“Hi all, a newly poly person (28F) in 2.5 year nesting relationship with someone and I have realized I used the exclusivity of our prior relationship as the foundational pillar of my self-esteem and security. Now that we are no longer mono and he is actively dating and enjoying dating others, I’m freaking out.
… I recently snooped through his browser history because I felt like he was hiding things from me and I wanted info about his meta that he wasn’t willing to provide. It was a major fuck up, and I fessed up to it an hour after it happened.
… I feel pretty hopeless about this relationship right now. I want to preserve it so badly, but act in ways that are contributing to its downfall. My head is all mush. I know I need to work on my reactivity and practice more self-compassion, along with developing a sense of self-worth outside of this relationship, but I’m not sure where to start.”
– /u/usernamechequesout from /r/polyamory.
I am going to do something a little different on this post. I’ll start by sharing a personal anecdote.
I was a very difficult kid growing up. I was the middle child of three and wanted to get into all kinds of trouble. I was constantly getting hurt, by running into parked cars, falling down on my bike, and even getting lost on occasion. I’ve had to frequent the nearby hospital so many times for various stitches from all different kinds of childhood mistakes that the nurses knew me by name. It honestly makes me wonder how my mom got me through in one piece through my childhood. My mom is a miracle maker.
Some of that mischievous character carried over into my adulthood, but I do find it easier to keep my (sometimes) self-destructive tendencies in check while leaning into mischief for fun. But there definitely are times when that anxiety-ridden beast rears its head and force me to address it on the spot.
We have a good start here. You are able to recognize that you have previously leaned very heavily on monogamy to prop up your self-esteem, which is now triggering unprocessed insecurity. You have also recognized that the source of your reaction originates from emotional dysregulation. You also mentioned that you do regularly see a counselor about once a month.
Since you have already done the footwork to assess and analyze the root causes and possible trigger points, the next steps here are pretty straight forward: figure out how to better avoid those trigger points or come up with an action plan for when/if trigger points are hit.
For me personally, I like to write a letter (either to myself or to my partners). Writing things out is how I am able to have a dialogue with myself. Through these dialogues, I am able to lessen the burden on my emotional balance and give those feelings each weight. Verbalizing some of those ideas help me better address those really difficult feelings. That way, I can still feel my own feelings without hurting others. Those letters I write are rarely shared with anyone else and often end up in trash. A lot of others journal to keep their sanity in tact. Some express themselves in creative or artistic mediums to communicate with their own feelings. Others exercise rigorously to not just to take their minds off of negative feelings that they might be experiencing but also to be able to assess them from a safe distance while they are focused on activities.
You will have to figure out what are some of those contingency plans and try out a couple different ones before you find one that works for you. Continue to mindfully engage with your insecurities either from a distance or with a help of your counselor and keep owning your own emotional labor to acknowledge and process those negative feelings. Not all is lost. Give yourself some time to breathe and celebrate minor successes when you can. You deserve each of those small victories, not just for yourself but for all the humans you engage with.
Remember that not everyone is great at something the first time they start out. In the famous words of Jake the Dog, “suckin’ at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”