The Best Life Yet

I think that -- in Western culture -- no matter how logical, rational, and open-minded we are or have become through our experiences and choices we've made, we still have societal expectations that were pushed, demonstrated, or encouraged when we were all very young. We make decisions about how we are going to handle life and our interactions by the time we are about 7 years old.

There is a thing in computer programming called a WORM, which stands for "Write Once, Read Many." It means that it is a code that is written only once but the computer reads and responds many times over and over whenever some other action calls it up. Our brains are bio-computers, and even through our mature, conscious mind knows better, the decisions we made about life when we were small become WORMs. We see couples interact on TV, in movies, and in our social sphere, hear the things they say to each other, hear songs about romance, etc., all the time, and when a person is small, our brains work mostly in black-and-white - very literally - so, a simple observation creates a young mind to make a conclusion or establish a belief about certain things, such as (for example): "When two people love each other, they belong to each other" and that becomes a WORM in our brains and gets triggered over our lifetimes. These WORMs never go away but with awareness that they exist, which comes just by examining our thought processes, they can be acknowledged and then ignored. Eventually, over time and with much self-awareness, when a WORM rises up, it can become just wallpaper in the background that doesn't do us any mischief nor bring us angst. It is when we are not aware, of our thoughts and our inner lives, that the WORMs can run our lives instead of us.

I say all this because, what I have found interesting, Reverie, is that you are pretty young still (compared to me - I am ancient) with a rather refreshing and bohemian attitude about sex, sexuality, relationships, etc., but what I've noticed is that you are always fine when Rider is sexual with others while you are there and participating, but it seems to be his relationships that are kept separate from you or when you are not included that really bug you the most and throw you off-kilter. So, if I were you, I would get very still with myself and start looking at the possibility that you have some belief or decision in you about owning or belonging to a partner that runs like a WORM when situations come up like that. Just some things to consider.
 
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Wow, thank you guys for the thoughtful replies. I may choose to post my requests for help here in the blog section more often.

Sounds to me like you're not sabotaging your happiness so much as you're in a stable place and able to allow some difficult, recessed thought patterns to arise and be dealt with in your usual thoughtful way.

I hope that this is the case. I really, really do.

The other thing that helps is taking care of me. When I'm not getting enough sleep and exercise, my mental state weakens and I'm more likely to feel jealous, insecure, and/or anxious.

Exercise is something that I haven't really tried yet. I actually thought of it the other day—thought of going for a run when something was bugging the shit out of me, just to get that adrenaline put to constructive purpose—but I decided that I didn't have the time. Maybe next time, I will. Too bad I didn't bring my running shoes to Hometown, darnit.

Instead of focusing on trying to control the feelings, maybe just try treating yourself kindly when you have them?

This, for me, is so very hard. Especially when I do try to be honest with Rider when I am feeling them, and he responds by telling me how it is hard for him to empathize, because he doesn't have any feelings like that, and he will tell me about his mindset and "you just have to look at it this way," and proceeds to tell me things that I already know intellectually but am having trouble integrating emotionally. The last time, I told him, "Lover, please don't take this the wrong way, but when you mention your success at something that I am actively struggling with, as a response to my expressing my struggle, it makes me feel worse about myself, not better. It makes me feel like it *should* be easy—after all, it is for you—but for me, for some reason, it's not." I compared it for him to the way he feels so stupid about flubbing schedule stuff to help him understand.

When I am with someone who is a magical compersion-generating machine, who literally cannot seem to wrap his mind around the way that I feel, and who is also used to me not being this way—being quite the opposite, in fact, it makes it hard to not feel like a failure by comparison. In a way, I feel like I cheated him somehow, like I sold him a fraud when I came into this situation a year and a half feeling more like he did, and feeling like we could be totally on the same page about everything. I didn't do it on purpose—I did really feel that way at the time—but I feel differently now, and trying to live up to year-and-a-half-ago me (something I do to myself, not that he does to me), I guess is part of my problem.

I think that -- in Western culture -- no matter how logical, rational, and open-minded we are or have become through our experiences and choices we've made, we still have societal expectations that were pushed, demonstrated, or encouraged when we were all very young. We make decisions about how we are going to handle life and our interactions by the time we are about 7 years old.

There is a thing in computer programming called a WORM, which stands for "Write Once, Read Many." It means that it is a code that is written only once but the computer reads and responds many times over and over whenever some other action calls it up. Our brains are bio-computers, and even through our mature, conscious mind knows better, the decisions we made about life when we were small become WORMs. We see couples interact on TV, in movies, and in our social sphere, hear the things they say to each other, hear songs about romance, etc., all the time, and when a person is small, our brains work mostly in black-and-white - very literally - so, a simple observation creates a young mind to make a conclusion or establish a belief about certain things, such as (for example): "When two people love each other, they belong to each other" and that becomes a WORM in our brains and gets triggered over our lifetimes. These WORMs never go away but with awareness that they exist, which comes just by examining our thought processes, they can be acknowledged and then ignored. Eventually, over time and with much self-awareness, when a WORM rises up, it can become just wallpaper in the background that doesn't do us any mischief nor bring us angst. It is when we are not aware that the WORMs can run our lives instead of us.

I say all this because, what I have found interesting, Reverie, is that you are pretty young still (compared to me - I am ancient) with a rather refreshing and bohemian attitude about sex, sexuality, relationships, etc., but what I've noticed is that you are always fine when Rider is sexual with others while you are there and participating, but it seems to be his relationships that are kept separate from you or when you are not included that really bug you the most and throw you off-kilter. So, if I were you, I would get very still with myself and start looking at the possibility that you have some belief or decision in you about owning or belonging to a partner that runs like a WORM when situations come up like that. Just some things to consider.

