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Old 12-18-2013, 07:36 PM
sparklepop sparklepop is offline
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Default how to deal with a do-over?

Hi guys. My GF had a troublesome but intense relationship that ended last Spring. She is now considering dating the guy (we'll call him Mike) again. I could really use some help navigating this.

They originally broke up (9 months ago) because my GF couldn't handle the stress from both him and myself. He always pushed for more and came across as self-centered and needy. I was constantly insecure, stressed out and felt very alone in our relationship. GF has said, many times, that she sacrificed her relationship with him for me. I never, ever wanted her to. I'm extremely gun-shy, because her dating him was a very difficult period in our relationship, but I want her to be happy and I believe we should all have the freedom to follow our hearts. After contact steadily increased between the two of them over the past few months, she is working at dating him again, upon my encouragement. The main premise, however, was that this time GF (upon her own insistence and wish) would take things *very* slowly, and that GF and I would communicate more effectively and kindly.

So, they had a big 4 hour talk two nights ago. Last night he wanted to talk again and they ended up having another long chat. I told GF that reverting back to long late night chats every few nights like they did when they dated wasn't as slow as I'd expected. However, I wasn't expecting her to change anything; just to acknowledge it and discuss it with me. She became defensive, annoyed and then completely shut down. The last thing she said was that she just shouldn't date him: she can't deal with the stress from both of us again.

It turns out that he'd been subtly pushing for more last night. So, of course, once again, she's got 'stress' from him for being pushy, 'stress' from me for being uncomfortable, and it feels like history is repeating itself. Worse still, all of our promises to communicate effectively seem to have gone out of the window, because she completely stonewalled me and got off the phone. I'm upset because I feel like "hang on, I'm willing to put myself through hell again so that you can be happy, and you can't even understand a minor upset?" and she's upset, because she feels like "for God's sake, you've encouraged me to date him again, and at the first hurdle, you're already getting in my face with issues."

So, I'm really stuck about how to navigate this. I want to be able to communicate without her feeling guilty/stressed and leaping to the "I just shouldn't date him" solution. Does anyone have any advice at all about positive ways to communicate? If I'm encouraging her to date him again, should I essentially just keep any discomfort to myself? In fact, in any poly situation, should I keep my discomfort to myself? I often feel stuck in poly, in terms of that balance between autonomy and 'couple-centrism'. Does being poly mean being an audience to your partner's actions, or does it mean compromising for each other's comfort? Is it possible to have input without being controlling? Is it even fair to ask for compromises such as "hey, can you keep the chats to once a week for now?" or "can you change the time of your chats to a time that's easier for me to manage?" - or is that controlling? Pfffft. Yep. I'm just lost on this one guys.
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Last edited by sparklepop; 12-18-2013 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:01 PM
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Dagferi Dagferi is offline
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There is a big difference between saying hey please do not spend 4 hours every night talking with him because it is intrusive on our time together. Can you keep it to x amount of time? Compared to forbidding the conversation.

My advice is calmly state your concerns without blaming the boyfriend for anything. Then step back and let her figure things out.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:26 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Quote:
I want to be able to communicate without her feeling guilty/stressed and leaping to the "I just shouldn't date him" solution.
You BROADCAST a message.
She RECEIVES it, and then choose to do X with it.

You could examine how you broadcast. For example...

Quote:
I told GF that reverting back to long late night chats every few nights like they did when they dated wasn't as slow as I'd expected. However, I wasn't expecting her to change anything; just to acknowledge it and discuss it with me.
Did you add that part out loud? When you said that to her?

Making random "announcements" is a good way to get people defensive. Like "Well... whaddaya want ME to do about it!? Mind reader you?!"

It's clearer and simpler to state what you expect /do not expect up front. Even if you state "I don't expect you to do anything about it."

Then there is no reason from YOU for them to get defensive. They might still be from other reasons, but not from you.

Quote:
Does anyone have any advice at all about positive ways to communicate? If I'm encouraging her to date him again, should I essentially just keep any discomfort to myself?
Could look up NVC resources.

You could express your discomfort.

But you could ask her for her preferences for how you broadcast that discomfort to her so she can best receive and process it and be willing to work with you. Orally? Written? At bedtime? In the morning after a good night rest? Something else?

It is unfortunate that he was being pushy and getting her cranked up. Then you maybe came in on that and received the emotional upset she was experiencing.

You could point that out -- she could be upset with his pushy behavior and try not to aim it at you.

If she keeps going "Maybe I should just break up with him!" and her heart isn't in this? You could tell her if her heart isn't in it, she could decide to break up then. That is HER choice.

You are willing to try, but if her OWN willingness is parked at "meh"... let's not all go through this for a "meh."

