Needing support

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Keep us posted. We will try to give you up-to-date advice based on how your situation evolves.

You definitely seem to be in Poly Hell. :(
 

Carmina

Member
Sometimes it feels that way. I don’t [entirely] understand why I find it so hard when it seems so easy for others.
 
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GalaGirl

Well-known member
Over the weekend it really hit me how much this is changing our relationship and how I am not the only man in her life now and that's really hard to take, I feel extremely depressed and a profound sense of loss.

Everyone is different. The situations are also different. YOUR situation is yours.

Dealing with the sense of loss even when change is wanted? Well, the "old relationship" is over. It's gonna feel like breaking up to change to a new model of... uncertainty. Maybe even feels like doing lots more work just to get lots less time with partner. And you are gonna wonder "Is this even worth it?"

And to deal with that when you thought the whole poly thing was done and laid to rest? When nope.... it's back again? And you are the reluctant partner trying to be open minded about it? That right there is a big load all by itself even when the rest of life is calm.

But that is not your load. You are doing all that poly load that PLUS having a super full plate. The rest of your life is not entirely calm.

I'm gonna list it again:
  • Supporting your father through end of life care and his grief over your mother's death (along with his suicide attempts)
  • Dealing with your own grief for above
  • Supporting or interacting with family members you rather not deal in.
  • Supporting daughter with her recent break up
  • Supporting partner in her job loss
  • Supporting partner with her MS and medication side effect struggles
  • Trying to support partner in her exploring poly

I would not have put "end of life time for a parent" or "recent job loss" as the best times to start doing poly with/as a reluctant partner.

Even the most pro polyamory websites and authors make it clear that to do this well you need to be able to examine and overcome your own sources of insecurity and have strong self esteem, I don't have that at all, and examining my own trauma just takes me to very dark places.

I would have put all that stuff in the category of "preparation" before you and her opened the relationship. Can't be helped now -- it's gonna be "catching up" rather than "prepare ahead of time."

I encourage you to think about a counselor for extra support at this time.

However the alternatives are even worse, splitting up, which neither of us wants or condemning my partner to being unable to explore other relationships, which would make her unhappy.

I know she's already started seeing Dude, but maybe you could talk to her about her not dating other potentials while you dealing with your dad dying. Just date Dude, and leave the other potentials for later down.

Rather than piling on all these stressy things on.

Some things cannot be helped like the MS or the job loss. But how many people one is dating when? That can be controlled.

I think the depression comes from feeling all these options are bad and pretty much trapped, the least worst option is me trying to deal with it and allowing her to continue and I'm trying to be pragmatic about this, hoping over time it will get easier, but I don't know if I'm strong enough. At the moment I feel I just have no energy and whatever I do everything is going to fall apart.

Ok. That's least worst option. What would be the ok option to you? The better option? The best option? Are you able to articulate those? Are any of the things that make those levels ok, better, or best attainable right now?

How you deal with things is not about you going and going and going. Could stop accommodating everyone else's things while doing self neglect on your own things.

You do not have to be like Superman, Wonder Woman, and all those other "super human" cartoon people. It's ok to be a regular human. It's ok to feel tired and run down. It's ok to start telling some people "No, I can't do that. I'm full" and start letting go of some of the things on your plate if you are overloaded.

You are under a lot of mental load with the eldercare. If you need time off for YOU, care and nurture for YOU... are you making enough space for that?

Are you getting enough support from your partner through these things? Have you requested support?

Talk to your partner about it.

Galagirl
 
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Carmina

Member
Just to take this from the bottom first - yes she is being very supportive and I don't need to request that, we are there for each other. We have agreed a timeframe for this and that is also reassuring as it helps me know what to expect and try and adjust one step at a time. Also it is going to be just the one other guy - my partner is adamant that she has no need for more, which is also reassuring, and I've even made contact with him a couple of times and he's decent person. I think we are trying our best but as you say there is so much other stuff going on right now and I also have a huge amount of baggage going back to early childhood, which means sometimes it feels too much for me and then I do wonder if it is worth it. However I made a commitment to support her and want her to be happy and loved.
 

