Thoughts on this journey

Albert Ross

Well-known member
It's really cool to see people sharing how — *gestures wearily* all of this 😂 — is going... sometimes for years! I want to try the same here: sharing how things evolve for me where polyamory is concerned, and also capture some thoughts inspired by the various conversations that don't quite belong as replies in those threads.

I've seen a lot of anecdotes about people, especially when opening up a mono relationship, where it becomes clear they're focused on "making their partner happy". This is such a common thing, this desire/need/expectation that an important part of an intimate relationship is taking some responsibility for our partner's happiness.

It sounds good, right? Virtuous? Correct? It's certainly sold that way in a lot of places... it's problematical, though.

It's problematical when we start abandoning our own needs in favour of our partner's, or — this is the one I've struggled the most to stop doing — we start hiding the truth (about things we've done, or how we feel) from our partners in an attempt to "keep them happy".

Part of that is the desire to avoid the consequences of our actions, sure. But I think the deeper, more reflexive tendency to try to make people happy is one of those defence mechanisms we humans use to help us believe we're more in control of the world than we are.

"If I just keep them happy," our poor little brain tells us, "they'll continue to love me / they won't abandon me / I'll be ok."

Which sounds like a defence mechanism from childhood, to help us deal with our actual helplessness. But it doesn't work very well at all in keeping adult relationships healthy. :rolleyes:

This topic reminded me of a recent episode of the Non-Monogamy Help podcast that expands on the point...
Before I get too far into this thread, intro to my current situation here:

So. Couples therapy appointment tonight for me and Aspen. Closest we've come yet to breaking up.

She doesn't really want to be in a non-monogamous relationship, but she's willing to try, if she can at least be the "primary".

The thing is... I can't say with a full honest heart that I even want a "primary" relationship anymore. 😔

I'm thinking on it, for a day at least. I want to try "relationship menu-ing" what I really think I want. But this might be over, and maybe for the best.

Sigh. 😢
Albert, I'm glad you've started blogging. I'm sorry you're journey is sad and stressful right now.

Are you OK with getting feedback on your blog, as long as it's gentle and from a helpful place?
Thanks, Magdlyn. Yes, I'm ok with getting gentle/helpful feedback on my blog here. I'll assert otherwise if that changes. But right now, yes, I think I'd like to hear what folks on this forum have to say. :)
I'm gonna lift this remark from GalaGirl to someone else in an unrelated thread:

It doesn't have to be hard. The FEELINGS might feel tough. But the actions seem straightforward. Each dyad needs to figure out what it is now in THIS new chapter of life.

Replace "dyad" with "person" in my case, but... this is very helpful to keep in mind.
I'm sorry this is happening.

I'm thinking on it, for a day at least. I want to try "relationship menu-ing" what I really think I want. But this might be over, and maybe for the best.

Sigh. 😢

It's ok to be sad about accepting this is over. But there's much to be said for having a good, respectful parting. Intentional decoupling and letting things go with grace can be healing.

You could do the relationship menu for what you want to share/seek in a dating partner. If Aspen no longer meets the bar? Sometimes people grow apart or in different directions. It doesn't mean they are bad people.

I think a peaceful parting is kinder than accepting Aspen's meh sounding thing that they are offering half heartedly while they are in bargaining stage of grief themselves and struggling to accept it's likely over.

Aspen doesn't want non-monogamy at all. That is clear.

But to grudgingly go there if they can be the "primary" in "primary-secondary" type heirarchy? Just to avoid a break up?

Well... what happens when that gets outgrown? Then what? When you don't sound joyful about it even now?

Isn't honesty better? Than kicking the can down the road, creating weird or wonky?

Thank you for your perspective, GalaGirl. I've read a lot of your posts in the past few months I've been visiting the site, and your consistent attitude of (if I may paraphrase) "just say no to wonky" has been on my mind through a lot of this. :)

It's ok to be sad about accepting this is over. But there's much to be said for having a good, respectful parting. Intentional decoupling and letting things go with grace can be healing.

You could do the relationship menu for what you want to share/seek in a dating partner. If Aspen no longer meets the bar? Sometimes people grow apart or in different directions. It doesn't mean they are bad people.