There is a lot to think about in here. Thanks for the food for thought. I have to head out to lunch with my mom and sister, so I don't have time to pick it apart right now, but a few thoughts that jumped out at me that I plan to elaborate upon:

1) For years and years, the phrase "we belong WITH each other, not TO each other" has been one of my favorites, and something that I know that I've wanted in my relationships—especially in the past, as I have labored under the restrictions of controlling partners who didn't even want me to do stuff like clothed art modeling or night-swimming with a group of friends.

2) But even so, it is true that when I think of the concept of "mutual ownership," divorced of those kinds of unreasonable restrictions being placed on me, I feel...comfort?...satisfaction?...almost a kind of pride?...instead of my usual feeling of rebellion against and disgust about it. That's really weird. Maybe that's where the WORM lives.

3) Complicating matters further, over the past few months, Rider and I have started playing bedroom games that revolve around the idea that he is "mine" somehow—all of this at his gentle instruction, and then with me kind of running with it once I had the idea—in his own words, "my pet," "my pleasure slave," my "girlfriend" who is dressing up "for me." And he likes it when I take these things outside the bedroom sometimes as well—stroking his hair while we're watching a movie and calling him my pet, proudly wearing the dog-tag necklace I bought him for our anniversary or the collar I got him. He was so delighted to receive these things and wear them, and I was so delighted to give them to him and see them on him. I'm really new to any of that kind of stuff, and, for me, things that happen in the bedroom often feel MORE real and MORE powerful than things that happen in the rest of my day, so maybe that "ownership" thing is being further programmed into my brain.

OK, I will think about all of this and write more later. Thanks so much for all of the comments and advice, everyone. I am totally still open to hearing whatever else (constructive) that anyone has to say.
 
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My first thought is to be careful about taking on the responsibility for his schedule. I've been married for 23 years, and things that I did for him when we were younger, that he could have learned to do for himself but didn't because I wanted to and it made both his and my life easier at the time, have come back to bite me in the ass in terms of resentment. As my time became more limited, both because of our poly lifestyle and because I started working and then started working full time instead of part time, I started resenting the things I did for him that I don't really like doing but did anyway, because I had more time, like putting away laundry. A few years ago, this resentment coupled with other issues, built to the point that we could barely talk to each other about anything other than very basic things without it evolving into a fight. I contemplated divorce A LOT, because I was so sick of feeling like the only reason we were still together was because I was the person that kept his daily life running. It's taken almost 3 years to get to the point that we both feel we are doing well in our relationship. The reason I stuck it out is because I had made a commitment to myself that we would pay for both of our sons' associate degrees (they are far enough apart that when the first one finished the second one started at the community college), which we couldn't do without our combined income.

I know it feels like the correct solution for you to take total control of his scheduling, but it feels like, to me, anyway, that if he isn't willing to take any responsibility for it, it's just a recipe for resentment. Being responsible is a pain in the ass and I do understand why he doesn't want to have to be, but, seriously, this issue just seems to be getting worse and he needs to take some responsibility for it or else it may be the thing that ends your otherwise wonderful relationship.
 
Are you feeling this way now (as opposed to before) because you have stepped in as a primary role where before you weren't? Like before it really wasn't your place to feel that way and now subconsciously you feel like He's yours? The roles shifted and sometimes expextatons can when that happens.

Is it just Kelly? Im generally not a jealous person but I can't seem to shake the feeling of animosity toward deanna for some reason.

Maybe the move will do you some good. You guys will have a fresh start and he won't have any partners for awhileso you guys can have a honeymoon time as you set up house. Is he planning on having a long distance relationship with Kelly?

And I can totally relate to some of the things you feel right now. Im going through something similar.
 
simple

I have the worst thoughts when my mind isn't busy and things are good. Then I remember my therapist, What would you say to your best friend in this situation?
I also remember her saying self care. I say love your self, it's okay not to be perfect and do perfect poly. Poly is work, instead of berating yourself be proud of your self awareness, your willingness to put your flaws out and your asking for help. Instead of stuffing your Claire feeling, your processing in real time.

Hugs
 
My first thought is to be careful about taking on the responsibility for his schedule... I started resenting the things I did for him that I don't really like doing but did anyway, because I had more time, like putting away laundry.

I know it feels like the correct solution for you to take total control of his scheduling, but it feels like, to me, anyway, that if he isn't willing to take any responsibility for it, it's just a recipe for resentment. Being responsible is a pain in the ass and I do understand why he doesn't want to have to be, but, seriously, this issue just seems to be getting worse and he needs to take some responsibility for it or else it may be the thing that ends your otherwise wonderful relationship.

Thanks for the suggestion, Hannah. I actually kind of like the scheduling, since I have a natural aptitude for it, and it's kind of like a real-life logic problem, so I don't think I will get resentful about it. He actually does a LOT of things for me, as well, so so far, I don't feel like I have taken on an unfair share of the burdensome duties in our relationship. I do hope to help him learn to schedule bit by bit, if only because it will serve him in other areas of his life, but I'm willing to be his training wheels. I really appreciate your perspective, though. It's always nice to hear from people who have experience in very long-term relationships, since I have never had one.

Are you feeling this way now (as opposed to before) because you have stepped in as a primary role where before you weren't? Like before it really wasn't your place to feel that way and now subconsciously you feel like He's yours?

Well, he considered me and his other partner co-primary before, pretty much as soon as we started dating. We'd been friends for a while, and the gravity between us was such that my playing a lesser role in his life just didn't make sense. I've felt like he was "mine" all along, even knowing that he was shared, kind of in the way that the street you live on feels "yours" even though you share it with neighbors—a place of home and belonging and familiarity.

One thing that has changed, for sure, is that I've grown unused to being without him day to day, though. Unless something takes one of us out of town, or we have someone else visiting, we now spend every night together. When he had another local co-primary, I was accustomed to spending 2–3 nights a week alone. Lately, it's been more like it was in my last monogamous relationship: we just know and assume that we are going to bed together and waking up together and sharing dinner together (unless we've made specific other plans with separate friends). While that may sound routine and boring, it's actually been wonderful, and we've both expressed how much we are enjoying it. We both have repeatedly said that if either of us needs some space, we'll re-adjust, but for now, we're both happy with that near-constant contact.

