Feeling Stressed About Having Many Partners
My partner is feeling stressed about being the more active one in our poly triad. I'd really love some advice and will try not to ramble. Which blatantly means I will... ;)
Laura is my girlfriend. She is the hinge in our FFM poly V.
She has been married to Mark for 13 years, mono for 11.
I came along 16 months ago.
We have all slept with one person each. Laura's person being me: her only sexual partner outside of her 13 year marriage.
The problems come in here
Mark struggles to meet women and is almost completely non-active in poly.
Laura has had a lot of interest, dates, has had BDSM play partners (it hasn't yet led to full sex, but very soon will), and is currently heavily seeking a fully sexual submissive partner. She has also had an online submissive for over a year, whom she considers a third primary.
I am somewhere in the middle. Not hugely looking, but not completely inactive either. I am likely to sleep with someone soon, too.
The crux of the issue
Because Laura is balancing two primary partners, an important online person and going on many dates, she is feeling the stress of having to deal with the emotions and pangs of multiple people.
It is particularly hard for Mark, because he's adapted to me joining their marriage, he also adapted to me moving in for three months, (we have to live long-distance for now) and since I went back home in May, Laura has hugely vamped up the dating. His head is spinning and he says he is feeling a bit second-rate.
I am trying very hard to ensure that I don't dump any negativity on her and that I speak positively about her dates, whilst still communicating when I need to.
What I would like is some outside opinions as to how I can help ease her stress and promote her enjoyment of what she's doing. Perhaps also advice for her on how to deal with her stress and not become frustrated.
(Update - she does take time to talk and listen and always considers our feelings - but after 16 months, says it's sometimes hard to be as patient with jealousy etc).
Thank you to anyone who made it through that whole post!
First of all, little vocabulary nitpick: since Mark and you are not involved, this is called a Vee, not a triad, in which all three partners are involved. Laura's position is called the hinge, and Mark and you are considered arms or branches.
Typically, the best way to relieve pressure that's on a hinge is to make sure not all communication goes through them. The arms have to communicate directly and address issues directly, as well, and conversations involving everyone at once should also happen.
It doesn't seem to me that there is a problem of communication here, though, so I'm not sure exactly how to help. Do you have some more precisions about what stresses Laura out?
Hi there - thank you for your reply :-) And for the terminology help - that is useful! Something that we are still learning.
What stresses Laura out is having to deal with any jealousy, insecurity or communication of those feelings. If something is mentioned, she starts going down a track of feeling that Mark and I aren't "cut out" for poly and should have less worry. She says it is more stressful for her than it is for us, since she has to look out for two people.
If Mark and I talk, she gets upset that Mark doesn't talk to her about it. If we talk to her, she seems overwhelmed.
Part of the problem may lie in the fact that her insecurity/jealousy/pangs isn't tested as often, since Mark is largely inactive and I am not as active as her. So for the most part, she's dealing with our pangs rather than her own.
Really I just want opinions on whether it is unfair of us to communicate every pang we have; or whether it is her responsibility as the hinge of the V to consider the effects of her activity. And either way, how I can help to alleviate her stress.
I hope that makes more sense.
If her stress level goes up with the addition of each partner isn't that her problem. Aren't these her choices. Who's idea was it to open their marriage after 12yrs?
I don't think you should concern yourself with the problem with mark and her ...again everyone made a choice. Unfortunately you might have a ring side seat to some unpleasantness or the break up of a marriage but she might not be a good listener.
I'd voice what you think is important for you....good luck.
Well, being the hinge is stressful. Sometimes it feels like your partners expect you to take care of all of their feelings for them, and it's overwhelming.
On the other hand, it's good to talk about things. If you keep it hidden, it can't be addressed.
I would suggest bringing things up in the least aggressive, most constructive way you can, and suggesting solutions when you bring up a problem. For instance, with a random example: "I feel neglected when you go out and I stay at home alone. Since I have that class on Tuesday evenings, do you think you could plan more dates at that time rather than on Mondays?"
Now, this is completely off the top of my head, but in this example, it makes it clear it's not her fault that you feel neglected, but that the feeling neglected is still something you want to be addressed, and some re-scheduling could fix it.
I think it's important for her though that she doesn't expect everything to go through her, and at the same time expect it not to be stressful. Either you deal with some things without her, or you bring them up with her and it will be stressful. It's her choice. She seems to want to be in control, which is something I can relate to, but she'll have to learn to let go of some of that control if she doesn't want to burn out. You don't expect her to singlehandedly fix everybody's problems.
