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  #1  
Old 12-25-2013, 10:28 AM
tenK tenK is offline
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Default Festive awkwardness: how can I help myself here?

Seasons greetings everyone!

Long time lurker, first time poster. I suppose I should start by saying that it may not immediately be obvious why I am posing my question here, as I am currently in a mono r-ship with my gf of over 3 years. However, I figure this community has a wealth of experience dealing with the situation I find myself in, and I'm hoping you can offer me advice, practical or otherwise, to help me feel more at ease with it. I realise that this 'problem' is a relatively minor one in the grand scheme of things, but often it's the little ones that are the stumbling blocks, right?

Almost a month ago, my gf told me she had developed a very strong crush on a guy we both know. She doesn't really know what, if anything, she wants to do about her feelings, and has reiterated to me a bunch of times that she loves me and our relationship, and has no intention of leaving me. Having both experienced relationships that destroyed themselves due to a lack of communication, we've always tried hard to be open with one another and to communicate the hard stuff. Developing feelings for someone outside the relationship is something we decided we wanted full disclosure about, and so I'm pleased and proud of her for being brave enough to talk to me about it. That being said, my reaction was pretty negative - disproportionately so, even - and it has raised issues which have hurt both of us a lot more than either of us thought it would.

My gf has been really supportive throughout, but at some point I realised that the storm of insecurity and paranoid brain weasels that had been unleashed in my head were far more threatening to my relationship with her than this crush was. So since then, I've been trying to get to the bottom of what's underlying that. Once I put my mind to challenging the nasty stuff, it's actually been going quite well, and I'm already feeling much more relaxed about it all. (This post would be epic if I were to get into it all, but suffice to say I now have a better awareness of my emotions and their triggers, and some good ideas for how to resolve my inner demons, both with her and on my own).

So to get to the point of the post: so far, I haven't really seen them hanging out together knowing that there are more than friendly feelings simmering between them. The one time it did happen, I felt really uncomfortable, and spent pretty much the entirety of it trying to snoop in on their conversation and analyse every tiny bit of body language like a total stalker. *shame face* I was notionally talking to his partner (they are poly, which probably matters), but I could barely concentrate on a word she had to say - it was awkward and embarrassing, and I couldn't think of any way to explain my strange behaviour to her truthfully. Obviously, I think I've moved on quite a bit since then, but I'm still nervous of how I will handle seeing them being affectionate together in a public environment, particularly given that no one else knows about the crush.

I want to be clear about some things. I don't want to restrict my gf, or control her behaviour. I want her to be happy, and I feel it's in both of our interests for her to figure out, or perhaps to just enjoy her feelings for him without *having* to 'figure it out', in her own time and without interference from me. I'm not perfect though: there is still a (fairly large) gap between my aspirations and my ability to see those aspirations through peacefully. I'm not proud of it, but my first reaction to hearing that they had begun emailing and texting each other, was to want to see the exchanges and to ask her to not contact him over Christmas while we were apart. Even though she readily agreed, in less than a day I realised how horrible that was (and not even addressing my real needs at the time) that I took it back…and after lots of uncomfortable processing, I'm actually feeling better. I know all I need to know about her feelings for him right now, and if anything significantly changes, I know she'll tell me. I know flirty messaging is taking place - I don't need to see the content of that flirty messaging to know what that means for me and my relationship. Sounds simple, right? - took me four days of sobbing my heart out to understand.

Anyhow, my dilemma is how can I handle socialising with them both, without crashing and burning? I have a specific trigger occasion in mind: we're coming up for new year, and it is tradition where I am, to kiss everyone you share the evening with. Normally, I am all in favour of this tradition - it's just a silly fun thing to do - but now I'm already dreading the idea of him being there and watching that. I mentioned this to her before she left for Christmas, and asked that we not make plans with them. Again, she agreed (happily, I think), but I'm realising that this is another silly controlling attempt on my part, and I want to be cool with it. Any tips, if this does go ahead, on how I can better deal 'in the moment' with my feelings? Is it something i just need to suck up and ride out, or are there things I could be doing to actively mitigate my level of discomfort ahead of time? I don't want to make a scene, and I don't want my gf to feel uncomfortable and restricted either. Oh wise poly folk, help this hapless mono-chick out!
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:27 AM
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nycindie nycindie is offline
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I don't think you are giving yourself enough credit for the awareness you have about yourself. In my opinion, it isn't silly to want to spend time with her on New Year's without him there. You may not get that, but it isn't silly to want that. There is no rule in poly that all metamours (which is what you and he are to each other, if she develops a relationship with him) must hangout and interact socially. It's perfectly fine for her to keep her relationships separate, and for you to not feel obligated to be more than polite to him. Why do you feel you need to befriend him and his partner?

