Category Archives: monogamy

Loving Without Expectation

I have been reading loads of articles on letting go of expectations in regards to relationships. And I have come to the conclusion that I am not capable of this.

Yet.

Logically, I believe in everything I have read. Letting go of the need to box up a relationship and give it a name. Letting go of trying to label something and put a pretty bow on it to give oneself the illusion of safety and stability. I understand the concept and I believe that it is a very powerful one; the end game being to love freely and completely with your entire self without the expectation that someone ‘needs’ to love you back in the same way that you might love them.

Loving without the expectation that a so-called ‘relationship’ means a promise of forever.

Maybe loving without expectation is something that some people can do right out of the dating gate. Maybe some people learn how to do this with years of practice. I have tried, a few times now, and with absolute frustration I have realized that I cannot do this at this point in my life. I have been through so much trauma this past year, that I crave that perceived guarantee. Which, let’s be honest, is total bullshit because I know (better than most) that futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight and labels aren’t guarantees and pretty little relationship packages are not promises.

Love feels pretty terrifying right now.

I think that loving without expectation is one of the main tenants of polyamory. Being free to love whomever you love in whatever way that might be. Trusting yourself to give love and accept love. Trusting your partner (or partners) to treat you with respect and kindness as you navigate the ups and downs of multiple relationships. Understanding that there is no permanence in relationships just as there is no permanence in life.

A friend who is poly once told me that in a new poly relationship, everyone involved should go as slowly and mindfully as the slowest person involved. I was so completely traumatized by my one and only experience with polyamory that I am absolutely terrified of having any kind of relationship with anyone. I was literally bulldozed by two people who fell madly in love with each other and then kicked me to the curb.

The maddening thing is, being in a relationship is all that my aching heart wants. But, at least for now, I simply cannot do this without a fear and a terror that I will open up my heart (and it opens in a BIG way), and someone will look at me and say, “Hey, you just aren’t what I want. I do not choose you, I choose this other person. See ya!” I don’t want to be treated that way ever again.

I am currently completely frustrated with myself. I had to let go and say goodbye to a great guy this week. We were doing beautifully for about a month. I was letting go of the expectation that he needed to love me in the way that I loved him. I was learning to trust and believe that I could finally do it, let my heart free, let it out of its terrified space of hurt and fear. He was kind, supportive, nurturing, and SAFE. He was a safe person to love because he would never hurt me. He would never bail on me. I could feel my heart slowly healing.

But then we had this conversation during which he told me he wanted to “keep his options open” and if he wanted to have sex with someone else he wanted to be able to do that without hurting my feelings.

I reacted like a deer in headlights, I nearly disassociated due to my trauma and PTSD. But I breathed through it and in that moment I realized that I simply could not give him that; even though I wanted to, SO MUCH. My heart cracked and broke again and I said goodbye to someone who didn’t want the same thing I did. I could not go through the horror of being left by someone again. I retreated to my space of hurt, longing, rejection, abandonment, and anxiety. I am still living there to some degree. I am trying to feel my feelings without letting them run rampant and seize control. I am getting better at this but it can still feel pretty scary.

But what is it that I really want? A lie? A false sense of security and a sense of safety that isn’t even real? My brain wants that. My heart has a completely different idea. I know now that I can love someone without an expectation that they will love me back. I can be with someone and open up my heart to them without that need for their love to match my own. But here is the catch: I cannot do this in a so-called ‘open relationship’. The minute he dropped that bomb, I knew I was incapable of doing what I had slowly begun to do. Love without expectation. Because, in my limited experience with open relationships, people leave you. They smash your heart and walk away without a backward glance. Maybe someday I will have healed enough to handle something like that if it happened again. But for now, it is just not possible. And the worst part?

I feel like a failure.

I think it is okay to expect certain things. I expect not to be treated like shit. I expect to be treated with care and compassion and kindness. I expect someone to be gentle with my heart and not stomp all over it. These things are non negotiable needs for me, and at this point in my healing, I have to create boundaries that protect them. Which meant saying goodbye to someone I love very, very much. And isn’t that a brave thing to do? To stay within my own integrity and know my own limits and set my own boundaries? I am hurting a lot right now, but that hurt will fade with time. I won’t feel this way forever. Because forever is an illusion and labeling something as ‘exclusive’ or ‘non-exclusive’ means absolutely nothing.

But for now, until the parts of me that fear abandonment heal, I am trying to accept that I need to feel safe within the context of a lie.

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Have you evolved?

A few days ago, I read a blog post that discussed non-monogamy vs. monogamy and the fact that these two lifestyle choices are often pitted against one another. And, more specifically, that mono people are often perceived as being ‘close-minded’ for their choices.

