Girlfriend Feels Rejected
So, three years ago I'd never been in a relationship and my understanding of sex was basically that it was something which could only occur in a relationship. I'd only recently even lost my virginity (sadly at the age of 32.) I had heard of "open" relationships from a couple friends, but morally couldn't wrap my head around it.
Around this time I met a girl, we dated and eventually moved in together. As time went on, I slowly realized a couple things. First was that I didn't feel ready to "give up" the idea of ever having sex with anyone else. Second, that I didn't really understand WHY being in love with one woman meant either of us should exclude other sexual partners.
A couple discussions here and there eventually brought out my desires for more sex partners. Eventually I also started looking into polyamory and reading a little.
My girlfriend is not at all on board with it, however for various reasons we've stayed together for another year and a half.
That's just backstory, and it's a little more complex... but here's what's bothering me now:
When I started to realize I was actually polyamorous, she felt like it was a rejection of HER. Essentially that she was somehow "not enough." This has recently come up again in another fight, and she's convinced that I rejected her. The problem is that in my eyes, she told me that polyamory was a "dealbreaker" and she wasn't willing to move forward. I had even asked her to read a book on it, which she agreed to but never actually did.
Now, since then I've focused on the benefits of being single again. At some point my script switched from just a desire to be in an open relationship to wanting to actually be single again to some extent.
So to me the reality is that she rejected me for being polyamorous. I don't understand her attitude that I rejected her because I realized I was polyamorous.
However, after this I would start focusing on the benefits life after our relationship whenever we had a fight and the breakup seemed imminent. We actually did get pregnant once, but miscarried, and the fears I felt about my ability to raise a child really stuck with me. So after all of this my script changed a little, to where I was just not feeling ready for marriage or child rearing.
The thing is, I still think her feelings of rejection boil down to the poly part. I'm wondering if anyone can help me understand, or help me get her to understand that I never really rejected her. She rejected me, and I started thinking of the benefits of single life as a kind of coping mechanism.
The next step? How each of you digests the disappointment that it isn't going to be a runner here.
Maybe it is straight up a dealbreaker because she's just not wired for poly. It is what it is. If she told you firmly that's how it is, and she's secure.... YOU could accept that. And you both could choose to part ways. There. Done.
If she's upset though and not secure about her own wants and her own self? Well... if her source of "validate me" is YOU or the relationship with you? And now the relationship is changing (through nobody's fault) that puts her in a position to lose her "validate me" source. She will feel threatened and scared.
Enter vicious circle loop time. :(
People who can self-validate are going to feel disappointment when a relationship comes to the natural end of its run. But they are not going to have fear about it because they still have their "validate me" -- their own selves. The can handle the disappointment better. They could be wired for mono or wired for poly -- doesn't matter. What matters in their ability to deal with the disappointment better is the ability to be ok in themselves.
Accepting that you have come to a point in the relationship journey where the paths diverge? It doesn't have to be poly. It could be simply falling out of love. A work transfer for the BF to another country -- lots of things. Ability to accept with grace is about her skills at dealing with strong emotions and her ability to self validate and feel secure -- with or without you.
She may not be able to help feeling disappointment, she may not be able to help not being strong in her emotional management skills. But it's still destructive behavior to the relationship if she's picking " I am going to tantrum at you for taking away my "validate me" source."
It is understandable. But not excusable to act out and drive one's partner away like that or be picking fights. (I hope YOU aren't picking fights. It takes two to tango.)
Maybe she had been falling down on several jobs there. (Maybe some of it applies to you too. I do not know. I am not there. )
You could have your own things to work on -- we ALL do. But if she's looking to improve herself for her next relationship -- could start looking there.
Unfortunately you cannot control her behavior or her willingness to try new things. You can only control you.
You are dealing with your disappointment too. But note it is TWO disappointments, not ONE.
Right now you are framing it as "she rejected me because I am poly." Like it is one disappointment. But it is not. You could distinguish between your feelings of disappointment.
The first disappointment? You feel rejected because you went to your partner with a shared vulnerable. And she responded by having a cow. Rather than responding with "Wow. That's a big thing to tell me. Thanks for trusting me with that. I need time to digest that though. Whoa. Big thing."
Don't take her inability to create safe emotional space for you to share vulnerable in as more than what that part is. Has nothing to do with polyness. It has to do with her skills at creating emotionally safe space.
The second disappointment is polyness with her not happening. Because you both have mutually exclusive wants for the romance shape. So cannot be in romance shape together then.
So when identifying where your disappointments come from and solving them?
#2? You could tell her you can accept mutually exclusive wants making a romance between you not possible. Nobobody can help that. People want what they want. You could comfort each other and let it go, and try to be friends.
#1? As friends or as romantic partners? Dude, wassup with that? Both friends and lovers try to create emotionally safe space. She fell down on the job there a bit. You could ask her to apologize for acting out at you with her own fears when you came to your partner with a vulnerable. (That is a trust weakening behavior.) Were you not doing the correct thing in coming to her with things that concern you and her? (A trust building behavior) :confused:
That bit was poor conduct on her part. She could own that bit.
So I would put it as "She is acting out at me because she cannot have what she wants in the way that she wants it."
It's not about the poly. It's about her ability to digest disappointment in appropriate ways. And you ability to do same. Part of digestion is knowing what it is you ate to begin with and what you have in there.
Because you too are going to feel disappointment that you cannot have what you want in they way you want it here with her.
Your wants, needs, and limits are not able to be met here. So you started thinking about changing your life so your wants, needs, and limits CAN be met. That's more appropriate than acting out at her. (Hopefully you haven't been acting out at her! If you have, apologize for that.)
