For me all of the aspects I thought to list have needed their own processing. I think I'll share some posts I've made in my journal, and write some. [Likely not all today, I'll continue as I have the time.] My perspective is that of opening up an existing long-term relationship.
What I wanted to write about first is guilt. For me guilt has been a powerful trigger, affecting my behaviour in undesirable ways (of which I was often unaware), before I learned to manage it.
My emotional response to guilt has been simultaneously
- to feel so bad about myself that I've been triggered to fix whatever it is that makes me feel guilty
- to feel angry and act very defensive
What I have been working on is to stop the action (=doing) resulting from the response (=feelings). That is, when I start feeling guilty, it may still lead me to feel unbelievably bad, or angry, or defensive. However, while feeling totally justified in my response, I try to rationally recognise that it may not be proportional, and I will do my best not to act on it.
I will give you a non-fictional example. Alec tells me that when he sees me in NRE with Mya, all happy and glowy, it makes him feel bad about not being able to have that with me.
Hearing this, I feel bad about myself that I made him feel that way (which is not true because nobody can make anybody feel anything, even as I can do something and he may feel something in response; there is a difference). This feeling, in turn, makes me feel angry (because I hate feeling guilty) and defensive.
Now, the feelings flow into me immediately. And what I feel like doing is to defend myself. An alternative feeling might be to try to avoid the discomfort in the future by never again hanging out with both Alec and Mya together. Or trying to seem less happy with Mya when with Alec. Or deciding to become monogamous so that everything will be fixed and I won't have to feel guilty anymore.
I think all of those guilt-triggered actions are quite harmful if they are done.
So, at this point I totally feel like I need to defend myself against Alec, and I feel that I want to tell him that he is totally unreasonable in feeling bad about not having NRE with me, we've been together for 7 years, is he stupid or something, and for heaven's sake I'm allowed to be happy with anybody I want, and anyway I see Mya only occasionally and him all the time so of course I won't be happy and glowy with him all the time.
But, I stop myself. I remind myself that even though I feel like he is making me feel guilty, it is not actually true (since, again, he cannot make me feel anything). I remind myself that even though I feel justified in defending myself, I may not be, because I can't really objectively evaluate that when I'm feeling so much. Additionally, as long as I know I am not doing anything wrong (even though I feel guilty), it is not necessary to tell him that right away.
By practicing this it actually becomes easier to hear what it is he is trying to communicate, instead of all my focus going into what I'm feeling.
Thus, when Alec tells me he feels bad, I can not act on the guilt, and really hear him, and comfort him as best I can, and be there for his support. Which is something I wouldn't be able to do if I reacted defensively.
Now, sometimes somebody is actually trying to guilt-trip you into doing something. But the above advice still applies, because it makes it easier to see if that is going on. If person simply expresses their feelings, it is different than if they express their feelings and ask you to change your behaviour, which is again different from telling you that they want you doing something differently. When you become better at managing your guilt, you become better at making healthy boundaries.
In long-term relationships with Alec and Mya
. Seeing Lily. Metamours with Hank.