The author touched on something that got me thinking – something I experienced first-hand all last year (on both sides of this debate). When my ex was experiencing NRE (new relationship energy) in spades, and I was literally losing my mind, he would look at me with disgust. I felt ashamed; like I couldn’t catch up to the ‘cool kids’. I felt like a monogamously minded idiot and was even told, “you fuck up poly at every turn’. I hated feeling lost and left behind by my own husband. I hated feeling like a failure because this new lifestyle was so much harder for me than it was for him. And yes, our attempt at non-monogamy was an EPIC FAIL. No question about that. But just because I was not emotionally wired for that lifestyle did not make me a fuck-up. And it certainly didn’t make me close-minded or wrong. I didn’t choose to have PTSD for fuck’s sake.

Though I do not think it is in any way intentional, non-monogamous individuals can sometimes promote an elitist attitude – that they are more ‘enlightened’, more ‘evolved’, and more ‘open-minded’ than those people who choose to be monogamous. These are all terms that I have heard non-monogamous people use; from close friends, to my ex, to various people in chat groups. There seems to be this underlying belief that monogamous folks are somehow mistaken for their belief that one person can satisfy them for the rest of their life. That this viewpoint is utterly ridiculous. One person for the rest of your life? Madness!! All of your ‘eggs in one basket’? Just too risky.

To be fair, this point of view, this ‘non-monogamy is better than monogamy’ attitude, is in no way indicative of the general non-monogamous population. It would be preposterous to assume that this blog post is pointing a finger at all non-mongamous people out there – nope – not even close. It is just me puzzling through more of my own beliefs and expericences per usual.

Not everyone believes that monogamy is flat-out wrong and stupid, there are people out there that just know that it isn’t for them and hell, that is okay. Of course that is okay! I think that the bipolarization becomes dangerous when mono people are inadvertently shamed for their belief systems around relationships. The belief that many non-mono folks have is that monogamy is a societal construct of lies of epic proportion; that you need one person, a true love, a soul mate to sustain you and fulfill you is utter bullshit. And, if you buy into this lie, you have drunk the proverbial Koolaid, you are not a free-thinker; you are behaving in a way that society has trained you to behave after years of social conditioning.

Have you seen those old Disney movies? Enough said.

What about the ‘evolved’ piece; emotionally evolved, to be more specific? The word jealously comes to mind – people can experience this emotion in spades in both non-mono and mono relationships. This is a NORMAL feeling; and I have seen firsthand, in multiple non-monogamous chat groups, people being shamed for experiencing jealousy. That somehow this emotion is an indicator that someone is not cut out for non-monogamy; that they are not dealing with their deep insecurities – and perhaps both of these things are true – but it doesn’t make them wrong to feel jealous. I would propose that in ANY relationship, jealousy is an indicator that something is off – whether it be in the relationship itself or something that a particular individual needs to work on for themselves. And this is okay. We work through our shit – we do not feel ashamed about it or run from it.

And the emotional work – the ‘sitting with your shit’ that I blog about so often – is where I believe the answer lies. It is not a question of one lifestyle being superior to another, but something more fundamental to each individual out there puzzling through their own life.

If you have not squared off with who you are – if you have not done some serious soul-searching, no relationship will work. Period. And this is the lie that society feeds us, whether you are monogamous or not, that you need another person, or persons, in your life to feel fulfilled. Nope, I don’t believe that this is true.

Because here is the truth: if you are completely comfortable with who you are ALONE, without a relationship of any kind, it doesn’t really matter how you identify or who you are with. Once that piece of the puzzle fits, then relationships become an added bonus to your life. You can maintain your individuality while simultaneously maintaining a relationship (or many relationships if that is your choice).

People run from vulnerability, they run from being single, from being alone. People run from their true authenticity, from being their most raw and open selves. They seek out relationships to lose themselves in another person or persons.

This is the unevolved piece. This is the part so many people get wrong. And it has nothing to do with being monogamous or not.

From monogamy to polyamory………… a checklist (of sorts)

Do you have what it takes?

You have been thinking about becoming polyamorous. You find that the lifestyle resonates deeply with you emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. But are you truly prepared to unwind years of monogamy? Years of social conditioning and systematic reinforcement that you only need one person, a soul mate, a ’till death do us part’ relationship with only one human being?

Do you feel like something is missing from your life and from your self?

I want to challenge you to step back and take a look at yourself and your relationship; BEFORE you take that leap toward polyamory. The work it takes to sustain a relationship and a family is exponential. Add to that more relationships, more people, more time, and it can feel like your entire existence has been consumed by polyamory. Trying to figure out how to balance it all can be exhausting.

