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-   -   The Newbie's Lament: Trying to Make it Work (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24912)

Sinensis 06-20-2012 08:02 PM

The Newbie's Lament: Trying to Make it Work
 
I'm sure you've heard variations on this a billion times before, but here I am adding one more: this is both my "hello forum!" post and my "this is scary and halps??" post.

So, the background story. I've been with my (awesome, silly, adorable, beautiful, lovable, affectionate, patient, understanding) girlfriend for a year and a half. I knew going in that she'd want to open it up eventually, and that sounded fine and fun to me, I just wanted to get more established in our relationship first. A few months ago we tried taking the first step of finding some threesomes as a beginner way to open it up, since I've done that before (in previous partnerships) and been totally comfortable with it. Unfortunately, we're in a rather small town for grad school now, and frankly we had a really hard time finding anyone we were both attracted to who was into it and attracted to both of us.

With her trip coming up and Plan Threesome failing, she suggested that while she was gone, I could have a permission slip to play, on the theory that if I found someone first I'd be more comfortable with her having someone else. This was also with the understanding that she'd have the same freedoms when she got back to the States. Our intended relationship model is/was something between poly and open relationship. There is an expectation of emotional attachment and romantic squishy feelings with other partners; neither of us is really capable of having totally casual sex. Those partners could/would be regular, if we wanted, but we would emphatically remain each other's primary partners. We live together, we have a domestic partnership, and we'd like to get married one day, when we're ready and it's (hopefully) legal.

(Oh, right, we're both bi/homoflexible girls.)

I thought about it for a day or so and decided, yeah, that sounds pretty awesome. I'd had a barely suppressed crush for a bit on a friend, and at first things were lovely. It was so exciting and rewarding to realize I could pursue this person I thought was just fantastic AND do it with the support of my awesome, awesome girlfriend. I broached the subject with the friend, she admitted to having a crush on me, and we scheduled a date. With the date scheduled, my girlfriend asked if it might be okay if she met up with a former partner/poly boyfriend on a week long trip in October. At the time, this also seemed okay. I asked for a little bit of reassurance that she wouldn't (re)fall head over heels in love with him and leave me, and she happily gave me that reassurance, and there the matter lay, plans still very tentative/theoretical.

Then I went on my date, and my friend decided that she was too worried about losing our friendship (yeah that DOES sound cliche, doesn't it?) to go for it.

That was when I started to have freak outs about our arrangement. And that was also when I started to feel horribly selfish and hypocritical for having freak outs only once my partner had someone lined up and I didn't. I began having actual nightmares about it. I felt like I was failing to carry through my end of the deal, because we had agreed that I should try to find someone first so I'd be more comfortable and then she could play, but I wasn't finding anyone. I felt like she must be seeing me as holding her back, and that she and her ex, the one she'd been planning to meet, must see me as incredibly provincial and old-fashioned and prudish for having so much trouble with this. Even though ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WAS HAPPENING on her end, that potential trip in October began to seem like a terrifying deadline, and I started breaking down crying when I thought about the whole thing. Again, even though she hadn't even been seeing anyone yet. I started worrying that we were trying to fix something that wasn't even broken, and desperately looking around for examples of functioning poly/open relationships.

I told her all this when we video chatted last night. She was very understanding (she always is), and repeated that she wants to be with me and only me as a partner, and that she doesn't and won't think that I'm old-fashioned or provincial or prudish or anything. There's no penalty for having trouble, just penalties for not trying. She noticed that a lot of my concerns seem to relate to what I think people think of me, and that I have a hard time believing people when they say they really do think well of me. See: the whole prudish/inexperienced/provincial thing. Also, see: pretty much any time I have a bad body image day and anyone tries to tell me I'm beautiful. I'm good at finding reasons for why they'd say that and not really mean it, or otherwise convince myself not to emotionally believe them.
She said that when it came to the insecurity/jealousy stuff like that, she would love to but couldn't really help me, and I should probably talk to my therapist about it. I agree, and I will, although it makes me feel really embarrassed to do so, especially to admit that I'm having trouble with it.

But the fact that I have to talk to a therapist about trying to make an open/poly situation work makes me feel like there's something wrong with me. I mean, I know it's always a struggle to some degree or another, but most people at least seem to be fine until other partners actually become involved. I'm so ashamed of how much trouble I'm having this early in the game, and it feels like I have to fix some basic things about myself before I can get to this. Significant insecurities, habits, and tendencies that I was already sort of working on, but which I'd managed to survive with for quite a while without it coming to a head. It seems like such a long path to actually get those cleared up.