As for saying her position is the worst, she needs to realise that while being the hinge has its own set of difficulties, you two have to deal with a lot of things she doesn't. Saying you're not cut out for poly because you sometimes feel jealousy or insecurities would be like saying she's not cut out for it because she feels stress. It's important that all three of you know and realise that you all have your own challenges, and you need to support each other through them.
In short, I think she can't complain about all the stress, but simultaneously insist on taking care of everything. She's only human, there are three people in the relationship (although it seems there is more dating as well? She might want to slow down and focus on existing relationships before she adds more. There is a point at which it becomes unmanageable after all), she can't expect to deal with everything, you need to work at distributing responsibilities, and at solving problems together.
How much time do you spend with him without her present? Do you pretty much only have contact when she is involved, or are you friends of sorts at this point?
Thank you very much for the responses so far. It's definitely so useful to have outside advice.
To reply to Tonberry...
Your advice really made sense. Especially about constructive communication.
You're right about control - I agree, it can be hard to let go of and I will talk to her about trying to let go of some of it.
I agree and have said that she might want to consider slowing down. She hasn't had a fully sexual submissive in 13 years, so I do understand the need. I can understand why she's going at it like gangbusters... haha... From her perspective, she has taken it slow, because she hasn't had sex with anyone, besides Mark, myself and online play, in the 16 months we've been together.
As for Mark - we are friends, but we do not spend much time alone together. We like each other but do not necessarily have much to talk about/in common. He talks to me when he is having difficulties. He has trouble talking to Laura sometimes. I tend to talk to Laura; so maybe I should utilize my friendship with Mark more...
DISCLAIMER: I apologize for the novel. This is a passionate topic for me. I can't STAND to be in rship with people who don't get the math. I've had some UGH experiences so some of that may leak out here. :(
Welcome to poly math.
Just because it is not a sex rship does not mean there is no rship at all. Meta arms should aspire to be at least civil, right?
So in THIS polymath Laura has you, Mark, the online person as primaries. Then the BDSM play people (let's call it 2 since you said players PLURAL), her sub for second. And she is SEEKING a new sub?
7 people all in relationship to each other. Not all lovers, but in some rship to each other with Laura at the center of that particular orbit since she's the common link.
2^n - n - 1
2^7 - 7 - 1 = 128 relationships.
Frankly, if she's stressed out (and I do not blame her with this many strings in the web) I would not seek to ADD a new person! It's geometric, not additive.
2^8-8-1 = 247 rship points in the network. Yikes!
And it doesn't matter that She "only" has 3 as primaries and the rest as secondary or play people. It still takes TIME. Love (in all forms, from friendship to sexual) might be intimate but there's only 24 hours in a day.
8 for sleep, 3 for meals, 8 for work -- 5 hours open.
It's going to start feeling primary in name only -- Mark already feels neglected.
You have what you have. You feel the emotion that you feel and you just feel it. It's not measured in cups or teaspoons. And what you have is everyone stressed and it comes out in various ways.
You were all laying on the water bed fine and Laura plonked a bunch more butts on there. Everyone bobble about now, not so comfy.
The fact is... you are ALL stressed by these conditions. It just shows in various ways. I'm hoping she's just caught up in NRE's and being naive and ignorant. And not just flippin' FRESH. :(
You and Mark taking on another partner is not making it "more equal" because then you also have to "look out for two." It's adding more people to the network and probably the stress at this time!
Don't you all have some kind of regular meeting time for the Primaries Powwow? To take in weather reports and each other's wassup?
So she's kinda skimping on the maintenance work of her rships and being PRESENT for them. Whether because since she's not worn the other shoe much she's not esp sympathetic/empathetic? No matter. Result? Still skimping.
Wanting to crest wave to wave on the "Wheeee!" fun peaks of the rships. Not really tending to the valley times of her people. Fair weather surfer.
You sign up to poly to surf the waves of Life with your Loves. The peaks and the valleys. She's skimping. Everyone not happy.
Solution is not for you all to hold in your weather reports of emotional choppy water. So she can just skimp, happy to ignore, and not be disturbed in her peak surfing "wheee" ways? Fun for her. What about you guys?
Solution is for her to engage with her people more authentically, and/or cut some of you loose. Either way, be more HONEST a surfer. Promising primary goods and delivering shoddy ones is what? Meh.
