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-   -   looking for feedback (triad to vee, plus emotional chaos) (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2264)

mianej 03-04-2010 02:03 PM

looking for feedback (triad to vee, plus emotional chaos)
Hi everyone! Iím new here and already Iím impolitely throwing my problems at you... But I really need some kind of poly support group right now, and maybe a bit of advice from people who have experienced a situation like the one Iím in.

My shiny FFM triad recently transformed itself into a Vee. That is, my girlfriend broke up with me. She didnít say that; instead she gave me a whole lot of contradictory information, but somewhere among it there was ďI want us to be just friendsĒ and ďright now Iím not in love with youĒ, so for my own sake I interpreted that as ďshe broke up with meĒ, because I need something to be clear.
She also told us Ė our boyfriend and me Ė that at the moment she is extremely jealous and scared, and she doesnít know how to deal with the fact that he has a relationship with me. Still, she doesnít want us to split up for her sake, because Ė that is my interpretation Ė the rational part of her wants to be poly and believes that she canít tell her boyfriend whom heís allowed to love. But emotionally sheís overwhelmed and doesnít know how to cope.

To provide you with some context here: I came last into the relationship, about a year ago. The two of them had already been together for five years at that point, and I had been friends with them for about 2-3 years.
Iím basically poly or at least into open relationships since I was 15, and Iíve read, thought and talked about relationship concepts quite a lot. Which didnít keep me from making some pretty basic mistakes in this relationship, but at least Iím relatively sure what I want and what I donít want.
My boyfriend and ex-girlfriend Ė Iíll just refer to her as ďmy friendĒ, thatís just as accurate and less complicated here Ė were in a theoretically open relationship and open for poly. We all kind of stumbled into our triad, but for some time it seemed to work out wonderfully, with lots of talk and personal growth and stuff... Well, my current problem isnít why everything didnít work out as perfectly as I would have wished.

My problem is how to deal with the situation as it is now.
My friend and I are not generally emotionally unstable, but we are at the moment, due to several different circumstances unrelated to our relationship. One of our problems with each other is that each of us tends to get too involved in the otherís problems instead of concentrating on solving her own and trust that the other person will do the same for herself. So I really want to give her enough space to come to terms with her feelings, and I want some space for myself to do the same.

But when I talk to her I get the impression that she thinks her emotions are the only problem, and she has to get them under control so she can ďfunctionĒ again. She says that neither our boyfriend nor I can do anything to help, that she has to sort it out all by herself.
I donít believe that is going to work, and I have a very bad feeling about her tendency to make it all her problem. She has suppressed her feelings, needs and wants in the past in order to comply to what she thought we expected from her, and Iím afraid she will do it again.

Iíve come to the following temporary conclusion:
I want to tell me my friend that I believe that a relationship or friendship is not about one person perfecting themselves so they wonít ďdisturbĒ everyone elseís relationships anymore. Itís about negotiation and sharing burdens and trying together to find a way to make everyone involved as comfortable and happy as possible.
Therefore I would like to suggest to her that she could work on some of her (relationship-related) problems together with our boyfriend, or with me or with whoever could be of assistance to her. By working on those problems I mean for example talk about the situations that make her hurt. How she feels then. What she wants from a relationship. Maybe just take up a book on non-monogamous relationships or one of these guides on the net and work through it together Ė they havenít done that before. They donít have clearly stated rules, I guess because she still thinks itís not okay to have them, that she must accept everything or lose him.
I think that it is necessary for every one of us to decide whether we want to try and make this new constellation work, or whether we want to go away. If we decide to stay, shouldnít we commit to do the work these relationships require?

Or am I approaching this from the wrong angle, should I just be more patient and let her sort out everything on her own, like she says sheís going to? That just doesnít feel right.

Also, when we first talked about our problems a month ago, I suggested for the two of them to consult a relationship counselor. At the time I felt very confused and insecure and felt I didnít have the right to inlcude myself in my own suggestion and go to the couselor with them; I just said Iíd be ready to come if theyíd find it necessary.
Theyíve gone to see a counselor, but only for a first interview without any actual counseling going on.
I wonder whether I should suggest to go with them to the second interview?

Iím aware that I probably sound very confused and not like an experienced poly person at all. Thatís due to my emotions and issues being a quite a bit out of control at the moment. Iím in a transitional phase and everything is just a bit too much to survey and sort out.

