Moving from mono to poly in my marriage has exposed a lot of my weak areas, and I've given a lot of thought to my lack of independence in particular. It definitely made/is making the transition harder, and I've been working hard to find ways to gain the confidence and self-direction to be more comfortable with knowing areas of my husband's life that used to be solely "my" territory are now shared with others. Independence also seems to help with the feeling of abandonment that I've sometimes had when he's out with Juliet, and it gives me a better chance of weathering the fear that I'll be found lacking in comparison to her.
For context, it's worth knowing that I have a darned successful career in leadership roles, and was plucky enough to skip ahead 4 grades in school - yet in my home life I've been mostly a hermit, leading a quiet life that revolved in a substantial way around my husband.
So, I figured I'd post a few of the things that have helped me cultivate independence, and see if others have advice on more ways.
1. Embrace an adventurous philosophy. Pema Chodron taught about "going to the places that scare you", because doing so makes your world bigger, your heart more open, and your mind more agile. I give myself regular reminders about the philosophy I've developed around this, in hopes that I will remember it in those hard moments where I really want to just withdraw to the safe and familiar. I try and ask myself, is this truly harmful to me, or could it be an adventure?
2. Try hobbies. I really didn't have hobbies before all this, but I try now to challenge myself to do the things that interest me. I like making things, so every week now I go on Instructables.com and pick out some little projects to try on my own. I took up origami. I read more. I'm trying to grow plants. I find that regularly doing stuff that involves only me is a good way to change how I think of being alone.
3. Be of service. Volunteering is actually quite empowering, I've found. It gets me out into the world, experiencing new things, and gives me a self-image boost. When I feel capable of making a positive difference in the world, I have greater confidence in myself.
4. Be physically active. I hate this one, actually, but it is still good for me. I generally hate exercise, and stay slim by not eating much for the most part. But realizing I wasn't totally happy with that, I sought a form of activity that I enjoy. In my case, I learned pole dancing (from a Pilates instructor). Yeah, really. I have a pole in my study and everything, and it makes me feel sexier and better about my physical self.
Have others found independence to be a challenge in beginning poly, and found things that helped?
For me, I lost a lot of independance when Karma told me he didn't feel like he was needed. I had always been very independant. I was raised to depend on myself and only myself. I didn't know how to mesh that into a relationship. My last relationship before Karma lived 4 hrs away. So I was on my own most of the week until I would drive down to see him on the weekend. I didn't know how to not be so indpendant.
As is typical with my all or nothing mind set, when Karma told me he cheated the first time because he didn't feel needed, I started to depend on him for everything. Which of course had the opposite effect, where I was too needy and he needed an escape.
For me I needed to get the mental shit straight before I could actualy act on being independant. I needed to remember how to live for me. I was so affraid that if Karma didn't feel needed he would leave, but how was I supposed to balance needed without becoming overly needy?
I remembered a philosphy I had when I first started dating, and somehow forgot. I am who I am and I love me, if someone I am dating cannot love that me, I am not going to change for them. Having a partner is a bonus to my awesomeness not a requirement to make me awesome. If they aren't happy, they are free to leave, they are not my posession to try and keep.
I dunno how I forgot all that. But I found it again and it made all the difference. It wasn't that hard to find my indepedance once I remembered how important I was to myself.
I'm a homebody, I don't get much out of being a social butterfly. So going out on my own isn't something for me. I enjoy my time with Karma, I have a better time when I do go out, if he's with me. Doesn't make me any less independant. For me the independance came from enjoying my time alone instead of counting down til he got home. I love to write, so I've started blogging again, I knit, I go to the mall to walk and to people watch. I catch up with my out of state friends, do the household chores, get the grocery shopping done. I use my time when he isn't here to be productive. I don't need him to be home to entertain me.
I no longer wait to go shopping until he can go with me. I go on my own and since he hates shopping anyway it's a win win. I can take my time and enjoy myself and he doesn't get drug along.
I guess for me independance is more be okay in my own skin than what I do with my time. If that makes any sense.
Most excellent post! I think its really useful to think of these things when faced with a partner that is venturing out into a new romance. Independence is a key component to poly and I think to any successful partnership. Thanks for this post. Would you be willing to cut and paste to the "lessons" thread? Its right here
Thank you for the comments, Mohegan. :)
So, does Karma still have trouble with not feeling needed, since you regained your independence? As much as I know I need develop this greater self-reliance, my own partner has expressed concern that I may grow so needless of him that there's no point in our relationship anymore. That's a long ways away, but I'm also someone who tends to throw myself into a thing completely, and I admit it's possible that I'll end up making him feeling unneeded. How do you balance that out?
And sure, redpepper, I'd be happy to copy to paste my own little list. Thanks for the invitation. :)
In addition to the things Mohegan and I posted already, I was thinking about one more that's been helping me...
5. Spend quiet time with yourself. Modern life is a cacophony. I don't think I ever realized how little time I spent listening to myself until I started meditating a few months ago. One of the first things I knew I needed was a place of my own, so I converted a room in our house to be reserved for just me, my things, and my activities. Now I look forward to daily samatha sessions in my study, treating it as a chance to observe my thoughts coming and going in the kind of calm atmosphere that doesn't exist anywhere else in my life.