Is it just Kelly? Im generally not a jealous person but I can't seem to shake the feeling of animosity toward deanna for some reason.

Yes, so far, in our entire relationship, it has just been Kelly. I've never had an iota of jealousy toward any of his other interests, and before things went sideways with Desiree, I was actually encouraging him to go off and hang out with her one on one. I had one or two little twinges with Claire, but they were always fleeting and never amounted to anything. However, from the beginning, I have been uneasy about the Kelly situation.

I think it first rubbed me the wrong way because he hooked up with her on a road trip that I was supposed to go along on, but I couldn't because I was too sick with a sinus infection. I was sad about not being able to go, but I felt like I had absolutely no choice. When he hooked up with her, in part, because I was not there, it made me feel incredibly envious. And then he wanted to start adding her into the rotation when things were burning down with both me and Claire. And then he wanted to invite her to our New Year's trip to Sam's property, which he'd been talking up their yearly New Year's event since we had been only friends, and I felt like I'd waited patiently for it and then wasn't even going to get a chance to enjoy it with him before someone skipped me in the line.

We had been dating only seven months at the time he started getting involved with her, and I was still all jazzed up on NRE, and suddenly there was this new person, who he was claiming would be a really casual thing, but for whom he was somehow still willing to risk everything for and was so eager to explore things with, including things that I felt like he'd promised to me. It just made things feel so much more infinitely complicated than even they already were. And it sucked.

But I really, really tried! I placed him between her and me at a concert we went to, and on his friend's couch the next day. I involved her in a sexy chat game we were playing. I've built a genuine friendship and rapport with her one on one. I do find some of the things that she's said a little questionable, but I am still withholding judgment on them until I know her better, so it's not really about anything she's been doing. I don't blame her. I don't feel animosity toward her. I feel animosity toward THEM as a unit.

If I had a time machine, in a heartbeat I would go back and drag my sick, pathetic self along on that first road trip to her town. It sounds terrible to say so, but it's true: I want to time-machine cock-block. But what's done is done. I'm not going to try to tell him not to see her.

But I don't know what I *am* going to do. Probably just do everything in my power to mitigate my own suffering. Even though it just keeps getting worse with time, maybe eventually, the trend will reverse and it will start getting better. Right now, though, I am totally effing miserable. He sent me an IM while I was playing Scrabble with my mom, saying that they were heading out to our friend's birthday party, and he thought it wasn't going to go on too late, so he'd message me in a few hours. Even though I already knew that that was the plan, I almost started crying. And I had to stretch that fake, black-hole-sun smile over my face so as not to reveal anything to my mom, because she is already weird about the poly thing, and I know she will turn in an instant against anything that is hurting me. More pain, more fakery, more waiting.

Maybe the move will do you some good. You guys will have a fresh start and he won't have any partners for awhileso you guys can have a honeymoon time as you set up house. Is he planning on having a long distance relationship with Kelly?

We'll see. I wrote him a long, five-page letter last night, finally confessing all of the things that I have been hiding "for the sake of the greater good" and apologizing for being dishonest and breaking my promise to always keep him apprised of the way that I am feeling. Before I sent it to him, in our brief IM convo, I made sure to give him an idea of the kind of content that was in it, and to let him know that I didn't need him to read it while she was still in town, I just needed to get it out there. That way, it's his choice whether he wants to read it or to wait so that he avoids disrupting their energy together. I know that he is the kind of person with the self-control to wait until the time that is optimal for what he wants.

I feel so totally insane right now that the idea of all of my future plans kind of frightens me. Like, we're supposed to be getting formally engaged in August, moving in together in October, and moving cross-country in January. I feel like it would be reasonable for him to be reconsidering all of that, with how off-balance I currently am, especially since I feel like I am getting worse instead of better, and especially because I have not, as of yet, formulated a plan of attack for solving the problem. I almost feel like I am doing him a disservice by wanting to continue on—wouldn't the kind thing to do be to remove myself from the entire situation and go be a crazy cat lady somewhere where I can't cause anyone any harm? It can't be any fun to be in a relationship with someone who is going through total meltdown mode.

But, yes, provided that things still proceed according to the as-yet-unchanged plan, there will likely be a time where it's mostly just Rider and me. He will continue to talk to Kelly long-distance, but they are unlikely to see each other for some time. She is considering her next step after she receives her degree a year from now, and the front-running location right now is in Europe. However, there is also a chance that she could end up close to where we are moving. So I cannot just get complacent at the idea of a light at the end of the tunnel that will grant me a reprieve. Whatever this is, I have to face up to and deal with it.

I feel like I had so much more to say, but I am pretty exhausted and can't remember it all. I'm in one of those moods where unconsciousness is wholly preferable to consciousness and just dealing with myself. I kind of understand now why depressed people want to sleep all day, and why troubled people self-medicate themselves into oblivion with drugs and alcohol. I want not to feel. But unless I figure things out, I'll probably just keep feeling this way, so I cannot numb myself out and escape it.

Some of you have mentioned self care and being kind to myself. What are some things that fall into that category? I know making sure that I eat is on there, so I made sure to pick up some things that I know that I like when I went to the store with my mom earlier. What else can I do—both away from home (like I'll be for the next 9 days) or when I return?
 
I have the worst time being nice to myself. I am far more mean to myself, especially when I'm feeling down, than I would ever be to another person. My therapist recommended the book Self Compassion by Kristin Neff. I loved the book and need to re-read it again. It has a lot of good ideas on being kind and compassionate to yourself, with exercises to do to increase your self compassion. From what I remember of the author's personal story, it reminds me in some ways of your recent posts, so I think it'll be helpful in that way also, to hear how she used the strategies in the book to overcome her own trails.
 
