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Old 02-03-2012, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rory View Post
And really, Alex isn't standing in the way of anything. You are restraining yourself because you are afraid and maybe you think that is what relationships are about. (And, often, it is how relationships work, but it's not always something that brings happiness.) You need to figure out your own needs in terms of independence, and you need to make boundaries.
This is so true and helpful and something I really feel like I am working hard with right now. Learning how to tap into my own inner sense of what it is I need and want and communicating that. There is a lot of guilt overlaying my feelings and actions right now, and as you suggest I need to keep letting go of that and let Alex have her reactions and do what she needs to do to take care of herself. I think part of what's hard for me is this concept of "going at the pace of the one who is struggling most", where the idea that if Alex states some boundaries she has, let's use sleeping over at K's house as an example, and I push back on that and say "actually i really would like to sleep over at K's house and I want the freedom to make that decision for myself" is that me being selfish and pushing her too quickly? i have said that and she has agreed to relax that boundary, but she also has been crying a lot and grieving the loss of what she thought this relationship was going to look like when we had our commitment ceremony. its hard for me to see her so sad, and I have been practicing not trying to "fix" anything but just let her have her feelings.


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You aren't able to miss her if you feel you are spending so much time together that it's suffocating you. You can't enjoy touch if it's there even when you don't want to be touched. Do you agree? This is one of the reasons why it is actually better for Alex, too, when you do make your boundaries. She may resist them, because people easily resist change, and fear what it may lead to. But the position she is in now isn't really fair to her, is it? That she is this annoyance and hindrance between you and all you want, and your relationship with her feels like a duty rather than something you want. When really you would very likely actually want it, if only you would reject the idea that Alex is entitled to your time, and take the space and time you need for yourself.
It is true, I have been operating from the perspective that Alex is entitled to my time. She asks for things and I feel like I have to give them to her in order to keep her happy and also to get the freedom I want. This is a terrible dynamic. I do romantic things for her because she asks me to, and I do them hoping that that will be enough to keep her happy and reassured for awhile. I do feel genuine appreciation for how hard she has been working on herself and her issues with anger, and I authentically tell her that often. But I see that we are in an unhealthy dynamic where I am somehow set up to have the power to dole out reassurances and time and energy and she is left asking for whatever she can get. She is learning to take care of herself but she still looks to me too often to get what she thinks she needs.

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And you do see that Alex finding another partner is another easy way out of the compromise situation where you are, just like breaking up is? The hard way out is for you to figure out what level of independence you need for yourself, making boundaries around that, expressing them to Alex, and then living by them while waiting patiently to see her response: if she will try to pressure you to give in (which may happen but you need to resist in order to hold onto your boundaries), if she will be unhappy and break up with you, or if she can, with time, find ways to happiness in the new situation/dynamic.
YES! This really resonates with me. I have been trying to work through the (nearly constant) impulse to leave, because I know in many ways it would be the easy thing to do. For the first time ever, yesterday she mentioned us breaking up as her idea, and I actually felt a sense of relief. Maybe that is ultimately what may happen, but I do see that there is something to be worked through here even if that does happen in the future. Like its not time yet, and if we were to just wash our hands of the whole thing without actually struggling thorugh the place where I get to explore and express my boundaries and individuality and she gets to sit with that and decide how she wants to react, we will have missed a growth opportunity here. And this unhealthy dynamic would probably come back to play out again in future relationships.

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Now, I do think the whole NRE stuff is going to complicate things, and that is unfortunate. I think you should put the other relationship aside in your thoughts when you are figuring this out: what level of independence do you want, in general? I doubt it would be healthy for you to state "I want time and space for myself" and then spend all your time with K (as you seem to realise yourself, when you talk about the possibility of being single, that even if you had all the freedom to be with K 24/7 it wouldn't actually be good for you). Maybe you could start by making boundaries around the NRE thing: not the ones that are needed by Alex, but ones that you think are needed for your own benefit. Maybe, if Alex is away from home, your reaction shouldn't be to run to K but to be alone and do your own thing?
You are right, the NRE thing does complicate things and challenges me to also hold my boundaries with K. Fortunately I am doing a lot of intensive spiritual work right now that helps to reinforce the idea that I really need a lot of time to myself, to integrate what is going on with me and what I am learning. I cannot do that if I am having sex with K 24/7. Which is extremely tempting, but she's older than me and needs more breaks from that level of physical exertion anyway. I have begun to see that NRE is hard for me, I tend to get really drawn into it and have a hard time holding boundaries as I do in other parts of my life as well. I act somewhat complusively at times, responding like a junkie to that addictive quality that NRE can take on. I am trying to become more aware of that. My spiritual teacher gave me some good advice that resonated with me about this, she said that when this intense energy comes up I need to learn how to internalize it, save some of it for myself instead of giving it all away. Keep it, sit with it, reabsorb it back into my body, and then when I do go to act on it or give it away to K or whoever, it will comes from a higher place and not a place of need or impulse. I suppose that is what other people here have said, but for some reason the concept of "internalizing" it rather than rushing to give it all away really struck a cord with me.

