stages of acceptance?
Hi. I (a previously and still? mono straight girl, 22) recently (we started sleeping together 2 months ago and agreed I could use 'boyfriend' for him 1.25 months ago) started dating a poly guy who lives with his girlfriend of 5 years (she is also poly). Being ok with the situation has been a journey, but one I'm very glad I've made. In a lot of ways I've never been more sure of a partner's affection for me. Reading your forums and a number of website has been unbelievably helpful in calming my nerves and understanding that this is ok etc. Throughout this process though I've realized there are three sort of 'stages' of acceptance (see below) and of which the third is proving difficult for me, and so I was wondering if I might get some advice.
1) understanding in your mind that your partner has other partners (check)
2) meeting your partner's other partner(s) (check--I met his girlfriend this past week by means of a mutual friend and she's great. truly.)
3) actually seeing your partner interact/touch/etc. with their other partner(s)/having to interact with both of them
This third one is the one that's getting me. Last night was the first time I went to my partner's apartment (for a group event). His girlfriend was present and though not really participating, they certainly interacted a bit (some hugs/snuggling, chatting, etc), while he was way cooler to me than he ever has been (or is when he has been at group events at my apartment) until almost everyone had left and his gf had gone to sleep. At this point he asked if meeting her had really gone well and if his gf could come to my Thanksgiving dinner, to which I felt an obligation to say yes. After returning home, I had a panic attack (I will readily admit I'm stressed about a lot of things at the moment, but the timing is relevant I think...) and am still a bit upset.
So questions: is it ok for me to have a harder time dealing with this last 'stage?' I would be totally fine to become friendly/friends with his gf, but I guess I'd prefer that it be without him...and perhaps this is a problem? Is it selfish to feel sad re: thanksgiving, because much as I like her and think she would be a nice addition, this feels like an added tension I have to deal with while trying to organize dinner for 11 people? I'd really like to not feel this way, if anyone has any thoughts about overcoming this sort of thing. I think part of it is that I have no idea how to negotiate the physical side of things if the three of us are in one place. Usually he is a very physically affectionate towards me (and presumably towards her?) and I have no idea what will happen on thanksgiving. (also I don't want to make my guests uncomfortable who don't know the situation).
I'm sorry that was long. Thanks so much for any input.
You can only control your behavior. And the behavior that led to this yucky stress ball feeling is you going into a panic and just saying "Yes!" without thinking it out.
(For future when startled, also learn to say "Ok...Let me check my kitchen calendar at home and I'll get back with you on that." That's not say yes or no, that is giving you some breathing room to consider. Then later when you have considered just say plain yes or "not at this time. maybe next.")
So now you can choose to call her up and him up and adjust the invitations.
"I did a total newbie duh! Shared BF surprised me and I blurted yes without thinking of the stress being hostess to Thanksgiving causes me. Could we ramp me up slower into Trio-Land and just do a trio Thanksgiving together this year on a different date by ourselves? And do the bigger gathering when I'm more confident being in trio?
I like you both a lot but this being in trio thing is new and I'm worried I'll screw up somehow at Thanksgiving with all eyes on me as the hostess. It would mean a lot to me if you guys help me to reduce my stress."
Is this just the newness of it or also something else in there like jealousy?
Thank you so much. Yeah, I mean I think in general that would've have been the better choice (to wait and think about it). I think part of the reason I said yes was that I knew she had nowhere to go already and I guess I feel strongly that you shouldn't be alone on a holiday like Thanksgiving (and it seems like the moral high ground to suck it up for a night so that someone doesn't have to suffer). :/
I think at this point it would be a real problem to say no to her since she's already emailed me expressing her heartfelt gratitude and much how she's looking forward to coming, but I hope talking to him about it beforehand, at least expressing this it's difficult at times since this is new to me, will help somewhat. He's generally a sensitive guy.
to the second quote/comment:
It's not that I really feel jealousy, it's more that I find grey-area-ness very uncomfortable and this feels like an unanswered question (how are we all supposed to be behave around each other). Thinking more about it, I think the other thing is that it made me feel upset that he clearly has no problem acting like a 'boyfriend' when he's around my friends (who met him when I did), whereas his behavior last night may well indicate that he feels less comfortable doing that around his friends. (I'm under the impressions they all know he's poly, however obviously our relationship is new and I dont really know he views it in the progressive sense--i.e. I know he considers us to be 'dating,' and we've done stuff like cook together, see a concert, etc, but he also has expressed how he rarely is romantically attracted to people and romantic attraction for him involves feeling a specific type of pull and obligation to the person etc, which I think he used to describe me a few times but perhaps I'm misinterpreting? Erg. Point being that I think it's one of those tensions between the fact that even though I don't want to stay with him forever etc, I consider him an intimate, and I guess I sometimes worry maybe he doesn't consider me one? )
I'm sorry for rambling. I realize there are a lot of helpful threads on here already, but a lot of them are very marriage-oriented and I feel like it's a bit different when you're still in college perhaps (at least as regards seriousness etc).
Still think it is easiest to talk to the trio in trio.
Spill it and be honest about the need to reduce your stress.