That all being said, I am also of the mind that no one should dictate terms for any relationship except the people in that relationship. So, while it's beneficial to state your preferences about her relationship with YOU, you really have no say about her relationship with him. So, I would say that you should always be careful about what you're asking for - is it about your relationship with her, or is it about controlling her relationship with him?

As for how to handle being in the same room as they are, there is nothing wrong with saying outright, "Hey guys, this is a new kind of situation for me and I'm feeling a little awkward about it." But I wouldn't say that until there is some sort of relationship happening between them. Because at this point, it's just a flirty crush, so don't inflate it in your head to some overblown situation. Just keep reminding yourself to stay present and not let your mind run away with all sorts of imagined scenarios.
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Old 12-25-2013, 02:39 PM
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It sounds like you are progressing pretty well. Being ok with all of this goes against social norms and requires a lot of learning about yourself. So give yourself credit for making it this far.

Try to understand what bothers you about your gf kissing this guy or bring with the guy. Is it insecurity? Do you worry she will leave you? If so, work on that feeling. The nice thing about polyamory is that there is no reason to leave anyone.

It sounds like you want to get more comfortable. Read about compersion and see if you can feel that.

Also realize that in many poly relationships, love increases all around. Like my wife is a lot more loving with me after she got a boyfriend. Part of that is bleeding over of NRE. part of it is her appreciation for me being accepting of her relationship. part of it is she appreciates the differences in the relationships better.
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Old 12-25-2013, 03:03 PM
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I get that you don't want to freak out at the New Year's Eve party. That said, I wonder how much worse your scenarios are than the reality would be? It may be that they share the New Years Eve kiss, and you're all like, "what I was I so uptight about?"

I am one who believes in facing my fears (unless there is a true chance it will kill me - no parachuting for fun for me). It is the only way to conquer them. It sounds to me that you are more afraid of your reaction to the possible kiss than the kiss itself. Guess what? Your reaction is the one thing over which you do have some measure of control. You can't control your gf's feelings; you can't control your potential metamour's feelings, and you can't fully control your feelings - we all feel weird crap whether we want to or not. BUT you can control your own behavior. You don't have to act on your feelings. If I were in your shoes, I would imagine the behavior I want to display, even if I find myself overcome with feelings I don't want. And then make sure I do that behavior regardless.

Actually, I applaud your self-awareness, and the work you are putting in to reprogram your thinking. And really, jealousy is programming. Our society preaches monogamy. We are taught that if our lover takes a lover, it is a threat to us. But is it really? Certainly doesn't have to be. It only becomes a threat when ultimatums are given: "him or me," forcing a choice. And monogamy is predicated on that ultimatum concept. Of course someone else is a threat if we think we are only permitted one love at a time. Then we have choices to make. How much of this contributes to serial monogamy?

If we weren't hung up on feeling we had to choose only one, who in their right mind would? I certainly don't limit myself to just one in any other facet of my life - one friend, one type of food, one hobby, etc.

Anyway, welcome to the forum! You are doing okay. Just keep after it.
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Old 12-25-2013, 03:34 PM
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I also think you're doing good.

I subscribe to the theory that thought generates emotion. When you are "in the moment" I suggest you focus on breathing. Identify the emotions you're feeling. Try to step outside of them and examine them. Contemplate things that bring you peace, things for which you're grateful. Happiness flows from gratitude.
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Old 12-25-2013, 08:49 PM
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Suggestion-plan events where you have an "out" to get away from seeing more than you can handle.
There's nothing wrong with knowing you have reached a limit-your cup is full so to speak. The kicker is having a way to step away without being OVER limit.
So plan some times to be around them-when you can step out easily. Don't step out at the first glance. But increase the time it takes before you need to step out with each time.
(Same thing as psychologists do to treat people with phobias, short exposure with increasing exposure over time).

