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-   -   hurry up and feel better, already (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=35091)

sparklepop 12-16-2012 06:06 PM

hurry up and feel better, already
 
Hi guys, I could use some help and I'll try to keep it as short as possible. I've hit a brick wall with my GF and I'm at a loss. GF is feeling frustrated and impatient, because she feels that I will never be happy whilst she's dating other people. She said this frustration makes her feel like a failure, like she's doing something wrong. She expressed this with tears and shouting, then coldness, over the past couple of days. She has basically told me that she needs to know when I'm going to feel ok about her new lover - she needs a time frame.

I'll be honest and admit that I have had some sort of struggle with every lover she's had. Sometimes it's been tiny or very brief. Sometimes it's been big and long term. She says she hasn't ever struggled as much as I do. At the same time, I've felt genuine compersion for each and every situation. I've never vetoed and don't believe in it. I had a very big insecurity about her main, online, lover, that has only started to dissolve during the last 6 months. It has dissolved because I've learned more about poly, become stronger, she's also grown, we've become closer and she's started to balance her time more effectively. However, all she sees is that they have been slowly drifting apart over the past 6-or-so months. She thinks that I'm only comfortable with him now because they are cooling off and she won't hear anything to the contrary.

She applies my struggle with him to every new situation. She also applies my feelings towards past lovers to every new situation. I've only been poly for two years (20 months, actually). So has she. This summer, we hit a turning point in our relationship. She accepted her bisexuality completely and this had a huge impact on my security. I felt at peace - it was wonderful. She didn't go on any dates during the summer, over the three months that I was living with her. Unfortunately... because troubles are now cropping up.... she thinks that I was only feeling peaceful because she wasn't dating.... and this lack of appreciation for my own strength and development is leaving me.... well, quite angry, to be honest.

So, after this wonderful, peaceful period of being with her, I went back to the UK. That was four weeks ago. She's been dating her new lover for about 2-3 weeks. She first met him a year ago and since then, they've been tiringly back and forth. They first kissed 7 months ago, then he left the State. She spent the summer I was living with her getting to know him online/phone, whilst trying to make me comfortable with it, so that she could happily date him when I flew back home to the UK. In her mind, I should be fine by now, after this amount of time and our extensive conversations over the summer. In my mind, they weren't an item until three weeks ago. In fact, up until minutes before her first recent date with him, she wanted to cancel and spent an hour on the phone to me, bitching him out. 9 hours later, she dropped him home after their date and called me to tell me how amazing he is. To me, that's not a lot of time for me to get used to something, and she just doesn't get that at all. All she sees is that I've struggled, in some way, with every new date of hers, and she doesn't know what to do about it.

So, we had a conversation. She said she's out of ideas. She's tried everything she can think of. I started to tell her about a couple of small things that could have been played differently to increase my comfort, but she immediately refuted them. So, I closed down. I told her that I did have a couple of small things on my mind that might help her and to just ask me in the future if she wants them. To this, she said that we have to be careful not to micromanage each other and that I need to learn to let go of the small stuff. I said, then, that all I need is time, patience and understanding. To this, she said "how much more time??? I can't do this much longer and I've lost my patience. I also don't understand, because he has never done anything bad to you." And that brings me to where I am now. The peaceful, secure feeling I had in the summer has gone. I no longer feel surrounded by patience and love. I'm completely stuck. How can I put a time frame on my emotions? What is a reasonable time frame? And, to be honest, is it a bad sign that I do struggle somewhat with each new person? This is all really making me wonder whether poly is the right path for me.

Lost421 12-16-2012 10:48 PM

I guess that really depends on what exactly you struggle with in her other relationships. Is it the fact that she's having other relationships, or is it that you don't think the guys she's dating are right for her? If it's simply that she's dating other men, then you may want to have a long hard think about whether a polyship is the right thing for you.

If you have specific concerns about specific men than that's more of a situation where you have a right to share your thoughts and feelings about the person she's dating. You can't control what she does or who she dates, but you have a right to tell her how you feel if she's dating people you think aren't good for her emotional well being. Your feelings are valid, and fair.

