Established as Poly but Unable to Handle a Partner Having An OSO...
I'd love to see some discussion of and opinions on a theme that I've been seeing in my local group and some poly people in my life. It's a discussion that is happening to some extent within my local group, and I am interested to hear a wider range of perspectives.
So the general scenario is this: established poly person, has been in an open relationship or open relationships for at least a couple of years and has had one or more serious relationships outside that first relationship. Well-versed in poly-ness, very open, has done lots of hard work to get to where they are.
Then one of their SOs starts another relationship. And they find dealing with this bloody difficult. Much more work ensues and they try soooo hard to work through their emotions because, conceptually, they believe in poly and they "know" on an academic or idealistic level that it works. But their emotions just won't cooperate.
What are your thoughts on this? It seems like a shitty Catch-22 to me. You can't force yourself to be okay with something, and this type of situation can obviously cause major strife within yourself as well as within your relationships. How do you stay true to yourself, your ideals, and also do what's fair for your SO and their SO(s)?
To be clear - I am not in this situation. My husband and I went through something very similar a few years ago when I wanted to start seeing other men (I had been dating/sleeping with women for years), and he had a VERY difficult time being okay with it, but in the end he found a way to be completely fine with it and has been ever since. So with our friends in this type of situation, we can help them or offer advice or our own experiences, but only up to the point where they realize they are not feeling any better even after months of effort. That's where we (my husband and I) draw a blank.
I think they find it difficult because the experience can be VERY different from the theory. I think poly, mono or whatever, the same advice still applies: move at pace of the least comfortable member, do the internal work to ferret out the issues behind jealousy or discomfort or whatever and communicate frequently to work to resolve those issues.
When Person A is the hinge? They directly KNOW their own mind and can directly control their own behaviors. They can trust themselves. Their heart center is inside their bodies.
When Person A is the meta? They do not directly KNOW the minds of their partner and their meta. They rely on the partner and meta to report that. They cannot directly control the behavior of the partner and the meta. They can request behaviors and they rely on the partner and the meta to control themselves and behave in honorable ways that do not hurt Person A. Person A has their heart center basically walking around outside their bodies. They grow the skills and trust in the other players to be ok with that or they do not.
There's also the layer of dealing through the stages of grief. If you are OPEN, guess what? You are not CLOSED. Even if both people are ok with it? The reality of their being another person now? It really drives home that no... it's not just us any more. It's not just us 3 any more -- me and my two sweeties. Now it is 4 of us... me and my two sweeties and my meta. Change is change.
There is going to be the time where you are learning to build trust and commitment. That happens in ALL relationships.
The best anyone can do in the "learning to relate to each other time" is to promise to try not to ding each other on purpose or thoughtlessly. When a ding happens, try to get back on track, nip it in the bud, reach understandings, heal and move it forward. Don't have to loooove your meta. Could strive to be basic polite to your meta.
Poly is like edge play of the heart sometimes just because there are more players involved so it ups the potential ding factor. There's no such thing as a perfect ding free polyshipping journey. Dings happen. Could strive to minimize dings and keep it real.
I think the biggest thing is self-inspection.
You can't always convince yourself that you're ok with something, and thereby force yourself to be ok with it. Sometimes you can (at least, I can) "just decide" it's not going to bother you anymore and, then it doesn't. But that doesn't always work.
You need to look deep inside and see why are you bothered by your partner having other relationships.
Fear is the most common motivator, so that's a good place to start. Or maybe your partner changed their behaviour when they started dating this other person, and that's what you're reacting to.
And maybe it's not "other relationships" in general, but specific other people. Just because you're ok with polyamory and open relationships doesn't mean you like every random person who comes into your life. I don't mean that as support for vetos, but sometimes just acknowledging "you know what, I just really don't like her" can go a long way to accepting that she's there. It changes it from "I don't like you dating someone else" to "I don't like her and I don't want to be around her."
And frankly, some people are just plain hypocritical. I personally don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being hypocritical, as long as you acknowledge it and own it. Of course, you also give up the right to be surprised when your partners react with "fuck that shit" and walk out the door. But at least it's open and honest...
whatever the problem is
it could probably be solved when all parties involved genuinely care about finding a solution. If the person honestly believes in not restricting the love their partners feel for others and all parties are honest and able to communicate and respect one another then there probably wouldn't be a problem.
It's easier said then done and when it's done, a person might find the freedom to love more trouble than it's worth. When everyone is completely honest and genuinely cares about all parties they are directly and indirectly connected with, which means treating other people's partners with respect, yet things still go wrong or they feel they can't handle it for whatever reason, it may be because one or more parties do not truly know themselves.
I think most of the times though, it's a simple matter of not being compatible due to different points of views regarding certain topics, otherwise rational and open, honest people should be able to pinpoint the behaviors that are causing issues and from there each person would have to make a decision whether or not they can live up to agreements and commitments discussed.
