The other night while Steph was having a bath, I went in to hang out with him. I ended up confessing, while squished on the floor between the toilet and the wall, that I was feeling – to steal Sophia’s word – “ways” about his relationship with the new woman he is seeing.
I wasn’t sure exactly what those ways were, but I knew that I was just feeling a little off. It’s been quite some time since Steph has dated anyone new, and I’m out of practice at being on the flipside of non-monogamy. He spent most of 2012 meeting a few new people and basically not pursuing anything because the fit just wasn’t there and before that, well let’s just say it’s been a while. It’s easy as fuck for me to date new people, but accepting him dating new people? That’s often a challenge for me.
It’s not that I don’t want him to see other wonderful women. Ok, well let me rephrase that and be totally honest because that’s the whole point of this blog place thing, right? Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could just see other people without having to worry about him doing it too? That would surely be easier on my mental state but OBVIOUSLY totally selfish, and two big parts of any successful relationship, especially open, are compromise and understanding, I know this and I’m not saying at ALL that any of this should be one sided. I do want him to be happy, but I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy. I’m nervous about him seeing someone new, while also very happy for him that he’s made a connection with someone he likes who sounds super awesome. She’s older than I am, by 7 years. That makes me feel strangely threatened – though not based in any actual reality. They slept together after just a few dates – though I slept with my new boy (who I’m head over heels for) after a week and a half, so that’s not a rational thought either.
But whatever. I still feel WAYS.
So I talked to him about it. Not at all in an “I’m attacking you” tone. Nor in a “You can’t see her anymore.” fashion. Just a simple “Hey, I’m feeling a little off about this. Maybe fragile? Maybe insecure? Maybe jealous? Maybe I’m worried that you feel uncomfortable with how much I care for my new boy and I’m projecting that fear onto you? Maybe I just need to say this out loud and have you tell me you love me and that everything is ok?”
Then after him listening kindly to what I had to say I felt better. (Well, combine that with a talk that we had while naked about our own personal chemistry which resulted in a revelation – I’ll spare you the details, but it really made a big difference to how I feel with him.) All I really needed was a safe space to say that I was having … off (?) feelings without Steph getting defensive, and I got that, and it was wonderful. After that talk, I felt so much better about the two of them. I’m sure I’ll still have my moments where I’ll feel insecure or strange, just like he has to deal with the massive amounts of NRE that I’m throwing around in my new, amazing external relationship.
What’s my point in all this? Well, I want to call bullshit on a few things that society likes to do to its humans. Over the years I’ve had plenty of people tell me “Oh, well you have a husband, so suck it up and deal with it.” (when dealing with any external relationship issues, and yes, I’m paraphrasing), or “Well if you get to do it, you should be totally fine with him doing it too.” (when feeling ways about anything that Steph is up to.) This practice we humans have of negating other people’s feelings is bullshit. By telling someone that they basically aren’t allowed to have feelings, we’re creating shame within them that wouldn’t exist if we replaced it with empathy and understanding.
No one should be made to feel bad or wrong for feeling a certain way. What they should be measured on instead is how they deal with these feelings. What direction do their emotions push them in, and are the process and end result considerate of all parties involved?
I can think of many times I’ve been out with people who’ve dismissed the things I’ve shared about discomfort I was feeling related to Steph’s other lovers. I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite because I simply feel strange about Steph doing things that yes, I get to do. Why does it have to be “Well you do it, so he should do it and be 100% fine with it.”? I would be a hypocrite if I told him that – even if he wanted to – he wasn’t allowed to do things that I do. But I’m not going to hide my emotions if I’m struggling with something, nor would I ever expect him to do the same thing. Nine times out of ten, being able to simply express myself has made me feel better. Entering into a conversation not having to feel on the defense about my emotions, while also acknowledging that they may be coming from a place of irrationality, insecurity or ridiculousness, is truly freeing.
There are those out there that say that to be polyamorous you must rid yourself of all jealousy. That to be open, you must be ok with everything your partner does and that being equal means to do all the same things, disregarding how you may actually feel about them. I call such total bullshit on this idea put forth by the “poly elite” because it simply isn’t realistic.
Steph and I have been open now for six years, and together for twelve. No one can say that we’re unsuccessful at non-monogamy or our marriage in general, though sure, we have our struggles. The truth is that what the majority of us, myself included, really need is to know that we are loved, that we can be open and vulnerable, and that we are being heard by the people that matter so much. We deserve to be able to speak up when our heart strings are being tugged, no matter how ridiculous those feelings might sound. As long as we aren’t being hypocritical in our actions, let the heart be heard.