I understand the dishonesty thing. I tend to stuff things down and play off like im fine because I don't want to reviel weakness or look like the bad guy. I've finally opened up to nate and told him how i really feel and I felt a burden lifted from me. I hope that when rider reads the letter that will open a lot of communication and you two can work past this
 
Some of you have mentioned self care and being kind to myself. What are some things that fall into that category? I know making sure that I eat is on there, so I made sure to pick up some things that I know that I like when I went to the store with my mom earlier. What else can I do—both away from home (like I'll be for the next 9 days) or when I return?


It's on every "Good for You" list, so easily glossed over, but make sure you are getting out and moving your body. Just taking a walk around the neighborhood makes an enormous difference in your state of mind. It's both meditative and rejuvenating and all of the other magical things that exercise does. I, myself, have a spiritually based yoga practice and feel a very noticeable difference when three days have passed without it. Just attending a yoga class brings me out of any funk and back up to bobbing happily along. Yoga is my thing and not for everyone, but everyone does need regular physical movement as part of their well being. You can talk a long walk anywhere. Take a walk every day and these ruminating thoughts will shake loose, lessen their grip and move along. Talking a daily walk is an amazing Rx for a peaceful life.
 
This is totally off relationship stuff but then most helpful thing for me when I was dealing with depression was to make a list of 5 things to do for me every day. They were simple little things like drink a cup of coffee on the porch. Smile. Watch the first stupid cat video online. Etc. It helped me find the simple things that make life good and then when I felt awful I could look at my list and see the good things I did in the day
 
Thank you, everybody. I've been mostly worse today.

While chatting with Rider today, he sent me a picture of himself, and he still had last night's makeup that Kelly put on him smudged around his eyes and her crimping in his hair, and I lost my shit. He didn't do it on purpose, as he had not yet read my letter and therefore did not yet know the full extent of everything.

I'm wondering how something can keep getting worse every day when no one is actually doing anything TO ME except, somehow, me. I know that this feeling cannot actually kill me, even if it feels like I might literally have a stroke or a heart attack. I am trying not to beat myself up for my feelings. I am trying to just say that I can live through this, and then just move on to the next thing I was already going to do. "Sitting with my feelings" kind of feels like a misery-endurance contest with myself.

I'm about to take the "move your body" advice and walk part of the way to Jake's instead of taking a cab the whole way. It's five miles, and I can call the cab if/when I get tired. Jake messaged me earlier, saying he cracked a rib last night, and also my period arrived unexpectedly early today, so if I had planned to distract myself with sexcapades with another partner, that is also not in the cards. It's par for the FML course this week.

I'll be spending the next two nights at Jake's, so likely will not update for a while. I am going to try not to just burst into tears if he asks me how I am doing. I'm not sure how much of this he would even want to hear about.

Hopefully, by the time I post here again, I will have had a brief IM chat with Rider about the letter, so at least that sword won't be hanging over my head any longer. I'll let you know how it goes.
 
Self care for me is anything that strengthens, rejuvenates, or improves my mind, body, and spirit. I'm at my best when I'm getting sufficient rest, exercising regularly, eating healthy, limiting alcoholic intake, practicing mindfulness daily, and reading motivational/spiritual things regularly (spiritual, not religious). Also, being in tune with what my body needs.....and being in touch with how I'm feeling. That's self care for me. Just try different things and you'll figure out what works for you :)
 
Reverie - I'm sad to read your recent updates. From reading your blog, it seems as if you have a fun filled life filled with good friends and love. More - you seem to be good at appreciating what you have and working to make your life better. Huge kudos for these things.

Your latest challenges seem so unfair.

You are being very hard on yourself. Feelings of jealousy and the desire to possess things that are loved are fairly normal. Just like fear, anger and dislike are normal feelings. None of them are good to experience or to act on but they pretty normal. Try to be kinder to yourself.

I also am a massive fan of exercise. I've found that it has gotten me through some very tough times. Especially if combined with spending time with friends. My friends and I do organised 10ks fairly regularly and we almost always finish up a run by going out for lunch. We all find that it helps with whatever emotion related challenges we might be facing at the time.

I hope that you and Jake are having a lovely time reconnecting and feeling close.

IP
 
I want to thank everyone again for their suggestions and kind words. This latest experience and hearing from people really impressed on me the value of community. It really does help to know that I am not alone, and that I have more experienced people (in poly and in life) to turn to, and that others have felt or do feel the way that I feel.

Rider read my letter. We were talking on Sunday, and he kept being really puzzled, and I told him he'd probably need to just read it in order to understand what was going on with me. He said that he would, and the way we talked about it made me believe that he had decided that was going to do so in short order. But then he waited until like 4 a.m. to do it, and I'd already gone to bed by the time he wrote me back. Of course, I'd been checking my phone every half hour until I finally gave up and went to bed around two. I was irritated because it had made it worse that he had told me he would make time and then put it off. Before that, I had been totally fine with the idea of his waiting until Kelly left. If he'd just have told me he was going to wait until right before sleeping, I would have understood. I felt like it gave me a false hope that I'd hear from him soon, but then he got caught up with whatever they were doing and put it off anyway. Inconsistency bugs the shit out of me; when I read the Adult Children of Alcoholics book that the therapist recommended, it said they "over-react to changes over which they have no control." That's me, all right. :/

We've been talking and processing since then. After everything I wrote here, and after talking to Jake about it (he just passed his licensing exam and is now literally a mental health professional), I realize that I am not actually crazy. I am a rational person having irrational feelings. Yes, they are VERY strong feelings, but they don't mean I'm totally nuts or have gone off of the deep end.

