’t, then I am begging you to leave. You deserve so much more than this but you will only get it if you stand up and take it. Right now you have the short end of the stick, but only you can grab the big end. Only you can stand up and say, “NO. You may not treat me this way. This is not love, I am not happy, and it is not okay.”

Please try to refrain from beating Partner A with the big stick once you grab it. They probably won’t get the point. It’ll just create more drama for everyone in your community. They’ve got their own process and you can’t fix it. Let them continue the Quest For Shiny if they must. They will get it, or not, in their own time. It is a problem Not Yours.

Don’t be a Brave Little Toaster. Go on out, grab the reward that was inside you all along, get your cookies and live happy.

Do it now.

The Brave Little Toaster © 2007, Rain Hannah

Used by permission

Rainy Hannah is a polyamorous woman living in Southern California with way too much yarn, too many cats, a couple of kids, and a Very Good Dog. She has been there, done that.

21 thoughts on “The Brave Little Toaster

  1. Ember

    Well said. :)
    Not only does this apply to poly relationships, both new and older, but also to more
    mainstream relationships!
    If you are not being treated with respect and as a partner, and you are unhappy,
    you always have the choice to “vote with your feet”.
    If you don’t take care of yourself, it is unlikely that anyone else will either!

  2. Laura

    I have one problem with your post – it assumes that every poly person is fully employed and has no dependents.

    It’s not that simple. We’re not all the cast of Friends, or any other sitcom. “Just leave” isn’t always that easy.

    I’m fortunate – I don’t have those types of issues with my partners. There’s a great deal of effort put into making sure everyone is taken care of, and talking about things. But if I did, or they did – it wouldn’t be that easy.

  3. Janet Hardy

    I’d vote for a third option. The only person who can “fill up your empty” is you. Expectations are a sure road to heartache.

    If A is taking up more of your energy than s/he is replacing, you need to move on. But it isn’t about someone else meeting your needs; to frame it that way is to disempower yourself, and you’re already feeling pretty powerless, right?

    there’s only one person responsible for meeting your needs, and it isn’t A, or Santa Claus, or Jesus: it’s you.

    1. Bernabe

      I think it would be a good idea to let your partner know you are lnokiog on OK cupid. It may be a good idea to tell them why. I was on OK cupid for about a half year because people on my local poly list dared me to try it. In your case, it may be you are really hungry for a new relationship, and if your partner(s) knew that, they might be helpful, or skeptical, or give you other useful feedback. In my case, my partners know I’m always open to new relationships, but not necessarily lnokiog that hard.I also think it is a good idea to be as clear as possible about what your preferences are and who you are lnokiog for. You’ll get far fewer inquiries, but the ones you get will be worth following up on. I was very explicit about who I was and what I liked. I got a couple of hits, one was a dud, the other was fun for a few months until she decided poly wasn’t for her.

  4. Sheye

    I don’t think that the author assumes that there are no dependents and that every one is fully employed.

    Rather, it assumes that *every* one deserves respect and healthy love. And if this is not the case, then, you should leave. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s been done many many times over by unemployed persons with kids the world over.

  5. Goddess of Java Post author

    Isotopeblue: I would say more that it’s something that applies to ANY relationship rather than actually being INDEPENDENT of polyamory.

    For the last few years, it as been a source of amusement to me how very very little is actually unique to polyamory!

  6. Edward Martin III

    “Here is the truth. There is no eventual Reward on the other side of all the drama and pain. You do not wake up one day happy because you were A Very Good Girl and someone finally anted up with the cookies you earned with your patience, love and self-sacrifice. All you will get is an empty plate.”

    Fuckin’ a.

  7. Rainy

    Laura – Separating from a partner when you are financially dependent (or interdependent) on them is terrifying. It’s scary. There’s survival stuff at stake and moreso when you have children. I acknowledge that. I rejoined the workforce after a decade of staying home with children and being supported, because that supported my choice. Options exist. Maybe not always easy or pleasant, no, but options. I still believe that it is a choice to stay in a toxic relationship, even if there are kids and financial ties. Perhaps a much more difficult choice because of other factors, but a choice nonetheless. Not every relationship includes financial inter-dependence, marriage, children, property, etc. I am not speaking solely to “primary” here, I am speaking to the larger picture, primary, secondary, tertiary, whatever. Everyone deserves respect and healthy love and everyone is responsible for standing up for that for themselves.