Which is exactly why Iím asking for your help. I appreciate every perspective on my situation and my plans, every critique, every similar experience youíd like to tell me about.
Input about the things I want to tell my friend is especially welcome, since Iím unsure if Iím asking too much of her of if perhaps my conclusions donít make sense after all.
If something I wrote doesnít make sense to you, please ask me for clarification Ė itís likely just a language problem, since Iím not a native speaker. If it isn't, I'll still try and clarify. ;)
Thanks in advance!

GroundedSpirit 03-04-2010 02:54 PM

Hello Miane and welcome !

First off - for be a non-native speaker I have to complement you. Better than some native I've seen :) (clarity)

One thing I think is key that you mentioned is that she (or both of you?) is having some other crisis in her life she's dealing with. You can really only fight so many fires at one time. Maybe keep that in mind and don't take anything that happens between you too literally right now. Let a little more slide than maybe you otherwise might.

When she say she feels her "emotions" are hindering her - trust her on that. That can be a very valuable insight. When faced with complex issues you can't allow feelings & emotions to reign supreme in the decision making process. You need to send them to their corner sometimes and dig out the logical side.

As far as being a team effort and supporting each other in the outside crises, that's a tricky balance and much depends on individual personalities and patterns each has developed for dealing with stuff. Some people need more space to focus, others need more support. I'd just remind each other that you are "there" for the other whenever necessary and it feels right. But let each of you set your own pace and keep in mind that really - in the end - we all have to make our own decisions and use our own methods to get to where we need to go. Nobody can really do it "for" us.

So while it's true that sharing burdens is a desirable method of attacking some things, there are personal pieces in there too that we sometimes need to resolve. Try to respect that, all the while keeping the door open for help where you can.

So in general, I wouldn't get too attached to any particular vision or outcome right now. Chaos arises for us all from time to time and we just have to try to stay flexible and be open to how things evolve.

Good luck !


Lemondrop 03-04-2010 04:05 PM

I don't see any problem with telling your friend how you feel and making suggestions, but you do need to keep in mind that in the end, you can't live her life or make her choices for her. You have to step back, take a deep breath, and hope things will work out. The only life you have a right to control is yours. Let her have her space; sometimes it takes a while to process things.

mianej 03-04-2010 07:28 PM

Thanks, you two! You've already helped me a lot in finding out what exactly my point is.

GS, there isn't really an outside crisis. My friend is in a crisis, but her relationship to our boyfriend is at the center of that crisis. There are more complicated and deeper mechanisms also in play, and it's hard to see whether the relationship problems are a symptom or a cause.
I'm in a crisis because of many changes in my life that have washed some buried issues to the surface. Nothing I can't deal with over time, but it's much more difficult to deal with relationship problems in this state of mind than it would usually be.

Lemondrop, you're absolutely right, and I thank you for telling me this so clearly. I know that I have to step back and let her make her own choices. It's a trap I keep stumbling into. I just want to DO something, and I'm completely powerless.

Iíve extrapolated two questions/ problems that are important for me right now.

1) A huge problem at the moment is that I can't seem to find a balance between clinging to my friend, trying to make her choices for her and on the other side keeping a distance that makes it impossible for us to communicate.

It's been much easier for me to keep a distance over the last two weeks, less emotionally challenging. She dumped me after all, and I still need to deal with that on top of everything else.
But I think I can't keep this distance for long, as it means that we don't talk about what's going on and how we feel... and our boyfriend becomes the one in the middle, the only one who has the information and has to deal with all the emotional baggage we dump on him. And he relays important information - that's not okay. He shouldn't have to do that.
I don't want to leave all responsibility for our relationship on his shoulders.

So for all our sakes I need to talk to her again.

2) Let's get to the bottom of this:
I don't trust her to solve her own problems. Thatís probably just my own issue that doesnít have much to do with reality, but itís there and I canít get myself to trust her.
Thereís a lot of help she could get. Other people have experienced similar situations. There are books on the topic. All I want from her is one thing: I want her to actively work on finding out what SHE wants.
At the moment every step the boyfriend and I make is wrong. Everything hurts her. And she doesnít tell us what we can do so weíll hurt her less. From what I know she thinks we canít do anything. But what kind of relationship is that, where we canít do anything to help and everything we do is wrong, but she still doesnít want us to stop?
Doesnít that sound pretty messed up?
Maybe all we need is time and therapy.
But maybe thatís not all we need.
If I could bring myself to trust her, I could say, ok, she needs time. Sheíll sort it out. Sheíll talk to us if we can do anything.
But she has promised before that she would tell me when something I was doing wasnít okay. And she didnít tell me!