Another thing that I realized as a result of posting here and talking to Jake is that the origin circumstances of Rider's relationship with Kelly is a large part of what put me into "danger mode" in relation to her. I thought for a while about whether it was the "separateness" issue that NYCindie mentioned (and definitely part of it is the possession thing she mentioned—that WORM idea is also helpful and something I plan to work on), but I don't think separateness has much to do with it. Because they DO include me in a lot of stuff, in a way that Claire never did, and I did not feel a similar kind of possessiveness or jealousy in relation to Claire—or it was so subtle and so fleeting and so rare as to be basically nonexistent. And also the idea of him having separate time with the other local people I know he is interested in (that I am not), I feel somewhere from neutral to compersion, depending on the person.

But when I think of how the relationship with Kelly started—his hooking up with her after expressly telling me he wasn't going to; his hooking up with her on a trip that I was supposed to go on, but I got too sick to go; his firing things up with her when his relationships with both me and Claire were already strained—my blood pressure rises. I think that maybe his behavior around their beginning made my inner child or "lizard brain" feel like I cannot trust him to do what he says he will do or to make sure that he will give me extra care and attention when I am sick or struggling or to make sure that he isn't doing the "relationship broken, add more people" thing.

And because those things that he did were related to her, I have kind of a PTSD-type of reaction to other things that are related to her, since he accidentally instilled in me a distrustful feeling by messing up the early stuff. The recent scheduling debacles have exacerbated the problem by "confirming" that he can't be trusted to be stable and dependable when things in relation to her come up. Not that it is anything to do with her, specifically; I'm sure he'd have been just as likely to mess up in the same way with any other partner, but lizard brain does not compute that.

My logic, then, tells me that I can't change the past or how that stuff happened—all we can do is try better for the future. But my lizard brain doesn't listen to logic. It only associates "her+him" with pain and freaks out over silly stuff that it shouldn't freak out about. And a large part of the way it is freaking out is manifesting as possessiveness and greed—like if she gets any time at all, it is a danger to me because lizard brain associates her with danger and with him acting irresponsibly.

We have been working together to try to find ways to calm the lizard brain and soothe it. One way was for me to list in detail all of the things that I was feeling hatred of (no matter how petty or irrational or embarrassing), which served the dual purpose of dragging those things out into the light and giving Rider a chance to allay some of my fears or make suggestions about ways he might be able to make things easier for me in relation to the hated thing.

Making the list was very satisfying and also very scary. It was frightening to show someone else how dark and hateful I could be, but it was satisfying to express it, as well, like saying a curse word really loud when you stub your toe. After I listed all of the things that I hated, and I thought about everything, I was actually surprised to discover that there were things that I didn't hate, even some that I would have expected to hate. Like I didn't hate that he took her to the cool, romantic little coffee shop that he and I discovered together, even though I sort of thought about it as "our place"; I felt totally neutral about it. There were a lot of things that I hated, though, and many of them were totally irrational.

He addressed my list point by point, responding anywhere on the spectrum from "I'm sorry that makes you feel that way, but that's how life is and it is internal work that you need to do; I will be patient with you" to "how about if I do X thing to make it a little easier on you" to "you're right—I shouldn't do that and will do my best to change" to "that's actually not something you even need to worry about, because it's not true." A lot of his responses made me feel a lot better.

Like, one of the things that I hated was the idea that when he dresses up for her, he might take off the necklace I gave him, that he never-ever takes off unless we are doing yoga. The idea that he might totally "shelve" a meaningful token of our love that was intended, in part, to make us feel closer even when we are apart irrationally bothered me. He said he actually never does take it off, and he didn't all weekend even though he got a bug bite beneath it that the necklace rubbed and irritated. Discovering that that irrational thing that upset me was actually totally in my head and not a concern helped me a little.

Another thing that I hated was that he keeps up IM conversations all day with her at the same time as he is chatting with me, and lately so many of our conversations are serious, and I had this idea that their conversations must be light-hearted and fun so he probably prefers them. His response to that was so touching that I have to share it here:

You and I have a much different and much more interconnected relationship than the one I have with Kelly, and for good reason. My friendship-plus with her, or however you want to label it - doesn't really matter, I believe is a lot of fun, but it's also not anything with expectations of greater commitment. Obviously the life I want to build with you takes a lot more time, attention, and effort. The payoff is that you and I theoretically get to enjoy the fruits of our labor in a long-term way. If we're talking about marriage, we are talking about a lifelong aspiration and all of the joy (and suffering) that come along with that goal. She and I get to have fun for now, and there isn't a lot of heavy to it, but it's because it's an understood for-now sort of thing. There are certain limits to that on both ends, good and bad.

Because the Rider-Reverie relationship is so deep, we get to have a deeper fun, but we also get more elements of pain and complication. How much AFOG have we dealt with over the last year and a half, and even though it completely sucks at the time to deal with that heavy shit, how much have we grown both as individuals and as a couple because of that AFOG? It's worth it.

Changing our relationship would mean changing the expectations, and that could theoretically change the dynamic, but I want the big thing with you at this point. I'm not sure going to a small thing would even work.

Among the things he said that he would try to change because they are genuinely his fault are the scheduling debacles and his telling me how he thinks I "should" feel. He also said he would try to steer the conversation back to being more inclusive when Kelly starts trotting out their inside jokes in front of me, leaving me out, because it's just a rude and shitty thing to do in general, poly aside.

Among the things he volunteered to change to try to soothe the panicked lizard brain, even though they were not wrong in themselves, were letting me go first at doing something with him if it is something that is important to me or that I have been waiting a long time to do with him, and doing better about not being all different-looking by her hand when I next see him (makeup traces and hairdo washed away, marks on his back instead of his front) and not leaving his apartment looking like a sex tornado hit, with toys, lingerie, etc. everywhere the next time I come over.

(continued...)
 