Personally I think if you're still struggling with her dating a particular guy after 20 months that that's ok, but if you're still struggling with the idea of her dating other men after 20 months and don't want any part of a poly relationship then you've got to really figure out what's right for you. It's ok not to feel like you can be in a poly relationship, you've given it a good try, and if it's not right for you, it's not right for you. If you feel like you can be ok with it but you need more time and patience and she's pressuring you for a timetable then you need to explain to her what you need in order to feel ok about her dating a particular person.

In my experience it's never been easy, smooth sailing all the time, there are times that really suck, and times where you feel jealous, and hurt, and like you're not being heard or listened to. In those times you need to tell your girlfriend how you feel, and it helps if you can think of ways to help alleviate those feelings. If your girlfriend wants to continue her relationship with you, then she needs to respect that you can't be ok with everything all the time. At the same time, you have to communicate to her the things that she can do to help you feel better about it. You can't control her every move, but you can explain why you have the feelings you do and suggest ways in which she can help you feel more secure in your relationship with her, within reason. What do you feel like you need in order to feel good about the relationship she's having right now?

This post I've written kind of feels rambling, but in my experience open communication and some compromises, within reason, always help tremendously. When communication breaks down and there is no give and take, then things go sideways.

You said she shuts you down when you try to suggest ways she can help you feel better about the relationship? Can you say what those suggestions are? It's tough to know what's reasonable and what's not because everyone is different, but it might help knowing what you are asking of her.

sparklepop 12-16-2012 11:57 PM

Hi lost :)

Thank you so much for your reply. I will try to answer each of your questions in turn.

Quote:

I guess that really depends on what exactly you struggle with in her other relationships. Is it the fact that she's having other relationships, or is it that you don't think the guys she's dating are right for her? If it's simply that she's dating other men, then you may want to have a long hard think about whether a polyship is the right thing for you.
I see my longterm future with her, with other men in the picture. I don't have a secret wish that it will be just myself, her and her husband. I accept that part of her and don't have an issue with it. I think the thing that causes me to doubt whether poly is 'right' for me is the fact that I do struggle with things, that it doesn't come easily to me. Even when I am feeling fully secure, there are just certain things that make me uncomfortable. Yet, I do not actively want monogamy.

Thinking back to her earlier relationships, it was more to do with insecurity in our relationship. I always felt that, being heterosexual before she met me, she would ultimately prefer a man. She is also Dominant, as am I, and I always thought that if she found a submissive male, she would find him a better fit. Now, though, she seems fully committed and sure of what she wants - and as a result, I do not fear her leaving me.

The guy she dated before this one.... in the Spring... was the first one I felt really happy with. I felt that he respected me - as well as her. I found it hard the first time she slept with him, because it was the first time she had fully slept with anyone outside of our relationship. But, once that happened, I felt very relaxed about him. I thought it would be the start of a good relationship between myself and poly and felt positive about the future.

Agh.... Her current guy is very complex for me. I do not feel respected by him. I also did not feel that she put our relationship across to him effectively. He referred to me as her 'friend' the first time I met him.... and this unsettled me.... as I am truly more like a wife to her. This, coupled with little things, like the fact he would text her late at night when her and I were ready to go to bed together, or spending time together, and the fact that he never asked about me, unsettled me also. My initial online meeting with him was not good and he did not make me feel comfortable. The push-and-pull nature of their connection over the past year has left me unable to settle on him; because until now, she's never settled on him herself. Early on, she raved about him, perhaps too much, and it instilled an unnecessary fear in me. I think that those feelings have kind of lingered and I just don't get a comfortable feeling about him. At one point, he and one particular woman I had a rather large crush on became our 'undateables'.... the people that we knew would cause the largest problem, if ever we were to date them. I have been told many times that he is out of the picture... but then he comes back.... so, I truly feel that I just haven't had the time to settle on him. Perhaps I'm hanging onto some resentment.... that she knew how hard this particular guy would be for me... but still dated him... yet, isn't giving me the extra time I need, despite me trying to work through my own issues so that she can be happy. I think that's probably the crux of it.