I know Iím much too involved in this, emotionally. I must take a step back and breathe.
I must concentrate on my own life, do something for me. I canít solve anything for her.

Well, obviously, as you can see, Iím very bad at separating at the moment, everything gets conflated, feelings, thoughts, fears, past, present...
Iím just looking for a reasonable way to act here.

Would it be reasonable to mostly stay away from her?
Should I refrain from taking on responsibility for the relationship?
Keep talking to me? I'd be very grateful.

mianej 03-05-2010 02:53 PM

My acute problem seems to have solved itself, because my friend (???) obviously doesn't want to talk to me. That feels kind of okay, because if I'm honest to myself I can see that I don't really want to talk to her either. We're both so shaken, I don't know whether we can communicate without getting deeper into hurt and misunderstanding.

Can there ever be a situation where it's better not to talk about things, at least for some time?

I practise "taking a step back and breathing" a thousand times a day. It works better than I would have thought.
That's easier, too, when I don't talk to my friend.

But won't it hurt our boyfriend when she and I don't communicate directly?

It's like most of the rules and methods I know and have used successfully before just don't apply here anymore.

GroundedSpirit 03-05-2010 03:18 PM


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23575)
But won't it hurt our boyfriend when she and I don't communicate directly?


Thanks for clarifying that the problems are internal vs external. That helps clarify things.

It's hard to tell how to comment on your last 2 posts. It's nothing to do with language, but because it's a lot of vague generalities and little detail.

But having him stuck in the "middle" will get REAL old, REAL fast.

You don't mention what this issue between you two is ?
Jealousy ?
Personality/lifestyle conflict ?

We don't always "click" with every other person on earth. That's ok. And maybe you two just won't click.

But if your BF wants to have both of you in his life then you two will at minimum have to adopt a reasonable level of respect for each other. If you can't do that it's likely he will soon get fed up with drama and emotional immaturity and leave you both crying in the park.

Two mature adults SHOULD be able to agree they both enjoy the same restaurant but out of respect won't show up there together at the same time - OR try to influence the cook to change the menu more to their liking.

Lacking more details that's all that comes to mind........


mianej 03-05-2010 04:22 PM

Ah, I wasn't aware I was being vague. Maybe that's because I'm not sure in how much detail I want to go in this forum.
I'll try to clarify a few things.

I believe the issue is indeed jealousy. My friend feels insecure in her relationship to her BF because she feels too dependent on him. She has suppressed her supposedly "negative" emotions over the course of our year together, thinking she didn't have the right to feel this way. In our triad relationship she often felt good, but also often bad because she was afraid she'd grow less important for our BF now that he has a second girlfriend.
All her suppressed emotions have now come out in a rush when I moved closer to where they live. She says she can't perceive anything else but her jealousy anymore, the positive aspects of our relationship, which she acknowledges were there, are now buried under her fear.

She doesn't have a problem with me personally and wants to have some kind of relationship with me, altough she can't tell at the moment what kind of relationship because she can't get through to her feelings towards me - they're also hidden under her love for our BF and her fear that overshadow everything.

We do click, very much so. A bit too much. We're too similar, similar insecurities, her issues can trigger my issues and vice versa.

I've had some big changes in my life over the last 6 months, including the end of a 10 year relationship, so I couldn't cope that well with her sudden outburst. (When she slipped into this crisis she cut me off for a month and didn't want to talk to me, because she was too afraid that when she spoke to me about her jealousy everything would break down).

So the point is: Temporarily we're both a bit too shaken to be able to communicate very well. When I panic here and say that oh dear what if we can't talk anymore! - that's probably an overreaction on my side. Generally we can talk wonderfully. Just not now. Now each of us needs some distance to sort out for herself how to cope with her emotional drama. (She's in therapy and I'm waiting for mine to begin in April.)

My question is: Will it be okay if we don't talk much for some time, like, a month or two - so that she has room to calm down a bit and sort out what she wants?
Or will these weeks of not talking already hurt what's left of our relationship (which I think is... quite a lot), because we forget how to talk or something like that?

Respect is definitely not our problem. There's a greater risk we care too much about what the other person may feel when I do X/ she does Z than that we don't care enough. We had a great friendship. It's somewhere under all that baggage.