    Isotopeblue – what the GOJ said. I think there is very little that is truly unique to poly when it comes right down to it. Healthy relating is healthy relating, period. I just speak in the poly context here because that’s what sparked the train of thought.

  8. DexX

    Poly bloke from Melbourne, Australia here.

    As others have pointed out, the above article is hardly applicable only to poly; I have suggested similar courses of action to mono and poly friends alike, and it’s good advice.

    Years ago I came up with an analogy that has never lost its potency for me:

    Bad love (or any unhealthy situation, really) is like a big splinter deep in your flesh. Digging it out is going to hurt like a bastard, so maybe you say “I’ll do it later – not ready right now…” You leave it there, though, it will get infected, and the longer you leave it the worse it will get, and the more it’s going to hurt. Eventually you’re going to have to dig it out, like it or not, and it is up to you how much it will hurt and how badly it will scar.

  9. h6w

    It’s also important to say that sometimes Partner B “supports” Partner A through a trying time. Offering sympathy, etc. That’s all well and good, but if Partner A doesn’t learn to stand on their own two feet, it can quickly lead to a very emotionally draining relationship for both. Sometimes the only way to make Partner A understand what is really going on is to let go, walk away, and hope they find their own feet. If they do, they will come back, but you can’t let them know you want them to do that, or else it won’t work. I suppose what I’m saying is that you can kick them to change, but sometimes they need to kick themselves. The difficulty is knowing when that is appropriate.

    Sometimes a good way to tell when it is appropriate is to count the number of times a weapon is brought into the relationship. Weapons can take many forms, stick, shoe, etc. but also intangible weapons can hurt just as much and cause people to panic. If you threaten to leave, then you’re effectively using their attachment/love for you as a weapon against them. IMHO, a relationship should not ever be used as a weapon.

    If you regularly bring weapons into the relationship, it becomes much harder to tell when you are serious. If you are going to leave, leave! If there are conditions on you staying, state them. Give them a timeline, a means for judging their progress, etc. Anything else is just slavery.

    Hugs people.

  10. Joyce

    I am so glad to see this healthy dialog! I had stopped reading posts on poly sites because there was so many doormat scenarios, so many folks describing domestic scenes that could not be more UNhealthy. I was getting downright depressed, especially because my own errors were being reflected in the commentary. Thank you, Rain Hannah, and all other “posters” for giving me fuel to shake off my own self-flagellation and move onward toward a stronger, healthier, happier life.

  11. Vee

    I totally agree with you. My only difference in thought is that you typically have a choice in ALL aspects of life, not just relationships. Life is full of dychotomies. Great read. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  12. violet_flames

    You know this seems to apply to jobs too. I would say my supervisor thinks she’s been a brave little toaster for years. I think she’s finally figured out she won’t be rewarded, but man 10+ years is too long to stay in a job that doesn’t appreciate your vision of your position.

    1. Eduarda

      This is a really lleovy answer plainspoken and compassionate.And, yes I’ve been in her position (as a by-preference-polyfidelitous person who likes a lot of communication in a relationship with a free-love I-want-to-do-whatever-I-want-without-checking-in person, I was *miserable*), and it really does suck.It sounds like they’re better off apart, barring a miraculous change in relationship/communication style from both of them, and I don’t see that happening. Wishing the OP well in her journey of self-care.

  13. DG

    Yup, there’s a name for B. Nice Guy Syndrome. (it of course applies to women, too). “If I am a brave little toaster and do X, they will do Y for me.” Lemme put it into poly phraseology: More likely than not, you never negotiated Y with your partner, you just assumed it. How’s that working for you?

  14. Pingback: So, polyamory, I guess I don’t hate you after all. | Miss Kitty Stryker

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