Maybe you all agree to play it cool at the dinner. Maybe she offers to bow out. Or he does.
But you have your first opportunity to work as a TRIO on a life problem and you want to do what?
Polyships go a lot smoother when people just communicate clear from the beginning. You are not a terrible person for being newbie or making a mistakes. You will outgrow your newbieness and mistakes happen to anyone. But this is the time to set up foundations for how the trio expects to deal with the life stuff that comes up. You can do it. Just make the calls you need to make.
Solve it together and find the happy medium that works for all on this simple dinner prob.
You can do it! :)
I'm new to all of this, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
But from what I understand, it seems like your being uncomfortable when the three of you are together is not the main issue. It is a symptom.
The main issue is that you are not sure where you and your BF stand in the relationship
- whether he feels the type of romantic "pull" toward you that he described
- why he was physically affectionate to his GF around you, but not to you around her/his friends.
I think that is a discussion you need to have just between you and him. Make sure he knows it's not anything he did wrong ... you just need to know the answers, so that you're not confused or operating on false assumptions. Ask these questions. Air out the truth.
Once that is hashed out and you both know where each other is at ... THEN do the trio talk re: Thanksgiving.
So, from what I understand, you are in a poly V relationship, with your boyfriend as the hinge and you and girlfriend as the arms of the V?
Have you had any discussion about hierarchical poly? i.e. primary and secondary partners? Some people don't believe in it and some do. Personally, I believe in it, if only in the sense that it can help everyone understand where they fit in, in a clear way.
It sounds as if you are not quite sure where you fit?
As for him being affectionate when you are alone, but not in front of his friends... does that also include not in front of his girlfriend?
Sometimes poly people have a tendency to reassure their 'primary' (or original, older, longstanding) partner more than their 'secondary' (or new) partner in social situations.
I know that, to be honest, if I was with my girlfriend and a girl I was seeing, I'd probably give a little more affection to my primary girlfriend, because she is my priority and I don't want her to feel insecure. I only get involved with people who aren't jealous of my girlfriend, so none of them are phased if I give her a quick kiss. But - I would never cuddle and rub it in their face, either.
I think the very best thing for you to do would be to have a proper talk with your boyfriend and see where he sees you fitting in. You have the right to your own expectations, needs and desires... so now, it's about compatibility.
GalaGirl pointed out something really good to me... she told me that I metaphorically asked my girlfriend to get me a drink... but didn't specify what kind of drink... so my girlfriend is flailing about, bringing me all kinds of drinks to make me happy... I'm getting more and more annoyed about her not giving me what I want... but I haven't told her exactly what i want in the first place.
As for thanksgiving... I've got to be completely honest. If it were me, I'd just invite her along, out of human kindness and respect to her. Especially if you talk to him about where you stand; because you might not find it such a struggle to have them both there. Then outline your feelings on PDA... if it hurts you that they touch and you two don't... ask them to be considerate... (I know how it feels: I've watched my girlfriend cuddle her husband at family events, whilst ignoring me, for fear of her family finding out... and it sucks).
So, be honest, and good luck!
No one should feel obligated to invite someone to a holiday dinner. I think it was rather unfair of him to ask that of you. I take it that you had previously invited only him to join you and your other guests; if he accepted and had intended to go there by himself, why did he sneak that request in? Ugh. You can still tell him that you're really not able to host one more person. I hate when people pull last-minute shit like that.
Regarding your insecurities and "stages of acceptance," well, it's different for everyone. There is no rule in poly that you have to meet a boyfriend's other girlfriend, nor that you all hang out and get along. That's a personal preference -- but it's perfectly fine and acceptable to keep your relationship separate and not be expected to socialize with her, too. I get that she's cool and nice and all, and it's great to have a respectful acknowledgement of your metamour, but your relationship is with him, not her, so no need to feel like you're not "doing poly right" if you're uncomfortable with that.
I disagree with the idea that you can't control feelings. No, we can't know what feelings will spontaneously pop up, but yes, you can control them, and actively change your emotional responses to things. However, it is challenging and not easy to do so. If I were you, I would take things more slowly and ask for time to get used to this dynamic. Don't put yourself into situations that are more stressful than you can deal with -- if you had a panic attack, you need to honor that part of you that has anxieties and ask for the respect you need from him.
You're young and this is a new relationship. You are still getting to know him. You don't have to be all buddy-buddy with his gf right away and be expected to play host for her. Formulate some personal boundaries for yourself. And then learn to express them and enforce them.
Since you already received an email from her, I think if you won't be too stressed out by it, it would be good to just stick with that. The fact that she's so happy to be included does bode well for a friendship if you want one. I would of course make sure that in the future I say I have to think about things if I'm conflicted about the answer. Of course if it would make you miserable, you should not feel forced to go through with it.
What I'd want to do is discuss with him "I was surprised you are so affectionate with me in general but were not when your girlfriend was around, it made me feel a bit uncomfortable" and then discuss that with him. That way he can tell you the reasoning, if it was a one time only thing to make sure that both of you got along or whatever, and you can figure out if it is going to be his behavior in the future, what to expect on Thanksgiving, and so on.
Hey that's tomorrow, hope if everybody shows up you have a fabulous time!
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