Also-with the kiss. There's no reason why you need to watch.

One of the things we allow ourselves to do something when we are worried about how something will affect us-is to focus on it. But-we can consciously choose to do something else. So-if you know that something is coming you are nervous about being "over the limit" for what you can handle right then, like the kiss, then make a PLAN to not be watching. Not that you are pretending it DOESN'T happen, but that you are consciously focusing on something else-like who YOU are going to kiss next for example.

I find it helpful to have a friend who is "in the know" regarding my efforts to work through these emotions; so that I can say "I need a break" and they can say "lets go out for a cigarette" (I don't smoke-but sometimes we take cigarette breaks sans cigarettes because it's such a good "out" to step out of a get together) then they help me talk about SOMETHING ELSE and refocus my mind on having a good time.
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Old 12-26-2013, 01:23 PM
tenK tenK is offline
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Thanks everyone, for being both kind AND helpful.

nycindie - In the long run, if this does turn into a relationship between them, I take your point that it's ok for me to ask for social nights out with just me and her. It just feels weird right now precluding someone who is 'just a friend', and who before I knew was a potential love interest, I wouldn't question coming to a NYE party with us. I guess I distrust my own judgement of when I'm asking for something for my relationship or to control theirs right now, but I concede I might be being too hard on myself here. We had the choice this year of either spending Christmas or New Year's apart, and we opted for Christmas with family apart, and New Year together - maybe that's enough of a reason in itself to do something special with just me and her. I will think on that some more.

I also take your point that it's ok to want my gf to keep things separate. I don't have a very well developed relationship with him right now, but I do have a friendship with his partner so I see him socially quite often, and the four of us do hang out fairly regularly - I'm not trying hard to befriend them both, they're just already in our social circle (sorry if that wasn't clear). Given that, I don't think avoiding him is either practical or even what I want. I actually have quite a bit in common with him (he's a triathlete, I'm a runner - we've shared geeky chats about training when you have crazy food intolerances etc), and I would like to get to know him better if possible, especially if this crush sticks. It would take a lot of artificial engineering to see him/them without my gf present though - so even though I feel like having a better relationship with him will maybe be helpful in countering some of my insecurities, I still have to get used to seeing them interacting first. So much of the awkwardness I feel comes from the fact that nothing is actually officially happening, and therefore I can't just tell people why I'm feeling awkward, it's ridiculous! Hey-ho…

Quath - I don't think I'm scared of losing her altogether, I think what frightens me more about any potential poly situation is feeling 'down-graded' in some way. It's hard to explain, but that third possibility (beyond 'we break up', or 'you stop pursuing him') is such a scary unknown. The kiss itself is not the scary thing - it's the thought that it will tip the crush over into being a relationship, with it's own needs and wants and the potential chaotic overspill into my relationship with her, and all the adjustments I/we will need to make, and the possibility of change that it invites. I'm worried about what an additional r/ship means for our 'big dreams' together - as a lesbian couple, us having kids together is already complicated - what if she decides it's just easier to have kids with him? What if I fit into her life better as a secondary, than a primary? In my head, in my less rational moments, it seems that all of that will inevitably start with just that one little new year's kiss….as all the while an annoying (mono programmed) voice screams 'And you're just letting it happen!' at me… Rationally, the kiss means nothing. Irrationally, it means the future implodes.

(disclaimer: I spent four years in a poly relationship as a secondary, as part of a V/(unstable)quad that made every mistake in the book. I was ultimately very unhappy for much of that period, and to some extent my current gf 'rescued' me from that situation and helped me put myself back together again. I know that lot of my fears are related to this and feeling like I don't want to go back to a situation like that ever again. In more optimistic moments, I feel like I could do a much better job now, having learnt a lot on how *not* to do it from before. In pessimistic moments, I am reminded that I already failed at managing my own happiness and relationships in a poly environment once, and I shouldn't expect a different outcome next time)

