There are a lot of resources about how to manage jealousy or other stuff related to your partner having another love. I think the position of, say, a leg in a V (meaning you have one partner who has another partner) is considered to be more difficult to adjust to in our monogamous culture. Which may well be true, on average. But I do think there's quite important adjusting needed of the hinge, i.e. person with two (or more) partners. I can think of a few things that seem to feature in people's experiences.
Taking care of own needs.
There are probably other things that I didn't think of. Please, feel free to add as you think of any. :) And please share your experiences about what you have found important/influential.
For me all of the aspects I thought to list have needed their own processing. I think I'll share some posts I've made in my journal, and write some. [Likely not all today, I'll continue as I have the time.] My perspective is that of opening up an existing long-term relationship.
What I wanted to write about first is guilt. For me guilt has been a powerful trigger, affecting my behaviour in undesirable ways (of which I was often unaware), before I learned to manage it.
My emotional response to guilt has been simultaneously
- to feel so bad about myself that I've been triggered to fix whatever it is that makes me feel guilty
- to feel angry and act very defensive
What I have been working on is to stop the action (=doing) resulting from the response (=feelings). That is, when I start feeling guilty, it may still lead me to feel unbelievably bad, or angry, or defensive. However, while feeling totally justified in my response, I try to rationally recognise that it may not be proportional, and I will do my best not to act on it.
I will give you a non-fictional example. Alec tells me that when he sees me in NRE with Mya, all happy and glowy, it makes him feel bad about not being able to have that with me.
Hearing this, I feel bad about myself that I made him feel that way (which is not true because nobody can make anybody feel anything, even as I can do something and he may feel something in response; there is a difference). This feeling, in turn, makes me feel angry (because I hate feeling guilty) and defensive.
Now, the feelings flow into me immediately. And what I feel like doing is to defend myself. An alternative feeling might be to try to avoid the discomfort in the future by never again hanging out with both Alec and Mya together. Or trying to seem less happy with Mya when with Alec. Or deciding to become monogamous so that everything will be fixed and I won't have to feel guilty anymore.
I think all of those guilt-triggered actions are quite harmful if they are done.
So, at this point I totally feel like I need to defend myself against Alec, and I feel that I want to tell him that he is totally unreasonable in feeling bad about not having NRE with me, we've been together for 7 years, is he stupid or something, and for heaven's sake I'm allowed to be happy with anybody I want, and anyway I see Mya only occasionally and him all the time so of course I won't be happy and glowy with him all the time.
But, I stop myself. I remind myself that even though I feel like he is making me feel guilty, it is not actually true (since, again, he cannot make me feel anything). I remind myself that even though I feel justified in defending myself, I may not be, because I can't really objectively evaluate that when I'm feeling so much. Additionally, as long as I know I am not doing anything wrong (even though I feel guilty), it is not necessary to tell him that right away.
By practicing this it actually becomes easier to hear what it is he is trying to communicate, instead of all my focus going into what I'm feeling.
Thus, when Alec tells me he feels bad, I can not act on the guilt, and really hear him, and comfort him as best I can, and be there for his support. Which is something I wouldn't be able to do if I reacted defensively.
Now, sometimes somebody is actually trying to guilt-trip you into doing something. But the above advice still applies, because it makes it easier to see if that is going on. If person simply expresses their feelings, it is different than if they express their feelings and ask you to change your behaviour, which is again different from telling you that they want you doing something differently. When you become better at managing your guilt, you become better at making healthy boundaries.
Still more about guilt. There's a lot of judgement to polyamory in the surrounding monogamous culture. If you have multiple partners you will get your share, particularly if your partners don't have other partners. And even if you have great people close to you and face no judgemental comments, this stuff is internalised and can still affect you in that you feel guilty.
I have felt guilty for "being the one who wants this or benefits more" of me and Alec. With Mya I haven't had this feeling because she also has another partner.
For me it is helpful to have something to counter the guilt with. It helps to know that me and Alec both chose to open up our relationship. It was my idea, and I did ask for it, but he also said yes. He had a choice and he chose poly. So he also wants this.
And I do feel the guilt from being the one "who benefits more" doesn't even fit in my world view, it is just a view that is not uncommon among folks not in open relationships. I don't subscribe to the assumption that there is some kind of competition between me and my partners, and whomever gets more partners/sex/whatever wins. I care about my partners satisfaction, and not only of mine. And I choose partners who care about my satisfaction and not only of their own. Thus, it is not a question of who benefits more, but more happiness bring increased overall satisfaction.
Very interesting topic - only thing I can think of off hand that you didn't include would be long term plans.
This kind of falls under what you said already. When I first started dating my boyfriend, when I met his wife she made some comments that made me think - when you date somebody short term, or casually, it can make a short term impact on your life, you deal with NRE, and an upheaval that can be a bitch. When that turns into a long term relationship (and you're already married) you're also potentially making a long term commitment to spend a certain amount of your life with somebody other than your spouse.
