Sticky sister situation
Three months ago Margo joined my poly family consisting of myself, my boyfriend Mika, and his other girlfriend/my sister Agnes. Mika had met Margo online, and she hit it off so well with us that she ended up moving across the country to be with us. Margo quickly began to develop relationships with Mika and Agnes. She and I gradually developed a close friendship and reached a casual sexual partnership after a little while.
A new partner always takes some adjusting to, and this summer has not been an easy one. Things have often been very up-and-down between Mika, Margo and Agnes as they sorted out their respective issues. Because I was in a good place emotionally I focused on making Margo feel comfortable, loved and supported in the relationship. I enjoyed developing the relationship between us, too.
For different reasons Margo and I reached the same conclusion this past weekend that we should spend some time apart from one another. I currently find myself feeling very angry, hurt and upset about my relationship with her. I am having trouble being able to process all of these feelings or knowing how to move forward in the relationship.
The primary issue for me was communication and conflict resolution. Margo prefers to be 100% non-confrontational when she is upset about something. If she is upset she will withdraw without any notice from the person she is experiencing conflict with. I wouldn't mind so much if she could say "hey, I need some space from you," but she drops off the face of the Earth. She doesn't say anything about feeling bothered. She does not text, call, or social network with me. If we have to spend time together, she has as minimal interactions as she possibly can with me. She just physically and emotionally distances herself without warning. This could go on for one, two or even more weeks and I am none the wiser until I notice. Eventually she decides to send an email about her feelings. She could not discuss things in person or over the phone. She really only does this with me, not with Agnes or Mika. She does this so she can really explain how she feels; she doesn't want to blow up at me, but I found myself really struggling with her needing a week or more before talking to me about even the smallest issue, like if a passing comment I made made her feel like I didn't care about her.
I am a very direct and pro-active problem solver. If I cannot resolve an issue with someone in the moment, I like to do it as soon as I can, usually in no more than a couple of days. To me direct communication is key for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in a relationship. I need to be able to feel comfortable expressing my feelings to a partner and have them be honesty and do the same to me. I prefer to resolve issues with someone face-to-face or over the telephone; I like to reserve email only for when I need to really think about what I want to say or need ideas about how to state a conversation. While it can be tough to talk things out face to face sometimes, it resolves issues much more quickly and eliminates a bigger chance for misunderstandings in the future. For me the relationship doesn't feel as intimate if I cannot resolve things in person.
For these reasons I decided I cannot have a relationship with Margo as she is now. Not even a friendship for the time being. I need relationships in which I can directly and comfortably be able to express my feelings and have my partners do the same. I need to be with people who can set healthy boundaries for themselves, respect my own boundaries, and help set boundaries with us together. I have not been able to do these things with Margo, so a relationship with her is not secure. And frankly I cannot do that to myself.
But none of this really came up until this weekend.
Margo had been distant for several weeks, the longest ever. When I asked why she didn't want to tell me anything, not even what I might be dealing with, she just said she was going to send an email, meaning if I had not asked I would have gotten a bombshell dropped on me. I was pretty furious about that in and of itself, because I think the communication thing was finally making me snap.
Before she sent the email I found out she was still upset about about a few things, but mostly over a hurtful mistake involving a miscommunication that occurred a month before. She only just now decided to feel comfortable enough to tell me. The problem is that after a month of stewing she was pretty bitter about what happened and my apologies were now virtually meaningless. Not only that, but I found out she was angrier because she felt "pushed" to talk about it before she was ready, when I tried to discuss the issue and apologize soon after it happened.
I feel very angry and resentful of her, so much so that I do not want to see her, speak to her or read anything from her for fear of losing my composure. It feels like things between us were driven based on her wants and needs. I have almost never been able to talk about my feelings with her because I always had to wait for her to feel comfortable to discuss an issue, however many days or weeks that took. If I tried to talk about a situation just for peace of mind, let alone to express how I felt, she apparently felt more angry because I was "pushing" her before she was ready. I have so many things I feel angry or resentful or upset about that I never got to discuss with her and work on with her because I was always waiting for her to be comfortable, trying to be overly-conscious of whether or not I was pushing her on something. It felt like such a one-way relationship.