Being hypocritical and being able to admit it is one thing, but it is still a fairly shitty thing to put people through especially if the person doesn't come right out and say it but rather the parties involved have to figure it out. It's one thing to try it out and see if a situation works for you (you'll never know for sure til you try it) but it's an entirely different thing to go into a situation with people who don't disclose the details they are well aware they are hypocritical with their speech and/or exhibited behavior. Some forms of hypocracy really are no big deal, if you know a partner will always throw a tantrum for the first five minutes when you get home from a date, but ten minutes later as is well and the issues won't manifest itself in other unrelated ways it is no big deal. However what usually happens is the issue comes out in ways that aren't recognized where the source of the behavior actually arises from. Once that happens it is impossible to ever effectively deal with because the person isn't actually upset about whatever they are blowing out of proportion, they are upset because that is just what happens when you get home from a date. So long as everyone knows themselves well enough to understand what they need to have healthy relationships, everything can be worked out. If they just need to tantrum for five minutes every time you return from a date, then all is well is one thing. But if the person can't get be OK with something no matter what, then everything you do to deal with your emotions in healthy ways is wasted time and energy which is why all people involved having a successful poly life depends on each other being honest and truly knowing themselves. Everybody has knew found self discoveries about themselves, it is crucial when they happen you let your partners know, especially if they contradict they way you presented yourself. If anyone thinks something about the other that is no longer accurate, it is trouble just waiting to happen. Certain situations with people who just plain think too differently may find it impossible to be connected in any poly configuration, but I think it is usually due to one or more persons not being honoring agreed upon behavior and respecting those people you may have little to no contact with.
It only takes one bad apple to wreak havoc and essentially break up any configuration, and it isn't always obvious when it's happening nor is it always possible to know who is responsible. Some people have a problem being honest with themselves let alone people they are friends with which is why you should wisely choose the people you decide to get involved with.
It can make all the difference in the world to a person's experience with unrestricted loving relationships
So I've grown used to that idea, and it would be a huge mental shift for me if he came home one day and said he'd met someone he'd like to pursue a relationship with. I'm not insecure, but that would seriously have me wondering if something was wrong with our relationship.
Meanwhile, when my girlfriend tells me about some gal she's got a crush on, I think it's super cute. She always double checks to see if I would mind it they went on a date, and I always encourage her.
It's all perspective, I guess.
Thank you, everyone. It is great to hear all the perspectives. I will share the basic ideas with the people close to me who are struggling with this - I think it's helpful! I welcome any other thoughts if they come up.
Any time you add a new Player it will mean adjustment. This is true of new child in the family as well as new lovers.
When its a bew child, we dont allow ourselves the mental escape option of kicking them back out. So we are forced to address how to learn to accept them and what changes in the family must be made for them to be a part of it.
This can seem easy-but it can be quite difficult too-consider a special needs hild whose needs take large quantities of time and attention from the other siblings.
Assuming there are no red flag behavior issues:
I think that if the issue is addressed from the perspective of I have to find a way to Accept that there IS a new person in the family it becomes easier to do. So long as kicking them out is an option, that seems easier and more "worth it".
Much like the idea that if you consider divorce a viable option there's less motivation to resolve the complication in a relationship.
Obviously-this is all arbitrary in case of abuse issues. Any issues of abuse must be addressed separately from the topic of "can i or cant i handle poly"
For me, a lot of it has to with information and control. The need for control triggers the need for information.
When my husband is dating, seeking out a new partner, we talk about this a LOT. Whenever he comes home from a date, we talk, he shares all his feelings, and unless he becomes wrapped in NRE and forgets about me for a bit, I am in the center of his attention and he reassures me and because he comes home after every date, we can check in, we can reconnect, and I don't feel threatened.
My lover MrBrown has 2 other partners, and he dates every now and then, and has occasional hook ups that I know nothing about. Because I know almost nothing about his daily life, and because we don't communicate much in between dates, I have no information and I don't feel the need to control and I am not threatened. Sometimes he will tell me about his other relationships or dates when we see each other, but I'm sure there's lots he doesn't tell me. I'm perfectly fine with that.
My lover C is dating and looking for another relationship. We are in a very vague and undefined place when it comes to how much we share and how much we tell each other. Sometimes we communicate daily about everything. I feel i want to share, and know what he's doing, who he meets, how his love life is developing. He wants to share, but he also wants to be free. He doesn't want to tell me everything. And that is where my fear kicks in, and there's this gap between the control I want to have and the control i can have, and I'm getting mixed messages.
I'm working towards becoming less controlling... and being able to enjoy the amount of sharing we do, without it meaning that we have to share everything. But yeah, with him? I'm one of those established poly people with 3 partners who occasionally has an anxiety attack when one of those partners is developing another relationship.
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