How to explain
I come as someone that is totally new to polyamory and I come to you for a piece of advice. I'll describe my problem in detail bellow but basically the question is: how would you explain to a monogamous person that one can like many people and yet keep loving one?
I've been for the last two years in a monogamous relationship (that is also my first serious relationship) and from the start I had one problem. The problem is that being in this relationship hasn't kept me from considering other people attractive and my girlfriend thinks that is emotional betrayal.
At first I tried to explain her that I just considered that normal and something that I believe is deeply ingrained in me, that she should not feel less attractive because of that and that I don't intended to cheat on her.
I had no luck talking with her and I had some awful days. After trying many times I just gave up and promised to “try to change” even thorough I told her that I considered that very difficult and unlikely. After that, I've had two marvelous years but also two years marked by constant conflict.
I just keep looking at girls and it may only be a second but that is enough to cause problems. I think that she is always a bit frustrated and lives in constant fear that I may leave her. I really like her and I would like to continue in this relationship. Breaking up with her is not an option for me.
Well basically that's it. I tried to keep it short but if you need more info to answer just ask. Sorry about the English, it is not my native language so I make a lot of mistakes and I write unnaturally formal. I also know that it is kind of a very general question but please, could you say (briefly if possible) how would you explain to a monogamous person that one can like many people and yet keep loving one?
I really appreciate all your help.
I once had a girlfriend who equated masturbation with cheating.
I think you have an uphill battle with this one. Either she isn't attracted to other people when she's in a relationship, or it is so ingrained in her that thoughts are the same as actions and that "bad" thoughts are sin. Ala Jimmy Carter's lusting after another woman in his heart. (man, am I showing my age here)
To be effective in persuasion, you first need to intellectually and emotionally meet the person where they are at. Find common ground in the argument. You don't need to totally agree with their premise, but find parts of their argument that you can agree with.
Validate the emotions she experiences when she finds you looking at someone else. Tell her that its understandable for her to have the emotions she has, and that it's ok.
But then, ask her if she thinks people should go to jail for thinking about killing someone. Ask her if people should go to jail for their thoughts? If her answer is yes. Run away. Very fast. If her answer is no, then steer the conversation to get her to actually say, "thinking about killing someone is not the same as actually killing someone". Get her to agree with the premise that thinking about something is not the same as doing it. Then tell her that, in the same way, thinking that someone is attractive is not the same as having sex with them.
Anyway, that's an approach I would try.
The most common allegory I have come across to help others wrap their mind around the concept is comparing loving more than one to the love parents got for their children. That when there is one child already and a second one is born, the first doesn't suffer the sudden absence of love from his parents or one of the partners the absence of romantic love from the respective spouse. They are able (normally) to love both. Same with the third child and the fourth and so on. Romantic love is a different concept from the love you feel for your children, but she may see the link for the possibility to care deeply for more than one person without dimmishing the feelings for the others you care for in your life.
I had a hard time trying to explain to my two mono men what was going on in my head and heart. They haven't been able to fully understand what I was talking about up to today. But they don't need to as well. We agreed to a simpler conclusion: They let me show it to them. I was able to just show my feelings and they both were able to see that it just is the way it is. My husband would have said something, if he would have felt less loved than before. My boyfriend would have said something, if he would have felt less loved than he needs to be and both knew how this feels like from other relationships. And when we just tried, all involved recognized that it was working.
MY advice would be: Try to help her wrapping her mind around the concept theoretically will help, but at some point, if she is really mono, she just can't understand what you are talking about. Good luck with figuring it out with her.
I have been with my monogamous live in boyfriend (MonoVCPHG) for three years now and it was not easy. My blog tells the whole story if you are interested. He also writes here although not so much lately. Together with other mono people here he has written and tagged the most tagged threads on the forum so far. You can find them if you do a search in the tags for "mono/poly." We facilitate workshops now on monogamy and poly and how to find ways to make it work.
In a nut shell we have discovered that we will always be compromising who we are. We likely will never reach an agreement on boundaries that work for us both so we dance around them and feel uncomfortable when the "neutral zone" has been gone into. Feeling uncomfortable has become a way of life in some areas. I thought that might be an issue, but it hasn't been.