Quote:

You can't control her every move, but you can explain why you have the feelings you do and suggest ways in which she can help you feel more secure in your relationship with her, within reason. What do you feel like you need in order to feel good about the relationship she's having right now?
I think that's a really good point. Often, I don't even necessarily want her to change her behaviour; but simply to understand mine, so that she doesn't get stressed out. She spent so much time over the summer verbally reassuring me about this guy and it genuinely helped. There are certain things that she has done, actions, that have not helped. Things like sexting with him copiously when we were going through a month of sexual drought, due to work and illness and other things, instead of investing the time in our sexual relationship first. Dating him a couple of weeks after I got home was hard for me; especially two very long dates within six days of each other, when we generally see secondary partners once or twice a month. Little things got to me... like, with this particular partner, I asked her not to reveal any sexual details... to have sex with him when she's ready, but not to tell me about it... because I wanted her to be free, without me having to become upset about this particular guy. Before their first date, she started asking me if she should take condoms and I wanted to bang my head against a wall... after the dates, she complained about her biceps hurting (i.e. from spanking him)... little things like that. I think it comes down to feeling disrespected... feeling that I have really gone out on a limb to 'get ok' with this guy.... and that perhaps she could have done more. But... she is human... she can only do so much.

Quote:

You said she shuts you down when you try to suggest ways she can help you feel better about the relationship? Can you say what those suggestions are? It's tough to know what's reasonable and what's not because everyone is different, but it might help knowing what you are asking of her.
I actively try not to actually ask many things of her... and recently was the first time I have ever specifically asked for something. I asked if she would consider giving dating a break for the first two weeks of me being back in England, to help me adjust to the change. I asked her not because I wanted to stop her dating; but the opposite.... I wanted to ensure that I would be at an emotionally comfortable position, so that I would feel happy and supportive about her new lovers. Last time I went home, she started dating very heavily and very suddenly and I felt that it was too soon - so I tried to learn from that, this time around.

She agreed to it, but when I got home, she started canvassing for new dates immediately, chatting to guys online, and talking to her now-lover more often. After about a week, she expressed that she could not meet my expectation and felt too restricted. So I dropped it.

The only other thing I have specifically asked of her is to do a trial run of keeping sexual information to herself for a while, until I am more able to cope. Previously, we have told each other quite a lot - but I just didn't think I could handle it with this particular guy and wanted to do whatever I could to make her relationship with him an enjoyable one. She has kept more information to herself than usual, but still tells me more than I want to know.

The reason this whole conversation came about is because she introduced me, online, to another guy she's been getting close to over the past month. When I joined them, she was flirting with him and it made me feel tense. Again, made me feel disrespected. We were talking on the phone, whilst typing to him, and when I entered the box, she told me that he was sending her private messages, continuing the flirtation they were having before I joined. This again made me feel disrespected. She could her the tension in my voice and basically pounced on me when we said goodbye to him. I didn't have a huge problem - I just wanted to be left alone to let the moment pass; but she wouldn't let it go. So, now, it seems, she thinks I have a huge problem with everyone she dates.

One thing that has struck me is the amount of times she has told me that she struggles less than I do. It got me thinking that poly isn't all about not feeling jealous. It's also about empathy, consideration and balance. What if she struggles less because I deal with it better? When I have introduced new secondaries to her online, I am very careful not to flirt with them in front of her, the first time she meets them, because I want her to be comfortable and don't think it's necessary in that moment. My secondaries have taken an interest in her, asked her questions and treated her like an important person. She's also never experienced me being in love with another person or heavily involved with them. For me, it's been online-only, or friends with benefits in person. I also do not date as many people as she does, so there is a little less change to adapt to. Whether any of these things make a difference, I am not sure! :)

toodles 12-17-2012 12:18 AM

Hi sparklepop :) I'm sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your girlfriend. That must be really upsetting.