In short, this quoted bit is what Aspen and I did this afternoon. I did fill out the menu and share that with her, and she did find it helpful. We realized we've finally reached a point of clarity (which we both may have been avoiding for a good long while out of a desire to stay together!) that we just can't both give a joyful yes to some sort of open relationship structure. We could agree to something, but one or both of us would be doing it through gritted teeth.

We'd be agreeing to stay wonky, is what it comes down to. 🙃

So, instead, we've let each other go. It was a good, loving parting, as much as it hurt.

And now I can go figure out where the heck my heart is taking me without dragging her along for the ride. And she can go find the partner that truly wants the same relationship she does. And we can both heal.
Ah, bittersweet. This sounds good and right, even though it’s hard and sad. Well done, and keep up the good healing work.
I'm glad you both did that exercise and could come to a decent parting, then. That's a good ending to a meaningful relationship -- to be able to part ways decently.

Over time, as you continue to heal from the break up, I hope you can also clarify to yourself what you would like next, when you are ready to date again. There's no rush, though. It's okay to take your time with healing.

I hope you can also clarify to yourself what you would like next when you are ready to date again.
Oh, this is definitely my next big focus. Though also, as a friend was reminding me this morning (paraphrased): "You just finished figuring out your last relationship. Now you want to figure the next thing out. Remember to also allow life to just happen to you."

She ain't wrong. 😂

Here's a first principle, though: Be honest about what I want, even / especially if I'm not really sure what that is!
A thought from my journal this morning:

What do I want from an intimate relationship if it's not "partnership"? One thing that occurs to me right away: I want to uplift others and be uplifted by them.

My inner copy editor would probably make that "lift others up" instead of verbing "uplift", but the nice thing about journals is you don't need to edit them...

...til you share them on forums. :sneaky:
A thought from my journal this morning:

What do I want from an intimate relationship if it's not "partnership"? One thing that occurs to me right away: I want to uplift others and be uplifted by them.

My inner copy editor would probably make that "lift others up" instead of verbing "uplift", but the nice thing about journals is you don't need to edit them...

...til you share them on forums. :sneaky:
That is a question I ask myself too! One thing I have learned is that I mainly want my partners to be curious about me. I feel like I’m still curious about them, all these years later. And sometimes it feels like they just think they already know me, I’m in the box, and they don’t seem interested in what’s going on for me.

*Let me know if this kind of commentary isn’t what you’re up for on your blog. I can accept reading relatable stuff without expressing.*
Musing on "New Relationship Energy" (NRE):

Reading a lot of threads lately (here and on /r/polyamory) and it's sticking out to me like a sore thumb how the expressions of intimacy people use ("life partners", "love of my life") sometimes contrasts real hard with relationship length (6 months, 1 year)...

Perhaps there's pathological "love bombing" going on in some of these situations, but I reckon a lot of the time, this is a symptom of NRE.

I feel like my relationship with Aspen was a good example of how long NRE can last: well over a year in, I really did feel like "yes, I want to be life partners! I'm excited to marry her! (not my first time at that rodeo, either) Let's open a joint bank account..."

And a year or so after that... whoa, I really did not want those things anymore. Not with her, not really with anyone. I wanted a whole lot more autonomy than what I'd opted into.

And it took all of this very long and painful year to realize that, accept it, and then work out what it meant for our relationship.

My current attitude is shifting to: Let me be happy but skeptical with the things I feel, and that others tell me they feel, in the first couple years of a relationship. Polyamorous or not, making big life decisions based on those early feelings might work out, sure, but... oh boy do I not want to do that anymore.

Let's just see how the first couple years go, and then we can see how we feel about being "life partners", you know?

Thought to muse upon further: I think an unhelpful, perhaps mononormative, reaction to that would be: "you're just afraid of commitment!"
Doing pretty well this week, all considered, and also having those little moments where I grieve the end of my relationship with Aspen. Reading my remark above about feeling like I wanted to get married caused me to imagine what our wedding might have been like, and feel a pang for what will now probably never be.

Which is ok. Another topic I've had on my mind, while going through this whole process:

It's essential to stop "pathologizing" our negative emotions and coexist with them instead.

I know there will be other relationships with other people, but I don't need to use that knowledge to distract myself from how painful the grief is. Both things are true, they are part of being alive, and the most healing thing is not to try replacing the negative feeling with the positive one, but to simply notice the negative feeling, give it space, and let it go.
On the same day I made that last post, I went on a brewery tour with some friends and, late at night and drunk, downloaded Bumble and reactivated my account for the first time in 3 years.