Carmina

Member
Ok. That's least worst option. What would be the ok option to you? The better option? The best option? Are you able to articulate those? Are any of the things that make those levels ok, better, or best attainable right now?
The best option for me (but not obviously for my partner) would be not doing any of this right now but that is neither fair or realistic, the cat is out of the bag as they say, and I have to deal with that. A better option might be if I had some additional support myself, but our existing circle of friends and family would not understand any of this - everyone else we know is monogamous. I have no energy or motivation to start dating myself right now, I did try it for a short while when we explored poly a couple of years ago but my heart literally was not in it so nothing came of that. Hence coming here, where at least I can vent to an extent and get some moral support as well as advice on coping strategies and reading.
 
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GalaGirl

Well-known member
A better option might be if I had some additional support myself, but our existing circle of friends and family would not understand any of this...

Maybe not the poly part of the plate. But how about asking existing family and friends for support for end of life eldercare? Even simple things like bringing a dinner already made so you don't have to cook?

Galagirl
 
Just to take this from the bottom first - yes she is being very supportive and I don't need to request that, we are there for each other. We have agreed a timeframe for this and that is also reassuring as it helps me know what to expect and try and adjust one step at a time. Also it is going to be just the one other guy - my partner is adamant that she has no need for more, which is also reassuring, and I've even made contact with him a couple of times and he's decent person. I think we are trying our best but as you say there is so much other stuff going on right now and I also have a huge amount of baggage going back to early childhood, which means sometimes it feels too much for me and then I do wonder if it is worth it. However I made a commitment to support her and want her to be happy and loved.
Hey man,

I am in the same boat as you and ironically cause that same issue at times with my married gf. I've spoken with her husband a few times, but he is very swingerish. So in a sense I am that other guy he raises an eyebrow at while also worrying about other guys because I was supposed to be a one off encounter. It wasn't "the plan." But as Mike Tyson says, everyone has a plan until they're punched in the mouf. Thankfully my gf and her partner adapted, though he still struggles with it on occasion until I start dating on my side. And while I cannot speak in absolute for your partners metamour, the fact that in this dark time of yours you see him as decent speaks alot to your evaluation of him. As things get better, you probably will see him better as well.

Anyways.

While my loss wasn't as personal, several months ago my gf went out looking for casual encounters with her husband at a hotel while I had just lost two people to the pandemic that I was responsible for finding additional coverage for their medical shifts. It was devastating and I sat there wondering what the kids of these people were going to do - maybe if I had done this or that they wouldn't have died of exposure. The guilt is awful, and on bad days I still wonder if there is a way to fix it. So I am not comparing here, just relaying to you I kinda get the god-awful timing life seems to love dumping relationship drama on trauma.

I also had an infidelity monogamous relationship before, and while I had a great childhood relationships were pretty much never brought up in my house so I was a late bloomer figuring this all out and I am a clinger.

So here is what I have been doing, and it may help you.

I know every alarm is blaring right now and the bells are probably flashing. But first you need to silence those. I did this over this past week when my partner just wanted a casual fling - so do not feel guilty about your feelings because your situation is so much harder to handle! I freaked out to the point she backed out, a huge red flag. You are already proceeding forward. Also, like you I felt one moment thinking of how happy she would be seeing me again and myself confident she'll return to throwing up thinking of her just kissing someone. It is normal to feel this. So I grabbed my scrap paper and wrote.

To be honest I really rolled my eyes at this at first, who the hell journals. Why is putting it on paper (or a word doc in my case) different than my thoughts? I can think faster, no? Am I a teen girl with her feet at the head of her bed with sparkle pens?

Well for one it helped me slow down. I realized I was envious that she gets to travel and have an easier time while I was dealing with literal bodies and madness. I realized that I was upset that her fling might be better looking than me, while I really was upset that I wanted to hit the gym more and my work life balance sucked. I was upset that she had a set schedule full of people to distract herself while I was really upset that I let work tire me out too much to socialize. Without slowing it down and observing what the issues behind the triggers were I wouldn't have been able to fix myself, which is something I believe you need to do yourself. So first, you need to see whats bothering you in detail so you can work on it or seek help though you seem very self aware of much so far.