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Do you think it is possible for you to stay where you are and work on this? Do you think it would be better for you to distance yourself from the situation? What if you moved out, to your own apartment, and focused on yourself? Is that a scary thought, moving out? How do you think Alex would react to that proposal? The scarier it feels, the more necessary it probably is, because the harder it is for you to make changes when you're living with Alex.

This is an example: how do you feel about the idea that you would move out and get your own apartment. This would be agreed for a set period of time, say, 4 months, and then revisited. During this time, you would make a boundary with yourself and commit to it, that you will only meet with K once a week (max. 24 hours at a time). You would also express this to Alex, as something you have decided, not as something she is making you do. You also agree with Alex to meet two times a week, once to work on your relationship with all the heavy talking and processing and feelings and stuff, and once to spend time together relaxing and cuddling and enjoying each other's company, trying to focus on that. The rest of the time is for yourself, for your own, independent life, not connected to your romantic/sexual partners. You can take time for friends and hobbies, but you should also take time for yourself.
Alex and I have talked quite a few times about the possiblity of a "trial separation". This idea is very scary to Alex but not to me. She reacts strongly when I bring this up, and has started to feel like it is a threat that I use when I am not getting what I want. I do think that this would be helpful in terms of me learning how to set and stick to my own boundaries, but I have not yet figured out how to implement this kind of solution. I know it is just a matter of doing it, that the logistics and money and emotions and everything else would just work themselves out as they were meant to, so I don't fully understand why I am so paralyzed in terms of taking this action. I feel relief when I think about it, not fear. The only thing that feels like a block about it to me is Alex's reaction. I suppose that is what "codependence" is, doing things to protect someone else rather than what is right for you.

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[Sorry to write a novel! I'm writing because I want to help, but it also helps me to process my own thoughts around these things, that's why it's long.]
Thank you so much for your feedback. I went and read a bit about your situation and was shocked to read that you are so young. You seem wise beyond your years! I really appreciate reading your thoughts.
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  #352  
Old 02-04-2012, 08:42 PM
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Thank you, bassman. I didn't know it when I wrote that but I guess I was curious if anyone was reading!
Haha...you've had 5,656 views as of today....I think people are reading!!
Keep it up!!
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  #353  
Old 02-05-2012, 01:55 PM
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Alex and I have talked quite a few times about the possiblity of a "trial separation". This idea is very scary to Alex but not to me. She reacts strongly when I bring this up, and has started to feel like it is a threat that I use when I am not getting what I want. I do think that this would be helpful in terms of me learning how to set and stick to my own boundaries, but I have not yet figured out how to implement this kind of solution. I know it is just a matter of doing it, that the logistics and money and emotions and everything else would just work themselves out as they were meant to, so I don't fully understand why I am so paralyzed in terms of taking this action. I feel relief when I think about it, not fear. The only thing that feels like a block about it to me is Alex's reaction.
That feeling of being paralyzed is just your fears around asserting yourself. You deserve to ask for what you want - who will advocate for your needs, if not you?

If I were you, and you still want a trial separation, make sure you don't bring it up in the heat of an argument or fight. I would wait for a situation where you're both relaxed and comfortable, and you talk to her in a matter-of-fact, even, calm tone. Make sure she knows that you feel being on your own for a while would do wonders for your sense of self and matters of esteem and boundaries, and that it's not (mostly) about getting away from her. If she flies into a rage or breaks down in sobs, don't let yourself get sucked into her drama. You might have to psychically take a step back, and create a little barrier around you to see her more objectively and stay strong within yourself, but sometimes that is the only way to do it.
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An excellent blog post on hierarchy in polyamory:
solopoly.net/2014/10/31/why-im-not-a-secondary-partner-the-short-version/
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  #354  
Old 02-05-2012, 09:23 PM
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I'm reluctant to chime in since I haven't commented on this before, but I'm going to anyway

You have the right to have what you want. I know things with Alex have been strained. Right now I don't think you're being very fair to her. I was impressed with how after you stuck it out over the holidays, she tried hard to be able to relax boundaries, etc.

I think for all the first months of this, you were focusing on letting her know that relationships with and dating others did not mean she was less important to you, and that she was your priority.

It seems now like that she's struggled and worked to do her best to accept what is for her a difficult situation, you have checked out because of NRE with K. It could seem like maybe you were waiting for somebody better to come along that could be your primary before you took the step of actually getting around to separate from Alex (since it didn't work out with Sam) and now you're so focused on how amazing K is that you don't feel any desire to work on your relationship with Alex.

I think it might be really wise to talk to K about all these feelings and questions you wonder about that you're reluctant to talk about because you want to keep it light and easy. I think that could really help place the NRE in perspective. I don't know if you have finally broached the subjects such as - is she poly, is she dating other people, etc yet, but I suggest you discuss those things.

I don't know if that's similar to your fear of being honest with Alex about your feelings earlier with Sam (sex ok, dating not, so you didn't broach that you had feelings for Sam) and now having trouble being 100% honest with both Alex and K about what you want and feel because you don't want to rock the boat and talk about the hard stuff.