But what I feel the most is hurt. I went above and beyond because I really, really wanted Margo to feel welcome. And in truth, I was overcompensating for how I used to treat Agnes. When the relationship started Agnes and I were together with each other as well as with Mika. But I used to have a lot of emotional health issues and instability, and my behavior tore down our relationship to the point that we broke up. After much personal and emotional growth on my part Agnes and I are wonderful friends and happy sisters, but I never forgot the fact that I could have treated Agnes better in the beginning. I know this time I am on the healthy side of it, but it hurts because what has happened now is exactly what I wanted to avoid.
Despite my anger it hurts so much to have things cut off with a sister. I love my family and I value closeness with them all. I don't need everyone to be together, but I feel best when everyone at least has close friendships with one another. For there to be such an ugly and obvious void is hard. The reason it's so detrimental for me is it easily leads to resentment, resentment at Margo for her issues and resentment at myself for doing what needs to be done to keep me the healthiest I can be, but not necessarily happiest. That's a road I really do not want to go down.
Any ideas as to how I can best process the anger and resentment while not being able to speak to Margo about them? Are there ways I can still support her emotional growth from afar?
I can't help but say that I can't imagine thinking of someone as "family" until I'd had a good long while -- at least a year, I think -- of knowing them and relating to them in person. The troubles you all have run into seem like they could have been mitigated if you all had had more time to feel out the dynamics between you before moving right into co-habitation and family mode.
That said, her coping strategy would be really problematic in any relationship. Is she open at all to the idea of therapy? Can she explain why she does this with you and not your other partners? I know you said that you thought it would the healthiest for you to not even be friends with her, but maybe she wouldn't feel the need to be so emotionally careful if you and she were just friends?
@ AnnabelMore thank you for replying.
For me the concept of poly "family" hadn't even come up until recently. I had relationships with my partners, and they were also together, but I had yet to experience an overall sense of unity and love for them until this year. Once I did, though, I knew that it was what I had wanted all along.
I was the last one on board for her moving here only because of the fact that I wasn't sure how such a change would effect my emotional health, and I really couldn't "test" it beforehand. Besides, she would be living with Agnes and Mika, not me (I live separately most of the week).
It wasn't the first time things moved fast. We all met Mika individually but at different times on the same website. None of us were even looking to date, but he met Agnes and then me. Incidentally we lived in the same city, so he ended up moving here to be with Agnes and then later on got together with me, too. Things were quick with us, but with effort it worked. It just seemed the same with Margo.
Margo doesn't really do this with anyone except me. She will sometimes avoid Mika, but usually she will actually fight with Mika and Agnes when they have problems. I have a lot of trouble with the withdrawal, but I would struggle with her fighting with me, too, since she doesn't really know how to do it constructively.
Honestly, she just has a lot of issues with relationships in general, and she has never been in a poly relationship before, so I am sure that compounds them even more. It wouldn't surprise me if she needed space simply because she could not handle things with three people at once, although that still leaves me with a lot of questions. In that respect I do feel a lot of compassion for her, because I struggled with similar things when I was first in this relationship and was not prepared for it. Agnes privately told me she is considering therapy, and I really hope she decides to go. Therapy is what really got things to work for Agnes and I.
I said it wasn't healthy to be friends right now because I still feel upset about things and I don't want to hurt her by fostering this much anger and still trying to push ahead. That won't end well, and I have already learned she is not very forgiving. She, too, has asked for complete space to deal with things on her plate and decide "what she can handle with me."
Though I struggled a bit in the beginning I really let her take the reigns. She was the one who determined when we started having sex, or when we were just friends. They have always been in her hands, and they still are. It's going to be up to her to want to be friends again, because I've done as much as I can. She is to contact me when she feels ready.
It sounds to me like she doesn't have the skills to talk about her feelings in a deliberate, open and honest way. That aggravates relationship problems instead of solving them. Backing away from her sounds like the right thing to do for yourself.
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