Struggles in polyamory

junkoftheheart

New member
Hello, I'm new to the forum. I joined because my partner and I have had a few (well more than a few) spats about my jealousy and insecurity. I want to understand myself better and learn how to grow as a person to the point that I experience true compersion for my partner and/or future partners. I have read a few articles on jealousy in polyamory but still cannot get it through my head the majority of the time. It's causing me and -definitely- my partner a lot of distress so I'm hoping I can shoot out a few scenarios over the next few days and get some advice and/or tough love. Okay here goes!

I'll begin with the most recent one as that is what lead me to join the site. A little over 2 hours ago I spoke on the phone with my partner. He works out of town and is away a lot so this is how we communicate most of the time. His birthday is coming up and I told him I wanted to organize a get together with some of his friends this weekend to celebrate but they are out of town, so I began making some plans to surprise him on his actual birthday (next Wednesday) by driving to pick him up and bring him back to the city for a fancy dinner with his friends. When I called him to see if he could get off work early for a surprise, however, he told me he had already made plans with a girl he's been seeing romantically over the last 6 years. (They have never dated fully and see each other sometimes a one or two times a month. I have met her a couple of times and she seems nice and well meaning and non-threatening.)

Now, my immediate reaction was hurt. As I am his primary partner, I guess I have this sense of a claim on his time which I know is a completely wrong thing to feel, but that's what I felt right away. He then offered to see if she'd like to come along with us on the surprise but I felt an immediate aversion to this solution for reasons I cannot explain fully. What followed was a sad, uncomfortable phone call where he attempted to get me to open up about why I was feeling these things but I had no answers for him and only offered awkward silence until I decided to end the call. Neither of us said the usual I love yous and goodnights and I'm sure we both felt hurt and sad.

Time and time again I try to move through my life intending to feel compersion and excitement for my partner but whenever I am faced with a real situation, my emotions (jealousy and insecurity) take over and I ruin it and upset him and make him question whether or not I actually want to be polyamorous (and by extension be with him). Sometimes I too feel that I may like the idea of polyamory much more than the reality of it and I don't know how to move forward positively. I have found an alternative lifestyle friendly counselor in my city and am planning on calling them tomorrow to arrange to talk to a professional about my ongoing confusion.

In the meantime, though, what can I do to pause before these reactions which I know are not conducive to a positive polyamory relationship? Is hiding my jealous feelings until I can work through them good or bad? What do I do if I cannot stop these feelings from happening?

I don't want to hurt my partner with these feelings anymore and I don't want him to have to continually question my commitment to our lifestyle. Any and all suggestions, comments or advice are welcome. Thank you in advance for the support/tough love.
 
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Nadya

Member
Now, my immediate reaction was hurt. As I am his primary partner, I guess I have this sense of a claim on his time which I know is a completely wrong thing to feel, but that's what I felt right away. He then offered to see if she'd like to come along with us on the surprise but I felt an immediate aversion to this solution for reasons I cannot explain fully. What followed was a sad, uncomfortable phone call where he attempted to get me to open up about why I was feeling these things but I had no answers for him and only offered awkward silence until I decided to end the call. Neither of us said the usual I love yous and goodnights and I'm sure we both felt hurt and sad.
You had made plans and were excited about them - and then, he has made other plans for the same time. Feeling disappointed would be the most normal reaction! I can also understand why including his other lover did not sound appealing to you. Don't blame yourself for your feelings! You expected him to be free to spend this important time with you, but he was not. A disappointment. Of course you hurt! Allow yourself to feel even the negative emotions. It is not fun, but it happens - to all of us.

Time and time again I try to move through my life intending to feel compersion and excitement for my partner but whenever I am faced with a real situation, my emotions (jealousy and insecurity) take over and I ruin it and upset him and make him question whether or not I actually want to be polyamorous (and by extension be with him). Sometimes I too feel that I may like the idea of polyamory much more than the reality of it and I don't know how to move forward positively. I have found an alternative lifestyle friendly counselor in my city and am planning on calling them tomorrow to arrange to talk to a professional about my ongoing confusion.
You are too harsh on yourself. Of course it would be lovely to only feel the positive emotions and never have to deal with the negative ones - but life does not work like that. You have very high ideals but in the end you are just a human being, not an angel. So are we all. I also wonder if you label your emotions rightly. Is it jealousy and insecurity that you are feeling at those moments? Could it be disappointment and sadness? Or something else? Those feelings will pass, you will have other times when you experience more positive feelings. You do not need to feel great all the time.