1. How are you with you? Are you able to meet most of your needs on your own? Are you okay with who you are? Are you prepared to face off with your deepest insecurities? To embrace that hard truth that you cannot possibly meet all of your partner’s needs? You need to be ready to stare into the mirror of self-doubt, of emotional and physical insecurity. And not only do you need to be okay with what you see, but you must own it and work through it. Do you know who you are separate from your spouse, separate from your relationship with your significant other or your kids? Codependency is a real issue that many couples who have been together for years face. How do you untangle that and decide if you can stand on your own two feet? When your partner walks out the door to go on a date and you are left home alone with your emotions, your unsettled feelings, you must be okay with feeling them and then talking about them with your partner. Having the time and the energy to process through big and sometimes uncomfortable feelings is absolutely vital.

2. What is the status of your relationship? Are you prepared to admit that your relationship might need work? To admit that you and your partner might need therapy? Have you been putting counseling off? Not enough time to make that appointment? Are you bored, restless, or unsatisfied; living life from one stagnant moment to the next? Are you connected in many different ways? Emotionally, physically, sexually? Do you take the time to reconnect by going out on dates? One thing that can be particularly tricky in marriages or relationships that have children can be finding the time to get out of the house and have adventures as a couple. Do you carve out the time to date each other; to see your partner in their true light, separate from their role as a parent? Or are you going through the motions in your relationship and putting one foot in front of the other? Trudging through life, because it’s what you’re used to; what you are supposed to do. If there doesn’t seem to be any spark there, do not seek to put a polyamorous band-aid over your realtionship. It will not work.

3. Hows the sex? Are you regularly intimate with your partner? Are you bored in the bedroom and does sex feel like a chore? Have you come to terms with your own sexuality and your own jealously and insecurity around sex within your relationship? Are you prepared to let go of control and fear and resentment when it comes to knowing that your spouse, your love, has sex with other people? Have you established clear boundaries around what this looks like? Will you use protection? Will you tread slowly or go all in? Safe, consensual sex is paramount within polyamorous relationships.

4. Timing is everything. What are the limits on how often you will date? What nights during the week will you go out, will your spouse go out, and what time will you have left over for your children and your family? Your friends? Polymarory takes a lot of juggling of time and priorities. This was a huge trigger for me. It takes massive amounts of time and communication. Communication and constant processing with your spouse and with your partners and sometimes with your partner’s partners. The amount of phone time can affect the quality of the time you spend with your family and your children. Do you have limits on how much time you spend on the phone? Is there a limit around phone use in front of the kids? We tried time and again to limit the phone use – in the bedroom before bed, while the kids were around. It was something we constantly struggled with and I had tremendous guilt around it and still do.

Do your research. Read as many books as you can get your hands on. More Than Two, Sex at Dawn, Opening, Non-Violent Communication – these are all very good resources. Have your support system in place as soon as possible. The poly community can be an incredible source of support for anyone embarking on this journey. You will need people outside of your relationship to rely on for processing and working through difficult situations. Discuss everything – the books can help with this. Do you believe in hierarchical relationships? Fluid bonding outside of your marriage? Limits around time and phone use?

If I can instill anything in my readers exploring polyamory – it would be these four things:

TRUST, HONESTY, COMMUNICATION, AND INTEGRITY.

After the Children

I am in the rabbit hole.

I am at the bottom of my rollercoaster.

My husband just called my blog – this blog – “absurd, self-indulgent bullshit”

My hurt is real. My feelings of inadequacy and rejection – those are real. My abandonment, my pain, my feelings of guilt, rejection, betrayal, ALL REAL. My blog posts are MY perspective on MY life. I do not understand why his opinion should matter so much; but here I am and I actually believe him.

I want an off switch for my brain.

I am trying desperately to emotionally separate myself from this man – this stranger. I know that I don’t matter to him in the way that I once did. And this is the most painful truth of all. I used to be his all – his everything. The center of his universe. And now I am less than, a burden, a woman he used to have sex with.

I am not sure of anything anymore and that is the codependency piece coming into play. Without his love and his care and compassion, who am I? Am I even worthy of those things if the one person who was supposed to have my back forever has bailed on me and taken them away and given them to another?

This is what abandonment feels like. This confusing space of what the hell has happened? Where did we go? Where are the 25 and 26-year-old kids who fell in love and had a life together?

We had babies, one home, and then another, pets, a mortgage. While I was pregnant with our first, he read to my bulging belly every single night for the entire 9 months. He gave me back rubs, doted on me, cherished and loved me with this adoring love that I had never known from him or from anyone else. Ever.

Now that I think about it, that was the only time he loved me in that way. During my pregnancies. He got so easily lost in being a working husband and then a father that I resumed my space in the outer rim, in the back seat. Jesus. It has always been about the kids and our family. Never about us. Never about me. I have been so blind. I have spent 16 years – many of them amazing – with a man who took me for granted. He took my love  for granted.