With the boundaries I have with my poly loves there is an understanding and the boundaries are right up against one another... with this boyfriend there is a huge gap where we both stand at the edge on either side and neither of us can budge one inch further. We have tried many times!
We have also realized that we speak different languages and come from different cultures with this. We see it as having two different religions or having been brought up in different countries, because that is what it feels like. With that we have been able to be patient, explain how we feel more without assumptions that the other would automatically know and don't expect that the other would know so we bring stuff up right away. The biggest challenge has been finding some kind of common language. This is how we started our here, we were searching for ways to hear each other.
The whole parents loving more than one kid thing didn't go over well with him as he saw it as incest. Having sex with your child is not acceptable and neither is having sex with someone that isn't your husband. That kind of talk. I guess if you are a person, like me, that enjoys a connections with others first over sex (at least this is what I work on) then I guess the kid thing kindaaaa makes sense, but for someone that is poly that is a into sex in a more casual way the kid thing makes no sense to someone that is mono at all. Frankly it doesn't to me either, but then I don't have two kids... I have one. :p
Ya, lots to learn on this one and lots of banging your head on the table for both of you.... good luck.
It sounds to me that you have agreed to be in a monogamous relationship with her. Have you talked about possibly opening things up in the future? I'm wondering if this might be where her insecurities lie. If she always has in the back of her head that the next person that you're attracted to will be the one that brings about the opening up of the relationship and the end of the type of relationship that she is comfortable with then it's always going to look like a threat.
If I were you I would be very honest with her either saying that you intend to stay monogamous with her for as long as your relationship lasts or that poly is a part of who you are and that you intend to pursue it. It may be that the latter leads to the end of the relationship but if poly is a deal breaker for her and something that you are then by not owning up to it you're just delaying the inevitable.
Also have a talk about her insecurities and where they come from and what might reassure her. Sometimes the demons from our past pop up. Her lack of trust may very well come from something else. She might not even be aware of what that something else is. Poly is a lot of work emotionally. Every little insecurity from your past is brought up and has to be faced. It's not an easy road.
The problem for most is not the understanding of the concept. Its do I want or need this in my life. She may eventually "get it " intellectually but have no desire to become some fraction of time and focus. She may not need the added complexity and emotional drama.....whats the up side for her? ...common answer is a happier you ... Well.... how easy could you be replaced for someone on the same relationship page that will have a lot less emotional drama?
By the way ...your English is great ...probably better than mine :)
I suspect some couples counceling might help maintain a mono relationship with this woman. If you do believe yourself to be truly poly (you want close intimate relationships with more than one person at a time), then it sounds like you may have a serious uphill battle if she can't even handle you finding beauty in other women.
Thanks for all your help guys.
As you mention it may be a conceptual thing. The analogy fro BigGuy sounds good, it is kind of easy to understand and I might use it the next time this problem arises.
I've tried with some other analogies but perhaps they were not well explained. I tried to tell her that finding other girls attractive was like finding chocolate tasty, something normal and that is not up to us. She just told me that it was different and that the analogy made no sense.
I wonder if there is not a side of the coin to which I'm also blind. To me what she wants is only possible when one is so focused and absorbed on the other person that one develops tunnel vision. I don't think that that that is healthy but perhaps I don't understand what she has been trying to tell me.
I guess like you say it is going to be a long dance but your comments have really helped me. It is really nice to find this forum, I've discovered a lot of new things. Anyway, I'll keep trying to explain, I hope that we will be able to understand each other better and have a nice sweet ride.
I've agreed to be in a monogamous relationship. It would be nice to be have casual sex with other girls and I've fantasized with that but probably it is not worth the trouble and I'll certainly not cheat on her. I see this as a compromise and it is not a deal breaker.
She is not religious and she has a brother but her family is a bit conservative... well probably a standard family in Latin America. Anyway, she is about to move to Germany so I guess a change in environment will also expose her to new ideas.
We worked through it...
Oh how I can empathize. I was in almost the exact same situation about 8 years ago, with my wife. It was a rough patch, but we eventually worked it out. I will tell you my story, because I hope that it will help you in your own life.