It is very good that you have found a counselor! Hopefully they are able to help you.

In the meantime, though, what can I do to pause before these reactions which I know are not conducive to a positive polyamory relationship? Is hiding my jealous feelings until I can work through them good or bad? What do I do if I cannot stop these feelings from happening?
Hiding your feelings is a bad idea. Blaming yourself for having the feelings in the first place is even worse of an idea. Just feel them through, they won't kill you. Your feelings are okay and they are valid. You are allowed to feel them, you are not a bad person because of having emotions. Don't try to stop them from happening! Let them be and try to understand what they are trying to tell you. Is it something from you own past talking to you or is there actually some real problems in your relationship? I truly hope your counselor will be able to help you with this.

I don't want to hurt my partner with these feelings anymore and I don't want him to have to continually question my commitment to our lifestyle. Any and all suggestions, comments or advice are welcome. Thank you in advance for the support/tough love.
Is it you yourself or your partner who requires you to be superhuman without emotions? "Commitment to our lifestyle" seems a bit odd. Commitment to what?

I wish you well. Be nice to yourself!
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Try not to confuse feelings with thoughts.

Do you "feel" you have first claim on your partner's time on special occasion days, or do you think you do, and then feel disappointment or resentment when you find your partner doesn't also have the same boundaries?

You could discuss (after the birthday is over) how you would prefer holidays and birthdays to go. You assume as the primary you get first dibs. Obviously he doesn't. Maybe you could work that out in advance, who goes where, for your birthday (and his next one), Valentine's Day, Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah, anniversaries, company parties, performances, concerts, awards ceremonies, vacations, and the like.

If this blindsided you, I assume you two haven't been together a full year yet? Keep your lines of communication open. You seem to need some reassurance that you matter to him. Even though you consider yourself to be in a primary relationship, you don't live together and mostly communicate by phone? Do you want more commitment in general?

My partner and I have been together 8 years and do by default, have first claim on each other for birthdays, Yule, Xmas and the like. When I have had another committed partner, he would spend the day before or after my birthday with me, for example. He would spend Yule (Dec 21, a pagan holiday) with the 2 of us, but Xmas with his wife and kids.

You were disappointed that your guy's friends weren't available on the weekend to party with you. Then you were disappointed when your bf wasn't available on the actual birthday, and he didn't even consult you ahead of time about that... he didn't think you had dibs. I hope for now, you can eventually be OK with a celebration with him before or after his birthday, and be glad he gets 2 celebrations and the appreciation. But if lingering resentment continues, a talk about the problem should help.

I am curious what other issues cause you to feel insecure.
 

junkoftheheart

New member
Is it you yourself or your partner who requires you to be superhuman without emotions? "Commitment to our lifestyle" seems a bit odd. Commitment to what?

Since I am very new to polyamory and have not actually had partners before, he's concerned that I may not really want to be polyamorous and may eventually slide back into monogamy. He is very decided on being polyamorous so while he loves me very much, if I needed him to stop seeing other people he would end our relationship entirely. He sees polyamory as a part of who he is and so if I don't like polyamory, I don't like him. I'd like to make it clear that I very much want to be polyamorous but am struggling more than I anticipated.

Do you "feel" you have first claim on your partner's time on special occasion days, or do you think you do, and then feel disappointment or resentment when you find your partner doesn't also have the same boundaries?

I guess it wasn't that I thought or felt that initially when calling him, I just hadn't even considered that he would make other plans... that he would assume I didn't want to drive an hour to spend time with him on his birthday. I definitely feel this sense of needing to be more important that other girls in his life and I really don't enjoy this feeling. He has often reassured me that he loves me but this doesn't help. He thinks that if I found someone else to date as well that might help me.