You can read in my journal thread about my other poly-mono mismatch thoughts if you want to. Starts on post 6ish. I don't know if that could be comforting or not.
But the bottom line is that you cannot MAKE anyone do anything they are not willing to do. What would be the kindest thing here?
Could be to break up fast, firm and get you both to the healing place ASAP. And be her friend after. You don't have to reject HER or her YOU just because a romance isn't gonna fly.
Could choose to fly a friendship instead.
It's all up to you both where you want to take it to next post break up. But this thing will not fly with mutually exclusive wants for the relationship shape. Accept. Move it forward.
I am sorry you are hurting. :( Try your best to get you to a healthier space.
Sounds pretty par for the course for a relationship that started out monogamous. She feels rejected because you established a relationship she was comfortable with letting her guard down in and you participated in for a good amount of time. So to her it looks like you took a good long sample of a relationship with her and are now finding it "not enough". Since she was the only partner you had in that relationship, she is having trouble not seeing it as SHE isn't good enough.
And once someone feels that way, it makes the transition to an open relationship even more painful. She's told you she doesn't want what you want but hasn't ended the relationship. She is probably hoping you'll change your mind and accept her as enough for you so she can feel good again. You still want what you want but have not ended your relationship. You're hoping she will get on board.
Maybe be a little more gentle since this is new to you too. Point out to her that if it was just about her not being enough you'd have broken up with her. But you haven't because you DO want her in your life.
Only other point of interest is you, in your 30s don't feel ready for marriage and babies. You may never feel ready. Does she want these things and does she want them soonish? You might still want her in your life romantically but the mismatch ideals with relationship style AND life goals might make it a cruel act to dangle her along expecting her to change for you.
GalaGirl: Thanks, that does help and makes a lot of sense. There is some uniqueness to our situation, but I think you mostly hit the nail on the head.
Where we are now is that I think she does act out at me and pick fights. Once the fight progresses to the point where I get angry, she turns the blame on me for becoming angry. (We both have crappy communication skills, but we've started reading The Power of Two to work on that at least.)
The shortish version is that she's not in a good place in her life (doesn't want to stay in this city, hates her job, has been depressed since before we met...) so even though we realized things weren't going to work out a long time ago we agreed to stay together a little longer while she got her life in order.
Part of the problem for me is that if I do break up with her I feel like I'm abandoning her and leaving her in a bad place. Of course, I'm also worried that by allowing the relationship to continue I'm doing her a disservice by holding her back. Especially if she IS waiting for me to change my mind. I've decided that next time we get a chance to talk I'm going to tell her that if we're going to stay together I need to see signs of progress. Which I have recently anyway (she has an interview for a much better job today.) I just need to know that I'm still in her life as support, not as a roadblock. :(
The other thing is we have kind of tried being friends, and it kills me a little bit. She owns the house, and it's a duplex so she stays upstairs but we spend our time together. Every time she leaves it hurts, because we don't really separate so we don't get to a place of healing. I just end up feeling like she's breaking up with me every night all over again. So to go into a friendship, we'd need to take a break first... which is hard to do anyway since we live in the same house, and even harder because it leaves her feeling abandoned.
Anyway, I did point out to her yesterday that I felt rejected because she called polyamory a dealbreaker even before I fully realized I was poly... and told her what you said about us just wanting different things from a relationship. That at least seemed to at least make her think...
She very much does want kids, and right away. She just turned 40, and is terrified she's already getting too old to have kids. Part of the problem is that when we started dating I really thought I was ready for that stuff... then as it started happening I started to realize I might not be.
Somewhere deep in there she knows she's acting out. But to keep the perceived reality of "I'm really a nice person! It's it not my fault! There is nothing I could do! " then someone else HAS to be at fault. Who is handiest? You.
(Because facing her own fears is a behavior she COULD do. Being willing to do it is another story.)
If she can trigger you into acting out BACK and being angry, then she can tell herself "I'm a nice person! I'm acting out only because my dating partner was being mean/angry/yucky to me!" That supports the perceived reality and puts the spotlight on you for YOUR poor conduct and neatly gets her out of the spotlight and her behavior goes unexamined by her.
The actuality is more like "I expect unreasonable things of my partner. I expect my partner to always be around to be my "validate me" source. Because I am unwilling to learn the skills and face my fears to allow myself to become my own validator... I want my partner to always validate me whenever I want to be validated and always to be willing to be doing it."
Because at the end she loses her "validate me" source?
"Part of the problem for me is that if I do break up with her and end the romance and return to being her friend? I feel like I am abandoning her and leaving her in a bad place. "You are saying you could not be willing to be supportive and encouraging as her friend? You have to be romancing her in order for you to be willing to be supportive and encouraging of her?
Let go of the rope.
Everyone has to own their own baggage.
Everyone could put THEIR OWN oxygen mask on first. If everyone could be willing to do that, then everyone could have a better shot at being able to breathe and be ok.
Yes. There will be some short term discomfort. Nobody LOVES a break up. But do what you have to do, to get to your long term best healths.
Staying in a thing you KNOW is not the right shape, you know does not meet your needs, and you know causes you yucky feelings... is you taking good care of YOU and your long term well being, how? :confused:
Perhaps you could be a role model in that sense as her friend -- so she can find the will and the means to take better care of herself too.
The couple choosing to stay in suffering non-compatible-romanceship together because the couple is afraid to break up and risk un-suffering and getting well together in friendship makes no sense to me. :(
Could choose to straighten yourselves out.
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