getting emotional support for an unconventional living situation

MeeraReed

Active member
How do I have a productive discussion with non-poly friends/family about a situation that is a little disappointing but is overall a good thing?

My partner Eli and I have always lived separately from each other and always will. Living apart works well for us--we would not be compatible living in the same house. I'm introverted and very happy doing solo poly, and Eli is extroverted and likes having his own space for seeing various partners as he pleases. We consider each other committed life partners despite keeping our living arrangements and finances separate. We've been together for almost 9 years.

The only thing that doesn't work well about our situation is that we live far apart from each other--between 1.5 to 2 hours depending on traffic, even 2.5 hours at rush hour. It's inconvenient and means we don't see each other on weekdays unless someone has the day off. (Our visits have also been more limited by the pandemic). But we were each quite happy with our own living situations--each conveniently close to our respective jobs, me in a large house where I can take care of my parents and enjoy the rural quiet, Eli in a city apartment near the subway and his large friend group, etc.

Eli always wanted to buy a house eventually, but Boston area prices are ridiculous. He assumed he couldn't buy without a partner with a second income (and he did potentially want a live-in romantic partner someday, but never clicked with anyone). In the past year, a bunch of things changed--he developed a platonic domestic partnership with his roommate/best friend Violet, he got a significant promotion & raise, and then COVID made living in a cramped city apartment absolutely terrible and pointless (while also causing lower interest rates/making more affordable mortgages).

So Eli was able to buy a house outside the city last month, on his income alone, in which Violet will also live (she will pay rent when she is able to--she is a performer and COVID completely destroyed all her income sources). This is a good living arrangement because Eli hates living alone, and Violet is a fantastic roommate for him. It's a bit unconventional--they are nesting partners but don't have sex--but it works for them, and doesn't bother me.

The only problem is, the location of the new house isn't any closer to me. That's where my disappointment comes in.

It's not exactly FARTHER away--the drive there will be on a less stressful highway with significantly less traffic. It actually does take about 10 minutes less for me to get there directly from my house (although it is about 5 miles farther if you count the exact mileage). So...I think it will overall be an improvement...but not much of one.

However, the distance is definitely balanced out by how large, cozy, and comfortable the new house is. I have my own room there! My own dedicated bedroom that is big enough for me to have space for writing and/or remote work! That means I can stay for longer visits. AND THERE ARE 3.5 BATHROOMS!! This is fantastic for me, after 9 years of there being someone else--roommates, Violet, Violet's boyfriend--in Eli's apartment bathroom EVERY time I needed to pee, LOL.

Plus, the house has a mother-in-law apartment, so Violet will have her own space. AND there's an extra guest bedroom (besides my bedroom) AND an office for Eli to work from home in. All in all, I don't think Eli could have found a more ideal house right now, for that price. And the location is quite good for him--on a quiet street with no close neighbors, not too far from his work if he ever needs to return to the office, in a town near his other friends, near Violet's primary boyfriend, etc.

Eli has also been dealing with chronic pain (probably an as-yet-undiagnosed autoimmune disorder) and has been depressed from pandemic-related isolation. So, those were factors in Eli's decision--which I supported--to jump on this particular house now rather than keep looking for one closer to me. He wants to be settled in and comfortable for what might be a long pandemic winter. I think it's the right decision, and will be good overall.

The other issue, for Eli, is that he dislikes all of the towns that are closer to me--and I can't blame him, they are basically suburban commuter hellscapes. He would be miserable there, and farther away from his other friends. And also, I ended up getting laid off unexpectedly--so I am actually quite relieved Eli didn't buy a house based on where I live/work, because I could up working a new job somewhere totally different (perhaps even closer to the new house).

But it HAS been a struggle for me. Initially (over the summer) I was upset at Eli's house-hunting process. I couldn't join him in looking at houses because of COVID, and I felt like he and Violet were rushing ahead without considering me. I was upset that they were looking at houses north of Boston, when I live much farther south. But this was resolved when he found a house big enough for me to have my own room there--I got on board with being excited about the house.

So, Eli and Violet moved last week, and last weekend was the first time I drove directly to the new house--and I realized that the drive is longer than I expected. So I'm back to feeling...disappointed and a little frustrated. But there's nothing I can do...the house is where it is. I'll get over it.

Longer term, I could potentially relocate closer to Eli's new house. But that would YEARS from now (when I'm not taking care of my parents). My dad has Parkinson's and has been doing worse lately, so I'm stressed about that too...

