Poly-curious with a very confused BF
Hi, all :)
I'm new here and I just thought I'd try to get some opinions from any polyamorous people as to how I am dealing with this in my current relationship.
My bf and I have been together 2 years (today is our anniversary :D ) and we have a baby son. I am very much in love with them both :). I am openly bisexual and was surprised at myself for falling so deeply in love with a man (I've always vastly preferred women), but I am happy nonetheless.
However, I feel that monogamy has always been something I've struggled with. I only heard of the term "polyamory" recently; in the past, I just shrugged the feelings off, as they made no sense to me. I championed monogamy and loathed cheating. It took me a while to realise that polyamory and cheating are NOT the same thing. Looking back, the only serious relationship I ever had, I cheated on him (thrice). After that, I had "friends with benefits" and "fuck buddies", but backed rapidly off if they showed any indication of wanting to be exclusive. My DP is the only one who has instantly made me want to commit.
I have spoken to him about this, after a year of struggling and hating myself for my feelings, and he was deeply confused. He comforted me, as my shame in what I was saying palpable, but he also confessed he was afraid I'd find someone else and take our son with me. Once he saw how devastated I was that he could even think that, he seemed to realise that I was not saying this as a way to back out of our relationship. Now, though, he's gone back to pretending I haven't said anything at all. If I bring it up and ask how he's feeling, he says, "I don't knoow. I dunno. I'm not sure." Which is fine, but I am worried he'll slip into his old habit of pretending he's okay when he's suffering. I like to check in...not to press him for answers, but to ensure his imagination isn't running away with him again. He will mostly talk about his feelings when asked, but won't offer them voluntarily. I've asked him to work on this.
So I'm not sure where to go from here. I don't want him to conveniently "forget" what I told him so that he doesn't have to talk about it (like he did when I told him I was bi), but I also don't want to drag him into something he's not comfortable with. Right now, I want to focus on us having time for each other and the baby...I'm not interested in diving headlong into finding another partner without ensuring we have a good communication system first. But how do I do so without seeming pushy?
Help and advice would be much appreciated :)
Maybe pointing him toward this community would be a good first step. This may sound elementary, but communication is THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT in making the leap into polyamory. Talk it out with compassion and understanding every chance you get.
Best of luck.
Good points Damcat. You might want to try to point out the freedom of other relationships for your boyfriend as well. You never know..he might be poly as well! Win-win!
Good for you giving it lots of time. It sounds like you have a ways to go to get open communication going. You are on the right track, just keep communicating like you want to be communicated to. Leading the way to a style of communication is all you can do. Telling him that you are communucating in a way that you want him to communicate is part of it.
My husband and I took a communication course (non-violent communication) before we got married and it has been invaluable. We use it often and it has shaped how we deal with everyone in our lives now. Sometimes when things get heated we remind each other that we are not being gentle with each other and do our best to get back to the techniques we have shaped to be our own. Perhaps this is something you could consider.
We took a parenting course about communication too and it was more of the same. We use the same techniques and methods with out son and he is growing up to be an excellent communicator. It is fascinating to hear him express himself to get what he needs now that he is older. Really, poly aside, I think all parents and relationship dynamics could benefit from some education in the communication area.... it really is the pillar that keeps a relationship of any kind grounded and strong.
Communication class would be awesome. maca and I are doing that right now-even after just the first one we made SO much progress that we were both shocked and our relationship instantly grew closer THAT DAY.
By class two (one week later) we were on cloud 9. We were able to express things to one another that in 11 years together we never managed to get across right and it was invigorating, enlightening, motivating and eye opening.
Class three is this coming Friday-I can't wait.
Also-I like the suggestion of inviting him to come on here and read. I joined, found threads that answered questions we were struggling with and emailed maca links. He read them, decided to join and a by Ceoli cemented for him the points he was missing.
He was very concerned about being "replaced" and he was worried about me "finding someone better". It never occurred to him that his position in our situation is actually less "risky" then the additional persons, until he read Ceoli's thread and he was devastated by how HE had treated that other person aready.
I think inviting him to join whether you acknowledge each other on here or keep it secret unto yourselves will allow him to see a little more of you, what you are saying about the situation what you want, what you are hoping/needing AND allow him to see what other people think/see/feel/need in those situations which will help him decide what HE thinks/sees/feels/needs.
And as I said in your intro-check out lovemore.com it has some great articles and lists to use in conversation starters and question/answers to consider.
All good suggestions!
I'll add that its important to figure out the things that make him want to pretend like the conversation never happened. What are the feelings the bubble up in him that make this all just easier to forget?