So, from what I understand, your girlfriend has been piddling around with the idea of dating a man for a year now, but now she's actually dating him. She told you that she wouldn't date him, but then changed her mind? She knows that you are uncomfortable with him, but still dates him AND still expects you to be fine about it? Well, that doesn't really make sense, now, does it? She should either not date him in the first place, if she can't deal with the fact that you're going to be upset, or she should take the consequences and be willing to help you out, because you've helped her out by not slapping the veto rule on this guy, because you don't believe that's right.

I think that some people are just harder for us to deal with. It doesn't matter if they're nice to you or not. I've been really upset over some people, for the longest time, then years later, I look back and wonder what I was so worried about. Then, with other people, I feel calm and relaxed and something bites me in the ass.

How can you give a time frame for how you will feel? Especially when she couldn't even stick to a tiny two week time frame of not dating? Well, I guess she technically didn't go on a date (from what you've said) - but it makes me wonder how hard it is not to look on dating sites for two weeks when you have the rest of your life to look for that kind of thing. If it's taken a year for her to figure him out, why would it only take you a few weeks to figure him out? It doesn't matter how long ago she met him. She could have met him 15 years ago and started dating him yesterday. Then, your processing would have begun yesterday.

It's good that she tried to help you over the summer. But what? She thinks that some talking is going to make everything go away? Long distance relationships are hard. Especially when you are the one being in one country and then another country. Does she ever come to see you, or are you the only one with your life in upheaval?

I do understand that she can't keep reassuring you forever. But I do agree that we act different with each person and with each experience. Just because it took you a year to get used to her other boyfriend, doesn't mean it will take a year for you to get used to this one - because you are further along in your relationship now and it's a different person. It's like when married couples still keep bringing up arguments from ten years ago. You learnt from your mistakes, so move on. Instead of doubting you, she should trust you to work it out, because you're still with her and you never vetoed him.

It seems to me that she's saying she wants to help you but really she wants to help herself. It's boring and stressful for her to have to keep reassuring you, so she doesn't want to have to do it any more. To me, that's not really thinking about you. If she was thinking about you, she'd bite her tongue and say take all the time you need. If she said that, you'd feel her love and you'd probably be ok a lot faster. By making you feel like a burden, it's only going to make you feel worse. I think if she's reached the end of her limit or she's getting close to it, then it's fine to tell you about it. But what worries me is that she's reached her limit so fast. She's only had two dates with him. It doesn't matter what went on last year or this year. She's only had two dates with him. Maybe she needs to work on her patience, instead of you working on your insecurities.

GalaGirl 12-17-2012 02:25 AM

There is no answer to that question. You are ready when you are ready. For you to be "ready faster" speaks to your needing reassure and being able to trust her with your emotional safety. She shows you behaviors that are nurturing and trust building and emotionally safe how? In the past and in the present?

When she rushes you, pushes you for unrealistic things like "give me a time/date when you will feel over X", and rushes off to date people (you have written several posts on how she rushes with new people and does not meet your need for pacing) it doesn't create a climate of "emotionally safe" to me. So no. You don't feel emotionally safe here yet.

How about stop talking about feelings and start talking about BEHAVIOR? What behaviors will she do to aid you? What behaviors will you do?

Could start with better conflict resolution method maybe? This sounds like tantrum to me.

Quote:

She expressed this with tears and shouting, then coldness, over the past couple of days.
Sigh. :(

Galagirl

MeeraReed 12-17-2012 05:11 AM

Hi Sparklepop, I enjoy your posts and I remember your previous/ongoing issues.

My experiences don't really qualify me to offer much advice to you, but one thing jumped out at me: meeting your girlfriend's lovers / potential lovers online is NOT working.

Would it be possible to stop doing that? Do you really need to chat with these guys at all? Why do you need to interact with them or "meet" them in any way? Could you wait to meet them in person at a later time, when and if they become more serious with your girlfriend?

