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.
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.