I have been thinking again. :-)
I very often wonder about the roots of feelings and coping strategies and what these mean for people as adults and for their relationships. Of course, I can only talk for myself.
I am oldest of 3 children in my family. I was 18 months old when my younger brother was born – I don't remember this but I'm told that he was a very demanding baby and as I tended to be quiet, placid and contented, I was left to amuse myself more often than my mum would have liked while she took care of the ongoing demands of my brother.
Of course, my mum loved me then and continues to love me now. The addition of my brother and then my sister into the family took no love from me at all. But they took time and attention and support from me – of course they did. My parents only had so many hours in the day and dad was out working for much of the time we were growing up.
Habits were formed then that are life long. I learnt not to ask for anything because the demands of the louder children in the family would be heard first. My mum learnt that I could cope with life without much input from her. This carries on. It's become a habit for us. I don't ask mum for emotional or time related support and mum assumes that I can cope with anything.
We get on very well together and I don't at all resent what happened. In my mum's shoes I would quite probably have done exactly the same thing. And habits form whether we want them to or not. So while I might find it upsetting to hear from my mum that she will not be able to provide any support for me going through the death of a dog who was sick for a long time or that she won't be coming to my graduation, I understand why we are where we are. I have lots of support anyway and so it's not such a big deal for me.
There have been good and bad things in this. The bad for me is that I grew up never quite feeling good enough. I was sensitive (still am to an extent) about being left out. I felt that I couldn't ask for help. A lot of the time I felt lonely and unimportant.
The good is that I learned how to share, how to forgive and how important it is to be sensitive to the feelings of others. I also learned how to be independent, how to do what I feel is right for me, how to find new social groups if I need them.
I feel recently that this learning has shaped in some ways my attitude toward romantic relationships. I think certainly that it made me suspicious of relationships that are commonly thought of as being something you can depend on. The notion of an individual who will always be there for you isn't something I trust – it didn't happen with my parents and I would feel very uneasy about thinking it would happen with a romantic partner. I say to partners that I hope they will be in my life for a long time and that I hope our wants for the future coincide for years to come. I also say to them that if that doesn't happen, I will support them as a friend in whatever they need to do next.
When my ex and I split up after 10 years together I was thrilled that he found a new partner very quickly afterward. What he had wanted was to get married and have a child and I wouldn't do those things with him. In the end, when it was becoming apparent that what we wanted out of life was incompatible, I told him that we should split up. The last thing I wanted was for him to be on his own and so I was thrilled for him when he met somebody else a few months later. He is now married to her and they have a child together which is wonderful.
Then for years I didn't want to be romantically involved with anybody. I wasn't up for a relationship and so I didn't allow those sorts of connections to develop – I was worried about hurting people if I couldn't invest in them fully. I'm sensitive to that sort of thing and hate to hurt people – I think partly because of spending so much of my childhood feeling like I wasn't good enough.
Now I find that these feelings hold me back lots from suggesting to my SO that we have an open relationship. I had no choice as a child about my siblings coming along and my parents had no idea about helping older siblings cope with the arrival of younger ones. We all just kind of got on with it as best we could. As an adult, I have a choice. I see how much it sucked to share time and I see the compromises that had to be made.
I also know how hard it is to balance time between more than one important person. I did it with 3 dogs for years – spent all my spare time and energy helping them to feel loved and making sure I spent time with them as individuals and as a group in positive ways (stuff that my parents had no idea about and that just didn't happen in my family). I loved that time and I loved all of the dogs but it was tiring and I was never completely free from guilt at any time.
So – much as I know perfectly well that both my SO and I are capable of loving more than one person, I don't feel right now that I want to. I don't want to deal with my SO's time being divided between me and other romantic partners – I know very well that good can come out of it but so can lots of irritation and ongoing annoyance. Plus there is the risk of metamours being hurt or not feeling like they are getting enough time.
Equally, I don't right now want to deal with the ongoing guilt and juggling of my own time. Or the work of trying to make sure that all romantic partners are getting enough of the right kind of time with me. That stuff is hard work and I'm pretty much not up for it right now.
My feelings my change in time. Or my SO's may – he may decide that he absolutely has to be in an open relationship. He has been for years and years and he very much feels that it is the right way to be living. Of course, if that happens, he has my utter support. He should live the life that he wants to.
I have been thinking for some time that so much of my life has been shaped by my childhood feelings of not being good enough and the things I've learned in order to deal with those feelings and get rid of them.
I know that I'm good enough now and I'm confident that I'm loved and included by a large number of people. I also know that it sucks to feel not good enough and I am incredibly wary of setting up situations where I might accidentally make somebody else feel that way.