I understand that you want to get to know them and to make sure they respect and understand your relationship with your girlfriend, but it sounds like you are thinking of these online chats as a formal meeting of metamours, while both your girlfriend and the guys are taking it less seriously, perhaps just thinking of it as a casual flirting/sexting chat.

For what it's worth, I don't think your girlfriend's being very fair to you.

BUT, I am also wondering if you could consider a totally different approach to poly: a more autonomous approach. Would it be possible to regard your GF as a totally separate entity, able to date people completely separately from you, with no restrictions on her dating life? (You get the same autonomy for yourself, of course). I know that you are trying to do get to that point, and that you have very reasonable limits that your GF doesn't seem capable of respecting, but I'm wondering if it would be possible for you to reevaluate your entire approach?

It seems to me that your GF could date as many men as she likes, spank them as often as she likes, etc, and at the end of the day she will still be in a committed relationship with you.

I sympathize with your desire that she not date during the first week or so of your separation when you go back to the UK. But I think you are missing the point that she is a very different person from you with very different needs and (maybe) a very different approach to sex & dating. When you go back to the UK, you miss her so much you can't even contemplate going out to date a bunch of new people. You think, "I'm away from my girlfriend and I'm sad." Meanwhile, I suspect that she misses you just as much as you miss her, but that her needs & approach are so different that her thinking is more like, "My girlfriend's gone...now I have a lot more free time, and now I need a lot more sex than I'm getting, so I better go out and date some new people!"

Would it be possible to step back and say, "It's none of my business what she's doing when I'm not around. I know she loves me, and I trust her." ?

I would, however, stand firm on the limit that she not sext with men while going to bed with you. (And don't make the mistake of blaming the men for "not respecting" you if they are sexting her...it's HER choice to text and HER responsibility to turn off her phone at bedtime.)

I don't know that a more autonomous approach would work for you, but it's worth thinking about. It would mean that both of you would have to learn to communicate LESS about some things (for example, she can decide if she needs to bring condoms on a date without your input!).

sparklepop 12-17-2012 08:55 AM

Thank you, you three, for your repsonses!

Toodles -

Quote:

She should either not date him in the first place, if she can't deal with the fact that you're going to be upset, or she should take the consequences and be willing to help you out, because you've helped her out by not slapping the veto rule on this guy, because you don't believe that's right.
I think that's basically what I'm trying to get through to her. I wouldn't want a veto situation. I want her to to have what she wants. But if he feels like a marathon for me, she's got to expect some sore muscles and recovery time. She likes analogies - maybe I'll try that approach with her.

Quote:

How can you give a time frame for how you will feel? Especially when she couldn't even stick to a tiny two week time frame of not dating?
It's interesting that you put it that way. Yes, it does feel that we need the opposite thing and when it comes to me meeting her halfway, I had to go to my unsafe place and drop my request about her not dating. I had to shorten the time I needed to give her the faster pace that she needed. Yet, when I need a slow pace for myself, whilst ceasing to ask her to change her behaviour, she cannot peacefully manage it.

Quote:

It's good that she tried to help you over the summer. But what? She thinks that some talking is going to make everything go away? Long distance relationships are hard. Especially when you are the one being in one country and then another country. Does she ever come to see you, or are you the only one with your life in upheaval?
I only go to see her. She has a husband and a child and cannot arrange to leave them to come over to me. I'm lucky to get to spend time in two wonderful countries and I love the opportunity. But yeah... she doesn't really get that it does mean my life in upheaval. She doesn't understand that it does take time for me to adjust every three months - she's never done it, so to her, it should just be one fluid transition with no other emotions.

Quote:

If she was thinking about you, she'd bite her tongue and say take all the time you need. If she said that, you'd feel her love and you'd probably be ok a lot faster.
I think maybe you're right. But, it seems like patience is something that she can't change about herself. I was very surprised this summer about how patient she was being. I had the girlfriend that I'd always wanted. I guess being that patient was extremely difficult for her, since she's now pressing me to hurry it along.