(...continued from previous)

And we negotiated together some preventative measures that we could perhaps use to try to stop such a strong PTSD-like response from attaching to anyone else in the future. These included doing basically the opposite of what he did in this case: not making blanket statements about how he isn't going to hook up with someone in particular (thus making a liar out of him when he ends up doing it anyway), and basically taking a compassionate look at what else is going on in the relationship before just seizing a new hookup opportunity on the spot. Not having to check in beforehand or anything like that, just taking a moment to use some judicious discernment about the circumstances before deciding to act—maybe when your partner is already feeling left out and massively envious at having to drop out of an event is not the time to hook up with someone new at that very event; and maybe when you have two relationships already in flames, it is a good idea to redirect your energy into either nurturing or deciding to end the existing relationships rather than spending it laying the groundwork for something new.

I think knowing each other as well as we are coming to, the situations in which the "hold off until a better time" clause would need to be invoked will be pretty cut and dried and easy to see, and I think that they don't really go very far beyond basic human compassion. It might infringe a little bit on total freedom, but I think that such occasions would be exceedingly rare. The Kelly circumstance was kind of a perfect storm, but knowing that such storms do happen, it makes me feel a lot better having agreed to take a moment to take stock of what is happening and whether bringing someone else into it is a good idea. I feel like, for partnered people (as opposed to solo-polys), this is probably kind of a Poly 101 thing that should have been happening all along, but we were both a little "kid in a candy store" for a while there. I guess the hatred generated by my lizard brain is part of the fallout from that.

And like anything else that Rider and I discussed, we also discussed that our preventative measures could be reversible. If it turns out that there are some sort of unintended consequences, like if things turn out to be way more "grey area" than originally expected, or if knowing that there is an agreed-upon procedure at all instead of total freedom puts a zap on our heads, etc., we can always just change it again. We're not locked into any particular course of action. The day may come when I am able to generate so much compersion that even if I have to miss out on seeing my favorite band to go to a funeral for someone close to me, I'll hand Rider my ticket and tell him he should give it to a pretty girl outside the venue and try to hook up with her, and I'll actually be happier because at least SOMEONE is having a good time. Today is not that day, and I'm at peace with needing to move at my own pace.

Hopefully, as time wears on, Rider will indeed prove that his behavior around Kelly can be trusted to ACTUALLY BE consistent and dependable. And hopefully, with time passing and consistency and dependability demonstrated, it will become clear to lizard brain that, despite the dangerous-feeling beginning of the thing, Kelly is not a threat.

For the moment, I am feeling a bit better. I know that likely MOST of that is because the Kelly visit is over and there is not another one currently scheduled to hang over my head. But I think that SOME of that is because I got to the bottom of "why this, why her?" and that allowed us to begin the process of figuring out what the hell to do about it and how to avoid similar situations in the future. I think it also helped to really question myself and be totally honest about the things that I hated and why I felt like I hated them. Expressing those things to Rider squeezed a little of the poison out, and even after seeing how dark and hateful I can be at my worst, he still loves me and wants to be with me and wants to make my life better in whatever ways that he can without losing what he also wants for himself.

I have been reading the therapist books and inquiring via email for a different, hopefully poly-friendly therapist. I know that there is some stuff that I have irrational responses to that fall into the "I need to sort myself out" category, and I am very willing to do that work. If I can make those darkest places less dark, I'm sure I'll be a lot happier overall, not just in relation to relationships. I'm a work in progress, and I think that these poly training wheels Rider and I are setting up will only do me any good if I actually work on improving my balance on my own. I am learning many things about honesty (with self and others), humility, symptoms and causes and the process of untangling them, my own dark side, and not being too proud to accept help when it is offered. All of these things are probably good and necessary lessons.

On non-jealousy-related things, I had a good time with Jake. He was super-mega-understanding about my being distracted about the whole Rider thing; he's SUCH a good and selfless person. We kissed and cuddled and talked and laughed (to the extent that he could with a cracked rib). I rented a car so we could go on a country drive, and we ended up seeing so many different kinds of farm animals, then going to a cute little city in a more rural part of the state. There, we visited a record shop, a brewpub, a dive bar, a sports bar, and a fancy restaurant.

Then we returned to Hometown and got vegan sushi for dinner. We stopped at the bar where he works for a nightcap, then chilled in his room, cuddling naked and talking even more. We talked about how we never seem to have sex, and we decided that we are both OK with that. He had been talking about the fantastic sex he has with his other partners, and then we just talked really frankly about how, for whatever reason, that's just not our thing together. He's like my cuddle-buddy/makeout-partner instead of a sex partner. Odd, but it works for us. He's looking forward to Rider coming to town and seeing him when we stop into his bar this weekend.

Rider will be here in only two days! Almost to the hour! I am taking the train to the airport, where I will be picking up a different rental car (I have to return the one I borrowed with Jake tomorrow morning) and driving us to the hotel room we're getting for one night. I wanted to have one night of uninterrupted reconnection before we have to spend Friday and Saturday nights on an air mattress in my cousin's living room. It was a cheap room, but even so, it was a splurge, but I knew we would probably really need it. I barely had any sex at all last week, between Rider passing out early on Monday, my allergic reaction to the antibiotic on Tuesday, and then leaving on Friday. OK, so "barely any sex" is maybe an exaggeration, because we had once on Wednesday, twice on Thursday, and once Friday morning. But it's still way less than usual!

I was telling Jake that, outside of my relationship with Rider, I kind of feel oddly asexual lately. My sex drive with Rider is through the roof all the time, but I am just way less attracted to other people or feel less sexual toward them than I ever have. People barely turn my head, when I used to have a constantly roving eye; I've always been picky, but I was always looking, and now I mostly just don't. Kissing Jake is nice, but as I discussed above, it's not a sexual pull.

I had that one flicker of wishing I'd had sex with Sam right before he left a few weeks ago, and I had that electric-but-ultimately-fruitless interaction with Beckett that same weekend (which also happened to be ovulation week), but other than that, it's like my libido/attraction mechanisms are in hibernation and have been for a whiiiiile. :confused: Maybe I am just so satisfied that I'm all "used up." Or maybe it really is that I'm so emotionally exhausted from the jealousy stuff that there's no energy left over for other things. Or maybe I'm going through a weird hormonal swing of some kind. I guess as long as sex stays great with Rider, I am not too concerned. Eventually, I'll get a thirst for variety and something will happen.
 