We agreed to postpone/temporarily shelve the open/poly thing. I feel really disappointed. Disappointed in myself for having so much trouble with this; disappointed in myself for agreeing to it lightheartedly and then discovering I'm more of a mess than I thought; disappointed period, because it was a really fun sounding idea and I was looking forward to making it work. I want to believe that I can keep trying and eventually we'll get there, but I'm afraid. What if I fail? What if she gets tired of being with this poly-handicapped person and doesn't want to wait around for me to readjust anymore? She's said in the past that's not going to happen, and what's more important than the openness factor is our relationship, but she's also said she would eventually like to be poly/open. So those fears and worries come back, and the cycle starts again.

In conclusion: dafuq is wrong with me? Has anyone experienced stuff like this, either directly or through someone you know? I'm sorry for the epic. I just really want to hear voices from the poly community, and I want to have someone other than my girlfriend to bring this to sometimes--my real life friends are neither experienced in this area nor terribly supportive.

dingedheart 06-20-2012 08:21 PM

The assumption is there is something wrong with you. I'm not sure I'd make that assumption. Intellectual theory about emotional topics are one thing. Putting these things in to practice can be extraordinarily difficult and gut wrenching.

Some say it's a wiring issue. Maybe you're not wired for it.

opalescent 06-20-2012 09:04 PM

Good news! You're normal! Bad news! You're normal!
 
The reactions you are having are really common.

It is common to be bummed and unhappy when one partner of a couple trying poly finds another interest while the other partner does not have anyone else yet. Your post read like you were ok with your partner's potential interest while you were exploring things with your friend. Once your friend declined, that seems to be the precipating event in the freakout. Perhaps you are not freaked out about poly/open per se but that your partner has someone and you do not and this generates insecurity, jealousy and other such feelings.

It is also common to agree to try open and/or poly, experience a partner interacting with other partners, try to interact yourself, and find yourself completely owerwhelmed with feelings you did not anticipate in any way. Give yourself a bit of a break. It's a hard thing you are trying on for size. There will be lots of unanticipated bumps and weirdness.

You are experiencing the painful, normal, common growing pains of developing an open/poly relationship. Now open or poly may or may not be for you, or for this relationship with your girlfriend. That's still up in the air. But you are certainly not a disaster or 'poly-handicapped'.

lovefromgirl 06-20-2012 09:27 PM

Being poly is no better and no worse than being mono. You want to be with your girlfriend and only your girlfriend, and she's cool with it? Then you're all right. Like dingedheart said, I too tend to view it as a wiring thing. I've never understood... rather a lot about "normal" dating. But that's one woman in a whole sea of humanity. There's room for all of us. <3

Sinensis 06-21-2012 12:47 PM

Hey guys! Thanks for the responses!

dingedheart: And thank you. I really hope it's not a wiring issue, though, and I find that thought pretty disheartening. It's not that poly is totally appalling to me, and I definitely know that I have the capacity to have feelings for multiple people and not experience a lessening in the feelings for any individual, but I'm having an unfortunate, insecure reaction. One that ties in a lot to insecurities I'm already trying to deal with. I intend to work really hard at this and try to patch myself up, so, yes. It would be kind of heart-breaking if I was going through all this effort to make this work and it turned out I was "wired" a different way or something. (I also generally believe, from a logical standpoint, that it's not "wiring" so much as it is a combination of confidence and upbringing; the product of nurture more than nature, that is.)

opalescent: It made me feel relieved to read your post. :) I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. And yes, you're quite right; it did seem like this only became an issue once I no longer had someone on the table and she did. I guess I mostly just became overwhelmed by how MUCH of an issue it suddenly was. I was surprised by the nearly 180 degree turn. Really, self? You're fine as long as you've got someone, but then it's Threat to Self mode if you don't?
I'm uncertain of how to proceed now. I keep coming up with hypothetical scenarios:
1) If I managed to find someone, would I chill out about it again and be able to proceed?
2) If I didn't feel like she had that assignation in the future, would I be able to relax more and not have this urgent sense of "I MUST FIND SOMEONE"?
3) If we went at it ripping-off-the-bandaid style, if she had one encounter (not the full week trip, perhaps) with someone else and then I saw that the world hadn't ended, would I be able to face this more reasonably?

I know you can't answer those questions for me, but it helps to try to get it all out in a linear way. And if you have any insights on them, feel free to share!

lovefromgirl: Well, that's part of the problem. I DO actually want to be able to "date" other people, or whatever the right term is. In previous relationships, I have definitely had feelings, either sexual or romantic or both, for people outside the relationship. Generally, I either shoved them down and away and ignored them until the relationship ended on its own, or, if the original relationship wasn't doing well, I pined and longed for those other people until it made me irritable and angry with my original partner. That's not to say that monogamy would be impossible for me, but I have a definite interest in having some flexibility.
And I keep going back to two things my girlfriend said. First, assuring me that she wanted to be with me, and that she didn't intend to leave me for someone who could easily do poly; that being with me was more important than the relationship being open. That it's okay if I take a while, since we're in a marathon, not a sprint.
But second, that she really did want to have some degree of openness at some point in the future. I feel like maybe she'd manage if we just did threesomes once in a while, but I want her to be genuinely fulfilled, not "managing."