You could discuss (after the birthday is over) how you would prefer holidays and birthdays to go. You assume as the primary you get first dibs. Obviously he doesn't. Maybe you could work that out in advance, who goes where, for your birthday (and his next one), Valentine's Day, Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah, anniversaries, company parties, performances, concerts, awards ceremonies, vacations, and the like.

We practice a bit of what you might call relationship anarchy. My partner is polyamorous because he doesn't like rules or obligations and finds a wide variety of people attractive. Making rules would only hurt our relationship more at this point so I'm trying to focus on how I can more properly deal with the emotions I feel when things don't go my way. I think I definitely have a bit of a pouty attitude when I don't get what I want; I think that's really what's at play here.

If this blindsided you, I assume you two haven't been together a full year yet? Keep your lines of communication open. You seem to need some reassurance that you matter to him. Even though you consider yourself to be in a primary relationship, you don't live together and mostly communicate by phone? Do you want more commitment in general?

Yeah, we're still figuring each other out but we do live together. We met at a music festival last July and I moved provinces to be with him. He just has a job that requires him to be out of town during the week. And again he reassures me every time I don't react well to something... how much reassurance does a person need before they feel confident in themselves and their relationship? We have as much commitment right now as could be expected for an 8-month relationship. We just bought a van together that we're going to live in for the summer. We have plans to buy a house together in the next few years. He's been supporting me financially for the last few months while I found a job. He's been nothing but supportive and kind and forgiving. It's me that's ruining it.
 
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PinkPig

Well-known member
He's been nothing but supportive and kind and forgiving. It's me that's ruining it.

Who's telling you that you're "ruining it"? Is it him telling you or you telling yourself? Because if it's the latter, you could start telling yourself that you're doing ok...you're learning and growing, and adjusting to a situation that is very new and very different for you, and of course there's going to be some growing pains. What we tell ourselves really makes a difference in how we feel. Disappointment, sadness, insecurity, and jealousy are all normal human feelings that most people feel at some point. If we assume that something is wrong with us simply because we feel that way, or we assume that we're doing something wrong just because we feel that way, then it can actually, (in my experience), prolong the uncomfortable feelings and increase discord with our partner(s). OTOH, if we identify the feelings, allow ourselves to feel them, and show ourselves love and compassion, then, ime, it decreases the intensity of the feelings. And they tend to not linger as long. You can google self compassion for ideas on how to comfort yourself.

Another important piece, in my opinion, is the ability to communicate our feelings to our partner in a non-confrontational way. I think it's totally reasonable for you to tell your partner that you were disappointed and sad that he was spending his birthday with his other gf because (1) you were excitedly planning a surprise party for him, and (2) you had assumed that you'd spend the day with him. In the future, this type of disappointment can be avoided by asking instead of assuming. If you want to spend a specific day with him, ask in advance. (For example, you still could have surprised him by bringing along his friends for your planned date.)

(For the record, assuming you'd spend his birthday with him is fairly typical. I mean most of us want to be with those we love on days that are important to us....it's just that what we assume and what our partners assume can be very different. This is why communication is so vital for a successful, healthy relationship, imo.)
 

Nadya

Member
Since I am very new to polyamory and have not actually had partners before, he's concerned that I may not really want to be polyamorous and may eventually slide back into monogamy. He is very decided on being polyamorous so while he loves me very much, if I needed him to stop seeing other people he would end our relationship entirely. He sees polyamory as a part of who he is and so if I don't like polyamory, I don't like him. I'd like to make it clear that I very much want to be polyamorous but am struggling more than I anticipated.
Here is what I have understood about your situation - please correct me if this is wrong:
  • He is polyamorous and only wants open poly relationships where he can date all the people he wants.
  • He was clear about this from the beginning, and you agreed to these conditions.
  • He is giving you the same freedom - to date other people, too - but so far you have not had other partners besides him.
  • Your earlier relationships have been monogamous.
Why do YOU need to "be polyamorous"? He is poly and has other partners. Is it not enough if you accept the fact that you are not his only partner and never will be? You can still stay monogamous in your heart if that is more natural to you, and have him as your only partner. There are plenty of mono/poly relationships and they can work just nicely.

