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Advice – My partner wants to step back.

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/u/nikitrivia on /r/polyamory asks…

“Hello! I’m about 10 eventful months into my poly journey. About a month and a half ago, I met someone I have a deep attraction to, we began to realize we have a ton in common, and I immediately began to fall in love with her. The feeling seemed mutual. We were both nervous for our first date, but it was amazing and we had so much chemistry. We’re about and hour away from each other, so we began to try to see each other about once a week. We also enjoyed texting as much as we could.

She is married and has a young child, as well as other obligations. We have been consumed by big feelings and NRE over this month and a half, and we both, but especially she, have found ourselves giving our other partners, children, and other obligations less time and energy than they deserve. Over the last week, she has been emotionally distant and less responsive to text communication. Today she said she wants to pump the brakes on our emotional relationship and try to have a more casual relationship. She doesn’t want to have the strong feelings, because they get in the way of loving the people who were there before me.

I don’t know if I can stop myself from having these feelings. I don’t even know if I want to. It doesn’t seem like we should have to. Question 1) What are some alternatives to trying not to feel? I know there has to be another way. Questions 2,3,4,&5) Has anyone else transitioned from an emotional/romantic relationship at the height of NRE to something more casual with fewer feelings? How did it work for you? Did anyone do that and then transition back to romantic? Successfully?”

Dear Nikitrivia,

I am really sorry to hear that you are experiencing this. My heart really goes out to you.

One of the most difficult new skills to develop and hone in polyamory is in managing existing relationships and connections while in the throes of NRE. The NRE can be electrifying and all-encompassing. It forces us to realize that in some ways, we are carnal to our root, at the mercy of our internal desires. It is great that your partner was able to recognize that she wants to focus and redirect some of that energy to her existing connections. But it sucks to hear that your current relationship with your partner will be changing.

In the poly community at large, “pumping the brakes” is called de-escalation. It is particularly common, as is in this scenario, to de-escalate the emotional intensity to re-prioritize different needs from their lives. Her phrasing and rationale behind why she wants to de-escalate had choice words that reveal that she might have gotten into more than what she initially bargained for in her relationship with you. If anything, it speaks volumes about her ability to have an honest and open communication with you about her expectations. She has stated her intention, and now it is your responsibility to figure out what that looks like and learn to adapt & adjust to this new form of connection.

Photo by Artem Saranin on

Some of the most successful de-escalation efforts that I have experienced and witnessed have been centered around the connection transitioning to a different form rather than a strict downgrade in a relationship status. And as such, there are multiple different ways this transition can take form.

Maybe the better question to ask isn’t “How can I stop myself from having these feelings?” A better question to ask might be “How can I learn to resolve these intense feelings so that I can remain flexible for my connection to endure?” I think it is important to mention here that you will in some form experience loss – a loss of the intense feelings reciprocated with someone important to you. And it is perfectly okay to take your time to grieve through what you’ve lost. You are allowed to feel pain and sadness. Sit and converse with those feelings. Learn about their origins and let them slowly fade away.

Again, I am really sorry that you are experiencing something so acutely painful. I know it sucks right now, but I promise you’ll come out of this experience more knowledgeable and stronger than before.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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