The Newbie's Lament: Trying to Make it Work
I'm sure you've heard variations on this a billion times before, but here I am adding one more: this is both my "hello forum!" post and my "this is scary and halps??" post.
So, the background story. I've been with my (awesome, silly, adorable, beautiful, lovable, affectionate, patient, understanding) girlfriend for a year and a half. I knew going in that she'd want to open it up eventually, and that sounded fine and fun to me, I just wanted to get more established in our relationship first. A few months ago we tried taking the first step of finding some threesomes as a beginner way to open it up, since I've done that before (in previous partnerships) and been totally comfortable with it. Unfortunately, we're in a rather small town for grad school now, and frankly we had a really hard time finding anyone we were both attracted to who was into it and attracted to both of us.
With her trip coming up and Plan Threesome failing, she suggested that while she was gone, I could have a permission slip to play, on the theory that if I found someone first I'd be more comfortable with her having someone else. This was also with the understanding that she'd have the same freedoms when she got back to the States. Our intended relationship model is/was something between poly and open relationship. There is an expectation of emotional attachment and romantic squishy feelings with other partners; neither of us is really capable of having totally casual sex. Those partners could/would be regular, if we wanted, but we would emphatically remain each other's primary partners. We live together, we have a domestic partnership, and we'd like to get married one day, when we're ready and it's (hopefully) legal.
(Oh, right, we're both bi/homoflexible girls.)
I thought about it for a day or so and decided, yeah, that sounds pretty awesome. I'd had a barely suppressed crush for a bit on a friend, and at first things were lovely. It was so exciting and rewarding to realize I could pursue this person I thought was just fantastic AND do it with the support of my awesome, awesome girlfriend. I broached the subject with the friend, she admitted to having a crush on me, and we scheduled a date. With the date scheduled, my girlfriend asked if it might be okay if she met up with a former partner/poly boyfriend on a week long trip in October. At the time, this also seemed okay. I asked for a little bit of reassurance that she wouldn't (re)fall head over heels in love with him and leave me, and she happily gave me that reassurance, and there the matter lay, plans still very tentative/theoretical.
Then I went on my date, and my friend decided that she was too worried about losing our friendship (yeah that DOES sound cliche, doesn't it?) to go for it.
That was when I started to have freak outs about our arrangement. And that was also when I started to feel horribly selfish and hypocritical for having freak outs only once my partner had someone lined up and I didn't. I began having actual nightmares about it. I felt like I was failing to carry through my end of the deal, because we had agreed that I should try to find someone first so I'd be more comfortable and then she could play, but I wasn't finding anyone. I felt like she must be seeing me as holding her back, and that she and her ex, the one she'd been planning to meet, must see me as incredibly provincial and old-fashioned and prudish for having so much trouble with this. Even though ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WAS HAPPENING on her end, that potential trip in October began to seem like a terrifying deadline, and I started breaking down crying when I thought about the whole thing. Again, even though she hadn't even been seeing anyone yet. I started worrying that we were trying to fix something that wasn't even broken, and desperately looking around for examples of functioning poly/open relationships.
I told her all this when we video chatted last night. She was very understanding (she always is), and repeated that she wants to be with me and only me as a partner, and that she doesn't and won't think that I'm old-fashioned or provincial or prudish or anything. There's no penalty for having trouble, just penalties for not trying. She noticed that a lot of my concerns seem to relate to what I think people think of me, and that I have a hard time believing people when they say they really do think well of me. See: the whole prudish/inexperienced/provincial thing. Also, see: pretty much any time I have a bad body image day and anyone tries to tell me I'm beautiful. I'm good at finding reasons for why they'd say that and not really mean it, or otherwise convince myself not to emotionally believe them.
She said that when it came to the insecurity/jealousy stuff like that, she would love to but couldn't really help me, and I should probably talk to my therapist about it. I agree, and I will, although it makes me feel really embarrassed to do so, especially to admit that I'm having trouble with it.
But the fact that I have to talk to a therapist about trying to make an open/poly situation work makes me feel like there's something wrong with me. I mean, I know it's always a struggle to some degree or another, but most people at least seem to be fine until other partners actually become involved. I'm so ashamed of how much trouble I'm having this early in the game, and it feels like I have to fix some basic things about myself before I can get to this. Significant insecurities, habits, and tendencies that I was already sort of working on, but which I'd managed to survive with for quite a while without it coming to a head. It seems like such a long path to actually get those cleared up.
We agreed to postpone/temporarily shelve the open/poly thing. I feel really disappointed. Disappointed in myself for having so much trouble with this; disappointed in myself for agreeing to it lightheartedly and then discovering I'm more of a mess than I thought; disappointed period, because it was a really fun sounding idea and I was looking forward to making it work. I want to believe that I can keep trying and eventually we'll get there, but I'm afraid. What if I fail? What if she gets tired of being with this poly-handicapped person and doesn't want to wait around for me to readjust anymore? She's said in the past that's not going to happen, and what's more important than the openness factor is our relationship, but she's also said she would eventually like to be poly/open. So those fears and worries come back, and the cycle starts again.
In conclusion: dafuq is wrong with me? Has anyone experienced stuff like this, either directly or through someone you know? I'm sorry for the epic. I just really want to hear voices from the poly community, and I want to have someone other than my girlfriend to bring this to sometimes--my real life friends are neither experienced in this area nor terribly supportive.