Impulsive? Yes, but while I'm wary of distracting myself from my feelings, and of jumping into new things too soon... I also realize I've been grieving my now-ended relationship for months, and craving new connections. And it felt good to set my dating profile to boldly declare I'm pursuing solo polyamory, and just let the chips fall where they may.

What ended up happening is, I matched with someone who is apparently very experienced at poly/ENM (e.g. all her relationships have been those kind). We liked each other right away, and she was understandably hesitant about getting involved with someone who is (a) new to poly and (b) fresh out of a long-term relationship. But she suggested we get together for a friendly coffee, with no expectation of dating, and I happily agreed.

I'm in no hurry, and I feel very unattached to the outcome — happy to let this be whatever it wants to be. Friendship, maybe more in time, or nothing. Who knows?

We had a nice date this afternoon and intend to see each other again. I'm going out of town tomorrow, and will be gone most of the month. Let me take things slowly, but not keep my life in neutral. That's what feels right.
I've been musing a lot on the question of "What does commitment mean if you're not pursuing an exclusive, "escalator"-style relationship?"

I saw a good perspective of this on /r/polyamory today, pointing out that instead of escalating from one date a week to three dates a week to spending every evening together to living together, it is nonetheless a "committed" relationship if it goes from one date a week for two months, to one date a week for two years, to one date a week for five years...

In other words, the commitment is the people continuing to show up for each other in whatever way they've agreed to. The agreement itself doesn't necessarily need to change.

Defining a relationship deliberately feels exciting to me. Might need to print out more of those relationship menus for future dates. 😂
I'm pleased with myself at the moment. 🙂 (That entry reminds me of the "mood" status that used to be part of LiveJournal posts, remember those?)

In a previous entry I mentioned getting back on Bumble a couple weeks ago. I want to take it slowly with that (and I'd actually like to try other apps like OkC and Feeld instead, which I've heard are perhaps more of a watering hole for kinky/poly people...) but I did connect with two people before I left town. I'll call them Juniper and Maple.

I met Juniper for coffee the day before I left. We had a nice date, are obviously into each other on a couple levels, and agreed we should see each other again. It was only the next day that I let her know I was going to be out of town for pretty much the rest of September. She expressed wishing I had told her that before we met in person. I apologized and asked if she wanted to tell me more about that, but she simply said "It's fine."

For me, an indication of my own growth is that I simply took that statement at face value and let it go. She seems fully capable of managing her own emotions.

I texted her a few times in the past week, and didn't get much in the way of reply. Again, my past self would have spent lots of time worrying about this. Does she not like me? Did I upset her? Oh no, must fix!! Instead, I assumed she just doesn't like texting and would rather date me in person — and/or she's just busy: she is, after all, poly and has a kid!

But another way I've grown is a willingness to simply ask instead of guessing. So the other day I sent her a message asking her to let me know if she'd like me to keep casually texting her, or just get in touch when I'm back in town. She confirmed my assumptions that she doesn't like texting until she gets to know someone, and prefers to date in person — and, she's seeing a couple other people, so she's busy. Fair enough! I'm glad I asked, because now my anxiety brain can stop worrying that she doesn't like me. :p

I thanked her, and let her know I wasn't criticizing her communication style, just wanted to make sure we're on the same page. She replied that she didn't detect any bad vibes, just honest and direct communication.

It feels good to hear that from someone, because honest and direct is exactly what I'm trying to be. I'm glad I'm succeeding.

Meanwhile, I have been texting with Maple, a lot. It's interesting to note people's different preferences: she and I clearly feel comfortable getting to know each other via text, whereas Juniper wants to do it in person.

It so happens that I'd told Maple in our first or second conversation that I was going out of town, so she knew what to expect. We've made a date to have a drink when I'm briefly back home next week.

Now, whereas Juniper and I discussed poly and our relative experience levels therewith right away, Maple and I haven't actually talked about relationships or what we're looking for at all yet. She doesn't mention poly in her profile, and we haven't discussed it — for all I know, she found me so devastatingly handsome she just swiped right without reading my bio. 😜

I'm not bothered by this. I think our in-person meet will be the time to discuss what we're each looking for, if it doesn't come up sooner. Our conversation has been friendly so far, and even if we're not compatible for more I'll propose we be friends, because I really would like to be.