As for trying to influence the cook to change the menu... I hope very much she's aware that's possible. I fear she thinks it's either the restaurant as it is WITH me in it - or nothing at all.
I've tried to tell her that she can negotiate and get help etc - but if she can't or won't do that at the moment, then I can't do anything, right?

Still unclear?

GroundedSpirit 03-06-2010 03:14 PM


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23597)
Maybe that's because I'm not sure in how much detail I want to go in this forum.

Totally understandable :)


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23597)
I believe the issue is indeed jealousy. My friend feels insecure in her relationship to her BF because she feels too dependent on him.

Well, that of course explains a lot. Not a lot you can do except be the best friend you can be (as before) and try to impress on her that you are looking at ALL of you us a unit. Not a competition. (Let's hope this is true!)
The dependency thing however is serious. Nothing I'm immediately aware of that can throw a wrench in the gears of a relationship like dependency. If you are dependent it puts you in a place of fear of loss. It undermines your own self confidence etc. THAT is a project (and concept) that she needs to be brought up to speed on. We have enough situations in life where dependency tries to get a hold as it is (jobs, family etc) that's it's totally self defeating to be adding things ourselves. The goal must be to strive for as much independence in our lives as possible !
Love does NOT need to equal dependence !


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23597)
She doesn't have a problem with me personally and wants to have some kind of relationship with me, altough she can't tell at the moment what kind of relationship because she can't get through to her feelings towards me

If the situation were reversed - what would feel 'right' to you ? (regarding your relationship & communication)

I might suggest just trying to keep it light and friendly. Friendship first - the rest can follow. Email (or test) is good. Maybe just send a {{hug}} occasionally. Try to talk a little about other things - work, social activities etc - just normal non-relationship things. Same as you would with any best friend. Just try to assure her you value HER and the relationship you have. Leave the BF and whole triad thing out of the picture for awhile.


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23597)
My question is: Will it be okay if we don't talk much for some time, like, a month or two - so that she has room to calm down a bit and sort out what she wants?

See above


Originally Posted by mianej (Post 23597)
I fear she thinks it's either the restaurant as it is WITH me in it - or nothing at all.

So what do YOU think the situation is ?

How does your BF see it ?

Do you think that's what she wants/needs ? Monogamy ?

Keep in touch.


Breathesgirl 03-06-2010 04:20 PM

I have found that writing helps me immensely. I don't mean on public forums or anything like that. I mean a personal journal, a place where you can write down what's bothering you, possible solutions, how you feel, rant, vent, what have you. I've used this tool since I was a teenager & it helps me break down some of the barriers I have when I'm actively thinking about the problem.

When i write it's like my brain shuts down and just lets my fingers do the talking.

Maybe if you write down your thoughts and fears you'll discover, way down deep, that the solution isn't as difficult or as far fetched as you had feared.

mianej 03-08-2010 12:05 AM

Breathesgirl, thank you for your suggestion - it's a good one! I write most of my thoughts and emotions down and find it as helpful as you describe it. If I didn't do it I'd probably just explode. But still sometimes I forget about it and it helps to be reminded.

GS, thank you for your advice. You've confirmed many of my own thoughts on the situation and helped me focus.
Unfortunately our situation has gotten worse, or maybe we just can see it more clearly.


Do you think that's what she wants/needs ? Monogamy ?
That's entirely possible. Today she almost broke up with our BF. (I know of all this only from him, as she doesn't want to talk to me at the moment, understandably, when she's in such an emotional uproar.) She didn't do it in the end, apparently she wants to find out more about what she really wants and work on her dependency problems, which she knows can't be solved by changing her relationship form. But she made it clear that it is possible that in the end she still won't be able to be in a poly relationship (or won't want to).
If their relationship ends because of all this, that would be my worst case scenario come true. I love them and I love how they are together.
But I can't do anything more than be there for the two of them.
I can't even back out of my relationship with him in order to save theirs, because that wouldn't do the trick: basically, he would still be poly and she would still be insecure. (Not that I'd want to leave, but it's a theoretical option I'd at least consider if I could actually achieve anything with it.)

It's all a big mess.
I wonder if anyone's ever been in a mess like that and came out with all relationships relatively intact?

Sometimes I'm scared that maybe polyamory just can't work, that there's always someone who suddenly comes out as mono and everything breaks down. This has happened to me twice now. But there must be people who really are poly, right? Because I am, and I'm not that super special.

Sorry for rambling. It's all a bit much right now.

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