I guess it wasn't that I thought or felt that initially when calling him, I just hadn't even considered that he would make other plans... that he would assume I didn't want to drive an hour to spend time with him on his birthday.
Do you know how much he appreciates birthdays and other celebrations? Maybe it just is not such a big deal for him. People have different preferences about these things. I would just hate it if someone made such a big deal about my birthday - once I even refused to tell about my birthday to my new boyfriend until after the day had gone because I did not want him to make any fuss about it. Magdlyn's suggestion about discussing these things in advance is a good one. You do not need to make any rules about it - just get to know the basic attitudes you both have about celebrations. Get to know each other's preferences and then work things out as they come. No strict rules needed.

I definitely feel this sense of needing to be more important that other girls in his life and I really don't enjoy this feeling.
This is problematic if he practices relationship anarchy. You will not get the "real primary" rank. Why is it that you consider yourself his primary partner if in the reality he is non-hierarchical? What does "primary" mean to you? Has he really said that you are his primary? What does he mean with that? Living together does not automatically mean being primaries. Often it does, but not always.

He has often reassured me that he loves me but this doesn't help. He thinks that if I found someone else to date as well that might help me.
That would be a bad reason to start dating someone. It would be very unfair to your new partner. I think it is better to first get used to living with a relationship anarchist and only start dating new people when you are in a better place mentally and emotionally yourself.

And again he reassures me every time I don't react well to something... how much reassurance does a person need before they feel confident in themselves and their relationship?
What do you mean by "reacting" in this context? The emotions you experience in new situations? Certain behaviors that you feel you don't have control over?

Reassurance is a good thing - but it does not solve everything. Your partner says he loves you but that is not enough for you. What kind of behaviors would make you believe in his words? What would he need to DO in order to prove his love to you?

Do you know the book and website "the 5 love languages"? There could be something for you.

We have as much commitment right now as could be expected for an 8-month relationship. We just bought a van together that we're going to live in for the summer. We have plans to buy a house together in the next few years. He's been supporting me financially for the last few months while I found a job.
Actually that is way more commitments than I would expect for a such a new relationship! Especially with someone who claims to be relationship anarchist - I would not expect that amount of commitment even in a mono relationship that new.

He's been nothing but supportive and kind and forgiving. It's me that's ruining it.
There are always two persons in a relationship - one can not onesidedly ruin everything. Maybe he also could be more clear in his communication? Even if he is the more experienced poly person, he might not be absolutely perfect in every sense. Also, he let you move in with him so soon and did not take time to get to know you properly first. He is a part in this equation and you should not blame yourself for all the problems in the relationship.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you are struggling.

Since I am very new to polyamory and have not actually had partners before, he's concerned that I may not really want to be polyamorous and may eventually slide back into monogamy.

Do you mean you never had poly partners before or never dated before at all? Could you be willing to clarify?

He is very decided on being polyamorous so while he loves me very much, if I needed him to stop seeing other people he would end our relationship entirely. He sees polyamory as a part of who he is and so if I don't like polyamory, I don't like him.

Why is he is making it be a personal attack on him? It almost comes off like "My way or the highway."

It is possible that you like him fine, but after dating a while maybe realized that you want to practice different open models than he does.

I don't want him to have to continually question my commitment to our lifestyle

Does he do that a lot of the time?

I'd like to make it clear that I very much want to be polyamorous but am struggling more than I anticipated.

Sounds fair. Have you said this to him?

Is it that you would like some kindness, understanding, and/or emotional support from him?
Has he said he doesn't want to provide it?
Or is it that you don't even want to ask him for help from fear of seeming "needy" or something?

Sometimes I too feel that I may like the idea of polyamory much more than the reality of it and I don't know how to move forward positively. I have found an alternative lifestyle friendly counselor in my city and am planning on calling them tomorrow to arrange to talk to a professional about my ongoing confusion.

I think making a counseling appointment is a good first step to help you sort out if you really want poly or not. And if you do, which open models are the ones you want/are able to practice well.

Just because two people are up for non-monogamy, doesn't mean they are up for ALL models. Or that the models they are up for match each other.

