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-   -   Bad attitude to my OSO, help from others who've been there? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19769)

Riverstone 01-05-2012 01:47 PM

Bad attitude to my OSO, help from others who've been there?
It feels awkward to jump in with a long first post that's a problem, but this forum seems like it has a lot of thoughtful members, and I could really use some outside perspective. My usual forum is frequented by all of my associates, and it would be helpful to talk outside the group a bit.

My current set of poly entanglements are about a year old right now. I live with my partner, I'll call him Geekguy, for much longer, and we've been stable and doing well working things out as they come up. Among his other partners is a woman I'll call Sylvia. I've got a serious relationship going with Sylvia's partner Joshua. The individual romantic relationships in play, while not always without some bumps, are stable and generally wonderful. It's definitely a set of independent pairs, not a quad arrangement for us.

Sylvia and I get along fine if it's just the two of us in private, but don't really have much time to develop some kind of relationship of our own. Over the last two months I haven't been able to get to a good place about my attitude about her at all. That resentment and frustration isn't healthy, and it spills out into other things.

Our personalities are very different, and polyamory doesn't come easily to her. In the end, no matter how happy she makes my partners, and the tremendous ongoing effort she puts in to get better at handling her reactions to things - I don't feel emotionally safe around her. It puts me in a defensive place, and then I start to get resentful and judgmental.

Our comfort levels with public behavior and detail-sharing are very different, so group events are bad and have been something we now avoid - either she acts like herself and makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable, or has to alter her behavior so dramatically it's unfair to everyone for her to repress herself that much.

My relationship with Joshua is sometimes difficult for her - the envy and jealousy she struggles with there create a lot of ambient drama - low for Josh and Sylvia's standards, but on the edge of tolerable for me. I'd gotten to a place where I could accept her humanity and be gracious about it for a while. But a moment of insecurity led to lashing out at me in a way I haven't fully been able to move past, despite her sincere and complete apology. We've talked, but the reality is that she still struggles with it, and there are still going to be days she has a strong emotional reaction. I've had my guard up ever since, and can't figure out how to move on.

Help? Any advice for getting to a better place? My defensive snark to Geekguy, though he knows where it comes from, is hurtful and colors my attitudes toward his other relationship. I can't interpret any stories my lovers share without assuming the worst of Sylvia, even when it is unwarranted.

If any of you nice folks have been here, or have some good advice for me, I'd love to hear it.

redpepper 01-05-2012 03:40 PM

The only thing I can think of that I do in your situation is avoid, try not to go there in my head and wait it out. There isn't much you can do with a metamour relationship that is not working other than strive to be friendly, courteous and respectful and stay the hell away from them for your own sanities sake. At least until you can breath through situaions where she is creating issues and drama out of her own stuff. Don't make more drama essentially. Its hard work, but I see it as working with someone I don't get along with. I have to do my job, but I don't have to like everyone I work with.

Derbylicious 01-05-2012 05:32 PM

I was the one with the bad attitude with my husband's last girlfriend. I think it was because she was timid around me and I fed off it. Eventually we came to a place where it was just better that we didn't spend time with each other. I was perfectly happy for my husband to have a relationship with her but realized that this was someone who I would never mesh with myself. I didn't like the person I was when I was around her. So limiting our time together was best for everyone involved.

Sometimes people just don't get along and that's perfectly ok. As long as you can respect her relationship with shared partner(s) there isn't any reason it has to go any further than that. Rather than trying to fight an uphill battle of being friends with someone that if you didn't share a partner with you probably wouldn't befriend put your effort into friendships that lift you up and make you feel good about yourself.

Anneintherain 01-05-2012 07:26 PM

I don't usually ask for more details, but do you think you could list two or three of the things that she has done or said that MOST bother you?

I think some more pointed feedback could be given if it was conversation to mutual friends/strangers about sexual matters to between her and either of your partners while you're present (or not), sharing things about relationship issues between you and Geekguy that are private as far as you're concerned, talking about being insecure out loud group settings, or acting clingy or whatever it is that is bugging you in public but doesn't occur in private.

Riverstone 01-09-2012 01:16 AM

Thank you for this (and to Derbylicious). It's helpful to hear that minimizing interaction is an option from someone else. I've been on the fence about how much that could be a real solution, and how much that is just a way of not dealing with my problems.

Riverstone 01-10-2012 11:25 PM

Asking is totally fine - it's taken me a bit to figure out how to answer you with something that explains my feelings right now.