When you talk to him next, start by asking specific questions. Its one thing to ask 'how do you feel about polyamory?'. That can illicit any number of responses. But asking questions tailored specifically to his own concerns might help focus the conversation. "Does the idea of being non-monogamous make you feel like I'm trying to replace you?" "Does the idea of me dating other people make you think that I somehow love you less?"
Make sure to reassure him that no matter how he answers these questions, his responses are valid and important. Once you have some specific fears widdled down to their essentials, you can begin to address what the problems really are.
Tell him flat out that you're worried about him side-stepping the real issues here, and you want to be clear about all of it.
If he tells you "I'm afraid that if you date other people, you will leave me for them." That's a result of insecurity, and a real risk in any relationship (not just poly ones). You can help quell this one by saying that the whole point of Polyamory is that you don't have to chose. You love him, and for as long as you love each other, you want to always be free to express that. Think about WHY you might want to date other people, and when you explain it to him, make sure you illucidate the points that indicate how it doesn't involve replacing him.
You can say to him also that you have no desire to focus on anyone but him and your child right now, but loving freely is an important part of who you are, and that its best to talk about it now. Tell him you don't intend to seek out other people walking into your lives at the moment, you simply dont have the energy to handle it. This way it doesn't feel like an ultimatum to him, like the conversation can take its time.
In any case, I'm sure this is the kind of stuff communciation seminars can help walk you through. Its a daunting process at first for people who aren't used to breaking concerns down that deeply, and especially difficult for anyone who's ever blamed themselves for feeling a certain way. Like the other folks above, I highly recommend taking a class together on it.
Wow, Serendipity...you sure are good a giving advice! This in particular resonated with me:
'When you talk to him next, start by asking specific questions. Its one thing to ask 'how do you feel about polyamory?'. That can illicit any number of responses. But asking questions tailored specifically to his own concerns might help focus the conversation. "Does the idea of being non-monogamous make you feel like I'm trying to replace you?" "Does the idea of me dating other people make you think that I somehow love you less?"'
It made me realise that I'm being far too vague when asking him how he's feeling. Saying, "How do you feel about polyamory?" is like asking someone, "What have you been up to?" when you haven't seen them in six years. You just don't even know where to start. So I think that advice will prove invaluable when I'm trying to encourage him to communicate his feelings. Thanks so much :)
I have told him, last night actually, that talking does not necessarily mean doing. Not yet, anyway. I just want to make sure we both understand each other fully, and if sometime in the future (when I've got a spare minute to shave more than just one leg) I meet someone I connect with, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
Classes are a great idea, but we just do not have the time or the money to spare. I'll just surf the internet for clues or ask you guys :p
Thanks for your help, everyone :)
Just an update for those kind enough to give me advice :)
I had a rather emotionally charged conversation with my DP recently, mostly down the the fact that when he's stressed, he just retreats into himself. And at the moment, since we're living with his parents while we have work done on the house and he is running his own business (which is flourishing), he is VERY stressed.
I'm very much a get-it-off-my-chest kind of girl, but he is the exact opposite. He won't talk to me AT ALL. Even small talk feels like a battle. And being the kind of person who loves to chat about anything and everything, it was making me feel totally alone. He was suffocating me with his silence.
So we had words. I cried, and told him I was sick of begging him to be open and honest with me. He shows me he loves me in a million different ways; he does everything for me. But I don't WANT him to do everything for me! I can do most of it myself! I just want his company. I just want to listen to him speak. Is that so much to ask?
He is trying a little, it seems. We went out for a meal last night while his parents watched the baby, and we got a few things out in the open...but polyamory still remains ghosted out of our conversation.
I am so tired of this. I want to point him in the direction of this site, but I am sick of feeling like I'm dragging him kicking and screaming. He promised he would bring it up and ask me questions. HE PROMISED. But still...NOTHING. I feel so alone :(
I'm so sorry to hear about your frustration. Sometimes the hardest part is when its in our own nature to open up and talk about everything, but its just not for our partners.
Trust me, I've got two boys who won't offer very much in terms of their feelings or their thoughts on the specifics (though one is better about it than the other). At first I nearly tore my hair out worrying that either A: we'd never be able to communicate sufficiently and it would all just fall apart, or B: I would be the one constantly bringing up the issues, being annoying, and I would ruin any peace between us and it would all just fall apart.
It seems like you're in a similar spot with your man. It took me a little while, but I told myself "Ok. Its my personality to bring things up. Its NOT in his personality (or the other one's) to just offer up what's on his mind. That's just the way things are, and that's ok. Now we have to come to a compromise for this to work."
