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-   -   When communicating isn't enough? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=25933)

monogamishSF 07-24-2012 07:37 PM

When communicating isn't enough?
What if you can’t STOP communicating and your partner is exhausted?

So, I’ve never been shy about talking about how things make me feel, before or since nonmonogamy. And my partner is an excellent listener, and is very good at reassuring me, for the most part. Any time I’ve been in crisis over a relationship of ours, we’ve worked past it.

But we had a serious dramafest around a new secondary for the past month and a half. It was all due to my fears, and some pacing, lying, and slight cheating issues on her end (I’ve posted separately about it here, but the details are irrelevant to this particular question). My primary found herself at a point where listening to and reassuring me became a huge challenge of patience and her own overall sanity/security. It directly impacted, if not temporarily destroyed, any enjoyment we were gleaning from our own relationship. We were talking about it every day, every night, for weeks on end (I was even waking up at 4, 5am in utter panic, waking her up to help me through it), to the point that she was no longer humanly capable of maintaining her patience, and we didn’t feel like much was left of what used to be a near-fairy tale relationship. And whenever she lost her patience, my fears grew exponentially.

It ended last week, when I reached out to my metamor in a fit of panic, told her I was freaking out, was overwhelmed, and in grave fear of losing my primary. This woman had only the best, kindest intentions, and was only interested in a casual relationship, so she was pretty surprised things had escalated so fast over something she didn’t consider serious. She decided to bow out and stop seeing my primary, which was a huge relief for me, and is helping me heal. Unfortunately, it is a new source of pain and suffering for my already exhausted primary (and not a good look to my metamor). My primary did make mistakes, which triggered me, and then she paid for it dearly with all of my “processing,” and she’s now left with zero support from me to mourn the ended relationship, and a whole pile of work ahead to rebuild my trust if she ever wants to have another one.

This sort of thing is bound happen again, should she find a new secondary interest. We did seek counseling but are unable to afford to maintain the cost. During the one session we had, our therapist pointed out that when I’m triggered, it’s deeper than words, so often we reach a point where verbal communication is no longer effective. But whenever I held it in, it would come out sideways in some pretty damaging ways. I literally NEEDED to talk about what was happening because I was constantly alarmed and it was affecting work, my health, my primary, our relationship, my home, my social life, everything.

So what do you do when your partner has tried everything to console you and you’re still totally gone? What do you do when it’s not fair to veto, because the third party is willing to cooperate, but you’re struggling so hard you can’t stand their relationship at all?

What do I do next time, when I start to panic, that changes this new experience from a world/relationship-ending one to a place from which to grow our poly experience in new and rewarding ways? We are also new to the city, so spending time with “close” friends isn’t an option given our geography, so that has been a challenge.

Opening Up says, when your partner is out with someone and you’re struggling with your own insecurities, to tell that voice in your head to just “buzz off.” HOW do you do that when your rational brain is no longer in charge? Or when your rational brain is totally present, but your body is on a state of panic? Was this a function of the relationship growing too fast (which I assume)? Or is this a point when I need to realize I can’t handle my primary having other partners? Until now, we’ve dated other women together, and together only. I feel like just because I couldn’t handle this the first time, it’s too early to call it poly-quits. I have separate dating interests, but it’s not a pressing need of mine like it is for her, and she’s expressed that even though this one has ended, she does want to be able to sleep with different people in the future, without me present. And where I’m at right now, that idea turns my stomach! Since we’ve slept with people together and I was fine (struggles were had, but they were nothing compared to this), I didn’t think it would bug me this much until it became a reality. So it’s going to come up again, whether I like it or not, and I need to find some peace, somehow, before I’m faced with it again, so I don’t make a habit of ruining her relationships.

I know it’ll take a lot of internal work on my part, but if anyone has pointers on this, I’d appreciate it. Thanks all!!

GalaGirl 07-24-2012 11:52 PM

What if you can’t STOP communicating and your partner is exhausted?

I ask my DH to tell me to cut it the hell out.

I have anxiety issues. It runs on our side of the fam and I see it in my kid. I bought her the kids book here.


It helped me and I've loaned it out to other family friends. Sometimes getting it in a kid version can help an adult take it in better, you know?

Some emotions are fun to feel some are not fun at all. But sun is just sun, rain is just rain, emotion is just emotion. It's just internal weather.

I cannot pick how I feel or when to feel it.Weather happens. I can only choose how I respond in the situation -- I can REACT or I can ACT WITH INTENT.

