Thoughts on poly as a tool for personal growth
So, it was this thread :http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=26296 and the turn that it took that got me thinking.
(short version, if you dont feel like clicking: my BF expressed interest in one of my close friends, I felt weird about it, wanted to set a boundary, but thanks to some great (especially snowmelt's) and thought provoking posts by forum members, came to the realization that there was much more to the situation than the setting of a simple "I don't want you to date my friends" boundary: there are some deep, underlying fears and insecurities that caused the uncomfortableness and that need addressing).
I have always had insecurity issues. I was bullied, a lot. In high school, I was always crushing on some unattainable guy, but never dated anyone, and was actually pretty sure that no one would ever want to date me. I was the girl who would always listen to the success stories and heart ache stories from her girlfriends. I was the alibi for many illicit dates.
I remember going on a trip one summer with my best friend, I had had a couple of boyfriends by that time (but had broken up recently (and had never gotten beyond kissing).) I think we were 20? 21? Of course within 3 days she met someone in a bar and spent her evenings with him while I was alone in the hotel. One night she came in really late, and found me crying, asked me why, and I said "because I know that what you are doing, will never happen to me".
I met my husband a couple of years later, he was the first guy I ever slept with. I spent the next 15 years in denial about my sexual wants, desires and needs. There were days when I felt too ugly to leave the house. I had panick attacks, it affected my work and career, and sometimes my friendships. I knew my husband loved me but deep down? I still felt like the 20-year old who knew in her bones that a fun and fulfilling love life and sex life was NOT FOR HER.
Three years ago, everything changed. I've changed, well if you believe change is possible, maybe I should say that I became myself.
We opened our marriage. I started exploring my sexuality. We had threesomes, started dating, got involved with people, developed real connections. I felt desirable, beautiful, sexy, wanted. Friends commented on the change. Strangers approached me. It was bliss. I felt like 20 years of therapy and so much self-work had not been able to achieve what a year of poly could: this new sense of freedom. Feeling strong.
I was in NRE with poly.
Yeah, that won't last. About 3 quarters of a year into my serious secondary relationships, it turns out, my issues are not solved. The rosy fog has lifted. Turns out I'm still insecure, in need of affirmation, in need of reassurance. Maybe less than before, but still. I no longer believe that no one wants me, but I do believe that people who want me now, will stop wanting me in the future.
I think that poly is my tool for personal growth. I think that my relationships with others (having deep, loving and committed relationships with others) are presenting me with endless opportunities to grow, to look inside myself, face my fears and learn how to deal with them. A very painful and difficult process sometimes.
Not really sure where I'm going with this thread, maybe I just wanted a place to write this out (and it didn't seem to fit in the earlier thread about the very specific BF + Close Friend issue), and I'm also interested if others find, like me, that poly has helped them face certain fears, that it has accelerated personal growth and development, that it has changed them? or is it the other way around - do you feel that living a poly life is possible because you worked on your yourself and your issues?
Good food for thought, Cleo.
I definitely see ALL relationships, and especially love relationships, as tools for personal growth. I have long believed that relationships, whether poly or mono, are meant to teach us about ourselves. Polyamorous relationships are not unique in that, although anytime you go against the tide and live unconventionally, it can be a wake-up call if one was previously asleep at the wheel. But we don't learn much about dealing with people and the world if we shut ourselves off from others, like hermits, so any relationship is a learning opportunity and a challenging call to come alive and express who we are. And if we look at relationships as teachers, even the crappy collegial relationships we have at work with people we'd never choose to be around if it were up to us, there is so much more possibility in life! In love and romantic relationships, if we learn something about who we are and get to know ourselves better, discover how to be with others and how to love, then there is no such thing as a failed relationship. Even the ones that don't last long and are fraught with pain and confusion teach us something if we are willing to look for the lesson(s) it brought us.
I was like you growing up, in that I was bullied and teased a lot. A LOT. And ostracized. I had very low self-esteem, and felt awkward and stupid. Rather than retreat, however, my way of coping was through sex. My first time was when I was 14 and, throughout my teens and even into my thirties, I relied on my "sex appeal" and attractiveness as a sex partner to feel I had value. So, for me, relationships have been challenging in finding out why anyone would want to be with me beyond wanting to fuck me. When a lover or potential lover engages in intelligent discussion with me, I feel more appreciated than if they just want to have sex with me.
Don't get me wrong - I have also learned a lot about my sexuality and identity as a sexual being along the way, and reconnected with the lusty part of myself in a more healthy way after my husband and I separated and I started dating again for the first time, after being monogamous with my ex for over 12 years.
Speaking specifically about polyamory -- I think that, as an approach to relationships, it has taught me how to figure out exactly what I want. Being that I want to manage more than one love relationship, I have needed to express myself about why that is and what I want, and that in itself has forced me to ask deep questions and look at what satisfies and fulfills me. And I keep learning about emotional risk - by that I mean, how much is too much and too little, for me personally. So, yes, a lot of personal growth has come out of my choice to embrace polyamory/ethical non-monogamy. Of course, I am sure my questioning and self-discovery would still have happened if I had chosen to remain monogamous in my dating life after marriage, but in different ways. I have always been a seeker. However, polyamory has been, and I am sure will continue to be, a very stimulating and enriching path for my life. Thanks for a great topic for discussion.
There have been times when polywired me has been pushed to accelerated growth and development. And yes. It DID change me. For the better.
And living poly? Has been possible because I had to work on myself and my issues AND that of my existing relationships. You can try to run but you cannot hide. Better to stand and face it, whatever it is.
It's always been an excercise on the polymath tiers -- each tier having growth and change in a good way.
But the first tier in all configurations was always the tier of "me to myself." So a lot of inner work to be my authentic self. As hard as I can play. I remember thinking "Even if it KILLS me, I will NOT deny who I am!" when then BF and now DH got serious.
I endure it now - another growth spurt. It's maddening. Horrible. Wonderful. HORRIBLE! WONDERFUL!
Isn't that why I chase the poly dragon? :D
To push my head hard? Push my heart hard? To push and grow my soul? Body figures in there some, sure... but really?
It's the Soul push.
My wife tells me that I was bitter, angry, and not easy to be around when we were in a closed relationship. Even talking about poly and agreeing to look to it has apparently improved my mood to the point where I'm tolerable (better than tolerable actually! hehe)
Now, when we were in a closed marriage I didn't realize I was acting this way. I was happy, or so I thought. I enjoyed life with her and I loved being around her. But that's not what she saw. It really damaged our relationship and I feel terrible about it. I have to let it go and move on.
Things have improved considerably for us. Sometimes it makes her sad because, as a formerly mono-minded person, she's having to learn how to adjust and decide whether or not she even can; whereas I am geared this way and was suppressing it to both of our detriment. I try to reassure her frequently that I am happy and that she is enough for me, that I don't want more from her or need more from her. Still, the relationship is healthier than it has been in a long time.
So, yes. Poly has helped me grow. It's helped me be a better person, and it's helped save my marriage. Not more people, the idea. The ability to be who I truly am.
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