It feels good to be focused on simply exploring these connections without feeling like they must become a certain kind of relationship. Meanwhile, I'm spending this trip reconnecting with old friends, and that's been lovely, too.
I go back and forth on what to share in this public, pseudonymous blog vs. what to keep in my private journal, but—

I'm now on September Trip #2. Last Wednesday, in between trips, I met Maple for a drink. We'd had a really good connection via text for the preceding couple of weeks. Well, happy to say we had the same connection face-to-face, and the chemistry was there, too! After a cocktail, I suggested we take a walk down to the water, and while we were walking I could just feel this casual desire between us to be close to each other.

(As a neurodivergent person who has traditionally lived too much in his head, I am happy to feel more intuitively "in my body" these days. ☺️)

I suggested we go to a well-known secluded and romantic spot, but still felt like perhaps we should discuss where we each stand with dating (does she actually want a non-monogamous relationship? Does she understand that I do?) before we got physically intimate.

That's not what happened, though. I said something like, "This seems like a really good spot to kiss you, but..." and intended to broach the topic, but she replied, "...but I'm sitting on a different level, right? I should move up here." Um, well yes, right... anyway, I went with the flow. 😜

I hadn't intended to bring her back to my place — I hadn't even intended to kiss her on this date, necessarily — but she suggested it, and I was happy to. On the way there, I brought up the topic of relationship style a little inadvertently, because answering her question about how long I'd lived in the neighbourhood led to me talking about my relationship with Aspen, and where that's left me. For Maple's part, yes, she had read "solo poly" on my bio. It sounds like she sees herself seeking a monogamous relationship in the long term, but she's not interested in that right now; she's focusing her life on other things than developing a partnership.

Does that mean we may be incompatible in the long run, and this may have an expiration date? Perhaps. But, fine. We're only just beginning to explore what we want to do with each other.

We had a wonderful evening at mine, then called it a night. It's just as well I had to catch a bus at 8 the next morning, so we weren't too tempted to spend the night with each other. I'm happy not to hurry. Plenty of time in the weeks to come.

I came down with a cold almost immediately after our date, alas. 🙃 But aside from that, it's nice to be on this trip and in touch with this lovely person. Lots to look forward to when I get home.
Back home and glad Travel Month is over. I had an interesting date with Juniper this week, and would have seen Maple again too but this time she got sick. Excited to see her again soon.

I've also connected with and set up dates with two other people, and I'm excited to meet them, but that's enough for now: once I'm done coordinating with these folks in the app, I'm going to take Bumble off my phone and focus on what's in my life already, because I am certainly at or beyond my social maximum. :p

About Juniper: feels like we are into each other but unsure if we are each other's type. Our communication has been very direct and honest, though, which feels great. So we're going to have a third date and explore this some more.

Fact is, if I were trying to find a monogamous partner, I would opt out at this point: the way she wants to be treated is not something I would like to provide all the time. But it gives me a chance to express a rare side of myself, and I would like to express that side... but only, like, 20% of the time.

I'm being intentionally vague on details, which is probably unnecessary, but who knows? This is on the internet, after all.

It's too early to have big expectations about either of these relationships yet, but my current hopes? I'd like to date Juniper once in a while, and date Maple about once a week. I like the freedom of having that possibility. Whether things go down that way, who knows? Time will tell.

Aspen emailed me the other day to tie up some loose ends, and chose to sign off her email by reiterating how badly I hurt her. I am trying not to let it get to me — she is entitled to her feelings, and I don't need to absorb them or try to fix them just because she chose to express them — but, this sort of thing is my Achilles' heel.

Initially I just replied to the logistical parts of the email and left it at that... but a day later I replied again, said I heard her and was sorry... but also asked her to please not send an email like that again.

We broke up, it's over, I did my share of the emotional labour and don't owe her any more. If she needs to express her hurt now she has friends and family and therapists who can listen.

I'm saying all that not for her but for me: because my tendency when I've hurt someone is to feel like a monster who deserves to be hurt in return. But that's not true. We tried our best, we grew apart, we ended our relationship, and now life goes on.