Fears and Rules (one month update)
If you're interested, the start is here. TL;DR: After 4 years of stalling, we're giving real poly a try.
DH (let's call him Captain) and I, after much further discussion, decided this was something we were comfortable trying. And so I met his interest (let's call her Jenga) for drinks, and we talked, and... she's actually really nice. I get the impression she is sincere and respectful. Hot damn.
So I give the thumbs-up, and Captain and Jenga meet up for sexy time, and they have a great time. And I expect to be a trainwreck of nerves and anxiety and cry myself to sleep, because that's what happened last time. But... I'm not. I'm actually really, really ok. Interesting. Well, I did say I learned something after last time, and we are definitely talking about things a lot more and a lot more thoroughly, and I feel like our communication is a million lightyears ahead of where it was. Whatever the key, this is working. Nice. =)
So it continues, and at this point it's been a (whole!) month. There have been ups (our sex life has shot through the freaking roof) and downs (I struggle with an overly sensitive sense of fairness that triggers my insecurity) and a few small explosions (like the time I expected him to read my mind when his obsessive texting on our trip out of town started to grind on my nerves), but overall I am very satisfied with how things are going. The Captain is happy, he's taking excellent care of me, we're talking and talking and talking and I think we both feel really good about things. Yay!!
Now, the Captain and I have a fair number of limiting "rules" - frequency and type of contact, sex practices, etc. We established these rules years ago as a structured framework under which we felt comfortable exploring. One of those rules is that he (or I, I suppose, though it's not really applicable to me due to the differing circumstances) will have extramarital sexual contact no more than once per week. As his preference is to choose women whom he enjoys as a person and not just a warm hole (!), we've also allowed for a second weekly "friend date" - lunch, coffee, movie, whatever - provided that it is a platonic, hands-off, friends-only time. We agreed to these terms four years ago and until now have not really had any reason to revise them.
But I've been thinking and it's becoming clear to me that these rules are just a result of my fear. I'm afraid he's going to get too close to someone, so I limit their time together. I'm afraid he'll put more effort into sexing up someone else than he'll put into sexing up me, so I limit their availability.
This seems patently stupid to me.
I really want to just be able to say, "I trust you. Do what feels right and makes you happy," and trust that I am a major part of that equation. And I KNOW I am. I know that. In my head, I know that. But my gut isn't so easy to convince. It doesn't function rationally. It looks at this past month, wherein the Captain has never shied away from an uncomfortable conversation, never failed to provide reassurance, never lied to me, never made excuses, never ignored my needs when I made them known, and it says, "But what if....?"
My Captain is amazing, and he is amazingly good to me, and he would move heaven and earth to make me happy. If I would just put my trust in his hands I know he would not steer me wrong. But I am afraid. How do I get myself to a place, emotionally, where I can let go of these rules?
Hi, Prudence. How do you get to the place where you'll be able to let go of your fears? Well, I think you're already there. Your whole post is about it. You know it's the right thing to do, for both of you, you are just afraid, and you recognise that your fear is just an illusion.
My only advice as to how to overcome that fear is to observe it. The nickname you gave to your partner reminded me of a boat-related story - I once went with my husband on a week long boat trip on a river. One night there was a huge storm (later we found out it totally devastated the area), during wich we were moored by this concrete wall far from cities or camps. Our boat was small, so all I could do was lie down in the cabin, next to my husband (who was perfectly calm). I was completely paralysed with fear. We were tossed up and down and sideways in alarming angles. I was so afraid we would get smashed against the concrete wall, or that the lines would snap and we would end up going over a weir somewhere. But because there was simply nothing I could do, I started to analyse my state. "Look at her, she's so scared, the poor thing," I thought about myself. "Her throat is constricted. She doesn't breathe very well. Her limbs are all tense."
This helped me to distance myself from the fear. It was, after all, just an illusion serving no purpose. Miraculously, I calmed down, and just waited it out.
So that's my advice. You know where you stand, you know the risks, you know the benefits. Your fear serves no purpose anymore. Watch it, write about it, say it outloud, and it will go away. There is always some measure of momentum with our fears and insecurities, so it might take some time. But it will go away.
Good luck :)
It sounds like you are doing wonderfully!
I absolutely see where you are coming from when you talk about restrictions feeling like cop-out safety nets. I've been wondering about this myself lately too.
Sometimes people follow the limited dates per week rule for practical reasons. Some people know that they get completely carried away with NRE and a more structured approach can help.
My GF, for example, gets wrapped up in herself when she's dating. She neglects her husband and daughter in terms of quality time and he becomes very unhappy as a consequence.