Secondly, it also helped me permanently catch what my subconcious was throwing up while I was playing fortune teller with my thoughts. Some of the stuff I was able to handle myself, other stuff my gf graciously answered and explained. I still haven't understood it all, and I do not expect myself too for quite some time, but I also realized this healing isn't immediate. It is going to be a journey with ups and downs and you've already begun trying to see if you can do it (and with help you can). So second, it will help you communicate clearly about this.

Now you're in a different situation. Nobody asked for the tragedy dropped on you, but one thing I love about this board versus other poly communities (looking at you Reddit) is that not everyone talks about mental health trivially. I had some diagnoses, but I am not sure if your counselor has told you the phrase:

It isn't your fault, but it is our responsibility.

I know this is a bit of tough love, but really what it comes down to is it is up to us to fix this. We're not cars and this isn't normal medicine where things can be yanked open and fiddled around with. At least not yet. But with that self reflection I have started identifying what makes me insecure. What I need help from her with. My friends. My family.

I can categorize and keep it neat while my brain goes to spaghetti. It find out what I am responsible for to fix and treat and ask for that support.

Again, it ain't your fault brother, but where we are coming from is up to us to escape.

And one of my top things? Check in on this forum and keep writing. Keep reading and assuring myself. If you need someone to vent to feel free to PM. I have to gala many times, she is a good source of thoughtful and loving feedback with no judgement.

Lastly, I know you have things planned out with a timeframe, but as long as you are not postponing indefinitely it is not weak to ask to tap the brakes and slow things for you. If he is truly decent he will understand, and I have no doubt your sweetie will too.
 

Carmina

Member
Maybe not the poly part of the plate. But how about asking existing family and friends for support for end of life eldercare? Even simple things like bringing a dinner already made so you don't have to cook?

Galagirl

Thanks - it's OK he has carers going in for that. It's more the emotional/financial/executor stuff I'm handling.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I meant more you.

Do YOU have carers for that? Bringing YOU dinner already made because you are busy with the emotional/financial/executor stuff. That stuff can be very tiring.

Galagirl
 

HaloOnFire

Active member
Do YOU have carers for that? Bringing YOU dinner already made because you are busy with the emotional/financial/executor stuff. That stuff can be very tiring.


I completely agree. Also, a massage to help turn your brain off, even if it is for only 50 minutes, would probably help. I would recommend a Swedish, relaxation massage over a deep tissue in order to get you to relax for a while. Also, make sure you are eating lots of green leafy things, drink the clear splashy stuff, and try and do some moving and lifting of things. This will also help with stress and over time, your sleep quality will improve.
 

Carmina

Member
Thanks - well dad died last night - although he'd had a long period of illness he died peacefully in his sleep, I think he had the death he wanted, we had all been able to be around him over the last week or so and say our goodbyes. I am hoping to focus on the funeral and arrangements etc right now and poly can wait a bit longer.
 

HaloOnFire

Active member
Thanks - well dad died last night - although he'd had a long period of illness he died peacefully in his sleep, I think he had the death he wanted, we had all been able to be around him over the last week or so and say our goodbyes. I am hoping to focus on the funeral and arrangements etc right now and poly can wait a bit longer.


I am terribly sorry to hear this. I wish for you peace.
 

Carmina

Member
Keep us posted. We will try to give you up-to-date advice based on how your situation evolves.

You definitely seem to be in Poly Hell. :(
Thanks for all your kind words and support. We are back home, the funeral was earlier last week but we spent a few more days with family and then for ourselves. We agreed to put things off for a few weeks (just over a month) but my partner now has plans to see her new guy again in 2 weeks for an overnight and I am trying my best to deal with this but this weekend back has been very hard, and I'm definitely feeling a lot of what is described in Kathy Labriola's very insightful article e.g:
During this initial transition, the partner who is feeling “demoted” often reports experiencing sadness, betrayal, distrust, a sense of loss and grieving, fears of abandonment. The partner often makes the situation worse by denying that there is any loss, ridiculing or dismissing their partner's fears, and stressing that this new development will enhance the primary relationship. While this is sincere and is intended to reassure the partner that they have nothing to fear and that the primary relationship is not in jeopardy, it is bound to backfire by making the partner feel invalidated. Instead, it is important to acknowledge that their partner has lost something: they have lost the primacy of being the one and only lover, and they need to grieve that loss even though in the long run the new relationship may have an overall positive effect on the primary relationship which may outweigh that loss.
Although the word' demotion' doesn't seem quite adequate, for me it feels more like another loss and those feelings are all mixed up with my feelings of loss for my father (not to mention several other significant deaths in the last 3 years). My partner is doing all she can to reassure me and I recognise for her this must be frustrating when she does this but then I go back to feeling sad and upset again, I know it's very tiring and upsetting for her, but I also feel this is largely because reassurance is not enough in itself - most of the time I prefer just to be held and feel loved and desired. Labriola also says that 'Some people have such intense reactions to this that there may be some past trauma that is being triggered or old wounds re-opened.' and in my case this is definitely true - I had a childhood full of fears of abandonment and threats of harm and self harm - all of which complicates both my fears around polyamory and my grieving process. However I do also have a heck of a lot of insight and have been through a lot of therapy and have the ability to recognise the roots of my fears and anxiety, even if it's not so easy to deal with it all, especially right now.