Are you all relating to each other? Or is laura dictating how it should go so her end of the Life Surf is all "wheeee!" for just her?
In a simpler example? DH & me closed right now? Here's the foundation 5 with ghost 6 that we have to tend to.
I still have that responsibility -- me to myself as part of the whole. That it is a duo now rather than a trio as before? So? I STILL have to act in my ways like I belong on a " larger than just me team! " Not act like some footloose single!
What's that MEAN to y'all anyway -- "primary" and so forth. What responsibilities are expected? Are they being held up? How is someone called into account when not? How are things expected to be reported, handled, resolved?
And really? Let her deal with her stress a bit and own her bag some. Figure out how far YOUR bag goes and hold up your bag responsibly. Or your end of end of the stick. Whatever you call it. Start sorting your 1's and move up. (more in a minute)
She's gotta to tend to her own holding too though. Not everyone else holding her bag for her. She also has to start on her 1's and move on up.
These extra second tier or play people? Barrier sex with Laura. Whether she also barriers with them is on her but on you? Barrier sex. Then you don't have to deal in/think as much about it but on the simplest levels and that alleviates YOUR stress. Just the polite meta info exchange.
On the primary tier: Are you happy being on a primary tier with Mark and the Online person? If so... beef up you rship responsibilites. Cuz here where we at:
Then the 2's
Then the 3's
Then the whole
This is your responsibilities to the Primary Tier People (4 total) and you IN the primary tier people, the quad functioning like a solid quad of comunication (nevermind who is whose lover. Good communication has to happen at the minimim for schedules and swapping info)
The ghosts that may/may not come to pass
Not all these people have to be lovers. But these people have to have decent rships in communication and consideration for their needs and time management on the schedule. People are not things -- they have worth and dignity and ought to be treated as such.
Laura is just not sounding very considerate of her people right now because she's taking on more than she can chew, and then expecting y'all to be unaffected.
That's just not reasonable. :(
Holy hell, math, at this time of day? ;)
Your reply was fantastic! Thank you!
Mine's going to be an essay too. Apologies...
BDSM play partners -
About 3 in the past year x a few casual play sessions with each. No full sex or anything performed on her. She says that she took it slow out of consideration for us.
Anyway, they've basically come and gone. (I was going to say metaphorically speaking, but actually, in the literal sense too... ho ho ho...)
((As a side note, Mark and Laura live in the US, I live in the UK. I stay with them 3 months on/3 months off, until I can move properly.))
The dating comes in bursts. Her last play partner ended around Christmas. She didn't go on any dates or have a play partner whilst I was there (Feb-May).
Since I went home to the UK 7 weeks ago, she's had dates with about 6 guys. She played with one at his house, once, then he disappeared. There are an extra few guys on top of this, messaging her back and forth. Now she's met a guy that she likes and he does sound like a good fit for all of us. I've also talked to most of them online, which is considerate on her part.
I'm a Domme, she's a Domme, husband's figuring out what he is - so I totally get that she needs a sub. She's a fantastic Mistress and I do think she deserves a sub she can train.
Basically, she just isn't finding what she's looking for - they either don't suit, or they disappear on her, which is why she didn't stop after the first guy 7 weeks ago.
I have always known that's the case and I'm ok with it. Though man, on paper, it does look greedy. Hahaha.
But yes, I think that because she doesn't know what it's like to share either of us with so many people, or have to deal with so many dates and goings-on, she perhaps just cannot understand why it can be stressful.
Plus, obviously, I live on the other side of the world half the year, so that has it's own stress!
Thing is - I think she *wants* to be sensitive and considerate.
Much of the time, she says she understands emotions and she's here for us, because she loves us. Other times, i.e. if I'm fine with a guy and Mark's struggling, she'll say "I wish you and Mark were ok at the same time! This is supposed to be fun!"
It's more that she feels after 16 months, some minor negative emotion is to be expected, but should be on it's way to being mostly gone by now.
And thank you for the poly math - I think I've got some learning to do!
God, I rambled.
A person only has so much emotional capacity. If she is already struggling to meet the needs of the people in her life, why in the world is she dating at such a high volume? I understand wanting to look for a sub, but does that mean she needs to go out with a different person every week? That seems a bit excessive to me. Especially when she knows that at least one of her partners is really struggling with feeling neglected.
