So the original couple in my triad just got engaged...
Now that I'm here, I thought I would seek some much-needed advice and insight.
Though my mff triad — as I described in my introduction — is generally a wonderful part of my life, I still can't help but struggle with certain aspects of the relationship — most notably the subject of this thread; that is, that my partners, after a number of years together (I'm the newbie), have gotten engaged. As strongly as I feel that this is the right choice for them, it's still a source of anxiety for me, particularly since their well-established relationship (and live-in situation, whereas I live apart from them and can't see them as often) already sometimes leaves me worried about being an "equal partner" in the relationship.
Now for a bit of background info/details. My triad is made up of me (23, f, bi/pan), R (30, f, bi), and M (30, m, straight). This is relationship is our first experience with polyamory.
Aspects of the relationship I consider well-balanced or otherwise satisfying:
I seem to fill both a sexual and emotional niche in the relationship.
- R prefers softer sensations and is very subby; M is happy to accommodate; however, he enjoys the diversity of my own rather opposite preferences (I'm generally a switch, and prefer sexual aggressiveness). I also have a higher libido than R. Basically, we pick up each other's slack!
- Emotionally, I'm more empathetic and people-savvy than M, which is invaluable to R (she likewise understands me extremely well); however, M and I relate to one another's sometimes hyper-analytic mindsets.
- This relationship has been my first opportunity to explore my interest in bondage. Yay!
- I find it very neat that I personally feel I could not be satisfied dating just R or just M; with just M, I would be left unfulfilled emotionally, and with just R the relationship would not be sexually compatible. It doesn't bother me that my feelings for M and R are progressing in different ways and at different paces; it would be unrealistic for it to be any other way, and I love what I get from each of them. (I consider myself to be "in love" with R, and more "in lust" with M.)
Also, despite my initial angst over R and M's engagement, I've since confessed my insecurities to R, and she shared with me that she and M had already researched options for all three of us committing to one another as much as current social constructs allow. I don't know the relationship will go that far, but I'm so touched and honored by that.
Aspects of the relationship I consider unbalanced or dissatisfying:
- While I like the sex we do have, I would like there to be more of it, but I am unsure how to address the issue. Since I can't see them every day, I think of my time with R and M as precious, so it is frustrating to come over and more often than not only get, as far as sexual stimulation goes, to sleep in bed with them.
- More trickily (since the above issue could probably be resolved if I just grit my teeth and told them how I feel), I worry a lot about the fact that our age difference is enough to put us at different places in our lives. R and M are have lives and careers, and I'm just finishing up college and looking into work and grad school.
- Related to that/an extension of it is the fact that R and M are, as stated, engaged now, something that emphasizes the gap in our experiences and also makes them the primary or "real" relationship in the eyes of society. In this respect, I sometimes struggle with feeling jealous of what they have with each other.
I guess I'd like to hear from you all about how best to resolve my own feelings of insecurity and "left out"-ness — of their more full-fledged lives, of their history together, of feeling like the less "real" girlfriend/partner. To what extent are these true problems that I'm describing, and to what extent are they simply the products of my own anxieties and newness to poly dynamics? Is it possible to maintain a relationship with this age and experience difference?
It seems like your main concern is whether you are an equal partner in the relationship. From your post, it sounds like you are important to m and r. They take your feelings into consideration, show you respect and care. That's wonderful.
In regards to your insecurity, I'd like to draw an analogy from my life. I have two best friends. I met one when I was five (j) and one when I was 13 (v) Today, I cannot honestly say that I love one more than another, or that one is more important than the other. I love them both as much as I am able to love. Now if you had asked me when I was 14 who I had a deeper relationship with, I probably would have said j due to the long history we had together. However, many moons later, the difference in the time I have known them makes no difference. The decade I have known v has been more than enough time to catch up with j. As the years passed after I met v, the gap became smaller and smaller until it didn't exist at all.
V didn't worry if he was equal to j for the first few years I knew him. He knew that I cared for him and did what I could to foster a deep relationship with him. He knew that if time passed and we continued to relate so well, we would become more and more important to each other. There is nobody more important to me than him today, but that wasn't the case after the first year.