Sinew, when I read your post last night I was going to answer but didn't because I was on my little phone. But now, I just want to say "Thank you" for your list. I think it is wonderful -- and timely. If you don't know my story, I am going through a divorce right now and have to relearn how to be independent.
Recently, on another thread, I had posted about the difference between submission and surrender. And it got me to thinking about what I needed to surrender to in my life. What I came up with was I need to "surrender to my independence." But I also said to myself, "Okay... good... but how?" And then a day or two later, here is your post! The universe really does give us what we need! Thanks!
I have always been independent in relationships really. I had to think how I am before responding. It was a useful procedure actually. Thank you.
I got my own room too last fall. This has made a significant change in how I feel now. I don't use it much really, but its a space that I feel I can fall into, if that makes sense. I can just let go in there. My rules and my choice happens in my room. Any visitors are there as a guest and I can ask them to leave if I want. I don't have to share. Its made a huge diFference.
Other than that I go out by myself, make plans for myself, have ideas and creations I carry through on by myself. I usually invite someone along though, but that doesn't make it about a merged transaction, but about doing it as individuals together, if that makes sense.
PN meditates. I can hear him get up as we speak in the room above actually. That is good "me" time to him. Mono spends a lot of time independently from me, I think he would be far more merged with me if it were just us. One of the benefits of poly for him is that we aren't and therefore he has his independence.
Before I moved to the city I live in now I felt like I never really knew who "me" was. I met my husband when I was 16. I fell into his group of friends, mostly by default and just became a part of that world.
It took a drastic move to a new city while starting a family for me to find myself and to discover my independence. I've found friends of my own here who I'm friends with on my terms rather than just because they are friends of my husband. I also joined a sport that makes me feel like I'm a part of something and strong and powerful and sexy.
Also my husband's job takes him away for long periods. I've learned that when there is a crisis that I can deal with it (and I can deal with it all on my own). I think that being independent makes me more interesting. If you are always with a partner what do you have to talk about with them?
Another step in my independence when it comes to poly was realizing that I only wanted to be with people who want to be with me. I don't need to be a part of a "we" to be ok with myself. That was a huge revelation for me. It made me much less fearful about what the future held for my husband and I. If one day, by chance, he meets and falls in love with someone he wants to be with without still being with me I know that I can get through it and that my husband and I will be able to redefine our relationship as friends and co-parents. (I'm not saying it wouldn't hurt, but I would manage).
I don't suggest radically changing your life and moving to a new place but it was exactly the kick I needed to find my independence.
The perspectives are much appreciated!
nycindie, my heart goes out to you for what you're going through. I've read your advice in other threads, and wish I had more to give back. I can at least say that what I found about divorce was that once it was over (mine took almost an excruciating year), it was an enormous weight lifted, and very quickly I found that I looked back on my married years as if they were some other person's life. I could take the lessons (I hope I did, at least) and leave all the entanglement.
redpepper, I see what you mean about "as individuals together", and I know that's something I could use more practice with. Independence can turn into just solitude if I'm not careful.
Derbylicious, your mention of realizing that you only want to be with people who want to be with you strikes a particular chord for me. I've heard that several times now in studying how poly can work, and it never fails to give me a jolt. It makes so much sense, yet it runs opposite to so many things I believed relationships meant to me. Stability, protection, commitment - I believed they came from being in a good relationship, but it's the opposite, isn't it? I love this article by Susan Piver.
I didnít really understand that love does not arise, abide, or dissolve in connection with any particular feeling. It has almost nothing to do with feeling. (Nor does it seem to be a gesture, a commitment to stay, becoming best friends, or anything else I might have thought.) Love has become a container in which we live. Through time and riding mysterious waves of passion, aggression, and ignorance (and boredom), I think we began to live within love itself. At least I did. Each time I opened up, extended myself, accepted what was being offered to me, stepped beyond my comfort zone to embrace him, the structure was reinforced.
At the same time, the structure becomes weaker with complacency (among other things), and independence is a stand against that insidious kind of corrosion.
Actualy finding my independance is what helped saved my marriage. Things with Karma and I are amazing. He still feels needed, there are just somethings I need my husband for ;).
It is about balance. But I can't really give you much on it, it just kind of happens for us. Karma missed the woman he met. The one who could take on the world. The difference is, I think, that I have learned to ask if he wants to come along. I've learned to mesh the independant me with the married me.
I've learned to ask for help when I need it, and to do what I can do and what I enjoy doing alone. I don't depend on Karma to be my only source of entertainment, but I still enjoy our time together. I would be content spending the majority of our time together, so I let him take the lead on that. If he makes plans to go out with friends or on a date, then that is when I make plans to me stuff. It was to apoint where even if I was studying I wanted him home. Why? Now when I have homework, I consider that me time as well and he gets kicked out of the house for a few hours.
"I wish I had known that when you live with someone for a long time, there is continuous, mind-blowing irritation. (Okay, I did know this, but I forgot.) Often the irritation arises when you try to replace your actual partner with a projection, because they always figure out a way to tell you how unlike your projection they really are. Once you pick yourself up, that gives you yet another opportunity to choose between who this person is and who you sort of hoped he was. No matter how many times I prompt my husband with the correct lines for his role, he does not get into character. This irritates me."
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