Questioning my Place
I'm not exactly new to poly, but I thought this thread would be appropriate because of the place I find myself now. My girlfriend of 3 years and I are born out of poly. She had been married for 6 years before we met and although I had never seriously considered poly before then, we all decided to give it a try. 5 months ago, her husband filed for divorce, left us, and cut off all communication. We have all had to work through some serious healing after this sometimes beautiful, but oftentimes very tumultuous 3 years.
A month after the divorce, my girlfriend and I discussed poly and agreed that it was probably not good for us, particularly at that time. In a conversation this weekend, however, she shared that she wants us to live poly in the vision of our lives together, and that she had told me that she was not interested in poly before because she thought that I wasn't in a place to be open to it. (Instead, she waited 4 months until I was strong enough to handle the truth of her desires.) We want to talk about this more in depth and how this would play out in our lives.
So, here are my two questions:
1) Does anyone have any practical advice on how to discuss poly in a way that is affirming to everyone involved, particularly if you have one person who is less-than-enthusiastic and another who feels that this is the core of their being? Are there any good practical exercises out there to guide our discussion, because at the moment it is very emotional and difficult for us to be doing this on our own without some guidance.
2) What are some good practices in terms of creating mutual boundaries with poly? Do people generally prefer to set mutually known expectations in their relationships or is it preferred to let it flow and take everything situation by situation? My preference, I guess, would be to create some boundaries but in a way to set up ourselves to be honored, not controlled, but my partner seems to tend towards the latter.
Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Let the emotions come to the surface and bubble themselves out. They are there for a reason and need respecting....
Research together, share dreams and goals and ideas together and find a common ground... remember that you will be inviting others into your lives and will be invited into theirs... your dynamic will change entirely when this happens, as will theirs, so don't think that you will be taking on a pet or anything. I don't mean to sound rude, but some people actually think that they won't change at all, and have the idea that all will be the same, just another body to have around... it sounds like you know a little of all this, so perhaps my advice is moot.
Boundaries seem to work best if they are malleable and living. Keep talking about them and changing them as things come up and you make new realizations about your selves... even let some go as they are no longer needed. Changing and growing is what it is all about in my opinion, so embrace that with open arms and great love for each other, yourself and anyone that comes into your lives.
Lastly, be gentle with yourself and others while being firm and patient at the same time...
Read lots on here and elsewhere too... there is so much info coming onto the net now... we are in good times!
I suggest simply remaining aware of feelings and thoughts and being honest at all times. Awareness and honesty are the things that seperate a true poly relationship from a cheating and deceptive one.
Also, remember that love is the goal here. We choose to be in relationship with one another so that we can experience love by giving and recieving love. A pure type of love can flow through us if we are honest and focused on honoring one another. Patience with one another is important.
Best wishes to you !!
research and email things that "ring true to you" to one another-gives each of you a chance to read it, digest it and then talk.
Maca and I do that A LOT-because then we don't get the "off the cuff" reaction-but the one we REALLY mean.
Also-for setting boundary purposes, the book Opening Up was invaluable to us. The info in there is so/so in regards to having an open or poly relationship. However the lists upon lists of potential things to consider in creating boundary lists were AWESOME conversation starters.
In fact the more OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE OTHER PEOPLE THINK THAT things that we found we both felt that way about-were AWESOME for reminding us that we DO have things that we agreed on ALREADY. That helped ground us a little for discussing the spots were differed on and finding good middle grounds.
Ghost from the Past
Thanks for the advice, all. :) We are letting the emotions run through us which is good, I think. Had another hard talk last night and then a strongly connected morning. I suspect its going to be up and down for awhile.
Letting this emotion bubble up again has let me peel away the fears, somewhat, and let me face them again--raw. What I'm beginning to be reminded of is that I'm not afraid of the intimacy and the closeness with many loves. I loved this part of living poly. Rather, the challenge is that our past experience with it is mixed in with deception and dishonesty: her past husband 'disallowed' sex between us for the first two years (which we lied about to him for that many years) and then my girlfriend denied being interested in intimacy with a mutual friend (upon which a day later I walked in on them).
We have come to a loving understanding and peace about the mutual friend incident, but the situation with her ex-husband is still a very sore subject. When I brought it up again last night, I got the door shut on my face. She says that it is not my responsibility to 'judge her' and that she doesn't need to live by my moral code.
My challenge is that I don't want to judge her 'morality' or question her values but rather to understand how we see these situations in such a very different light. I don't have any interest in dictating strict rules of engagement like our ex, because I don't think that would work for either of us, but I DO want her to know that it would hurt me greatly to find out that while she was on the phone with me telling me that she is still at work and is really busy that she was actually lying naked next to her new lover. Open and honest communication (at least to me) feels like the foundation of any relationship, particularly a poly one.
I guess my preference would be to just put this behind us and wipe the slate clean. But when she asks what my emotions are telling me, the emotions almost always leads to this situation / fear. And when I share it, she shuts down and tells me to stop judging her.
What do you think? Am I not talking about it right? Should I keep this fear to myself and give our next try the benefit of the doubt? Please help!
QUOTE]I suspect its going to be up and down for awhile.[/QUOTE]
For certain! That's how life works, it ebbs and flows.
It is OFTEN easier for us to read our partners words and find the true meaning.
It is also OFTEN easier for us to grasp the partners meaning when we also can read people's replies to them.
Maca and I do this A LOT and it helps A LOT in diffusing arguments. Most arguments are at their core a miscommunication. Improving communication skills in either partner will reduce the number and length of arguments (productively-where as avoidance is unproductive) if you can improve BOTH partners skills at communication you can accomplish the impossible together.