He was as codependent and lost as I was. We both nose-dived into being parents and a family and never carved out time for ourselves as individuals or as a couple. This is the flaw in marriage and in monogamy. First, society sells you the lie that you need to get married and have a home and a family. Settle down! Have babies! And the belief that monogamy is a one-size-fits-all is bullshit. No one person can meet all of your needs. This is especially true if you haven’t been able to meet them on your own.

We had been a sinking ship for years. It took a serious kick in the ass via poly to wake us up to the banality of the life we had created together and eventually felt trapped and suffocated by.

Compersion and NRE a blissful combination or a recipe for disaster?

Compersion. NRE. Two of the most popular terms thrown around in poly circles.

Compersion is defined as “the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship”. Jealousy be damned, if you are polyamorous, compersion is the mecca of feelings. If you are successful in feeling compersion, then Welcome, Friends! You are officially amazing at being polyamorous; you are in the poly ‘cool club’. A club I tried so desperately to be a part of but did not have the emotional tool box to manage. Which always brings me back to this: poly is intellectually pretty simple to grasp, but emotionally, a much more difficult feat to manage.

Jealously is a totally normal feeling and should not be ignored – it often signals that something deeper is going on and needs to be examined and hopefully worked through. And in no way am I saying that jealousy should be equated with love. It isn’t. It is insecurity within one’s self and usually the existing relationship.

Compersion can seem, to many, a lofty and unattainable goal. And, to be honest, it seemed that way to me during my failed attempt at polyamory with my husband. I felt brief glimpses of it – moments where I could think of his relationship with his metamour (your partner’s partner) as something amazing and fulfilling for him. I mean, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to fall in love all over again with someone after 16 years of marriage and monogamy? However, those fleeting moments of compersion were filtered through the eyes of someone who was in no way getting her needs met. And worse, that relationship became the vehicle through which my husband hurt me more deeply than anyone ever has in my entire life. A post for another time…

Enter in another catch phrase of polyamory, NRE (new relationship energy). NRE is that heady, happy, lofty feeling of, you guessed it, being smitten with someone in a new relationship. NRE and compersion should, ideally, go hand in hand. Your partner comes home glowing with NRE and bam! you feel compersion for them. Maybe these two things can compliment each other, but certainly not when the primary relationship is already struggling and deeply flawed.

My needs within my marriage were in no way being met (for a number of reasons) and hadn’t been for years. So, when my husband came home from being out with his metamour, I was left in this confused state of feeling ‘less than’, ‘not good enough’, and certainly not ‘special’. I totally own that this was, in part, my lack of self-esteem, but it was also the fact that as my husband dated this other woman, he did not ‘date’ me. The two of us rarely went out together and yet I was expected to watch him leave, two to three nights a week, to go have adventures with someone else, while I baby-sat our children.

Yes, I was, and still am, bitter, hurt, and resentful. Like I have said before, this is my journey and I have a lot to sort through. My relationship with my husband came with baggage; children, a mortgage, responsibilities. And I have to be honest, I am not sure how any long-term relationship can compete with a brand new one with a woman 12 years younger who lives in a van.

I think that NRE can become a toxic space for the primary partner that many people in the poly community celebrate and simultaneously use as an excuse for their partner’s behavior. NRE should not be something we need to ‘deal with’ or ‘get through’. NRE should not be the existing partner’s nightmare (as was the case for me). I challenge you to think of it instead as something the person in the extraneous relationship needs to own and help the primary partner through. Be it with extra support, extra love, and extra attention, whatever, but in no way should NRE be seen as something that the existing partner should suffer through.

It is difficult enough when opening up your marriage after 16 years of monogamy to unwind all of the cultural lies and confusion regarding monogamy. Soul mates?  Bullshit. One person for the rest of your life? Bullshit. Someone to complete you? Also, bullshit. Add to this total-upending and reevaluation of fidelity, the heady mix of NRE and the pressure that you ‘should’ or are ‘supposed to’ feel compersion for the person walking out the door, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This is especially true if you are emotionally unprepared for the hurt and the jealously that are TOTALLY NORMAL. I think in our situation, there was a severe imbalance – my husband kept up walls around me due to my codependency and trauma. I could be explosive at times, and he began to dread and fear accidentally triggering me. Things got so bad that he began to purposefully damage and hurt our relationship. And the more he distanced himself, the harder I fought back.

Until I stopped fighting and began to live a lie just to keep my family intact. It was a slippery slope of emotional confusion and exhaustion.

A lie, a dance, a nightmare that I woke up from one day and said, “I AM DONE”.