GalaGirl 12-17-2012 03:46 PM

Quote:

it seems like patience is something that she can't change about herself. I was very surprised this summer about how patient she was being. I had the girlfriend that I'd always wanted. I guess being that patient was extremely difficult for her, since she's now pressing me to hurry it along.
If this impatience is not a temporary problem, but rather a part of her character or something she's not willing/able to change about herself... you could choose to accept that.

Then the next question after accepting the lay of the land here becomes do you accept this about her AND still want to remain in relationship with her? Adjust your expectations of her accordingly and accept that some of your needs won't be met here?

Would the relationship still feed you in the way you need to be fed to make it worthwhile?

Galagirl

sparklepop 12-17-2012 11:21 PM

Thank you GG and Meera, for your replies.

GG - I liked what you said about looking at behaviours, instead of feelings. It made me smile because I tend to be very feeling-focused, while she has a more practical mind. I think that's tangible advice.

Quote:

There is no answer to that question. You are ready when you are ready. For you to be "ready faster" speaks to your needing reassure and being able to trust her with your emotional safety. She shows you behaviors that are nurturing and trust building and emotionally safe how? In the past and in the present?
You are exactly right... and this is why I'm stuck. I need to feel emotionally safe to make any kind of progression. Rushing me makes me feel emotionally unsafe. I've spoken to her tonight and she was under the impression that everything was ok... yet, I have felt further and further away from her since she exploded at me. I haven't been able to shake the sadness that something I saw in her (patience) has now gone.

Quote:

How about stop talking about feelings and start talking about BEHAVIOR? What behaviors will she do to aid you? What behaviors will you do?
When I've tried to focus on behaviour, instead of feelings, she feels controlled and restricted. Things that you've read before, like the two-week dating break.

I think that the answer is staring me in the face and this relates to Meera's answer, also. She needs more autonomy and I need to make some kind of separation - even a separation of the mind; of my expectations. I had hope, but I think I've given up on expecting patience after this. I feel resigned. I feel like basically withdrawing some. There seems little point in trying to ask her to change her behaviour, because it makes her feel controlled; and little point in asking her to understand my feelings, because she just doesn't/can't.

So... to Meera's reply :) Thank you so very much.

Quote:

My experiences don't really qualify me to offer much advice to you, but one thing jumped out at me: meeting your girlfriend's lovers / potential lovers online is NOT working.
You are right. It's something I started thinking about a couple of months ago and I actually suggested the same thing that you suggested. Unless someone's becoming long term, do I really need to meet them? Especially since I have now seen that it doesn't really matter what I think of them, or how they interact with me. That's not meant to sound bitter... hahaha... I'm so tired that I think it just is what it is. :)

I also think you're right about me expecting too much from the initial meetings. I was thinking about that a couple of days ago too. It struck me that there might be a bit of a culture difference. Brits are typically a bit more formal and overly polite... hahaha.... I also date women and she dates men, so there's probably a gender difference, too.

Thank you for saying that you don't think she's being fair. That helps me look at what I can do to improve things, but also makes me feel understood and validated.

I think you've hit the nail on the head really with considering a new approach. As you say, I'd been heading towards that. My fear was that the things we found special about our relationship, the closeness, might fade. But you can't fit a square peg into a round hole and since things that I suggest don't seem to feel right to her, I think an autonomous approach would be a good thing. I'm pretty worn out from all the poly talk and maybe it will give us both a break. I also feel like I want to be quiet... have some time with my own thoughts.... so letting go of the reigns would probably be therapeutic.

Again, you hit the nail on the head. She is different to me and/or does have a different approach to dating. Reading your recognition of this hammered it home to me.

I have been taking a break from dating and probably will for a little while longer. It will be interesting to see what happens when I do date.... whether the feeling of freedom she gets from more autonomy makes her easy about my dating.... or whether she will actually understand my current struggles more when she is on the other side of the coin. Either way, it is all learning, and that can only be a good thing.


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