Okay, so I've diverged a lot from my original question. I'm processing my feelings about the new house situation (on top of being laid off and watching my father decline). I do THINK I am overall happy with Eli's new house--but then when I mention where the new house is, I've been getting VERY negative reactions from friends and family (who are not poly or unconventional/alternative). Which is making me feel worse.

Like, a good friend of mine gave a shocked gasp and said, "So Eli really doesn't want to live closer to you, does he?" Other friends who I thought understood that I really don't want to live with a partner, made comments like "I guess you really won't ever live with him, then" in disappointed tones. Even my mom, who knows and likes Eli, and appreciates that I am continuing to care for her and my dad, keeps harping on about the distance to the new house and how it's "too bad" Eli couldn't have moved closer. My mom and my friends also all made negative or disdainful comments about Violet, too.

With all of these people, I ended up going into the long story of all the specifics on why I supported Eli getting this house and why it will overall be fine. But obviously I can't hide my disappointment and how I think this is Not Ideal, but was the best option available. The conversations ended awkwardly, with my friends clearly feeling sorry for me instead of being encouraging.

Their reactions are quite different to other disappointments in my life. Like, these same people were appropriately sympathetic about my layoff and appropriately encouraging about my job hunt and my specific career plans. But with the house situation, they seem to really want to lay negative blame on Eli and Violet. None of them have met Violet, and I think they really don't understand the relationship anarchy aspect--that Eli has a platonic nesting partner and I am perfectly comfortable with this. (I consider Violet a platonic metamour).

So I find myself defending the alternative/relationship anarchy aspects of the situation, and minimizing the fact that I really am sad about how the logistics are working out with the house's location. I'd really like a friend who could be encouraging and enthusiastic. Is there a way I can re-frame this?

Or should I just keep processing on my own until I genuinely feel more positive about it myself? Or seek out more poly/RA friends who can at least understand that I am genuinely happy that Eli has a platonic domestic partner, so that that aspect doesn't derail a discussion about the house? Or...?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
How do I have a productive discussion with non-poly friends/family about a situation that is a little disappointing but is overall a good thing?

With all of these people, I ended up going into the long story of all the specifics on why I supported Eli getting this house and why it will overall be fine. But obviously I can't hide my disappointment and how I think this is Not Ideal, but was the best option available. The conversations ended awkwardly, with my friends clearly feeling sorry for me instead of being encouraging.

I'd really like a friend who could be encouraging and enthusiastic

I wonder if you could say what you need more up front to these friends? Maybe you needed time to process to be able to articulate it?

I think you could tell the friends if it comes up again something like

"Yeah, I have mixed feelings. Like yay! Pandemic made it so he can afford a house! But boo, it's not closer. I think in the end it will work out and be ok, but I struggle with my own mixed feelings at this moment. To help me, I could use some encouragement and help being enthusiastic about my new room over at the new house. Finding the bright sides, rather than all this focus on the bummers."

Sometimes you may just have to TELL people what to do or say.

While at the same time.... seeking more poly/RA friends who can provide you with better support because they "get it" better without you having to prompt. But nothing wrong with prompting.

Last night I told my spouse this.

"The correct answer is "There, there, poor wife. Those crazy work people!" I will tell a story about work. Then you say the correct answer. Can you do this?"

He agreed. I told the story. He commiserated and validated. I felt better.

And I got to skip this trigger area where he worries about saying the wrong thing, get all anxious, tries to "fix it" when I don't want fixing, blah blah blah. Or worse, turns it into a pissing contest about how "You thin your work is bad? At MY work..."

Will he ever get better at this area of communication with his listening skills? Who knows. We keep trying when I am cooler headed. Does it work better if I just tell him the correct answer ahead of time if I feel hot headed? Yes. Because it helps me get to where I want to be -- cooler headed!

Galagirl
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Hello Meera,

My vote is to seek out more poly/RA friends who can at least understand that you are genuinely happy that Eli has a platonic domestic partner, so that that aspect doesn't derail a discussion about the house. Your current friends do not understand poly/RA, and are not being supportive. Not to say you should dump your current friends outright, but maybe put some distance between you and them while drawing closer to new friends who will support you in the way that you need. That is my personal opinion anyway, I could be wrong.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

PinkPig

Member
Hi, Meera. I can so relate to the lack of understanding from your closest friends and family. My friends and family are not poly friendly (even the nonmonogamous ones are still monoromantic.) Those i am out to do not understand my relationship structure. And obviously those I am not out to can't understand. In both cases, they do not understand why I am not on the relationship elevator with Blue. We have done a trial of living together (while still maintaining our own homes). It did not end well. Blue's relationship style does not mesh well with mine for cohabitation! We have, however, settled into a permanent partnership. With the pressure of trying to fit our lifestyles into one home, gone, our partnership has flourished. We consider each other family and lifetime partners. No one in my day to day life can relate to my desire to live alone. And it really is that simple now. I like living alone.