I became much more aware that since my boyfriend already had a long term relationship with another girlfriend who he sees once or twice a week, that becoming long term with me meant 1 additional day a week for up to forever, that he wasn't available for his wife. I've really thought about what that means for her, and what that'd mean for me if my husband got into one or more long term serious relationships and the impact on me if he was a hinge.
Another reason long term impact of a hinge came up for me is because there's a chance my husband Adam is getting a job in another state. If he gets it (and my boyfriend and I keep dating) I'll factor in the stress of me traveling back here to see Brian - not so much for my relationship with Adam, I think that's be fine, but it has to alter his schedule with his other two important people, and could cause stress on him as a hinge. If Brian visits me, as it stands Adam never sees Brian - if it becomes a LDR he becomes a guest in our home instead of a visitor if he travels to me, and I'd sleep with Brian instead of Adam during that time, and there'd be some group time - which would certainly alter the dynamic. Also if Brian visits me it alters his schedule with his other two important people, and again, could cause stress on him as a hinge. If I visit him it'd also involve a longer time commitment that could stress his other relationships. It wont be once a week, but I think a few day visit either way could have a stressful impact on his life, especially if it cuts into his vacation time that could be used with other partners.
I feel for you with what you're saying - guilt can be such a driving force, and I work really hard to keep it not being a factor. I'm sure if I communicated more with Brian's wife I might feel more guilt as the arm of that hinge, so maybe I am lucky that we don't talk so much. I find it pretty easy at the moment to balance all the things that need to be balanced, but I worry if I add any other relationships or changes in that it will become much more difficult to be a hinge.
I haven't really had to do much hinge work when me and JJ became poly and I started a relationship with rory. There are a few factors that have impacted this. First of all, JJ has been unbelievably cool about everything and full of compersion and hasn't expressed almost any negative feelings about my relationship with rory. Time management hasn't been an issue either because it hasn't made a big change to our relationship. Me and JJ have spent significant amounts of time separate during our relationship, for example we've lived in different places 3 times (4-5 months every time), so in a way it's nothing new that I'm spending about a week per month at rory's. The second thing is that most of the time it's me who is visiting rory so I don't spend much time with JJ and rory together. The third thing is that both JJ and rory need time alone more than me which makes it easier for me to spend time with either one because I know they also enjoy their time without me. Though this is more true for rory than JJ. Sometimes I do feel like JJ needs a bit more from me than I can give him.
Now suddenly I'm faced with hinge work after I started casually seeing Bob, who I consider my FWB. It's not even a serious relationship and we don't see each other very often, but still I've had more guilt issues during this short time (less than a month) than ever with rory (over a year). It's been weird and hard for me. And I don't even know where it's coming from. JJ doesn't seem as full of compersion as before even though he's not being angry/upset either. He's just neutral, and maybe a bit surprised about the new developments. This is also a new situation to rory (a partner having a new interest) and she's been feeling a bit weird too. Not bad, just weird. I feel like nobody is purely happy (the same way they would be if I got for example a new job) for me that I've got this new situation in my life that brings me joy. That is a lot to ask and I know it's not very realistic. I know I'm just too spoiled because the beginning of my first poly relationship was so easy for me. And this one isn't too bad either, but still I'm feeling guilty. I'm also feeling very very greedy. I already had two, did I really need a third one?? :rolleyes:
I'm glad I don't have to worry too much about energy management because I am a really energetic person and in that sense I think I could handle three people well. Time and guilt are much bigger factors.
Taking care of my own needs. This one I'm really trying to work on now. I'm trying to put myself first in a healthy way, but balancing that with commitments and being considerate to others is not always easy. How much am I willing to give up to make others happy? How much weight should I put on the fact that I'm committed to these two people and how much should that affect my future plans? When it comes to my living situation, I have an answer. Soon I'm going to move to a city that makes me happy. JJ is probably going to move there with me a few months later. Rory and Alec are going to move there in two years. But if for some reason neither JJ or rory moves to the city where I want to live, then there's nothing I'm going to do about it. I can do LDRs, I know that. But I'm not willing to live in a place I don't want to just because I'm committed to people. I also have to take care of my own needs and this one is important for me. There are many things that are negotiable but this isn't one of them. At least not at the moment. If I later feel like I could live somewhere else, then I can consider doing that for a partner / partners. But we'll see how all this unfolds. I really hope all four of us end up in the same city eventually.
This is helpful. One of my partners has been experiencing jealousy regarding my new relationship, and I've been trying hard to be supportive. I hadn't even thought about how the *guilt* has been affecting me (and it has been). Good food for thought...