So knowing that I am prone to anxiety, and knowing I am prone to witter on too long, I asked my spouse to just tell me to jump off the train or to tell me he's full now on his hearing supply and to go farm some of the witter out on friends, family, etc.

So he's resorted to telling me " I need to eat my chicken! I'm full in my ears but my stomach is empty and now my dinner is cold!" because once in exasperation he picked up his dinner plate and waved it around in my face in a silly way and I busted up laughing and that got me off the crazy train. I thanked him for that, told him I apologized for his cold chicken, I could microwave to make ammends or just go away NOW. He didn't know what to say so I solved it myself "I will go away and you can eat and we're good, and you are too right. Crazy making train!"

Since that point he waves metaphorical chicken at me.

He also will take my face, demand I look him in the eye so my focus is there. I respond to this because we did it with our kid at toddler age -- "Give me your eyes! Focus! Hi! I see you! Now give me your ears...."

So he does the toddler thing and then tells me slowly, and softly "You must stop. Fuck the train. Get off NOW. This is too much for anyone, and the train won't go anywhere. Ride it some more later if you must. But today? It is DONE. Fuck off, train!"

And it helps me reset and tend to my sleep needs, my food needs, because he is right. Sometimes -- it won't be solved in just one night. So let it REST.

I cannot push the Earth to spin faster to make it be tomorrow already. And there's other things to tend in the meanwhile. A place and time for everything. Everything at its time and place.

You have to know yourself and what would work, and then report to you peeps what to do when they see you stuck there.

There's rights and responsibilities and while you have the right to their support and nurture, you must ARTICULATE your wants and needs to them. They are not mind readers.

And before you can do that you must KNOW yourself -- so... check within. That's where the answers are -- in you.

What are you wants?
  • Not to call it quits on polyship just yet. (Why do you want to continue? Is is a good reason?)
  • To become a ___ partner?
  • To become a ____ meta?

What are you needs?
  • To go at a pace you can deal with. (This pace is?)
  • To be validated in your wiggy times that it is ok to feel wiggy (They would validate you how?)
  • To be able to unload while respecting your partner's ears limit. (Can you safely unload elsewhere? Friends? Family?)

What are your limits?
  • No threesomes. (Is this a soft limit for now and negotiable later or hard limit?)
I'm taking stabs in the dark there, but spill your guts to yourself on paper, chop it up and sort into "wants, needs, limits" piles and sort just that. Later toss out what is just not reasonable -- have my cake and eat it too crap.

Or just not doable -- wish I could clone myself crap. (I joke to try to make you laugh, I know you hurt. But BREATHE here.)

Then when you have distilled it down, get partner to do same with wants, needs, and limits and take it to the negotiation table. See what plan you come up with trying out for the next ___ mos and see if that flies better.

You will find YOUR solutions if you work it like you own it. Every individual owning your own bag. Partner can help unpack and sort and suggest things that no longer fit you, but YOU have to actually own your own bag and be willing to open it and not lug dumb stuff about. And not expect partner to carry all your unopened baggage for you because you don't want to carry it. If YOU do not want it, toss it OUT.

Then you and partner hold your other bag together -- the couple bag.

Lighter load for all, better time on the couple journey.


LovingRadiance 07-25-2012 12:38 AM

Great answers GG!

I have anxiety issues as well (and severe depression issues).
We encountered a similar issue this winter which damn near resulted in me being put in the hospital for a few weeks.

My first suggestion is to make it clear that your sanity and life depend on your partners being true to the agreed upon boundaries-TO A FAULT.

Second-find another person who can be an ear when you need to vent-but your partner needs a break.

Third-agree on a weekly date time that NO DRAMA is allowed to be discussed-even if there is a crisis on hand-then STICK TO IT together. This was our saving grace.

Fourth-start identifying precisely what it is that sets you off.
(for example, people in my personal space and loss of my date time trigger me, as well as someone being involved with my kids whom I feel threatened by).

Fifth- set up the boundaries around these triggers as a safety net, not limitations-but boundaries.
(example, we have separate bedrooms for other lovers, so the room we share is always "safe" for me to go to anytime-no matter what, and no one else is allowed in that room-ever. Also, we hold our date night sacred. If a new lover is only available that night-we will consider changing which night is our date night, but HAVING it is sacred. And, finally, no one meets the kids now until we're both on board with that person-period.)

I'm sure there are other things that would help, but that's what pops off the top of my head as what helped me the most this winter.

nycindie 07-25-2012 12:54 AM


Originally Posted by monogamishSF (Post 145207)
This sort of thing is bound happen again, should she find a new secondary interest.

So, hmmm... what are you doing, setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy?