In the beginning, I tried to explain... and justify.... and defend my life choices. Now I just don't. I refuse to JADE (justify, argue, defend, or explain) our relationship or my choices. Instead, if they make a negative comment, I just say something along the lines of "this is working really well for us. I really like living alone. Of course sometimes I do get lonely but my cats help with that."

I like what galagirl said about telling them what you need from them. Her example was perfect "I love the house, I love my room and the city. Of course I wish it were closer, but it really is great. " That way you've told them exactly how you're feeling and they can respond accordingly.

Thing is, our loved ones don't have to understand or like our choices. If they love and respect us, they will support our choices whether they can relate to them or not. Just sometimes, we may need to show them how best to support us.
 

FallenAngelina

Active member
Or should I just keep processing on my own until I genuinely feel more positive about it myself?
The more confident you are about this, the less need you'll have to for others to get you or validate you. Yes, you want to process on your own, but not because there are no friends to be found, but because becoming more solid in yourself will make a more solid base to which others will be drawn. Doing it the other way around (trying to get others to understand or be more supportive) never works because you're coming from a place of need and basic insecurity. People respond to what you're vibing out a lot more than to the words you say. Using a specific phrase isn't what draws support from others, owning what you want is what draws support from others.
 
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MeeraReed

Active member
Thanks, everyone! This was very helpful.

To clarify, with these conversations with my friends & mom, I wasn't specifically seeking emotional support--I was just talking about what was going on in my life and was surprised by their negative reactions. Particularly with one friend who I've known for 20 years. I was so stunned by his reaction in the moment that I couldn't speak up or think what to say. I've always struggled with not being able to react to things in the moment--I have to chew it over later to process it.

Galagirl, I like your story about asking your husband to simply validate your workplace venting. I think that's great for routine venting about daily annoyances. For my case right now, I'm not sure that I was looking for a specific reaction or that I knew what reaction would help me. The new house thing is new and I'm still getting used to it.

FallenAngelina, I definitely agree about being secure in one's own choices. I think that's one of my biggest skills actually--knowing what I want and doing my own thing, and being able to process all my emotions on my own. Eli says I'm one of the most confident and emotionally self-reliant people he's ever met. BUT I feel like it would be nice if I could occasionally process my feelings about something WITH a friend instead of retreating into solitude. (People who aren't Eli have told me that I seem secretive and emotionally closed-off).

I definitely like solitude and am best at processing my emotions when I'm alone. I learned over time that that works best for me. Seeking support or advice from friends (about ANYTHING) usually just amplifies my doubts and makes me feel worse. But, if I figure out on my own what I want and present it to friends as a done deal, then the friends are supportive and encouraging.

Yet that means that when I'm going through a hard time or even just struggling with a normal decision, I have to withdraw/retreat. This works for me, but is also lonely.

PinkPig, thanks for being able to relate to a permanent not-living-together relationship. Your dynamic with Blue sounds very similar to what I have with Eli. I usually don't feel like I have to justify it to people--but every so often, I'm thrown by someone's bizarrely negative reaction.

I think part of the issue is that in this case, conversations I expected to be simple keep getting derailed by people's confusion or judgment about Eli's relationship with Violet. This was surprising to me. But now that I know that's what people are going to focus on, I can try either ignoring it, or talking to them specifically about it. (The latter is worth doing with my mom, since I live with her).
 

fuchka

Member
Hi MeeraReed - sometimes people can amplify certain voices in your own head. It's so understandable that you have mixed feelings (and you articulated what you feel, and why, really clearly in your post). It seems to me that your friends have picked up on the challenging threads of this move, and aren't able to see the positives that you do see. Do you find that your friends are vocalising your fears? Albeit in an unbalanced way? That can be difficult to be around.

If you normally process things by yourself and then present the finished item to your friends, it could be an unfamiliar space for everyone to be on the working side of the tapestry. Things which are obvious to you are not obvious to them. Things which you've already processed or are coming at from different paradigms (such as Eli and Violet's relationship) are confusing to others.

