NRE and communicating about emotional needs
I've had years of experience in open relationships but not as much in true poly relationships. I've been in one of those with a wonderful poly woman for the last three years but we haven't really tapped the poly potential until recently.
I've done a lot of reading on NRE and communication. This has led to some breakthroughs in understanding myself and polyamory better. However, I'm still puzzling over some parts of it. One thing that doesn't get talked about much in the poly world is that people experiencing strong emotions tend to be a bit disassociated. What I mean is that people INTEND to act a certain way but act differently in the grip of strong emotions AND DON'T REALIZE WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Later they think up reasons for why they acted this way that have little to do with their actions. When actions and words don't match up, it's hard to trust your partner, even if you realize she has great intentions.
It's even harder when you talk to your partner about her actions and feelings she doesn't agree that she's that caught up in NRE and that it is affecting her actions. I really don't want to get into a fruitless argument with my partner about the emotions SHE is experiencing. And what do you do when you both have completely different memories of the facts?
For instance, I tell her that I saw her so distracted by her new connection that she spent most of the evening talking to him at the party and was distracted even to the point of turning around and intently focusing on him flirting with another girl while she and I were walking to our tent to have sex. I tell her that when I saw this, I felt distant from herand lost my sexual energy because my need for connection, need to be present with my lovers, and my need to be desired were not met.
She denied that she was distracted by her new connection, claimed she was focused on me, claimed that when she did talk to him it was because she felt bad that he didn't know anyone, asserted that she barely spent any time with him that night, and said that she was very hot for me that night. Some weeks later, she admits that she maybe was more distracted than she realized. But she's still disassociated. She told me during a discussion that she was surprised that this new connection fulfilled her on all the levels I did. When I calmly referred to this comment in another discussion a week later, she denied saying this and apologized that I got that impression, claiming it's not true. This is a VERY self-aware, compassionate and experienced poly woman but also a person with a very healthy emotional life. I love emotional people and accept that disassociation comes with the territory. I also understand NRE better now but it's still hard to navigate.
So disassociation is problem 1. Seems like a communication impasse when you have different memories of the same events.
Problem 2 is the last step in non-violent communication in this situation: asking for what you want. I'm totally cool with sharing my lover if my lover continues to be present when she's with me, continues to be emotionally stimulated by me, and continues to desire me. If these needs are not met with my partner, then I feel disconnected from her and the sexual/romantic energy is not there. I feel like I'd be better off spending time with someone else and letting her chase her emotions. I can totally go get my basic needs met with other lovers and friends. But that defeats the purpose of polyamory imo. Then it's just serial monogamy, where you just bounce from person to person, chasing the NRE.
Before I deal with it like I would in the wider monogamous world (withdrawing, investing a lot less energy in our connection, and focusing on others), I want to give our primary relationship a shot by asserting my needs. I truly believe my partner INTENDS to be present with me and intends to desire me. It's just that her emotions for the new shiny cause her to act differently. And that impacts my feelings and sexual energy with her. So it's not about just going about business as usual until NRE dies down.
Bottom line is that I want something emotional. How do I ask for that in concrete specific ways? Just saying that I need her to not be distracted or I need her to be present is too vague, especially when she feels she WAS focusing quite a bit on me. When I asked her to spend a little more time in conversation focused on me before turning back to her lover, it just felt tedious and micro-managing. How do you communicate to someone how to fulfill your emotional needs?
The other part is that my emotional needs are for emotional engagement with other people. In other words, I need something emotional FROM her. My need to feel desired implies that the other person desires me. It's impossible to logically ask for someone to feel something for you and for this to cause them to feel something for you. Logic doesn't affect emotions like that. Attraction isn't a choice. I want her to authentically feel desire for me. I don't want her just to tell me she desires me in order to give me assurance. That feels like going through the motions. That feels like her going to fuck me because I'm her comfy primary and we planned to spend the night together but her body language and attention says she'd rather be emotionally engaging with someone else. I'd rather not spend time with her when she's distracted because the quality of the time together sucks.
I realize that interpreting her actions as going through the motions is a terrible double bind for her so I keep showing appreciation for her efforts even if they aren't completely what I want. I know that the way to affect people's emotions is by engaging with them emotionally, not with logic. But how do I do this in the face of NRE without competing with the other guy by tearing him down OR without stimulating fear in her by withdrawing? She said that if I would've just come over and flirted with her, she would've been totally seduced by that. The problem is that whenever I did engage with her when she was with her new friend, she didn't respond emotionally but rather turned back to him. That part of communication has me stumped and I'd appreciate any thoughts.
Last edited by Roam; 07-12-2012 at 02:21 AM.