In fact it's PROBABLE that she is hearing that.
It's pretty easy to have tolerable communication when one talks primarily about easy-going, day to day activities. But when trying to negotiate highly charged, emotional topics without GOOD communication skills in ONE method of communication for BOTH people, defenses come up and negotiations fall apart.
Please go read the communications thread-it's in golden nuggets I believe. Great advice in there.
THEN-when you express your fear, start with some of what you said here, that you don't want to make a list of rules, that you don't want to judge her or control her, that you simply want to clarify the boundaries of the relationship for EACH of you.
Let her know that your goal isn't to take way her rights, but to clarify what they are as well as what your own are so that each of you is protected from the other person controlling you AND each of you has an idea of what to expect as you move forward.
It may also be good to let her know that you understand that some details that are agreed upon now may change later because of course you will both be growing, maturing and learning as you go along.
PRACTICE the communication layout I describe in the communication thread (page 3 or so?). It works VERY well at helping ensure TRUE comprehension in conversation and it also helps slow down the process enough to allow for greater depth and connection in conversation as well.
Be SURE to use I statements. As in, "I have a desire to ensure that our relationship is positive for both of us. I would prefer to know the truth no matter how potentially painful in our relationship. I commit to not flying off the handle if it is painful, because having honesty and trust between us is primary for me. I commit also to always telling you the truth, even if it's potentially painful and I would ask that you also commit to not fly off the handle....."
You make me feel insecure when...
(I feel insecure about my importance in this relationship when....)
IF you were telling me xyz but were actually in bed with joebloe that would make me angry/hurt...
(I believe I would feel hurt if I found that you were lying to me. So I want to create a situation where you can trust me to react appropriate no matter what the truth is so that you can feel comfortable always being upfront and honest with me)
As important as honesty is-being upfront is equally so. It is possible to be TECHNICALLY honest (I was the queen of this) while still NOT being upfront. This ends in disaster. You both need to be able to be UPFRONT about your feelings, needs, desires, relationships with others AND honest with one another.
This is actually a little harder to learn to do, but well worth the effort. In my experience it took about 6 months of me REALLY CONSCIOUSLY forcing myself to do this before Maca felt safe and comfortable enough to start doing it as well. It can be a struggle to do this when the other person is unable, but again-it's STILL well worth the effort.
Also-having a negative attitude or a positive attitude greatly impacts the liklihood of having a negative experience or having a positive experience.
Sorry to be blunt and maybe seem a bit insensitive but from my perspective it looks as though your girlfriend has a problem with honesty. I'll be devil's advocate and question whether she is just using the word "poly" to fuck who ever, whenever she wants.
There is always the option of repeatedly trying to make it work, but if deceptive behaviour repeats itself then eventually you've got to consider that maybe you are being used. If that is the case, look after yourself, there's better out there.
Although he brings up legitimate possibilities (intentional/delusional) I'll try to put in the other possibility. Maybe a more positive perspective ?
Remember that when trying to alter ourselves into a form that's comfortable with loving many, there's a lot of old programming we have to unearth and shed.
Honesty (or lack of) is just one more of them.
From the time we are children we learn that we get to have our cake and eat it too by lying or hiding things from those we feel would interfere in our quest for happiness. It's deeply ingrained in us by the time we are 20 yrs old.
The big paradigm shift occurs when we realize HOW deeply that behavior is ingrained in us ! We often don't see it - lie to ourselves. Having that truth surface and doing full scale battle with it is one of the most beneficial things we can do. Ignore relationships, poly, mono, business, whatever. It's a battle for PERSONAL integrity. The building of a good night's sleep with the one person we will lay down with every night the rest of our life.
It changes us.
This is an amazing forum of thoughtful and grounded people. Thank you for whomever put this together and has the tenacity to keep it going. I referred it to my other poly friends who are often craving for a stronger sense of community around the topics on this site.
I've been reading through the other posts for the last few days, particularly on the topic of honestly, and have found some amazing discussion and advice. I did want to briefly respond to your amazing thoughts on this particular thread, however, because they were very helpful.
The irony is that I believe her long-range vision is solidly grounded. The issues are that her means of getting there can be hurtful to those that love her. And it seems stressful for her to have to maintain all of those half-truths. Her stories are like a stack of cards precariously placed on top of one another and much of her energy is spent on maintaining that structure. I am trying not to project my feelings onto her, but doesn't that seem like a lot of precious energy wasted on covering your butt?
On a side note, this personality trait has greatly supported her work life, as she is a professional politician at the national level. She climbed the ladder of 'success' at a young age through tenacity and half-truths and brilliant strategy.
While I believe her ultimate desires for us (and for her work) are grounded in a vision of love and hope for a solid future, the challenge seems to be seeing that the values and actions that bring us what we want in our work lives may ultimately set us up for being hurt and unloved in our personal relationships.
We both have a lot of programming to dismantle. And I know I have the power to leave her, but my interest right now is in seeing if we can make this work while maintaining our strength and self-esteem.
Thank you again and look forward to staying active on this site! :)
This does have to be a personal quest and has to be initiated by a self aware person that realizes the full set of ramifications that accompany building - as you say - this house of cards. They always, eventually, come tumbling down and impact not only ourselves, but everyone we touch.
It doesn't happen overnight, but it CAN happen. And the rewards are bountiful. But there is some sacrifice too and it can happen that we pay a price in our professional life.
My question I always asked myself.....
Which is my REAL life ? If it all comes tumbling down - what do I want to make sure I have a solid connection to ?
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