Do you need more RA/solo poly-friendly friends? Maybe, if you'd like to be able to process this stuff with friends without having to do so much explanatory ground work.

I would find it hard to maintain vulnerability, uncertainty and honesty with friends who were critical about basic structures relevant to a particular life decision.

I hear that you want friendly companionship while you continue to relate with Eli and Eli's move and possibly other things in the future. It's nice to have friends that get you and that aren't hard work to get on the same page. Will a bit more sharing and possibly extra conversations be enough to get this companionship from your existing circle of friends?

I actually think, since it's all so new, you should focus on feeling what you do feel and seeing how things go with the commute and the spare room etc etc. And just be conscious that conversations with friends might unfortunately not be as simple as you had initially hoped or expected. Going with your life flow rather than pouring much or any conscious effort into "finding new friends" or "explaining things to existing friends". Processing with friends is a bit of an experiment for you, right? So keep doing it, if you feel like it, and see how that goes too.
 

fuchka

Member
How do I have a productive discussion with non-poly friends/family about a situation that is a little disappointing but is overall a good thing?
Also curious what you would find "productive" to "not productive" -- I'm guessing effort-to-award-ratio that the conversation stays on tracks that seem fruitful / interesting / useful to you and that aren't side tracked or gummed up in side issues?

Other people will have different ideas about the conversation landscape and possibly will need to be talked over some aspects which don't feel productive to you. These could be very productive for them and maybe mid to long term productive for you too.

I wish you well with settling into the new travel and living situation with Eli!
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Sounds like you were surprised at the reactions from others and were just caught off guard by that.

Yet that means that when I'm going through a hard time or even just struggling with a normal decision, I have to withdraw/retreat. This works for me, but is also lonely.

I resonate with that. I can't be around "anxiety witter people" when I'm trying to sort out a best course of action. It doesn't help me, and it becomes "noise." Or worse, it sucks up my spoons.

But yeah, sometimes processing along gets lonely and sometimes it's nice to have safe sounding board people who will help me thinks something out, centering ME. Not piling on all THEIR stuff, reactions, responses, worries, anxieties, whatever.

Deep active listening really is a skill.

I think part of the issue is that in this case, conversations I expected to be simple keep getting derailed by people's confusion or judgment about Eli's relationship with Violet. This was surprising to me. But now that I know that's what people are going to focus on, I can try either ignoring it, or talking to them specifically about it. (The latter is worth doing with my mom, since I live with her).

I think you call it. You wanted to talk about you and your stuff. And here's these people having their reactions/responses that caught you off guard.

With some I'll make the effort. Like how you say this is worth revisiting with your mom. With other people, I'll just ignore, and/or change my expectations of them. I don't want to do "deep listening topics" with all and sundry.

Galagirl
 

MeeraReed

Active member
Hi MeeraReed - sometimes people can amplify certain voices in your own head. It's so understandable that you have mixed feelings (and you articulated what you feel, and why, really clearly in your post). It seems to me that your friends have picked up on the challenging threads of this move, and aren't able to see the positives that you do see. Do you find that your friends are vocalising your fears? Albeit in an unbalanced way? That can be difficult to be around.

Thanks for your comments, fuchka! Yes, this sounds about right, mostly. I definitely have mixed feelings about the new house and was dealing with some challenging things with Eli over the summer--most of which are now resolved & processed (such as why he had to move ahead with the house-buying when I couldn't be involved at the time), the rest are in progress but going well overall (such getting used to the location of the house). So yes, it is hard to hear my friends calling out the challenging parts and not the good parts of the change.

But GalaGirl is right also: "Sounds like you were surprised at the reactions from others and were just caught off guard by that."

Yes indeed. Particularly I didn't know everyone would be so focused on Violet, when she's not the issue for me. (If she wasn't in the picture, Eli would still need someone else to live with--he's not meant to live alone!)

And it happened AGAIN today! A friend--who has normally been VERY supportive of poly stuff and really admires my relationship with Eli--got in touch to chat after we've both been super busy for the past few months. She sent a long message about her unemployment struggles and family health stuff, and I was looking forward to chatting about MY unemployment struggles and family stuff...and then her very next message was, "Saw the pictures of Eli's new house on Facebook. Does this mean he FINALLY ditched the roommate and got his own place?"

Sigh. Looks like I'll be explaining AGAIN about Violet.