Anyway, I wrote more than I meant to. Basically I just wanted to suggest that Alex is deserving to be happy too. If you aren't even interested in being happy with her, drawing this out isn't really fair to anybody. She has been difficult surely, but I do think that you presented her with a LOT - the situation with Sam, then wanting to go out with an acquaintance and playing with that couple you are friends with, then this AMAZING best ever relationship with K. (That getting pissed off when you came home from a date without showering...yes it IS reasonable that you be able to manage that boundary, I would've taken that as passive aggressive myself) Always possible she sensed that you were being less than honest about your feelings and that made some of her behavior even worse because she was so afraid.

Oh look I got lost in my summary again...where was I...do what will be kindest for both of you. Be honest with her about where you stand.
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  #355  
Old 02-06-2012, 03:32 AM
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i'm not really sure why i continue to be compelled to post on this blog, as i feel like my story is sort of boring and old hat compared to some of the others on this forum.
You never know when someone else might be reading and thinking "Wow, I can relate to that... I'm not alone." We're such a small community, I think it's *always* helpful to share our stories.

I wish I had more useful advice right now, but I wanted to at least say that!
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  #356  
Old 02-06-2012, 11:46 PM
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Haha...you've had 5,656 views as of today....I think people are reading!!
Keep it up!!
oh! thanks for making a very good point!
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  #357  
Old 02-06-2012, 11:49 PM
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That feeling of being paralyzed is just your fears around asserting yourself. You deserve to ask for what you want - who will advocate for your needs, if not you?
yes, there is still so much self-judgment in me around feeling like i just need to try harder. stick it out even when i don't feel like it. but perhaps ultimately that is not fair to alex even when i'm thinking that i am doing this for US, for our relationship.
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  #358  
Old 02-06-2012, 11:56 PM
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I think it might be really wise to talk to K about all these feelings and questions you wonder about that you're reluctant to talk about because you want to keep it light and easy. I think that could really help place the NRE in perspective. I don't know if you have finally broached the subjects such as - is she poly, is she dating other people, etc yet, but I suggest you discuss those things.
I have broached those topics and discovered that K has not ever been in a poly relationship, and hasn't dated anyone for quite awhile because she's been prioritizing her sobriety for the past couple of years. So she's not dating anyone else either, and right now doesn't have the desire to.

This past weekend Alex asked me to set up a meeting with K, so the two of htem could talk and she could have a chance to get to know her a little bit. This is a first for us, so it will be interesting to see what happens and if/how the dynamics will shift.


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Basically I just wanted to suggest that Alex is deserving to be happy too. If you aren't even interested in being happy with her, drawing this out isn't really fair to anybody. She has been difficult surely, but I do think that you presented her with a LOT - the situation with Sam, then wanting to go out with an acquaintance and playing with that couple you are friends with, then this AMAZING best ever relationship with K. (That getting pissed off when you came home from a date without showering...yes it IS reasonable that you be able to manage that boundary, I would've taken that as passive aggressive myself) Always possible she sensed that you were being less than honest about your feelings and that made some of her behavior even worse because she was so afraid.

Oh look I got lost in my summary again...where was I...do what will be kindest for both of you. Be honest with her about where you stand.
Thanks for this. I must admit it is not always easy to hear but deep down I know somehow this is not fair to Alex. She is trying really hard, and even though this is hard for me too in terms of sitting with her extreme emotionality, I know it is my responsibility to be honest about my feelings no matter how hard it is to say or how guilty I feel. We are both working really hard to keep this relationship together, but I'm not sure its for the right reasons.
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  #359  
Old 02-07-2012, 12:25 AM
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This past weekend Alex asked me to set up a meeting with K, so the two of htem could talk and she could have a chance to get to know her a little bit. This is a first for us, so it will be interesting to see what happens and if/how the dynamics will shift.
If K. wants to. She might not, and she doesn't have to. How do you think Alex will react of K. doesn't want to meet her?
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"Oh, oh, can't you see? Love is the drug for me." ~Bryan Ferry
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An excellent blog post on hierarchy in polyamory:
solopoly.net/2014/10/31/why-im-not-a-secondary-partner-the-short-version/
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  #360  
Old 02-07-2012, 07:31 PM
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If K. wants to. She might not, and she doesn't have to. How do you think Alex will react of K. doesn't want to meet her?
Fortunately K did agree to it and even though she is nervous, she thinks its a good idea. I think Alex would have had a hard time with it if K did not want to meet her. I think Alex would have assumed it meant that K has some sort of animosity toward her or a lack of respect for our relationship. They are meeting up for coffee this afternoon, and I am so curious to hear how it will go. I am sure it will go quite well, as they are both respectful, nice people who are approaching this situation with good intentions and simply a desire to humanize each other. Neither one of them has the intention of becoming best friends or anything, but a friend of ours advised Alex not to rule friendship with K out completely. I am glad they are meeting, as it somehow feels like letting out some tension in the air or something. I am still struggling to just take my own feelings day by day, still questioning whether staying with Alex is the right thing, but I guess when I am ready to leave I will do it, if that is indeed my path. My feelings for K are as intense as ever, so I'm trying to keep the NRE in perspective and take breaks from her even when it is really hard to do so.
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