A wing's observations of a hinge
Yup, good points. I've seen a lot of this in various ways in Gia, the hinge in the vee between me, her, and her husband. She was SO supportive to the point that she seemed positively relieved when I started dating my bf, and it took me a little time to realize that this was in large part because it relieved a lot of her guilt of feeling like she wasn't devoting enough time/energy to me. I had to explain to her that I'm ok, with or without another partner to "balance" things out. I understand that the relationship that she and I have is of a "secondary" nature because that's what she has room for in her life and I don't suffer for it not being more than it is, I just find other places to focus my energy. I think she's getting better about trusting me on this.
It's been very helpful to us both for her to find ways to fit me into things she already needs to do, like the two of us weeding her garden together, so that she can see me without the stress of feeling like she's abandoning the rest of her life just when it needs her most (with a job, a husband, a child, a house, AND a girlfriend her plate is full full full). It's then back on me again to make sure she understand that I don't feel "used" because we're working on her life together instead of mine -- I have the time, I like gardening, I find it peaceful, I like being with her, she gives me herbs to take home... it really is all good. Not that I'd mind so much if she wanted to use me, but that's a different topic. ^_^
Isn't the emotion of guilt install in us as part of a guidance to discourage us from doing wrong. The main component in having a moral compass. The solution to this seems simple.....
A. Don't do or say things that you feel are wrong.
B. Under new dynamic articulate what new expectations and mindset are and how they deviate from the societal norm.
C. Relates to B. during times of struggle for hubs or partner remind him that his reaction are based on his expectations and possible societal programing and that you did nothing wrong or unethical ........provided that didn't do anything wrong or unethical.
D. grow thicker skin :D learn to witness his pain and not be affected. Similar to a behavioral modification technique that one might employ for jealousy. Desensitize yourself from it.
: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one's behavior <aggressive responses originating in inner guilt and uncertainty>
Nope 95% of the time when I feel guilty in a relationship it's not because I did something wrong, and it has nothing to do with a moral compass. In poly for me it comes down, as Mya said, to feeling "greedy" for having so much joy and happiness compared to others, or worrying about juggling time and meeting everyone's needs and desires.
My husband Adam is so easygoing that I feel guilt sometimes because I can't believe somebody is so easygoing and not bothered by things that would bother me - that means I'm checking in all the time trying to make sure he has chances to voice if he feels I'm asking for or taking too much. He might say something bothers him 1/50 times I ask, which instead of putting my mind at ease, makes me worry more that if I don't keep checking in I might miss him being bothered by something. Ridiculous, when if something was worth talking about, he would bring it up.
I feel pre-guilt about getting involved with a third person, even though we have agreements that make sure we have time for dates and errands together. We discussed both being interested seeing more than one other person when we started dating again, so there's no reason at all to feel bad. Adam just likes it when I'm around the house when he's home, so as he's not dating anybody right now, it just lends itself to it being more stressful being a hinge. It's not uncommon for women to feel guilty even when they are bending over backwards to try to make everybody happy. I tend to see men feel guilty about other relationship aspects - when Adam was seeing two other people and I wasn't dating, as long as we had our own date nights scheduled I don't think it would've occurred to him at all to feel guilt for being out, unless I complained.
I operate like Rory about not taking blame for others feelings, or poly would be too hard, as there are so many opportunities to feel guilt, fear, inadequacy, etc. Years ago I read and really accepted that how I feel is how I make myself feel, it's not my partner's fault. (Exceptions exist of course if somebody broke an agreement.) Conversely if a partner feels bad and tries to blame me for making them feel that way the first thing out of my mouth is "Nope, it's not me making you feel that". I work hard on owning my own feelings, and refuse to let somebody put responsibility for their feelings on me. I try very hard to express myself as "I feel X because of Y", especially when saying "You're making me feel X because you did Y" would cause stress for the hinge. I won't blame Adam that I was lonely because he was on dates two nights in a row, instead I'll say I was lonely and ask that we do something nice together. Last thing I want either of us to do is encourage the other to feel bad for having other relationships, it's a disservice to all partners to let that happen.
Thanks for all who have posted.
Anneintherain, I so totally agree with you about everything you wrote about guilt. For me there is very rarely any valid reason for guilt (i.e. having done something wrong) and very often it is simply my socialised emotional reaction. Your post about guilt is very good, thank you.
I really want to write about this topic but it seems life is getting in the way. ;)
I have had bit of a hard time with taking care of my own needs. I've had to learn it, since I used to be very much focused on everybody else being happy. At the start of poly I was quite worried/stressed about that, trying to make sure everybody is satisfied with the situation and feeling happy all the time. It was quite exhausting, since obviously I can't control other people's feelings (and shouldn't even if I could).
I got some good advice here about trying not to worry about everybody else unless they specifically tell you there's something wrong. I have to trust that people will communicate it to me, if there is something important. If they choose not to, it is on them. And if they choose not to, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make them talk or want to talk. I cannot control it. These things are sort of obvious in a way, but I've found it helpful to really believe them. And to accept that I can't make sure everything will be okay for everybody. All I can do is to trust that people will talk if there's a problem and to trust that even if they won't, I will still be okay.
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