So, ah, like I said to dingedheart, I really hope it's not wiring. If it IS wiring that means...I'm...what....wired to want to date others but to be incapable of seeing my partner do the same? O.O D: I don't want to be that person.




What's especially funny to me is that right now, I'm not even worrying about the thought of her with other people. What's agonizing me is worrying about her getting frustrated if I keep having trouble with this. *headdesk* I think....I think I'm going to ask her if she wants to keep it open after all. And just suck it up, go to therapy, and hope that the combination of finding someone for myself and seeing the world NOT end when she has someone will help be get back into the flow.

ThatGirlInGray 06-22-2012 04:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinensis (Post 140356)
But the fact that I have to talk to a therapist about trying to make an open/poly situation work makes me feel like there's something wrong with me.

I love your choice of words here, because it allows me to make a huge distinction:

FACT: You plan on talking to a therapist about a new relationship situation.

I understand your feeling, but just because you feel something DOESN'T necessarily make it the truth. Think about all the things people talk to therapists about. Some are maybe more complicated than poly, true, but many are not. If there's something "wrong" with you (and I suspect there's NOT) then there's something "wrong" with a WHOLE LOT of people who need a little outside help dealing with various aspects of life.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinensis (Post 140356)
I mean, I know it's always a struggle to some degree or another, but most people at least seem to be fine until other partners actually become involved.

Neither of these are as true as you seem to think they are. Some people barely struggle at all (at least, with the idea/practice of poly. probably with other relationship issues, though) and some flip at just the THOUGHT of their partner being with someone else. You're somewhere in the middle, and you WANT to work on it. That's HUGE. Your girlfriend seems to know and appreciate this- I hope you're able to at some point too.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinensis (Post 140356)
I'm so ashamed of how much trouble I'm having this early in the game, and it feels like I have to fix some basic things about myself before I can get to this. Significant insecurities, habits, and tendencies that I was already sort of working on, but which I'd managed to survive with for quite a while without it coming to a head. It seems like such a long path to actually get those cleared up.

Feeling ashamed isn't going to help anything, so hopefully that's something you can also work through, but yeah, one thing about poly (and the reason it almost never works as a "fix" for a broken relationship) is that it shines a hella bright light into the shadows and brings cracks into sharp, sharp relief. So, yes, wanting to go down the poly path may take time and effort. But if it's what you want, that's okay. So many people want things to happen quickly, even right away. But it's okay to go slow, as long as overall progress is being made in the direction everyone wants. She said she'd eventually like to be poly/open. There's no deadline. She wants to be poly/open WITH YOU, so you're a very necessary part of what she wants! If it helps, I'm poly and my husband is mono, and we took over 10 years to get to the point where I could have a committed, sexual relationship with someone besides him. But it was worth it. I have an awesome husband AND an awesome boyfriend and I wouldn't have any of what I have now if I hadn't been willing to be patient and go through this journey at (mostly) his pace.

Good luck, I know the path can be bumpy but as long as this remains something you want you can navigate it!

Sinensis 06-22-2012 04:42 PM

Wow! Thank you so much, TGIG! Those are a lot of the most encouraging things I've heard thus far. It's particularly nice to hear that I'm somewhere in the middle in terms of struggling with polyamory. Like I mentioned before, I don't have much of a scale to gauge this stuff by, so I'm guessing blind when it comes to other peoples' experiences. This helps. (Also, I loved hearing even a bit of your story.)

I told her last night that I wanted to keep trying for poly rather than push it back, while I continue to work on this stuff in therapy (and do my recommended therapy exercises like a good girl, even if on paper they sound sorta...cheesy). And I already feel significantly better. Something about pushing it away, looking at it, and then choosing it again of my own accord makes it feel less frightening.

Am I 100% confident and fearless? Nope. And I imagine I'll continue to have some freaked out moments. But hopefully now that I've heard from all of you and talked more to my girlfriend, I'll be able to keep those moments in perspective, take several deep breaths, and not see it as an emergency existential crises.

Here goes!

SNeacail 06-22-2012 05:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinensis (Post 140593)
Something about pushing it away, looking at it, and then choosing it again of my own accord makes it feel less frightening.

I find myself doing this on a great many issues. It took me a long time to train my husband that this is how I needed to process changes in general. Once we were both able to learn how to work with my processing pattern, I find I can deal with changes much easier now.

nycindie 06-26-2012 12:52 AM

Sometimes we just have a dramatic reaction to changes that for whatever reason seem really big to us, like jumping off a cliff. It's scary to find ourselves out of the old familiar comfort zone. But change can be good, and change really is the only absolute in life - everything changes eventually,so why not embrace it?


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