I'm feeling even better today than I felt yesterday. I actually got to the point where I was able to laugh a little bit about the blunders we had committed over the weekend: Rider forgetting that the last time he sent me a photo of himself back in March all besmirched by the previous night's activities had set me off, and so he sent me that a selfie on Sunday to try to cheer me up, but it made me worse—his completely not putting two and two together and my severe "KILL IT WITH FIRE" overreaction both suddenly struck me as hilariously absurd. Doesn't mean that the same exact thing won't happen again, but at least I am finding humor instead of bitterness in the situation.

We videochatted for like three hours last night, mostly processing stuff and just gawking at each other's faces. We stayed up far too late and are both tired today, but it was totally worth it. We spent the last hour saying "we should go to sleep" and then getting swept away in conversation again. It was wonderful.

I also have re-read the responses he wrote me to my hate list, and thought about the sweet song he wrote me a few months ago, and flipped back through the photos I took during our last chastity play session last Thursday. I'd given him a list of tasks to complete, and one of them was to write me a message on himself in the mirror, and I would judge him based on his mirror handwriting. He'd chosen as his message "<3 Eternally Yours <3" with an infinity across his chest (and he'd done a damned good job with the handwriting—much better than I could have done). So I have a picture of him grinning and shirtless with that written on his chest. All of these things remind me of how solidly he is in my life, and how I have so much that maybe I will eventually be able to come to a place of generosity, rather than greed.

Other things that are helping:

  • He told me that they "didn't get to" the needle stuff this time, so that whole big issue we had a few weeks ago is not something that is going to be tested on me right now in my weakened state.
  • Now that I am halfway through period week, my emotions are running less high.
  • I feel like I have some time and space to deal with processing things before they have another big visit scheduled, since even though she is coming down for the weekend of his big birthday performance (actually the following weekend from his birthday), a whole mess of his friends are coming from various places, and he'd previously told me that he wanted to do just-us sexy stuff when it becomes time to retire to bed the night of the show. The following night, I'll be out of town helping put on my sister's baby shower, so I will be too busy to dwell on stuff. And then our calendar is pretty packed for the next couple of months. If I can work on "me stuff" and he can work on being consistent, and the rolling of time going by can put some distance in between us and this freakout, maybe things will be in an overall more stable place come football season and the next time we have to deal with this stuff. I think it's probably a lot easier to get to a place of comfort without immediately staring down the barrel and feeling like there's a deadline.

The cool thing about these "other things" is that not a one of them is something that happened because I asked for it to—it's just that life happened to shake out that way. So it reminds me that there will always be easier times interspersed between the rough times, no matter how utterly dark and rough the rough times may be. It kind of makes me think of the "free rice" principle of learning, where it keeps you within a level of difficulty that is conducive to learning by throwing you new challenges as you improve, but knocking you back to easier levels if you start struggling. That makes it sound like it was done by design (and I don't believe that it was), but I feel like to some degree it's just kind of how the random nature of life works out. And the stuff that we HAVE designed (Rider and I) kind of helps in that same way, each of us adjusting the difficulty level a little for the other when the learning curve gets too steep. It's a different kind of teamwork that is more like a buddy system catching each other when we fall, rather than the kind that is about both expending effort toward the same goal.

He's spent most of the day IMing me and sending me dirty pictures of himself and talking about what we shall do when we see each other tomorrow. Tonight, we shall finally have that sexy videochat that has proven so elusive. RAWR RAWR RAWR!
 
Rider arrives tonight around midnight! I just checked into our hotel room and found a little convenience store that sold booze to stock our mini-fridge. Shortly before his arrival, I'll be taking the train to the airport and picking up him and our rental car. I am super excited, and even a little nervous. It feels strange to feel a little nervous about seeing someone whom I've been with for almost a year and a half and whom I normally see daily—weird NRE-like flutters. I guess maybe going through rough stuff with someone washes away some of the routine and makes "Eek! This is new and exciting and a little scary!" come back.

I liken it to each of us being a building. We have both just found a door within each other that leads to a different level—something new to explore and learn about. Sometimes, the level will be clean and beautiful and well-kept. Sometimes, the level will be messy and disorganized and kinda scary-shadowy. But coming to know the entire building makes it easier to appreciate the beauty and makes what hides in the shadows less scary. Right now, the levels we just opened the door too are new and exciting. I think that, since we are both committed to self-improvement, we are always going to be changing the layout of the building, and there will always be new wings to discover.

And I think that as long as we're always committed to learning more about each other—the way we actually are, the good with the bad—we'll never grow apart, because we'll always be willing to explore and learn about those new wings of each other's buildings. I think that people grow apart when they see a new wing has been added, and they get to the door, and they are just like NOPE, not going in there. I think that there might be doors that take mustering great courage to open, but that if there is a solid track history of nothing behind any of the other doors being nothing the intrepid explorer couldn't handle, the courage will eventually come.

For the most part, we have come to a satisfactory plateau to rest on with our processing stuff, so that we can leave it behind and enjoy this visit together. After talking today about a few niggling things that were still scratching at me, I feel like we are really good, really solid. We are both pro-our-new-guidelines—Rider called them "speed bumps" to slow things down when one of us starts to get carried away, LOL!—and feeling like we are at a place where we can let our guard down again. The "lizard" is sleeping, only peeking one eye open every now and again when thoughts of the future cross my mind. For right now, I'm happy in the moment.

The sexy videochat went very, very well. It was the first time Rider had done anything like that before. I'd done it once before with Moss, but this time with Rider was extraordinary. I even managed to have an orgasm while being witnessed, which I usually can't from touching myself. I guess it feels different when I am looking at a screen.