Originally Posted by monogamishSF (Post 145207)
Opening Up says, when your partner is out with someone and you’re struggling with your own insecurities, to tell that voice in your head to just “buzz off.” HOW do you do that when your rational brain is no longer in charge? Or when your rational brain is totally present, but your body is on a state of panic?

You may never be able to stop the thoughts that have you feeling insecure and panicky. And realize that, your insecurities are not necessarily due to the present situation, just triggered by it. Underneath it all, you're insecure all the time. So, try to keep that in mind and try not to blame it on circumstance. When these feelings come up, think of that panicked voice that is playing in your head as a radio station blasting the same old songs every day. Eventually, you will recognize these thoughts and start filtering them as background noise. Know they are there, but pay them no credence. Eventually, you have these thoughts and your response to them will be, "Oh, those silly thoughts again." That's how you get past it and move on, but it takes practice.

monogamishSF 07-25-2012 01:39 AM

I meant "this sort of thing" to mean prospective secondaries, not me freaking out all over the place.

What if my insecurities ARE due to the present situation? How do you know the difference? We have trust issues at play that are very real, on top of my personal stuff, so in my experience, I do have things to fear.

When do they become background noise and what do you do in the meantime?

To lovingradiance and galagirl, thanks for the pointers. :)

nycindie 07-25-2012 01:51 AM


Originally Posted by monogamishSF (Post 145267)
I meant "this sort of thing" to mean prospective secondaries, not me freaking out all over the place.

Oh, cool.


Originally Posted by monogamishSF (Post 145267)
When do they become background noise and what do you do in the meantime?

I guess this is what Tristan Taormino meant by just telling that voice to "buzz off." You (and I mean the collective "you," which includes me as well in this and my previous post) just have to push it back into the background and occupy yourself with other things. It isn't easy at first, but can be done. I admit, the answer is simple but not easily mastered without practice. Many times I have wished for a magic wand, but there isn't any, unfortunately.

GalaGirl 07-25-2012 02:33 AM

Sometimes you can do something about it tangibly.

Other times it just the passage of time.

I like taking the bull by the horns. I speak my truth to DH even at a whisper.

Even if it scares me to death. Because if I am suffering? Even death is release. And I know it seriously won't KILL me kill me. It would just feel gross. But if I'm suffering anyway, isn't that gross too?

Some choices in life are not win-lose but "this stinks and that stinks so which one stinks the least?"

Opening up to DH and telling him about it stinks least even if there is nothing much to do about it but wait it out. At least then he knows and tries to wait patiently with me, and he's on the lookout for my going off into witter.

He can at least help minimize my crazy train time when my own judgement is off kilter from anxiety witter.

That's something at least. And at this age, I've been through so much crazy Life, both beautiful and ugh, I take the waves much better.

But we all have to spend some time at the forge to become strong tempered.



LovingRadiance 07-25-2012 03:31 AM


Originally Posted by galagirl (Post 145271)

some choices in life are not win-lose but "this stinks and that stinks so which one stinks the least?"


Anneintherain 07-25-2012 08:59 AM

I just commented on your other thread.

I'll say...your problem is not that you want to or feel you need to be able to veto, what you want to control but can't is your partner's ability to be a partner worth trusting. Your stress is multiplied because they've proven untrustworthy, so you feel you need to ask 5x more questions to make sure they aren't leaving something out. Sometimes you catch them at something, so you get even more stressed out and it leads to 50 more questions.

You talk about your partner losing patience with you, but she wasn't patient with your agreements and the boundaries you discussed. I know you say that this post is irrelevant to the other thread but...I don't think so.

My probably unpalatable advice, is that you both stop dating until you work through her lies and figure out her motivations for cheating on you and lying, and deciding what is right and healthy for you. Especially as you feel the pain of her lovely partner who is just trying to be healthy and caring but suffering from the unsettled issues between you and your partner - that's an added burden on top of the other issues you two already have to deal with.

sparklepop 07-25-2012 11:48 AM

This is so difficult.

Your partner has proven herself to be untrustworthy, regardless of her reasons.

I think if there's any way of making this work, there has to be a new approach taken.

It seems that your partner is not good at expressing her needs. She doesn't put them out on the table, she just goes off and fills them. Impulsivity, exhaustion, immaturity, it could be a number of reasons.

How can you get to a point where she will tell you these things? Well... this event has happened and now you can either both pull away and admit a lack of current compatibility... or you can try to discuss new ways of approaching these problems.