She makes time to date her new guy, but didn't consider making time with her husband until I pointed it out. For her, having a dating structure helps her remember to make time for that existing relationship. Sometimes declaring love and commitment isn't enough - you have to balance the time, too.
Our general guideline (not a hard rule) is to date secondary partners once a week. Our new guideline is to try to ensure that primary partners get that same amount of time per week.
There's another reason we have this guideline... and that is to do with long-term goals.
I live in the UK and my GF lives in the US with her husband. Originally, I wanted a second primary partner in the UK. I was happy to consider living with them half the time and my GF half the time. Because of that, we had no restrictions on dating schedules. My GF was in love with me, her husband and another guy. We were both very open to the idea of loving others and I fell in love with someone else too.
These days, our relationship has evolved. We want to live together permanently, as a V, with their/our daughter. I don't want another primary partner. I don't have the time or desire. We don't want another else to move in; largely due to our daughter. My GF says that she doesn't have the desire either.
Seeing other partners less isn't going to stop us falling in love with them. But it helps to keep things casual. We also pick people who want casual - especially those who already have other primary partners.
So, how do you feel about this? Are you quite flexible about the future? Do you have children to consider? If you're very open about the future, then being fluid about dating schedules might be a great idea!
As for letting go of the fear... I find the best way is to just live through the experiences. If Captain falls in love with another and you are still very happy, your fear will naturally dissipate with experience.
Lovescribe, thank you for your thoughts. You're right, I am coming to terms with this fear and beginning to disassociate from it as it has no place in my life. I think being able to view it as a separate entity helps me to see it as an intruder, something I can choose to remove, rather than something that is just part of me whether I want it or not.
Sparklepop, the practical reasons make perfect sense. We did have a few hiccups with NRE (though whether he was so infatuated, or I just had heightened sensitivity, is another question) but once we really talked it through, he was able to reinvest a portion of that energy back into our relationship and that made all the difference in the world. I know that the likelihood to cling in the early stages is high, but knowing that doesn't make it sting any less. =/ So I am glad that we had those restrictions up until now, especially since this is still very new to me. I think it helped my sense of security while he and I were figuring out how to navigate all this New Stuff. I don't think he's any less smitten at this stage, but I think he is much better at balancing that with focused care of me, so I think this might be do-able now whereas before it probably would have been a recipe for disaster. If that makes sense?
I also feel as though secret/restricted stuff is inherently more titillating and exciting to the parties involved, which is why I desire transparency over DADT; and I suspect limiting them to 1 day/week makes that one day seem like OMG OVER THE TOP EXCITING whereas if, like us, they could do it whenever... it would still be good but it would lose that "forbidden" sheen, and it would allow a more realistic emotional connection to develop. If that makes sense??
My Captain is drawn (sexually) to people with whom he has a significant intellectual or emotional attraction (as am I), so it would be excessively naive of me to believe he'd ever have a strictly casual relationship. I am not automatically averse to something significant (whether in terms of time, investment, etc), although I do draw a line somewhere (probably at cohabitation). But, again, who knows what the future may hold. If I'm happy and he's happy I see no reason not to continue exploring.
I am mulling this over to develop my comfort with the idea but I think the next step is just going to be that leap of faith. =)
I've also invited him to come read and share his thoughts, if he is so inclined. I have very much enjoyed the open communication between all parties and am appreciating this opportunity to unpack my latent assumptions and make conscious decisions in their place. This forum has been a wealth of perspective for me. =)
A minor setback this weekend... the plan was for the Captain and Jenga to have their date Sunday afternoon, and he'd be home by 7, then we'd all go out for dinner. They didn't manage their time well so by the time they got back to her place they didn't really have enough time for sex. He texted me asking for more time; I said no. They rushed things, it didn't go well, she was unhappy and took it personally. He got home on time but I was peevish from the request. We canceled dinner. Nobody was in the mood for it by then.
I didn't like being put on the spot. I knew he was with her, I knew why he needed more time, I knew if I said no I'd be raining on their parade. I didn't like the pressure to say yes (although he didn't pressure me at all, that was merely my perspective). I didn't like the change of plans - I still really rely on being able to prepare myself emotionally for what is happening. And I really, really didn't like the perception that plans with me (dinner) were of secondary importance to plans with her (sex), especially since he'd just had most of the day with her. All around, not a good feeling.
We talked it out and he acknowledged it was poorly done. One of the things he said that struck me was that he didn't really consider the ramifications of the request because I'd been so understanding and supportive lately. (And acknowledged that's no reason to take advantage; it wasn't intentionally done, it just didn't receive as much care as it might have if I were pricklier about things, I suppose.) But that makes it really hard to just say, Ok, free rein, have fun! ...because what if that just makes it even easier to do whatever without thinking about me and how I might feel?