Being the way your man is, you could ask him to promise that no matter what he will open up and tell you anytime the littlest thing is bugging him, or even ask him to promise to tell you when there's something big on his mind. And he might even agree to! The problem is that he may not even be thinking about those things. They may float into his mind, and his way of coping is just to push it aside. So if he doesn't even consult HIMSELF on the issues, why would he bring them up to you?
Your Needs V.S. His Needs
The only answer here is compromise I think. Tell him that to be happy in this relationship, you really REALLY need to discuss your feelings, and get feedback about his. Emphasize that it is important to YOUR happiness. At this point, refrain from any accusatory phrases like "You don't talk to me enough!", instead you could say "I need more discussion, and I need your help to do that."
Tell him that you realize its not like him to just start talking about it the way you do. Say that you are more than willing to be the one to bring up these conversations, if he's not sure how or not sure when, but tell him that you're worried you will come off as being nagging. Reassure him that you don't want to annoy the shit out of him, but that there needs to be a middle ground also. Not talking annoys the crap out of you, nagging him all the time frustrates him. Tell him you realize this, and so you want to agree to meet in the middle.
What he might promise to do for you:
Ask him to please keep his cool and react with a level head when you bring up sharing feelings. Scowling at you, or rolling his eyes, or not looking at you are harmful behaviors that make you feel like you're not being listened to. So if he does these, tell him to please refrain. Instead, if he does feels these responses creeping in or he can't help it, tell him that he NEEDS to instead say, "Honey, its important to me that I understand your feelings. I just can't talk about it right this very second because I can't have a conversation like this without reacting emotionally."
Assure him that its ok for him to say "I can't talk right now", and ask him to try finishing that phrase every time he says it with WHY he can't talk right now, so you just don't feel like you're being ignored for no reason. "I can't talk right now, because I've had a really stressful day and I'll probably just get defensive too fast".
What he can expect from you:
(and leave room for him asking for his own specific needs)
Now you need to put in the work and have the emotional intelligence to know when its a good time to bring things up, and when its not. I'm sure you've had those moments where you really really really really wanna talk about something, but its pretty obvious he's feeling like crap and saying anything will just make it worse. Holding it in makes you feel terrible though. When this happens, I suggest approaching him in a relaxed manner (maybe throwing your arms around him and planting a kiss on his forehead) and saying something like "I know you're feeling well. I have a lot on my mind too right now, and I really need to talk about what I'm feeling soon. I know now's not a good time. Let's talk about it when you're feeling better instead of now, ok?"
This shows him that you're capable of understanding his needs, and helps him know you're not automatically gonna nag him all the time. It also gives you a way to let him know you've got lots of feelings rolling around in your head so that he can appreciate your restraint in lieu of his needs right then.
Tell him that you will do this for him. That its not all just asking him to make promises to you, that you're working really hard to make sure you're both happy with this. That this is for your happiness as much as it is for his, and you'll work on it for him.
The really tricky part:
What if he just uses the "I can't talk right now because X" phrase every time you want to talk to him? Well, by design, he's allowed to do this. You said it was ok for him to say it, and it should be. The problem is that at some point it becomes unfair. You're not meeting each other half way if he's the one always backing out, and you're the one always holding things in. If this does happen, you need to sit down with him and explain calmly that you feel like your patience is being taken advantage of. That maybe he's got valid reasons for not being ready to talk, but in the meantime, its making you really unhappy. And all the frustration HE would feel as a result of talking, is what YOU'RE now feeling as a result of NOT talking.
If you guys can't come to firmer ground after that kind of talk, then maybe its time to think about how happy you two can really be together as a functioning couple. Consider that it might make the both of you happier people to change the relationship. Its a scary thought, but in the end if you can't find middle ground, neither of you will be happy together and it might be better to move on.
Man... listen to me go on. That's what you get for encouraging me. I hope this helps though. I honestly know how you feel, and this has worked for me. Maybe it can help you too.
Short seemingly off the wall suggestion.
Purchase the book "please understand me" or "please understand me II".
There is a little quiz in the book near the front (don't read the whole book, it's not designed for that).
Take the quiz, have him take the quiz. Then each of you read your "profile".
This test is one that psychologists and psychiatrists use with patients to help them understand who they are and how they operate BEST as well as how OTHER people are and how they operate best.
If you both do that it help you each see which behaviors aren't a personal affront to one another but simply your natural NEEDS for your life.
At that point you can work on compromise REALISTICALLY without asking one or the other of you to do or not do something that is intrinsically impossible for you.
Maca and I have both books we did the test, had our friends, roommates, my boyfriend all do it as well and WOW what an eye opener.
Our counselor had all the people in his office take it before he took the job-just so he could be sure to respect their differences and still be sure he could function in that office.
It's really awesome. I got my book for $9 at the used book store.
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