The scenario that drives my bad attitude is that I'm emotionally vulnerable. An old story, but a small one I can share, for example. Sylvia was working and unavailable, and I had an unexpected gap in my schedule, so Joshua and I could meet up for a brief lunch. We got to talk, and enjoy it, but it triggered her possessiveness and became something that she'd vent about, including to me, for quite a while. It was a problem that I got something "extra" with her primary - even if it didn't take away from her time and attention - which meant a lot to me given how limited our time was. To feel like I needed to defend it, and have something sweet and special to me become a source of drama makes me feel emotionally vulnerable to a person I didn't choose.

It's a bigger emotional drama if it involves a gift, or a more involved date activity, or something sexual. I'm not confrontational if I can help it and don't do well if I'm caught by surprise, so I've been carrying a feeling of needing to be on the defensive constantly since our last bit of drama about two months ago. That defensiveness is affecting my relationships now - making it hard for me to be generous about the good times my lovers have with her because I'm suspicious of her motives, or want to retaliate for feeling hurt, or feeling that my openness with my partners isn't reciprocated respectfully.

I really don't want to paint my OSO as a monster because she isn't. She's smart and loving and fun and brave and brings a lot of joy to people I care about. She knows she struggles with her reactions and genuinely works on improving her handling of them and owns up to her actions. We're just very, very different in temperament and personal history and approach things in incompatible ways, and recently I can't seem to get back to shaking it off and moving on the way I've been able to before.

Anneintherain 01-11-2012 07:28 AM

I am glad that if my metamours have issues with things going on between my boyfriend and I (he has a wife and a very long term serious girlfriend) they work it out between themselves. I would gladly be part of a solution in a case like this if wanted, but if his girlfriend has any problems with me/us, I have no clue, they're working it out. I know his wife had some issues with time/overnights etc months ago, but besides her notifying me of her feelings once, it hasn't been brought up again by her or him, and they have been working it out between themselves, and as long as nothing makes the relationship untenable for me, or keeps me from getting my needs met, I am thrilled to have them figure out what will work for them.

That (in the primary relationship) is where I think problems that involve negotiating "primary" needs and boundaries should be handled first, unless they require input or want to talk to others about it to negotiate everyone's needs all at once (and that's something I'd consider more important in a poly-fi sort of situation). Not her complaining to or about you, or her venting but not trying to find a way to fix it with Joshua. So if this is the case, I'd say a few things.

"It's a bigger emotional drama if it involves a gift, or a more involved date activity, or something sexual"

1. Joshua and her should be working out issues of time/appropriate gifts/sexual boundaries, etc so they have an agreement of what is or isn't OK. If a problem comes up once, that's a great time for them to sit down and negotiate something that will work, if there's a problem with current agreements.
2. She is bringing up things about your sex life with him. Is that OK? If the four of you share info to that level in general it can be hard to draw boundaries, but that doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't do so. If there are activities or..frequencies...she isn't comfortable with, well really, that's not something you should have to be hearing about IMO, unless she is trying to negotiate a compromise directly between you and her and just leaving out the middleman.
3. If Joshua oversteps a boundary for one of the above things that she and he (or you and she and he, or all four of you) have agreed to, then she should take it up with him first, unless you purposefully pushed the boundary.

I think in this, Joshua should both be active in working out these things with her so these situations aren't happening, and be your advocate if she is "venting" about this stuff instead of talking to him first, and trying to deal with it that way. Telling you she is hurt or sad or insecure about something once is one thing, but the extent to with which you describe her going to seems as if she's glad to rain on everybodies parade. If Joshua can't or wont help lower the drama level, you should probably accept that this won't change, and you'll have to decide if you can put up with that long term.

I also think you'd benefit if you directly told her that you want her and him to work out these things themselves, and if they agree to something that makes you unhappy, you talk about it then. There are ways to do this that can make her feel loved at the same time. Once I had to say something hard and awkward to a metamour to draw boundaries, and I had to write it down and practice it, but when I worked up the nerve to say it, it did have the desired effect.

If you don't do poly in a way that "primary" partners get to say "Listen hon, I don't like it if you buy her X/she buys you X" Then I think it's fair if she is complaining because you X happens, you kindly but firmly tell her that you're sorry she is unhappy, but you'd appreciate it if she didn't try to make you uncomfortable for doing something that had no motive except to bring positive things into your life. I know lots of people do the less rules the better thing, but if this is causing your relationship problems, maybe they do need to be having a few more "rules" so she isn't bringing up lots of things that are making her unhappy.

(Sigh, I meant that to be 8 paragraphs shorter, AND I stopped making sense a few paragraphs back too, I suck at short posts...)

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