Trying to focus on his mending efforts (which are excellent, as always) and the fact that we do actually learn from our mistakes (they are seldom repeated). Last night I told him to take some time and talk to her, because I knew she'd need that after the way their date ended. And when he was unable to convince her that things were really okay between him and I, I chatted with her via text for a while to put her mind at ease. Then I suggested they get together tonight after he gets off work so they can have their time to talk/process/fix stuff, since I had mine last night. I have no hard feelings about any of this, and I want to be sure her needs are addressed, too. So despite the kneejerk response to hunker down and surround myself with even tighter rules, I've given him a free pass for physical contact tonight. I imagine they'll want to kiss and cuddle and reaffirm that connection - I would.
It's not quite all the way let go but it's progress. Right? =P
I think you did reasonably well :) Ideally, you'd be so okay with it that you wouldn't even think about it. The next best might have been saying: "ok, have more time", and then seething in privacy... and when he'd come home you'd tell him how it had made you feel and ask him to manage it better next time. But you're only learning, so your reaction is understandable, and what I think you really handled well, was that you suggested they take time to talk it through, AND you texted your partner's lover personally to reassure her - well done.
As for your partner's reactions, they are understandable too. His mistake was losing track of time. Ideally, he would have shown you the respect you deserve by planning things out a bit, to be able to have the dinner with you. But for some people (and gender stereotypes tend to say this is more common with men) once they get past that certain point, their sexual desire takes over their mental abilities and they become less emphatic. :)
Again, how the situation turned out is a great progress, and I congratulate you on dealing with it as you do. :)
Obviously I'd LOVE to get to a point where I don't care and it doesn't matter what time he gets home, but this is most definitely not that point.
Oh, I guess I just didn't take into account that people are different. :) While I know what you mean, and not voicing your concerns can be a very very bad decision in the long run (I am actually with you on that), in this particular situation I imagined I would have cooled down, and had time to think about whether those feelings were even relevant, as opposed to acting on an impulse.
I usually need some time to process things before venting them coherently enough :)
But now that you explained where my brilliant plan might go wrong, I agree it's not a universally efficient solution :))
Maybe it's more about how you voice your concerns? I just felt that saying no to his request was a little bit hasty... or perhaps I imagined it being more harsh than it was. But honestly it doesn't matter now. I think what happened was way more important, and showed that you have all made important steps towards the fabled poly-happiness. :)
How do you feel about it now?
I am really identifying with your posts Prudence, and feel like I have a lot that I can learn from you and your partner's growth and revisiting of poly. I would seriously love to talk to you and pick your brain.... that aside.
I think that it's SO important that we respect our own boundaries and limitations, and that pacing be comfortable. I think it's okay to say no, and I too have experienced that non-verbal pressure to say yes that puts one in a corner of impossible decision making. Saying yes because that's the implied desire, even though it's not what you want is not healthy, and I think it's good that you spoke your truth and said no. I feel that if an agreement has been made that it needs to be respected - he can manage time better if having sex is a priority BEFORE it cuts into time that is meant to be spent with you/you both. I agree that the implication was that he was making one more important than the other by even asking, and I too would have struggled with that.
I think you're doing some pretty fuckin' inspiring work over there, and am impressed with your clarity, ability to look at yourself and the situation at hand, and challenge your own comfort zone. My question is this - if you are in a comfortable place, why challenge it right away? It's like growing out your hair forever, and just when it gets to your ideal length, cutting it short because you think you might like the way that it looks, then having to deal with years of growing it out again if you regret the haircut. Bad analogy maybe, but it has taken you a long time to get to this place, and in the grand scheme of things, a month or two seems like a good place to be curious about changing boundaries, but maybe unnecessary/premature. Just my take though!
Pru, I love that you said "No" to your husband's request for more time. It doesn't strike me as impulsive at all. I am not usually one for lots of rules in relationships, but it is important to honor agreements. And agreements shouldn't get revised without forethought and discussion. Time management is an important skill in polyamory. To have said, "Sure, have more time" would be like giving in to him just because he messed up and now wants what he wants, like a little kid. And you probably would have been seething afterwards, which is not good at all, because you would have gone against what you wanted and then felt manipulated or victimized by him, and betrayed by yourself. Doing something like that would not have set up a good, workable precedent for the future.
Agreements are agreements, and breaking agreements results in consequences. I am sure he will appreciate that fact eventually, just as I am sure he appreciates your having encouraged him to take more time to be with her another night. You did well in establishing a strong foundation for poly, I feel. I would consider this whole "incident" and how you handled it a great, big poly success! :D
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