Bookbug - As you can probably tell in my responses to the others, I'm very good at letting my brain run away with itself and dwell on worst-case scenarios. There is every chance, particularly since I've been building this up in my mind so much, that actually, seeing the kiss *will* be fine. It will probably be something completely unanticipated that *actually* triggers a negative emotional cascade - he'll save her the last potato chip like I always do, just being friendly, and I will collapse into a broken heap or something. I think you nail it on the head when you say I'm more afraid of my own reaction to such an event, than the event itself. I'm quite a private person (anonymous posting of my problems on the internet notwithstanding!) and I also feel very uncomfortable expressing negative emotions in front of people unless there is a lot of trust there. I'm also a terrible liar, so it's generally pretty obvious to all but the most imperceptive of people when I'm freaking out. I think your suggestion to work on controlling my reaction is good - I'm just not sure what kind of reaction I want to cultivate. What is the appropriate response here? I mean, I don't want my gf to think I am completely fine if I'm not, but I also don't want her feeling like her actions are hurting me. Maybe we need a secret code of some kind?

Big Guy - I've been working on the assumption that there is a (malleable) link there between thought and emotion for a while now, and I'm definitely better than I was at identifying the underlying emotional components to various things I'm thinking and feeling. I'm just not very fast at it yet. It's not an automatic process I can apply in the moment - I need to get my journal out and hash each thing out over a few hours before it seems to make sense. But taking a few seconds to just breathe before I react is good advice indeed. Thank you.

Loving Radiance - This is so helpful in so many ways. I've been feeling frustrated that I can't just be honest with both the hapless victim of my gf's crush, and his partner, because it's up to my gf to decide if and when she wants to share her feelings. However, we've both talked to close friends about the situation, who are not part of that social group, and there is absolutely no reason why I can't have someone 'in the know' there on NYE. In fact, it's already going to be happening, since our friend is travelling from another city to stay with us that night. I'm slightly embarrassed to not have thought of it myself even, since (if she's willing to be my wing-woman on this) I can share any feelings I have in the moment with her, without interrupting my gf's fun, and then I can talk to my gf about it later when I have had a chance to process it all and it won't be so raw. Genius!

Also, you are spot on about not needing to put myself in the position of watching. I've just been imagining the moment they kiss as this ridiculous huge thing: time will slow down, the entire room will stop to watch them peck each other on the lips, and then immediately turn to stare and me and scrutinise my reaction. When in reality, everyone, including me, will be 'doing the rounds' chatting and having a drink, and I might not even see it myself. I have to remind myself sometimes that my life is not a movie, and that things happen around me organically and not in high definition.
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Old 12-27-2013, 12:37 AM
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LovingRadiance LovingRadiance is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenK View Post

Loving Radiance - This is so helpful in so many ways. I've been feeling frustrated that I can't just be honest with both the hapless victim of my gf's crush, and his partner, because it's up to my gf to decide if and when she wants to share her feelings. However, we've both talked to close friends about the situation, who are not part of that social group, and there is absolutely no reason why I can't have someone 'in the know' there on NYE. In fact, it's already going to be happening, since our friend is travelling from another city to stay with us that night. I'm slightly embarrassed to not have thought of it myself even, since (if she's willing to be my wing-woman on this) I can share any feelings I have in the moment with her, without interrupting my gf's fun, and then I can talk to my gf about it later when I have had a chance to process it all and it won't be so raw. Genius!

Also, you are spot on about not needing to put myself in the position of watching. I've just been imagining the moment they kiss as this ridiculous huge thing: time will slow down, the entire room will stop to watch them peck each other on the lips, and then immediately turn to stare and me and scrutinise my reaction. When in reality, everyone, including me, will be 'doing the rounds' chatting and having a drink, and I might not even see it myself. I have to remind myself sometimes that my life is not a movie, and that things happen around me organically and not in high definition.
Just experience.
It was an easy answer to come up with, because it will be 2 years ago this New Years that all hell broke loose in our dynamic over a similar (not identical) situation. For some reason-New Years has been bad for us a couple of times in poly. Both times because of a new potential having expectations that went far beyond what was reasonable to expect in our home during a family get together.
With such a nightmare happening repeatedly-I forced myself to stop and assess WTF I could do to avoid ME melting down.
So your question happened to be a topic that correlated nicely with my own hard-earned experience.
Hopefully you can use it to avoid drama.
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