And in this case, I don't think my friend is picking up on my inner fears or challenges. She knows nothing about Eli's house-buying process or where the new house is. She's just making an assumption about what she thinks Eli's next "life step" should be.

Do you need more RA/solo poly-friendly friends? Maybe, if you'd like to be able to process this stuff with friends without having to do so much explanatory ground work.

I would find it hard to maintain vulnerability, uncertainty and honesty with friends who were critical about basic structures relevant to a particular life decision.
Yes, I do feel like I need more/new friends. But I've felt that way for a few years now. The new people I've met are all Eli's friends. I meet new people through writing-related stuff, but it's hit or miss if they're poly/RA-friendly.

I hear that you want friendly companionship while you continue to relate with Eli and Eli's move and possibly other things in the future. It's nice to have friends that get you and that aren't hard work to get on the same page. Will a bit more sharing and possibly extra conversations be enough to get this companionship from your existing circle of friends?

I actually think, since it's all so new, you should focus on feeling what you do feel and seeing how things go with the commute and the spare room etc etc. And just be conscious that conversations with friends might unfortunately not be as simple as you had initially hoped or expected. Going with your life flow rather than pouring much or any conscious effort into "finding new friends" or "explaining things to existing friends". Processing with friends is a bit of an experiment for you, right? So keep doing it, if you feel like it, and see how that goes too.
This is good advice. Part of the problem is that I'm not seeing my friends in person because of COVID, so we are catching up sporadically and it's harder to talk.

And I think I'm just kind of lonely. I've had a hard year but I prioritized helping Eli because he was having a worse year (with his chronic pain and depression). Eli is usually the person I process decisions/feelings with, but when I have a challenge that's about him, I don't feel like I have anyone to talk to. He's never been depressed before, so it's a big change.

I'd also like another partner, but have had no luck with online dating. Someone I thought was promising, and had been chatting with, seems to have petered out now. I am bummed. I am lonely! 2020 is no fun.

In general I feel like I spent this year prioritizing other people over myself, and it finally caught with me and I'm just tired. I spent the summer prioritizing helping my mom take care of my brother's kids (in our house), even reducing my work hours and taking a break from writing. Then I got laid off unexpectedly. In my last few weeks at my job, I prioritized helping my boss with the transition (the layoff wasn't her decision and she was even more upset than I was) instead of attending to myself. Then immediately after my last day, I spent several weeks helping Eli with moving instead of getting started on my job hunt/writing time/career change. (And meanwhile I also had to prioritize helping my mom care for my dad).

Now I'm exhausted, still unemployed, Eli is still inconveniently far away, and all my friends just want to make negative assumptions about Violet.

I need to focus on some "Meera time" and prioritize myself. But not sure what that even looks like right now?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
In general I feel like I spent this year prioritizing other people over myself, and it finally caught with me and I'm just tired.

Now I'm exhausted, still unemployed, Eli is still inconveniently far away, and all my friends just want to make negative assumptions about Violet.

I need to focus on some "Meera time" and prioritize myself. But not sure what that even looks like right now?

At minimum? I'd suggest practicing "sacred no" and start telling anyone who wants help that you are not available for the rest of the year. You sound like you ned some rest, not more "projects."

She sent a long message about her unemployment struggles and family health stuff, and I was looking forward to chatting about MY unemployment struggles and family stuff...and then her very next message was, "Saw the pictures of Eli's new house on Facebook. Does this mean he FINALLY ditched the roommate and got his own place.

Sigh. Looks like I'll be explaining AGAIN about Violet.

Could stop explaining. Since this keeps coming back up even if you do explain? Could accept it's not "going in" at this time and just stop explaining to conserve energy.

Instead could just talk about what you want to talk about. Change the topic. Something like "Actually, I was looking forward to chatting about MY unemployment struggles and family stuff, not Eli's new house. Would you mind if we do that?" You could prioritize YOU.

What's friend gonna say? "No, don't tell me that" or similar? I mean, friend COULD say no, but if she does after unloading all her job and family stuff, it would be unlikely.

Start prioritizing you. Take up the space you do in the world.

Galagirl
 

Tinwen

Active member
I'd just leave Violet out of the picture completely when you tell the story. "Eli has a new house, which is huge and amazing and I'm so happy for him, but also feeling disappointed, because it's still a long drive, and just thinking forward to all the commuting makes me feel exhausted"... should do. Few people will focus on her if she's not part of the story... or?
 
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