We practice a bit of what you might call relationship anarchy. My partner is polyamorous because he doesn't like rules or obligations and finds a wide variety of people attractive.

Maybe you are discovering that relationship anarchy is not a model you enjoy practicing? Could that be something to talk to the counselor about?

Galagirl
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi junkoftheheart,

I think you need to do some digging and get to the bottom of your jealousy. Is it fear? What scares you? What's the worst thing that could happen? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

Look at the following links, and see if there are any you haven't tried yet.

Jealousy, Envy, Insecurity, etc.
How do you achieve compersion?

Jealousy and Insecurity
The Theory of Jealousy Management
The Practice of Jealousy Management

Jealousy and the Poly Family
Kathy Labriola: Unmasking the Green-Eyed Monster
Kathy Labriola: "First Aid" for Jealousy
Brené Brown: the Power of Vulnerability

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

MockingJay

New member
Hello junkoftheheart,

I will offer an opinion on this, only because I also am very new to the idea of polyamory and until recently, have only known a monogamous lifestyle.

Like you, I too am excited about the idea of polyamory and want to be open minded, share compersion with my partner, etc. However, when all you've known for your entire life is monogamy, it is not as simple as flipping a switch and making all of those feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or envy just disappear. While you might completely accept the theory of polyamory, I think it takes time to learn and grow into the actual lifestyle.

It's important that you try not to avoid those feelings. You need to embrace them, dissect them, and try to understand them. When you can dig down and find the root source of these emotions, you will learn a lot about yourself. You might even discover that either they aren't necessary, or that you need something more to feel secure in your relationship.

Do some soul searching when this happens, and once you think you have a handle on your feelings, talk about it with your partner. In time, it will get easier.

Regards,
 

opalescent

Active member
...
Time and time again I try to move through my life intending to feel compersion and excitement for my partner but whenever I am faced with a real situation, my emotions (jealousy and insecurity) take over and I ruin it and upset him and make him question whether or not I actually want to be polyamorous (and by extension be with him). Sometimes I too feel that I may like the idea of polyamory much more than the reality of it and I don't know how to move forward positively...

In the meantime, though, what can I do to pause before these reactions which I know are not conducive to a positive polyamory relationship? Is hiding my jealous feelings until I can work through them good or bad? What do I do if I cannot stop these feelings from happening?

I don't want to hurt my partner with these feelings anymore and I don't want him to have to continually question my commitment to our lifestyle.

I have some thoughts to share.

Some poly act like compersion is a natural end product of poly living and that to be a 'good' poly person, one must feel compersion. This is bullshit. Compersion can be one of the joys of poly. However, it is not required or necessary. I see a lot of people really unhappy with themselves when they are not experiencing compersion at all or to the degree they feel they should. This is a burden they should not be picking up. I urge you to set this down.

As for feeling like you like the theory of poly better than the reality, well, just about every poly person I know (and I know quite a few) has had that thought at least once. This stuff is hard. It brings up the most vulnerable parts of ourselves in sometimes harsh ways.

Another thought I had is to stop with any and all 'shoulds'. Feelings are not entities that show up when you feel they should. (Similar to cats that way.) Our conscious minds do not control our feelings (or our thoughts). You can't stop the feelings you don't want. You can't summon the feelings you do want. They will show up when they damn well feel like it. If you acknowledge them, pay attention to them, *feel them*, then they show you things about yourself. (Also like cats.) Sometimes those things are joyful discoveries. Other times, horrifying. Feel what you are feeling. Don't worry about what you are not feeling. 'Shoulds' are chains we put on ourselves. Take them off.

So feel what you are feeling. Acknowledge to yourself what you are feeling. Then tell others what you are feeling. That includes telling your partner what's going on with you. There are ways to do so that make it clear that you are not asking him to fix or change anything. (Check out non-violent communication for a start.) For some reason, it's ok to share 'positive' feelings but not 'negative' ones. Our culture has emotions that we 'should' feel and ones we 'shouldn't'. But if you refuse to feel an emotion fully, it sticks around. It curdles and finds a place in your psyche to hang out instead of moving on. One of the ways we have found to prevent this curdling is to tell others.