I did some useful research on Jess Mahler's excellent site that covers polyamory and childhood trauma (in my case I have a diagnosis of C-PTSD):


Someone whose trauma or stress was related to betrayal, abuse within a relationship, abandonment, and similar issues will find themselves triggered by many things that are a normal part of polyamorous relationships. And constantly waiting for your current partners to abuse you/betray you/abandon you like the people who caused your trauma never does good things for a relationship. In a poly relationship, your poly partners spending time with someone else—or even just the expectation of them spending time with someone else—can definitely be triggers.
I can identify all these things, and I know they aren't real but my mind tends to go round in circles and when my energy is low or I'm feeling stretched in all directions like I have this weekend I lack the energy or strength to reframe or challenge my negative thoughts and can just spiral into depression. This ends up with us both feeling bad and I don't want that for either of us. Mahler's site does have some positive things to say about how poly can potentially be healing for people like me but it also underlines how much hard work it is:

Of all the mental illnesses I have dealt with, PTSD is the most difficult in a polyamorous relationship (or, I believe, any relationship). The flashbacks, dreams and memories are horrifying, but at the end of the day they are just a thing. You get through them. The psychological arousal combined with negative thoughts are destructive. Both destructive to the person with the disorder and destructive to the people who care for them.

Mild trauma and stress related disorders aren’t easy to deal with. But most people I have known who are willing and able to do the work involved in polyamory have also been full capable of doing the work involved in maintaining a health relationship while dealing with the disorder. Severe trauma and stress related disorders demand a huge amount of time, energy, and compassion. Polyamory can work with severe trauma and stress related disorders—in fact, a healthy polycule can make the disorder easier for everyone involved and help the person with the disorder heal. But it is definitely not a relationship that is right for everyone.
For example one thing my partner and I have discussed is how healing it could be if a) I know she is with someone I also have a relationship with and have built up some trust with (so I have been in touch with her other guy to try and build trust and some form of connection at least) and b) knowing she is going away with my love but also actually experiencing her returning to me with love. I know at first it is going to be really hard and I hope I can get some support in dealing with that, as well as primarily moral support which means a lot to me, but I know the only way through fear at the end of the day is to face it, with support of course, and not avoid it.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi Carmina,

It sounds like you are trying to express how difficult poly is for you, with the C-PTSD. I think that right now at least, it is excruciating. You do not want to leave your partner, but you feel like all of your options are bad, and maybe you even feel trapped. Which is especially bad for you, as C-PTSD tends to stem from a trauma situation in which one was trapped and could not escape. So by being trapped now, in a situation with no good options, your C-PTSD is being triggered in an explosively direct way. You are being forced to choose the least awful option, which is to just try to cope, and not let your partner witness just how hurt and traumatized you are. Your partner wants you to support her 100%, which is a tall order and in fact is impossible, but maybe if you can hide your pain from her she will *think* your support is 100%.

I'm very sorry you are going through this.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

Carmina

Member
Thanks, yes there are no good options really, so I have to try and make the best of it. I'm a realist, so I know there is no going back to how things were before, however much I wish we could, so the best option seems to be for me to try and come to terms with this situation, hopefully over time I may even come to like it and embrace the lifestyle for myself too.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I hope the funeral went smoothly and you get some time/space to grieve.