Her "willing" and her "able" is where on this one?

Right now I'm guessing that she's willing... but not sure she is able?

You guys could talk about that.

Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 12-19-2013 at 03:03 AM.
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:55 PM
MeeraReed MeeraReed is offline
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Hi Sparklepop,

Your posts always interest me. I wish I could say I have an answer for you, but I don't.

One thing that comes to mind, from your previous posts but not from this one, is that your girlfriend seems to be significantly less mature emotionally than you. You always try to frame it as "different communication styles," but really, she seems flat-out less emotionally self-aware than you are.

That's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it is something that you'll have to accept about her. She's never going to really understand how her actions impact you. She frames it as "stress" because she can't predict the correlation between her actions and your reactions. (The guy I'm seeing struggles with this also; it's frustrating to me that he can't anticipate what will upset me, but he just can't...even when we've been over it before).

Second thing, from your previous posts: you and your girlfriend are super involved in each other's relationships and maybe should be working on developing a more autonomous style of being together. Does it really impact you that she talks to the guy for hours at a time? How exactly does it impact you?

Also, are you still long-distance with her? You're in the UK, she's in America?

In this specific post, I sympathize with your struggle to decide between what's a reasonable request and what's controlling. I don't think there's one clear answer on that.
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Old 12-19-2013, 01:37 AM
sparklepop sparklepop is offline
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Thank you for the responses so far - I appreciate it so much.

Dagferi - I had originally hoped to request that she picks a different time of night to talk to him, if she's going to be talking to him frequently. Though at this point I don't feel like any requests for compromises will be met well.

--

GG - Your advice is bang-on, as always. Of course you're right - when I heard GF getting defensive, I realised that I hadn't broadcasted in the best way, and attempted to backtrack and explain that I wasn't expecting anything to change. By then it was too late. She's told me she wants time alone to get over Mike. The last thing she said was that she has to accept that she'll have to be polysexual if she's with me, and sacrifice her special relationships. ~sighs~ Of course, I told her that I didn't want that. I don't think she can hear me at all.

What you said about her preferences for listening really rang a bell too. I suggested just before I saw your post that we find a different way to communicate. Perhaps have 'check ins' where she asks me how I'm doing at times that are comfortable for her, rather than me being reactionary.

One thing is very clear - she finds having a husband and girlfriend stressful when it comes to dealing with issues. Having a secondary on top of that is even more stressful when it comes to issues. She said that she saw the merit in my idea of 'check ins' but doesn't think it will work. She carried so much resentment from breaking up with Mike before, and if she does it again, we're back to square one - she'll feel resentful and we still won't have learnt how to communicate.

--

Meera - It's great to hear from you Thank you for your words. You know, one thing I always, every single time, stumble up against is that I'll say something, thinking that she won't find it stressful because I wouldn't find it stressful. Her tolerance for stress is much lower than mine. This has its benefits as well as downsides. I have a high tolerance for stress; but I'm also more sensitive. Again, this has its benefits and downsides. We've both acknowledged that, yet both seem to keep forgetting. You said once before in one of your posts that I expect her to be like me, when she really isn't like me. You were right in that. I need to accept her for who she is and find a way to move with the grain, instead of against it. If up-front communication stresses her out, and her stress makes me feel upset, there's got to be a better way to communicate.

As for the autonomy. It's been a work in progress. We trialed it out when she was last dating Mike and it was starting to work for me. Soon after, she ended it with him, and then we hit somewhere between autonomous and couple-centric. We then hit trouble during the summer because she felt I'd become too autonomous and was thinking only of myself; not of us as a couple. We're still long-distance, unfortunately. I'm going back in 3 weeks. In some respects, what we do with others (especially when apart) has little direct impact, unless it's happening when we'd normally be talking, like with Mike. More than that, though, she was less present, emotionally, sexually, and attentively when she was last dating him. She was wrapped up in NRE; though she told me that it was my insecurities and stress that made her withdraw from me during that time, rather than her NRE.

Overall, it seems like the way I communicate is too 'loud' for her, and the way she responds is too 'loud' for me. I hope I can find a way to soften it for both of us. That or just strangle Mike, and then myself, with one of his ties. ~laughs~
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“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha
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  #6  
Old 12-19-2013, 03:24 AM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Quote:
If up-front communication stresses her out, and her stress makes me feel upset, there's got to be a better way to communicate.
I'd like to lift this up...

If your up front communication stresses her out? Is it in HOW you deliver the up front communication? Or just that there IS communication?

The problem I see above is how she expresses her stress to you. That's about how she delivers communication to YOU. How she broadcasts.

She could learn to own her stress management so she's not taking it out on you unfairly.