It's good to pause sometimes and be considerate how we tell others what's going on with us. But hiding your feelings, hoping they won't show up (spoiler: they will!) and not telling your partner will leave you more tied in knots, more in pain, more confused. That said, it is incredibly helpful to have friends, family, to tell our truths to besides our partners. This is especially true when figuring out things about our partners. Tell your dear friends (again where you do not expect or want them to *do* anything but acknowledge that you are sad).

(Yes, often we need our partners to change something in response to what we are feeling. But figuring out what that change needs to be, and then asking for it, requires us to know what we are feeling and then we can figure out how to best address it.)

Ok, tldr: Stop the shoulds. Feel what you feel. Acknowledge to yourself what you are feeling. Tell others what you are feeling. Don't expect them to do anything other than listen.

(And I know all of these are easy to say and often hard to actually do.)

Wishing you the best.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
What opalescent said is right, don't dismiss your feelings as "wrong" and try to quash them, you need to explore them and discover their cause. I also agree that compersion is not necessary in poly.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
My first thought is that I'd recommend against "becoming poly" as a therapeutic tool. The only way that polyamory can (IMNSHO) be properly experienced is by immersion, not merely strolling around in the safe shallows (much less dipping a toe in occasionally). Perhaps a mistaken assumptionon my part, but I cannot find one point where you indicate you've had any other relationships.
Time and time again I try to move through my life intending to feel compersion and excitement for my partner ...
How many years have you been together? Do you consider yourself polyamorous? If so, is this based on current experience, previous experience, objective liking of the theory, hope for the future...?
he's concerned that I may not really want to be polyamorous and may eventually slide back into monogamy.
If you could find peace in your heart, would you be just as happy being monogamous to him while he pursues his other relationships?
________________

One more thing: take pains to avoid surprises & accidents.

One recurring theme on this site is where someone mentions that they "accidentally opened her email file on her laptop" or "accidentally looked at his texts."

As to the birthday surprise... well, it reminds me of when I watched a fight unfold.

I was very involved with Sue. She was also involved with Ben. (Names changed to protect the guilty. :D) Sue was open to dating others, but was generally pleased with us two guys. Even years after, Ben & I get along really well socially, but really have never been best buddies or anything.

I'm a decent enough cook, & also enjoy checking out cuisine at real restaurants (as opposed to franchises), & am a minor wine snob, & at the time greatly enjoyed going out & dancing the night away. Meanwhile, Ben generally prefers small informal gatherings of friends, being a homebody, having food delivered, & cuddling up on the couch to watch movies. This contrast certainly covered a LOT of bases for Sue. :)

Two weeks before Sue's birthday, I suggested we go out & have some fun, particularly as there was a cucina I'd been raving about. She declined (pleasantly) because Ben had already asked for the night & had "something special already planned out." No big thing for me, & I suggested we go for it the next weekend, which Sue accepted.

I didn't think about it again, but the night of Sue's birthday, as I'm happily heading off to an early bedtime, Sue calls up, VERY angry & obviously crying.

The "big evening" she'd mentioned had turned into... well, getting a few DVDs & ordering a pizza.

Whether Ben had overpromised or Sue had overexpected, I still don't know. However, that IS typical for Ben, & always has been.

...& a year later, the same exact script happened again. When I saw the opening lines, I tried to warn Sue, & she shruged me off.

That evening, I went out with friends & stayed FAR AWAY from the telephone until VERY late. :eek:

Moral to the tale? It's like "giving Ben a chance" was equivalent to "setting the poor slob up to hang himself again."

Though we've never explicitly discussed it, I've long had the impression that Sue was doing this to create an excuse to fend off Ben's interest in eventual marriage (& at least moving in together) -- she could then pull it up (with "support" from witnesses, like me) to push him back & paint him as "not reliable enough" or something.
________________

My partners did actually once throw me a big surprise party... however, they presented it to me -- as "let's go out with two or three friends for a drink" :) -- fully a MONTH in advance. We'd all had plenty of experiences with trainwreck schedules, & one motto of our group was "spontaneity is GREAT so long as you plan for it."
 
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