I am 32, and I have been in a relationship with "O", who is 25, for 5 years. We have been living together for 4.5 years, and have a wonderful son aged 1 and 3 months. We are both queer/gay men, and my partner is also an FTM transman.
Our relationship has been fully monogamous only in the first year or so. After that time, we found ourselves doing a 3-way with a good friend of ours, and later with a few other people we know. While I was quite scared before the first time and only reluctantly agreed to try, I found those threesomes to be an awesome experience for me - they gave me a space which has enough safety (due to the presence of my partner) and on the other hand a great deal of excitment and discovery - both in doing things myself and in seeing my partner with other people.
I was quite satisfied with this arrangement - mostly momogamous, but with the occassionaly threesome - but unfortunately, my partner was less happy with it. While he enjoyed the threesomes they did not give him the full measure of what he wanted to experience with other people, and we repeatedly found ourselves talking about an open relationship, and later on about polyamory.
We started by taking an "open week" while my partner was abroad, and in that week I had sex with 2 friends. After that was done, however, I found myself growing more and more nervous thinking about what my partner is doing while he is away, an anxiety which grew all the way to something which felt like a panic attack. I acted in a way I am not proud of, and really gave my partner a hard time (sharing my feelings, crying over the phone, etc.). I did not ask him not to do anything, but I did not really give him the space he needed to experience things with other people. When he came home, we closed the relationship back to the mono with threesomes mode.
This was about 2.5 years ago, and since that time we have been very busy with planning and raising our new baby. Last september, however, my partner raised the issue again and after some thought, we agreed that we don't want to live in a closed relationship anymore. This was more of an ideological decision, and we did not do much about that "opening up" since then - none of us had been with other people so far, and hasn't been actively seeking to do so.
A few months ago, my partner started attending university, and befriended "F", another gay man there. It was very obvious that O was interested in more than friendship with F - at first it looked like he was interested in casual sex, and later, it seemed more like he is interested in another relationship. I find myself dealing with the first real instance of polyamory (although nothing has actually happened betweem them yet) - and feel like I am failing miserably at it. I feel sad and anxious all the time, hardly enjoy anything (even time with my kid), and obsessively thinking about this issue. I don't know what exactly bothers me - I don't feel like I own my partner, I don't think I have the right to limit his freedom, and I wholeheartedly believe that an open/polyamorous relationship is the right way to live. At the same time, I am hurt by his every word and action, feel like small and diminished, and feel like something will be lost in our relationship once my partner progresses with this new relationship.
I really want to find a way to support my partner in this and to truly give him what he wants, and I'll be happy to hear thoughts and experiences from others...
Welcome to our forum.
I see that your head is in favor of the polyamorous ideal, however your heart is in pieces. I think it will take some time to figure out the precise nature of these insecure feelings, but one thing we should say right off is that, yes indeed, something will be lost in your relationship once your partner progresses with this new relationship. Namely, the monogamous nature of your relationship will be lost. The words don't make it sound like as much of a loss as it really is. There is a grieving process here. You will have to be patient with yourself as you "put the monogamous dream" behind you.
I think it's possible that you may be (subconsciously) afraid that O will love F more than he loves you. Something about the threesome set-up allows you to see first-hand that O loves you as much as ever. But when he's off somewhere with F, and you're at home, you're left to your imagination, and your imagination is "treating you badly." It is telling you that you don't "measure up to F," and O is going to love F more than he loves you. Somewhere in that subconscious could be the fear of abandonment: "O won't want to be with me anymore. He'll want to be with F instead." And there's always the feeling of being left out: "Here I am babysitting our son alone while O goes off and has fun with F." It's uncertain which of these hobgoblins are haunting your subconscious, but it could be all of them, and then some I haven't thought of.
It would probably help to have some deep heart-to-hearts with O about your feelings -- not blaming O, not blaming yourself either -- just letting the feelings out, talking about your wants and needs, and negotiating what can be done to meet those needs. For example, can O babysit the youngster while you go out and have some fun?
It might help to develop a relationship (platonic or romantic) of your own with F. If you feel like F is your friend, you will feel like he is on your team, and doesn't want to hurt your or diminish you in any way. You'll have to think about whether this is something you could try, and talk it over with O. Maybe O could babysit the youngster while you and F go out (for dinner, a movie, whatever you'd like to do).
These are just some foods for thought. Some of them might help you; some might not help or might just be "covering the same old ground." But hey, even if one thing helps it's worth it, and even barring that it's still a way I can let you know that I sympathize for you in your situation.
I've found in my own experience that when I've had jealous feelings, it's usually "all about me;" that is, it has to do with me feeling like my needs aren't getting met, while others' needs are getting met. If I feel like my needs are getting met, I feel much more generous and relaxed. So we need to tap into your mind to find out what needs aren't get met, or what fears are being stirred to the surface.
Hope I can help. Glad you could join us.
It is really helpful to hear another person's point of view on this. I think you were right on the point with some of my partially subconscious fears, and pointing out this grieving process is certainly an eye-opener. I do need to think some more about the practical options you suggested, and see what works for me.
I think a big part of the challenge for me is starting to work on those feelings regularly. We have been talking about opening up/polyamory (I know that these are not the same, but it they have been interchangeable in our discussions) for quite a while, but I really put off handling the negative sides of it - dealing with jealousy, grieving and all that - until something is actually about to happen between my partner and someone else. When this becomes an option, I start stressing out, and attempt to deal with all those intense feelings at once in the day or two I have before he goes to meet with that other person. Luckily or unluckily (I can't really tell), none of those times ended up with him actually establishing a relationship or having sex with others, so I keep getting a rain-check on handling my feelings until the next time.
I guess this has to change, since those intense periods of anxiety really bring me down - I am generally a very positive person, and when I read things I write during those times (like my post yesterday, which was written when my partner was with F) I simply don't recognize myself. Maybe if I let some anxiety and jealousy enter my everyday life and handle it a bit at a time, it would reduce the intensity of what I am feelings when our thoughts start translating into reality.
Yes, some kind of proactive action seems to be needed to break up the tidal wave into smaller chunks. Perhaps some type of journaling would help, such as deciding what the worst possible thing is that could happen, and then working out a plan for what you'd do about that. It's likely that the worst won't happen, but having a plan for dealing with it gives you a sort of "safety zone."
Then consider the second-worst thing that might happen, and how you would plan to deal with that. So on and so forth.
Sometimes it helps to just start journaling randomly, even if what you're writing doesn't seem to make much sense or be very relevant. After writing for awhile, you might unexpectedly find yourself talking about the scary stuff, giving it shape and form so you can deal with it directly. Or, like you were kind of saying, something you write one day might be a revelation of sorts when you re-read it the next day.
We have a Life stories and blogs board that you can use for that very purpose if you want. The blogs are kind of "sacred ground," so you shouldn't have to worry about criticism from other members. It's mostly just a safe place where you can talk about your life, feelings, struggles with poly, etc.
You may find it helpful to read some of the other members' blogs as well. Sometimes you'll be surprised at how much you can relate to the other people, and realize that you're not alone.
If you start a thread you'd like me to comment on somewhere, just post a link to it here and I'll follow that link. I'd be glad to help in any way I can.
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