We agreed to put things off for a few weeks (just over a month) but my partner now has plans to see her new guy again in 2 weeks for an overnight and I am trying my best to deal with this but this weekend back has been very hard, and I'm definitely feeling a lot of what is described in Kathy Labriola's very insightful article e.g:

I don't understand this sentence. Do you mean the agreement was to put things off for a month to 6 weeks or something? And now she's breaking agreement because she's going on a date with new guy in 2 weeks?

Although the word' demotion' doesn't seem quite adequate, for me it feels more like another loss and those feelings are all mixed up with my feelings of loss for my father (not to mention several other significant deaths in the last 3 years).

Of course. You have several layers of grief going on. Not just for your dad, but for the loss of the "old relationship." That is gone. And the "new normal" isn't here yet. And then global pandemic adding bonus stress.

While you are willing to give this a try, it comes at not just one difficult time, but an intersection of challenging times.

And while you hope over time you come to like doing poly and embrace it? You don't know that yet. And it may go the other way -- that you find you don't like it. Then what?

So there's a lot of sadness and feeling "up in the air" for you right now. I get that.

My partner is doing all she can to reassure me and I recognise for her this must be frustrating when she does this but then I go back to feeling sad and upset again,

If she thinks reassuring you once or twice is enough for you to get past deep grieving? Or you think that? I would call that an unrealistic expectation.

IME, deep grief takes longer. This isn't like you stubbed your toe on the coffee table where a kind word and hug might be enough. This is more.

I know it's very tiring and upsetting for her, but I also feel this is largely because reassurance is not enough in itself - most of the time I prefer just to be held and feel loved and desired.

Have you told her that? You prefer to be held and loved on and comforted rather than verbal reassurances?

Labriola also says that 'Some people have such intense reactions to this that there may be some past trauma that is being triggered or old wounds re-opened.' and in my case this is definitely true - I had a childhood full of fears of abandonment and threats of harm and self harm - all of which complicates both my fears around polyamory and my grieving process. However I do also have a heck of a lot of insight and have been through a lot of therapy and have the ability to recognise the roots of my fears and anxiety, even if it's not so easy to deal with it all, especially right now.

You seem like a thoughtful person who is willing to do the work.

Just the timing of all this not being so great. Have you thought about grief counseling? So you get some help with part of the load?

Kinda hard to know what to say other than I hope you hang in there.

You ARE seen and heard. Maybe that brings you some small comfort.

Galagirl
 
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Carmina

Member
I don't understand this sentence. Do you mean the agreement was to put things off for a month to 6 weeks or something? And now she's breaking agreement because she's going on a date with new guy in 2 weeks?
Oh no sorry if that was unclear - not at all - the agreement was to put things on hold for about a month (in reality it will be slightly more) - that was well over 2 weeks ago so we are over half way
 
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Carmina

Member
If she thinks reassuring you once or twice is enough for you to get past deep grieving? Or you think that? I would call that an unrealistic expectation.

IME, deep grief takes longer. This isn't like you stubbed your toe on the coffee table where a kind word and hug might be enough. This is more.



Have you told her that? You prefer to be held and loved on and comforted rather than verbal reassurances?

Yes I have - I keep trying to explain that my feelings are not all things I can even articulate verbally, a lot of them are in my body and emotional centres in the brain/vagus nerve/gut - so just talking about things or being verbally reassured isn't enough, human contact and soothing touch is better (although I do also get times when touch is hard for me and I pull away or startle - usually when my guard is down - these are known CPTSD symptoms). I went to an art therapist for many years to work through some of the embodied feelings. This is all a work in progress :)

We have talked about accessing grief counselling - I think I will (we may both actually as she has similar needs in many respects - which leads to many resonances - mostly, but not always, in tune). I would like to go back to art therapy too now the lockdown is over but money is a bit tight still.
 

Carmina

Member
And while you hope over time you come to like doing poly and embrace it? You don't know that yet. And it may go the other way -- that you find you don't like it. Then what?
That I don't know, I guess there is an element of 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating' here. Right now I'm not sure I do, at least for myself, it seems to be a path full of uncertainties and insecurities and I am really not sure about some of the ethical claims. Maybe I will grow through the experience though, I hope so.
 
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