“I (early 30s, F – if that matters) can’t cope with my feelings at the moment and need some outside perspective. I’ll try to retell what’s going on first, then go into why my emotional life feels like a weirdly conceptualized rollercoaster right now. Thank you in advance for reading, it means a lot.
So, been with my partner for a few years, we’ve been living together for a while. When I entered the relationship, I came from a more flexible perspective when it comes to relationship models (due to being involved in the kink scene) but was head over heels in love with him and he was offering monogamy … so I gladly took monogamy.
Fast-forward to half a year ago and he sprung on me that he feels limited in his ability to love. There were long and many discussions but what it basically boiled down to was that in order for us to still work, he wanted full-freedom polyamory. (Even though he doesn’t like calling it that.) He had been emotionally involved with other women already which had caused some jealousy issues before. It was actually a good growth opportunity for myself at the time, examining why I wouldn’t want him emotionally close with another woman and I felt I had emerged out of it a better partner (this was before polyamory even came up).
He slept with one of them for the first time recently, and their relationship has reached a status where I would describe it as casual dating. I am very torn between my optimistic self that wants to see this as a great opportunity to explore this new, alternative relationship model world and a deep feeling of pain.
What is right now bothering me the most is that I feel I was in a “his way or the highway situation”. When opening up or going poly, shouldn’t it be a shared process? In retrospect, I feel somewhat robbed of my agency. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been different if we would’ve slowly moved into poly land instead of him pushing me into it. I feel resentful.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Stuff is hard. Does anybody have advice? Maybe somebody who has been “poly in distress” and emerged from it happily?
Edit 1: Another thing that bothers me is that my partner said that the reason he slept with the other woman is that he felt an emotional attraction to her that he doesn’t currently feel with me. The reason he is not feeling it with me is because of my emotional insecurity. Very much feeding into my not-enoughness because I can’t help but hear an undertone of: “This wouldn’t have happened if you could offer me that thing.” (Instead of: I went there for this thing that you can’t offer me and that’s okay and doesn’t invalidate you in any way.)”
Dear Expensive Macaroon,
It sounds like you are harboring a lot of pain and a bit of resentment towards your partner for what appears to be a unilateral decision to open up. That pain and resentment is true and fair. It really does sound like you were placed at a very difficult place of prematurely accepting that which you feel that you needed more time to accept. You also recognize that some of the changes and growth that came out of your experience with polyamory are in a very positive direction. It is really interesting to see you balance that stark dichotomy between embracing this experience to continue your self-development and veering away from the pain & insecurity that sometimes come with polyamory.
It is very easy to get trapped in that idealistic mentality of retro-writing our history into perfection. And it is a very dangerous mindset to be in because it forces us to face the worse versions of our past and approach with the burden of our current knowledge. In similar situations, I tell myself that it is the journey that got me here. That we are here today because all those previous points of decision existed. So instead of course correcting your past and imagining how else you could have done things differently, it might be more beneficial to focus on your position today and consider if you’d accept the things as they are today.
One of the common questions I frequently ask myself in regards to my partners is this.
Would I still date this partner if we started from scratch and met each other for the first time again tomorrow?
This question forces us to assess today’s circumstances and consider if this relationship is working today instead of relying too much on our history to accept what isn’t actually working. Sometimes, my answer to that question is a no, at which point I ask myself follow up questions such as “How far do I have to go back to accept this partnership?” and “How can I feel more connected and aligned with this partner?”
It might be beneficial for you too to ask that question about your current partnership. Is this relationship still working for you? Are you happy? If not, what do you think you need to see in order for you to be happier in this relationship?
I’ll say that the one thing that helped me feel more secure in my relationship was by recognizing an emotional or sexual disconnect when they happen, committing to closing that disconnect together with my partner, and celebrating that success when you do reconnect with your partner. It absolutely is a group effort to identify, commit to, and work on problems in relationship. Mindfully addressing your sense of resentment might be a good start to bridging that gap you feel.
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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