I was raised Mormon (they're very conservative, I am no longer religious). While dating I had told my wife that I looked at pornography, and probably always would. I knew that a lot of marriages had been hurt over conflicts about porn, so I made this very clear. She said she didn't care. Really, she just assumed that once we were married, I would not be attracted to any other women and wouldn't want to look at the porn anymore.
When we were married, and I was still looking at porn, she got upset and we argued about it. I agreed to speak to my bishop about it and try to give it up. At about this time she became Mormon too, and started taking Matthew 5:28* literally. If a girl in a short skirt walked by, and my head turned, we would fight. Then it escalated. I would just be walking through Wal-Mart looking dead ahead, and if a skirt went by in front of me, and she thought my eyes twitched, we would fight. I stopped going out, for fear of seeing anyone that might arouse me. She took the covers off of her work out videos, so I wouldn't see the women on them. It got bad. We fought constantly, and almost never had sex. Note: She is a wonderful woman, she just took a detour through crazy land for a little while. To be fair, I wasn't the healthiest person either. :)
To defend 'my side' of things, I did a lot of research. I learned that vision enters your brain through more than one path, and that you're brain has already decided whether or not something is arousing before you even see it consciously. This, and other research into male sexuality taught me that It is almost as hard to change what arouses you as it is to train your heart to beat in morse code. If she wants a man who looks at all of the women in the world, and thinks she is the only one that is sexy, she is living in a fantasy; that will never happen.
I made a lot of arguments. I explained the physical reality of arousal as described above. I told her that "I can't control what I want, I can only control what I do, so only what I DO matters." I told her it was like she was chocolate cake, my favorite, but if you never taste anything else it gets bland. (She HATED being compared to food, it really pissed her off, so use that one at your own risk.) You could compare it to any other form of enjoying beauty. You have a favorite song, but you still enjoy listening to others. It sounds like you have already tried some of these 'reason-based' arguments, and they have not worked. They didn't work for me either. It sounds like your GF dismisses these arguments; my wife just fell back on religion saying that it didn't matter what arguments I have, God is still right.
This went on for a little over a year until I left Mormonism. She left it as soon as I did, and it became clear that the real issue was her need to feel loved, special, and secure. She realized that she had been unreasonable while trying to get those needs met, and we talked about how to meet those needs without trying to change who I was as a person. It was this approach, talking about the feelings and our needs, that fixed it, not the logical explanations or analogies.
I would advise you to sit down with her and explain that being aroused by pretty women is part of who you are, and that you need someone who will love you for who you are. Don't make it about right or wrong, should or shouldn't, make it about what you feel , what you need, and what she needs and feels. Find ways to help meet her emotional needs without compromising who you are.
Also, if you are willing to be monogamous for her, then I would not push the poly thing much right now. Definitely tell her about it, and tell her it is something you are interested in, but if she is this jealous and insecure with just you looking at other women, pushing the issue might really trigger those negative feelings in her too much right now.
Well, I know it was long winded, but I hope you can get something useful out of it. Best of luck, I'm rooting for you!
*"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Come to find out this is a terrible way to interpret the original Greek, as the original statement bears almost no resemblance to what this appears to say, but that is a story for another time.
A lot of people gave advice about opening up the relationship, but, to me, there doesn't seem to be any real desire from Marbit to open his relationship up (aside from the standard "it'd be nice to have sex with others" that almost every guy thinks ;)), he just doesn't want to catch shit for checking out another woman or having sexual thoughts about anyone but his girlfriend and who can blame him?
The fact is this woman is trying to dominate your mind, and make you feel guilty for retaining sexual thoughts. It's a mild form of emotional blackmail - "if you loved me, you wouldn't want to look at anyone else" and it holds no basis in reality.
If it was me, I'd basically say that I can't stop myself looking and I can't stop my brain responding but that if I've made a commitment to her then I will honour that, and that every time she gives you shit for your natural, human reaction to a beautiful woman, then she's just going to end up pushing you away.
But you've probably made the situation worse on yourself by promising to "try to change." If there's one thing I've learnt, promising something like that when you know full well that it's IMPOSSIBLE to change is a recipe for drama and disaster.
Just a quick caveat though, obviously you can't help finding people attractive, but there are rules of subtlety as well! If you're out in public with your girlfriend, then obviously try your hardest to be respectful to her - don't obviously check out girls, don't gawk and stare etc.
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