What happens when your girlfriend tells you how she's feeling? Does she tell you? Is she more used to being the 'fixer' and listening to your issues? Can she learn how to communicate better? Can you learn to listen better, if you don't currently?

Anxiety is a very difficult one. As you say, it needs to be worked on from within.

Even the most secure person can feel insecure about their relationship, for very valid reasons. In those circumstances, reassurance from the partner helps.

Sometimes, when we talk about issues, we make them bigger than they are. I'm a Psychologist and a talker.. ~grins~ ... if I have a problem, my immediate urge is to tell my partner, my best friend, anyone who'll listen.

But when does that become a vicious circle?

Ok, let's take this as an example.

I have demons when my girlfriend goes out on a date, especially with someone new. I definitely have feelings - I'm not a poly robot.

In the beginning, I would talk to her about every little feeling and she would tell me about every little feeling she had.

It became this big ball of stress and feeling. Even when she was feeling good about something, I'd feel bad because she was feeling good. And I'd tell her that. And she'd tell me that.

It sounds to me that you need another outlet, so that your problems and anxieties aren't going over and over. This is a good place for that :) You could even start your own blog here, in the life stories section, if you think it would help.

I'm definitely not saying "don't communicate with your partner". But everyone has a limit. I'm definitely not saying that you're "too" needy, "too" anxious, etc.

What does concern me is the compatibility of the two of you. Everyone is different.

I have a lot of patience. My girlfriend doesn't. I'm used to dealing with people's stress - my girlfriend gets stressed very easily. I have a high moral code when it comes to our relationship - she is sometimes more easily swayed by her individual wants and needs.

At times, I've doubted our compatibility. Sometimes I think to myself that I'd prefer someone more patient and understanding. But for now, I'm very happy and hope that we continue to teach each other different ways of being.

However, it does mean that I've considered ending, or changing the relationship.

You need someone patient, understanding and who sticks to their word. Your girlfriend's end of the deal is that if she agrees to a guideline, she's got to stick to it! We all make mistakes, but she should own up to them if she makes them.

I truly cannot tell you what to do, because we are only seeing your relationship from the small window of a few paragraphs. It does strike me that you are not getting what you currently need from her; nor her from you. And because of that, I do wonder if a less 'primary' relationship would do you both some good... or even to consider a trial separation.

Failing that, I think it's going to take a lot of talking and both of you being very clear. Get your expectations out there. What are they? Try making a list and going through that with her. Get her to do the same. Be really black and white at first and see where that takes you.

It could be things like:
(you) - I expect you to stick to guidelines and tell me straight away if you make a mistake
(her) - I expect softer guidelines - I cannot stick to these
(compromise) - guidelines remain the same, but she's honest when she misses them... or guidelines soften and she's still honest

(her) - I expect to sleep with other people in the future
(you) - I'm not able to deal with that right now
(compromise) - 6 months from now, I would like us to review this again, until then, no dating for either of us

(you) - I need you to understand my anxiety and my insecurity, as well as my need to talk
(her) - I need you to let me rest sometimes; I need you to accept and understand that you leave me feeling swamped
(compromise) - I will try to work on the 0-2 level stressors alone and only come to you with the 3 and above. We will discuss 4-5 stressors before they happen, where possible. You must also let me know when your listening tank is running on empty.

What else...

Well, there's a difference between communication and constructive communication. God knows, I'm a woman, and I love to babble on.

Sometimes being verbally reassured is not enough. If my girlfriend says "honey of course I want you" - but she's not attempting to have sex with me for three weeks, I'm not going to be reassured. So I'd say "you don't seem interested in sex... why is that?" she might say she doesn't want me any more... that she's been wrapped up in a hot new guy ... or she might say that she's actually been feeling like I didn't want sex. My constructive aim for that communication is 1) find out why something is happening 2) find out if we can do something to improve it.

If I just keep saying "you don't seem to want me any more" every day, we're not going to get anywhere.

You have to try to know what you want from a conversation... even if it's just to simply get it off your chest. That works too. Sometimes I'll say to my girlfriend "I don't want or expect you to do anything about this, but I'm just feeling a bit pangy about all this dating you've been doing and I wanted to let you know where my emotions are."

Either way, you're stating a purpose for the communication. This makes the listener feel that they can help. A listener always wants to help. It makes them feel good and stops them feeling like they are just the pit for you to throw all of your bad feelings into, for no purpose.

The same thing goes for your girlfriend... if she says "I need to sleep with people in the future" and you stonewall her... what's that going to do? It's going to make her go inside herself and feel that she can't communicate her needs with you. If you say, "OK, what practical things can we put in place?" this could really help both of you.

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