When i went to college 500 miles away from v and j, I was worried our bond would suffer. In actuality, it deepened. I relied on j and v to help me make big adjustments in my life, to listen to me tell of my mistakes and still love me, to share their lives with me even when it wasn't convenient. J and v found stability long before I did, and they used that to help me through rough times. Now that the tables have turned somewhat, I use the tools available to me to help them.
It's hard and worrisome to have different life circumstances than your loves, but you can maintain a connection if you're willing to share your life with them. You need to accept that you are in a different place in your life, be open with them about what you're doing and what you're going through, and invite them to share things with you that you might not be experiencing yet. Work to keep the relationship healthy, but don't stress about the temporal issues. Know that if you're compatible, you all want an equal relationship eventually, you work hard and you're honest, your relationship with them will catch up of its own accord. If you feel one of those things isn't in place, thats the problem, not the fact that you are not in the same place right now. In 15 years who's closest to who will likely have to do with communication styles, sexual preferences, schedules and interests rather than length of relationship.
If I were you, I'd let them know you are happy that they are moving forward. Sharing the joy they bring one another will strengthen your relationship and is important. I'd also let them know about your insecurity regarding your different place in life. Chances are, they've thought about it too. If you talk openly about it and come up with ideas for how to handle it together, your chances of thriving are greater.
1) Speak up. They are not mind readers. Could tell them you want more sex.
2) Could relax and just accept that yeah -- with a 7 year age gap, you are in college student mode. So?
My parents have a 7 year age gap. My aunt and uncle a 17 year age gap. Eventually everyone finishes with school and moves on to job land. You being a student doesn't make you any "less" of a person.
Your polypeeps value you. They make space for you to be here loved just as much:
It is subtle, but I got the vibe of "They get ____. I'm just ____. " That's talking down to yourself. Why do that? Does your inner voice talk have a lot of "should" in it?
You end up feeding the "I am less valuable than others" bucket. What for?
You could be feeding the "My polypeeps value me!" bucket instead. Look at the blue words.
Focus on what you want MORE of, not what you do not want. Even in your self talk in your head. See if you begin to feel better or not. The dog that wins is the one you feed. So you could work to stop feeding anxiety dog! Before you can see how to change your "behaves" -- you need to notice and observe WHAT you do and WHEN you do it.
In your thinking, in your talking. Become aware. Then change how you talk and think. Could look at the resources for spotting yourself at Recovery. Even if you never take the classes, it's a good list. My dad had to take it to deal with his crazy level anxiety and try to learn not to get himself all worked up. Maybe it could help you?
Daysleeper, thank you so much for your insight — your words seem very wise. From where I am now, it can be easy to forget that time spent in a relationship is relative; this is still (all things considered) a quite new relationship, and it makes sense that with time my bond with both M and R can/will grow. Confrontation is always scary (or, well, for me it is), but I know that talking to them more about my feelings will make me feel better, so I'm going to do my best to follow your advice.
Galagirl, thanks as well for your input. You're right, I really do need to speak up... I guess, just, see above about confrontation being scary! I don't want to make them feel guilty, bla, bla. But these are standard problems; like I said, I just need to grit my teeth and speak up. :E
I'm not bored at school; I was just seeking a good way to describe the fact that I see M and R as being out in the "real world" and in some ways as fundamentally "grown up" in a way that I am not.
But I think you're also (if I'm following you correctly) catching on to the fact that I am extremely insecure about myself, and I think have been guilty of (mentally) devaluing the role I play in this relationship. It's hard, because I simultaneously want and don't want to be needed: for my own sake, I want to feel like I'm just as vital and essential to M and R as they are to each other; however, we're all aware that my moving away for grad school (or a volunteer program that I'm applying for) could cause our relationship to end prematurely. I don't want to... oh, I don't know... destabilize them or cause their relationship with each other to suffer should I not be around any more.