You could ask for HER preferences for how she prefers to received up front communication -- HOW and WHEN. She can reduce her stress by knowing when it is coming and in what format. Because the WHAT (honest communication) for you isn't a negotiable. Is it?

You could state YOUR preferences for how you prefer to receive information.

You could ask and she could agree to go with "familiarity via exposure" route with you. Risk that over time it reduces her stress. Because over time she sees nothing evil or horrible came out of up front communication. So she needn't fear up front communication any more. It's not a biggie. Doesn't stress her out.

If she doesn't agree to try anything new here because she is not willing to change her behavior (ie: how she expresses her stress to you)... well then you could determine your own limit of tolerance. You accept her and her ways and her unwillingness to modify behavior. Or not. *shrug*

Quote:
One thing is very clear - she finds having a husband and girlfriend stressful when it comes to dealing with issues. Having a secondary on top of that is even more stressful when it comes to issues.
This seems to point to her "able" to me.

If 2 partners is her personal polysaturation point, she could learn to live with her personal limitation. It isn't a good thing. It isn't a bad thing. It's just... a thing. That's how many she can deal with WELL at this point in time.

Quote:
She said that she saw the merit in my idea of 'check ins' but doesn't think it will work.
Ok, so she doesn't think it will work and she has doubts. Fair enough.
That's still not answering the question "Are you willing to try this method for a while and see if it works out?"

Quote:
She carried so much resentment from breaking up with Mike before, and if she does it again, we're back to square one - she'll feel resentful and we still won't have learnt how to communicate.
Could you please clarify what she is resentful of? I am confused.

Because to me it sounds like...
1) Is she resentful she might have to decide to break up with him? And that situation calls for her to evaluate her own skills and maybe accept she reached her personal polysaturation point and her interpersonal skills do not allow her to have more than 2 polyamorous partners well at this time? She has to change her MIND and bring her perceived reality closer to actuality?

2) Is she is resentful communication between you is what it is? And for it to become something else, the situation calls for her to participate in trying new ways of communicating with you to try new stuff out? She has to change her BEHAVIOR?
It doesn't sound like Mike himself that is blocking her here.
It doesn't sound like you that is blocking her here.

It seems like she is blocking herself, so she could make a call and decide what she values at this time.
  • Make a choice and own it: Being with Mike, and putting in the work to learn skills to handle 3 partners. Or not willing at this time to do that work and sticking to 2 partners.
  • Make a choice and own it: Communication improvement with you, and putting in the work to learn those skills with you. Or not willing at this time to do that work.

She seems to be mixing the two up because both situations are calling for her to be willing to GROW. That's the only thing they have in common. To do both she'd have to be wiling to grow in her skills.

So... she's either up for growing interpersonal skills at this time or not. *shrug* Only she can know her own willingness and ability at this time.

How that affects you... well, you have to decide where your limits of tolerance are and what is your bag and what is NOT your bag.

Quote:
The last thing she said was that she has to accept that she'll have to be polysexual if she's with me, and sacrifice her special relationships.
Correct.

If she is not willing to grow the skills at this time, one outcome could be she limits herself to 2 polyamorous partners, X polysexual partners, and NO to the rest. Work within her personal limitations.

Quote:
~sighs~ Of course, I told her that I didn't want that. I don't think she can hear me at all.
What makes it hard for you to hear that one of her possible choices is breaking up with him? :confused. Cuz it is an option in a field of options.

You don't like hearing this is a possible outcome because if she decides to break up with him she will overstep her bounds and start raining her upset at YOUR head unfairly? If so... could you want to hear she is going to own that choice herself? And it has nothing to do with you so you can relax? You could ask if she's willing to say it out loud so you can relax.
"My choice about dating or not dating Mike is MY CHOICE. If I decide to break up with him, I will not overstep my bounds and start raining my upset at your head unfairly and blame you for the break up."
Right now I think hear you saying:
  • I'm willing to work on our communication if you date Mike.
  • I'm willing to work on our communication if you don't date Mike.

I am wondering if she's going like this:
  • "I want to date Mike and skip working on our communication. "
  • "Even though I want to date him, I willing to break up with him if that means we can skip working on our communication. But I don't want to say that out loud."
  • I don't want to say out loud "I don't want to work on our communication at this time."

This stuff has come up before between you -- emotional management stuff, and communication stuff.


Quote:
Overall, it seems like the way I communicate is too 'loud' for her, and the way she responds is too 'loud' for me. I hope I can find a way to soften it for both of us.
How willing is she to engage in shared problem solving on the communication front?

Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 12-19-2013 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 12-19-2013, 03:44 AM
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LovingRadiance LovingRadiance is offline
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Just a little personal detail;
I tend to be quick to express things without thinking about timing. Not just bad things; anything.
This was something I had to REALLY stop and work on in my life because Maca REALLY CAN NOT HANDLE having complicated (good or bad) topics brought up "at random".