Period be damned, I project that we shall have amazing sex tonight, after being apart for a week. This hotel is incredible—it's super historic and all run-down and creepy and shit, which I find romantic. It was really cheap, probably because it's kind of shabby, but that's exactly my speed. It has a canopy bed and a non-functional fireplace, and high ceilings and hugely tall old windows. The bathroom is the only thing that is remotely modern. Well, that and that the wi-fi actually seems pretty good.

We have plans to grab a drink at a local brewpub, then check out a bakery/café that is open super late, so we can get a post-bar bite to eat. Our hotel is within walking distance of some interesting stuff, and the historic neighborhood should be fun to explore in the daytime. So stoked!
 
Long time, no write...

Rider and I had a complete and total blast in Hometown. The hotel was great (as was the hotel sex). The beer at the brewpub was great. The savory pastries at the late-night café were great. Reconnecting with Rider was just fantastic. We had so much fun the entire time.

Friday, we grabbed diner food and then decided to take a country drive and ended up crossing state lines and having rental car sex, to check another state off of our "states we've had sex in" list. It was a grand old time. We hopped out and picked wildflowers and snapped lots of pictures.

That night, we met up with my cousin and had a delicious dinner out, then went out to a bar with kind of an older crowd, and it was really super fun drinking and dancing with them.

Saturday, we slept in, then went river tubing with my cousin and her boyfriend. I'd never done it before, and Rider hadn't in a really long time. It was a total blast. Afterward, as we were driving back, Rider and I stopped into a little place that makes cider and mead, and we bought a bottle of fancy mead for later.

We headed back to my cousin's place for a power nap, then hit the town, checking out a bunch of places and stopping in to see Jake at his bar job. He invited us back to his place afterward, and we hung out there for a bit, along with his roommate and a small group of really weird people his roommate had brought home. Jake and Rider kissed me, and kissed each other (mostly to amuse me) and Rider and I went back to my cousin's to crash.

Sunday, we had plans to hang out with my family. My mom made a salad lunch for us, and my sister came over, and we sat around talking and playing music (Rider and I, then my sister). We went out for an early diner dinner before having to return to the airport.

The airline lost my bag, but they said they would recover it the next day (they did), and since I was willing to come pick it up, they gave me some travel credit that Rider and I will probably use toward a flight for our next anniversary in February (it expires in a year). We got back to my place and had amazing sex although we were very tired.

The next day, we went to go pick up my bag and went to Rider's place, where we had a little glitch: even though he'd told me that he'd "swept" his place for Kelly leftovers (part of our new acclimate-the-lizard plan), he'd somehow neglected to notice that he'd left up a t-shirt that he'd wrapped around the bathroom light to create "mood lighting" for the two of them in the bathroom so they could shower together. I had an unpleasant emotional reaction to that, which was thankfully pretty mild, but I did process it internally and tell Rider about it and apologize for my energy going sideways. He, in turn, apologized for not being more thorough with his sweep.

I think that after some good long talks we had yesterday, we are in a good spot again, hopefully for a while. It was good to be able to discuss things in a low-pressure environment, and after having enjoyed a very pleasant mini-vacation together. Rider says he now thinks he fully understands how I felt over the weekend and how awful it must have been, and we're both willing to approach this thing with total transparency and compromise. I still feel a little off-balance (and I am still on the hunt for the elusive insurance-taking, poly-friendly therapist). I know that I have some internal work left to do. I am also optimistic that I'll get there eventually.
 
This past week has been...interesting.

I found out the numbers on what my boss is willing to give me for my moving package to go to Opposite Coast, and it's WAY more than I was expecting! I was very pleased; that will go a long way toward making our transition to the new city go more smoothly.

The next day, I was doing some more reading of the books the therapist recommended to me, and I did a checklist for codependency in one of them and read some of the profiles and discovered that I seem to have a mild codependency issue. These things I didn't really think much of on their own, but apparently, taken together, they are signs of a larger issue:

• feel compelled—almost forced–to help people close to you solve problems, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings
• anticipate other people’s needs
• wonder why others don’t do the same for them
• feel safest when giving
• get depressed from a lack of compliments and praise (stroke deprivation)
• be afraid of making mistakes
• wonder why they have a tough time making decisions
• wish other people would like and love them
• feel terribly anxious about problems and people
• worry about the silliest things
• think and talk a lot about other people
• lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior
• worry
• feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems
• abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something
• focus all their energy on other people and problems
• wonder why they can’t get things done
• have lived through events and with people that were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment
• think they know best how things should turn out and how people should behave
• stay busy so they don’t have to think about things
• center their lives around other people
• gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect
• apologize for bothering people
• are frightened of other people’s anger
• think people will go away if anger enters the picture
• have been ashamed for feeling angry
• place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry
• feel increasing amounts of anger, resentment, and bitterness
• stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts

So I am going to keep reading the book and see if it helps. I also am going to call the therapist back after I've read the book and see if she got that list of possibly poly-friendly therapists for me, and I also have a list of other professionals on my insurance plan that I am going to call around to and inquire.

I guess it makes sense that I might have some issues around this, since according to the book, it can come from associating closely with people with drug and alcohol problems, and all my male role models growing up had substance abuse problems. I also foolishly dated a meth addict in early adulthood, and I know that screwed me up pretty good for a while there. I've generally felt like I've been getting saner over the years, and there were a LOT of things on the checklist that I felt like used to apply to me for sure, but no longer do. I guess that means I've slowly been healing on my own, but if a professional can speed the process along, all the better.

Rider and I discussed this stuff, and it felt very healthy. We talked about how everyone is broken in some ways, and that even if we have problems individually or together, it's nothing we can't get through. To be honest, a lot of the stuff on the checklist reminded me of him, too, although different list items mostly than mine were, but he didn't seem very interested in looking at it. He's not much of a reader. Maybe if he has a similar kind of problem, I can pass on some of what I learn to help him too.

(continued...)
 
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