So you see how that creates something of a catch-22 for me where I keep feeling like I'm not "allowed" to make my emotional wants and needs known due to the fact that I, myself, feel like I somehow need to "protect" M and R's relationship with each other from me. Ridiculous, I know, but no one said anxiety had to be logical. :/
You can't MAKE them feel anything. If that were possible, I would MAKE you feel good via your eyeballs reading my words. POOF! Instant feel-betterness! :)
Feelings don't have to be logical. But you could let THEM own their own feelings and their own emotional management. Instead of you taking it all on your own shoulders and making it be all about you holding up the burdens of the world.
It's like you have only two volumes -- hogging up all the space, taking on all burdens of the world. Or none at all -- you are less than a speck, not taking any responsibility. They are not mind readers. In relationship you are responsible for making your wants, needs, and limits known to your people!
Try to find balance in there. This "all or nothing" thing does not sound fun. :(
But all that stuff? That's stinky thinking.
For the record? I met DH in college and then he quit and moved back home. We carried on with Long distance. Then he moved back. I married him eventually. The relationship did not end just because of moving away temporarily. Friends of hours were attending grad school in different states. They flew home here to marry and then flew back to finish grad school. They visited throughout and then moved in together when both graduated. People can make things work.
Here you assume negatives -- that your mere leaving for more studies is going to leave them a ruined wreck.
Since they entered this polyship with you, I assume positives -- that they are grown up people who can deal with Life. You going somewhere for more school is NOT going to cause the world to implode. They will miss you and look forward to you coming back from school. You could just long distance relationship for a time.
You? I mean this in a firm but kind way -- you could choose to stop being so self centered doomy gloomy in your thinking. If you need help on the HOW of that, you could choose to learn, get help, etc.
It's like the opposite side of the coin of "I'm so great! It is all about me!" person. It is the "I'm so horrible! It's all about me!" person. Whether from positive side or negative side -- the world still revolves around me!
So why go on with stinky thinking? You just cause yourself suffering in the mean while. You are not even gone yet. You color your present time with them with stink. For what? Are you having fun? Nope.
Try a new behave then. See if it works better for you. Worrying ahead of time is like praying for what you do not want. And worrying about the maybe tiger that is maybe up the road in the future? You are going to miss following the bend on the road today and trip down into the ditch! From not paying attention to the here and now of what IS for losing yourself in what MIGHT BE.
That's not effective emotional management. Could get your head out of the worry clouds and back down to earth. Could get that "all or nothing" volume knob better balanced. Then perhaps you could feel better. *hugs*
Don't spend time feeding anxiety monkey. Feed inner zen kitty. :) I joke to keep it light -- but I'm not minimizing your feelings. It is HARD to change long worn grooves of old thinking patterns. But they can be changed. You can do it! I believe in you.
Hang in there.
Heh, it's true; you're pretty good at picking up on my bad mental habits... have you been talking to my therapist? ;D (And yes, I do have one; I suspect I'm due to talk over this some more with her. She's quite familiar with the way I sometimes get into these all-or-nothing extremes that you're seeing!)
(Thank you for the e-hugs, too.)
It seems pretty clear from both your and Daysleeper's responses that I need to talk to M and R more about my various headbees (by which I mean my often-illogical anxieties — that's a term I picked up from R, ha).
Some decisions I can't make yet (I don't know whether a LDR would be right for me), but... *deep breath* ...that's okay. I can cross that bridge when I come to it. I'm definitely letting myself imagine every sort of worst-case scenario, and I shouldn't: this relationship is at its best when I just take it as it comes.
So a conversation is on the horizon, it seems! Beyond being more open about my sexual needs (which is sort of a separate matter), I think I'd like to sit down with both R and M (instead of just R) to talk about my worries — not least because I do trust them to reassure me; I think I just need to hear the words said out loud. I'll let you all know how it goes.
Good for you!
Sometimes taking action is better than stirring up the "what ifs" in your head.
Focus on what you DO want more of (being more in control of your thoughts/actions, more sex, reassure from partners, etc) and not on what you do not want. (Doom, gloom, disasters.)
Hang in there!
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