One thing we did in the midst of trying to work through some REALLY hard shit; was designate a specific evening at a specific time for bringing up problem issues. That way I knew I WOULD have a chance to talk. He knew it wasn't going to suddenly be sprung on him when he was busy with other stuff.

Another thing I did was start writing. Because some things I could reason out on paper without ever going to him. So by the time we talked about them-I already had resolved them and it was a "I was feeling this way-but I did this and now I'm feeling this way" which wasn't leaving him feeling like he was pressured.

Also; (bit of irony here) I don't handle surprises well. So I DID understand how upsetting it was for him when I suddenly started blabbing about what I was thinking-when he was least expecting it.

He needed to understand that his ACTIONS were continuously surprises-because he isn't a talker. So for example, he hated and I do mean HATED this woman I knew. For YEARS he hated her. They got in a fight over something he said about her that she overheard. A week later he tells me he thinks he wants to date her. I'm like WTF are you TALKING about?!?!?!
Well-in the week between the fight and him dropping the date bomb on me-they had been texting all day long while they were at work. They had managed to resolve the conflict that had been between them for YEARS and he thought he was too harsh and maybe she was worth dating.

All in all-that wasn't a terrible thing. But dropping it on me when the last word I had heard was that he HATED her-that was a disaster.

It took some time for him to realize-I really need a "warning". So for example; he will say "I'm considering dating again". Then I know-it's coming. So when he says he has a date-I'm not flabbergasted because the last word I heard was that he was "not dating anymore because it was too stressful and too much work and there were no poly women worth his time and effort in the state".

Maybe your gf could work on those little "warnings". Letting you know things are increasing here, there or wherever.
Maybe you can work on not bringing up concerns/worries/issues at ANY time, but at specified times for dealing with them so she doesn't feel like she needs to change to fix a "problem" with you...
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Old 12-19-2013, 06:45 AM
london london is offline
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You can only change yourself. Just stop. Stop dictating how she can interact with others. Stop drowning her in your insecurities. Go away and work on your self esteem. Decide whether you are compatible with polyamory or whether a relationship style that is more couple centric will be more suited to you.
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Old 12-19-2013, 09:07 AM
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SchrodingersCat SchrodingersCat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sparklepop View Post
I want to be able to communicate without her feeling guilty/stressed and leaping to the "I just shouldn't date him" solution. Does anyone have any advice at all about positive ways to communicate?
I hear you're frustrated because your need to communicate clearly and safely is not being met. You would like a way to communicate that is less confrontational.

GG mentioned NVC -- please allow me to elaborate. Nonviolent communication is a technique that was developed to help people get past all the judgments and criticisms, and get through to the feelings and the needs behind them. This allows people to connect with what's alive in each other and help them enrich life.

It can all sound a little hokey at first, since it's a completely different way of communicating and thinking than how we've been trained by society. We all have a lot of habits that are difficult to break, especially when trying to see through the judgments that other people are making, or when we feel flooded and overwhelmed by our own thoughts.

The main point of NVC is that we focus on our needs and our feelings. We reference other people's actions only so far as they meet or don't meet our needs, but we do so clearly and objectively without making judgments about the person and without guessing at their thoughts or beliefs when they do those actions. So here, your girlfriend has a need to connect and communicate, and she is choosing to meet that need by talking to her boyfriend for hours. She also has a need for autonomy, but that need isn't being met when people try to control her time.

So for example, the NVC way to communicate what you said to her might go like this: "I have a need to communicate my feelings with you and to be heard and understood, without any obligation on your part to change your behaviour. Is this a good time to listen, or would a different time work better for you?" When you do get the opportunity (now or later) to express your feelings, that might go like this: "When you spoke on the phone for four hours last night, I felt frightened because my need for security/stability was not being met. Would you be willing to help me find a strategy to meet that need, without infringing on your own need for connection and expression?"

But it's important to realize, it's not their responsibility to meet our needs. We can make requests and give them opportunities to enrich our lives, but we must accept that they can say no, and that's perfectly fine too. We also want them to meet our needs only if it does not require them to give up or give in. In this case, she's torn between giving up her boyfriend, or giving in to his request for more time. So if she could learn NVC as well, she might be able to communicate to her boyfriend how she feels when her need for autonomy is not met by him asking her to go faster than she desires.

There's much more to it, and I highly recommend picking up the audiobook and training course. Both are available free online if you know where to look and your personal morals don't object. The written book is fine too, if that's more your style, but I really liked having the audiobook so I could listen to it while I walked to school. I found the half-hour sessions were the perfect amount to absorb in one sitting, for me at least.
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