To me, it sounds very simple - she's stretching herself too thin, regardless of her good intentions. Attempting to be supportive and understanding and actually succeeding at being supportive and understanding are two very different things.
Trip up and cross a boundary once? We deal. 2 times? We deal. 3 times? We deal? 4th time on the SAME freakin' thing AGAIN? I'm sorry, you are not respecting me or not trying or SOMETHING here. And I cannot be with you then if you continue to behave like a footloose single when you are in polyship. BE single if this is what you wish.
This ponging her poor time management back on your guys as "not being able to deal with poly" is so not fair when it seems to be her not being able to deal with time management. :(
I'd greatly dislike that kind of avoidy-blame-shifty. :mad:
It smacks of emotional weenie to me because I had an avoidy partner who never wanted to just DEAL with conflicts that would pop up and negotiate to the happy medium. Maddening!
If this is the agreed to group goal:
how did the group decide to best weather the datey time to arrive to that place?
There's no plan if people are ending up neglected and needs not met. It's conflict of interest if she's all "whee!" while you guys suffer.
One of you, or all of you can say "Pause this for a second here, winging it by the seat of our pants is not feeling so hot. Let's get it together and plan how to endure this datey time of yours more sanely and supportively so all people are heard and most needs met. Compromise. Let's talk out the plan!"
Why is this not happening? Why is she like "You guys should be OVER it already!" rather than "I hear your upset. Let's talk and see where to negotiate so everyone gets most needs tended." I'm not getting that she's allowing free flow communication. Why?
You, Mark, and OP (and she herself!) need to hold her accountable to the responsibilities of primaries in your circle. What one does affects the others.
And why the "should" word again? Stop rating relationship success on "should" feel this or that. "I should be over this or that by now" type thinking just ADDS to stress. You simply FEEL this or that. You get past it when you do. You can't rush it.
Wind should this? Rain should that? Nope. They ARE. Wind is wind. Rain is rain. Emotion is emotion. Emotions just ARE. There's no "should" to it.
I'd rate relationship success on HOW feelings were handled. This time in conflict, did we weather it better? Did we report the prob? Find and negotiate solutions? Hold ourselves accountable well? Everyone holding up their end of the stick that we all agreed to hold up? Did we RELATE to each other well?
Everyone also has a different polysaturation point. That also can be talked over, a plan made for the "dating time" because final partner is not yet found.
But again... to weather that datey phase well, y'all need to talk. If Mark is feeling outright neglected in the datey time, what's that all about? He just has to shelve all his needs indefinitely until she gets stable partner(s)? What if one never arrives? She's not going to put any time on her rship with him? He just has to suck it up?
And you are cross the pond -- that's def stressy on you.
Would it be easier for you to all talk and step away from the "primary" thing while she's datey? Just call it all people secondary? Abandon that model entirely?
And can't people take turns switching if it's all Domme City and no bottoms to be found yet? To take that edge off? Take one for the team and sub then. While the permanent sub is being sought. Wow - fit the domme need AND get bondy time together. Whee.
Rotate the weekends? Fine she gets the extra one since hopefully stability will come and solve this datey time ugh if stable partner arises.
Mark & Laura date
Laura seeker date
OP & Laura date
Laura seeker date
You & Laura date
Or similar thing of your own creating for time management solution. Just so everyone has a fair, negotiated upon and agreed to turn here. It does not have to be exactly equal. It has to be fair and agreed upon together. And everyone is sharing in the time management. Even if new player NEVER arises, you all are getting air time with Laura. We'd all LOVE the Stuperific happy STELLAR! But the happy medium will do. Where is happy medium for the next 6 mos?
I'm 20 years into my rship with DH. "Should" we NEVER have conflict on anything ever again? That's silly. It's not about being conflict free. It's about handling the conflict when it pops up (and it will) with grace and compassion for your partners.
Time management is another. She's not sounding like she's dealing well with being responsible to the larger whole -- the primary tier -- when seeking/dating her play people. She doesn't sound like she is owning / acknowledging that too much dating action "abroad" causes ripple effect waves on the other partners because she's neglecting you guys "at home." Can't slow the dating pace down to more manageable level? Nobody is saying NO DATE. Just chill, man.
If she's gone all the time on dates, you guys are neglected, that's not rship. That's ships passing in the night. *shrug*
Barrier sex = condoms, dental dams, whatever it is you do for minimizing cootie transfer from person to person. And if in kink world -- BYO toys, barrier toys, or sanitize pal's toys!
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