Jan. 4th, 2013

redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
There are a number of things I have learnt over the past 6 years as to what I need to feel safe and happy in my (poly) relationships. 2012 was a particularly challenging year, as I had bad health and was in a pain a lot of the time (both physical and emotional), my longer term partner also had health issues. I had met a new (potential) partner mid way through 2011, and she left the country only a few months after we met, meaning that our relationship over the last year has been by distance. With all these challenges many of the ‘ordinary’ poly ‘rules’ or ideas were quite hard to work with or did not work at all for me.

I am someone who does have problems with jealousy, but have learnt many strategies and ways of dealing with this. With my longer term partner, we have worked through a number of challenges in the in the last 5 years. Last year I was working through some of the same and new challenges with my new partner. The year brought new lessons and really solidified some existing ideas for me. These ideas don't include the 'basics' of poly, rather some 'stuff' that I think is a bit harder to learn.

These are some of the things I need/like to do, for me, in order for me to have happy, health, poly relationships and not necessarily in this order).

1. I believe you can have whatever kind of relationship you want with who ever. I don’t believe in primary or secondary partners, that implies some kind of hierarchy. What I believe is that there is a place for whoever you choose to have a relationship with and you shape it or work it out with them. Individual people do relationships and feel things differently, they express love and affection differently, and they express themselves sexually differently. This means that every poly relationship (and relationship, could be monogamous) is going to be different. Circumstances might, or could determine how a relationship is done. An example of this, is that I live with my longer term partner (J) and my other partner (T) lives in another country. Some might look at that from the outside and determine that because I live with J and T is a long way, away then T is secondary. T is very important to me and means no less than J. I have a different dynamic with both of them. I view both of them as ‘main’ relationships.

If I was going to have another relationship now, I think it would have to be quite casual, in terms of time spent with the other person. T is currently in another country, but if T & J were both close to me I would be giving both of them a lot of time. This is what I want from them.

2. I have learnt that comparing partners to each other is not the thing to do and one of the main reasons why people suffer from jealousy. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ is my favourite quote. It’s about appreciating everyone for who they are (and can be applied to many things). I have read many times, that by meeting your partner’s partner - however they might describe their relationship – be it some casual or something much, much more, can often demystify them for you. They are not the best looking, smartest and most interesting person that is clearly much better in every possible way than you imagined them to be. They are indeed often someone you can like and get on with and you may even have things in common with them and you may indeed have your own friendship with them.

3. I have found that I like to be friends with or at least ‘like’ my partner’s partner. I find it’s much easier to understand why my partner would want to spend time with someone I like, than someone I don’t know or don’t like. If I am feeling insecure and they are nice, I can rationalise, that my partner has great taste, and that includes me. I have had friendships with all of J’s partners in the past.

4. The past twelve months have been solidifying for me in some of my ideas. The main one being that I like travelling along in parallel to my partner when they develop an interest and a subsequent relationship with someone else. I do get feelings of insecurity when a new partner develops interest in others. In my experiences of poly, I have met my partner, they have been single and they have subsequently met other lovers/partners. This means I have been their main ‘interest’ or centre of attention for a while before they have had involvement with others. I have realised I really need to go along the journey with them. I like to know or understand that they might have an interest in someone else, and I like to be part of how it develops. This includes seeing them interact with the other person, along the way and seeing how their relationship develops. This is not done under a microscope, the last thing I would want is for the new interest to feel uncomfortable. I just like to know what is going on and when it is going on.

5. If I don’t see the relationship develop and have limited information about it, I feel left out, and this definitely does not help my feelings of insecurity. If I don’t feel acknowledged by the other person/new lover , then I feel a sense of rejection. It’s useful to know when they have their first ‘date’ or when they are first planning on having sex. I have found the advice I have read many times of keeping yourself occupied, doing something nice for yourself on these occasions does help. I have also found that you also know it’s happened, that step is over and then you can move on.

6. I do process my feelings of insecurity fairly quickly in most cases. I do lots of positive self talk about what is good about me and what my partner likes about me and I will also talk to myself about why the new person is nice and how it is nice for my partner to have someone else they are interested in.

7. I need to understand how I sit or what my role is with my lovers and understand how it is to be with them socially. By this I mean I need to be able to go out with them to events etc and know how it is to interact with other people as a couple. I have found that being in a distance relationship I have not had this and it has contributed to reasons why I might feel insecure. Distance relationships are their own kettle of fish, and when you throw the poly element into it, it can get more complicated. I don’t believe I would pursue anyone if they were at a distance in the first instance. In my situation I met my partner and we clicked, then she left the country. We had no sense of where our relationship was going when she left, we just knew we wanted to keep trying. I had never done distance before so I found the communication tricky. We have/did see each other every couple of months for a few days, but the added complication was that I was unwell. All this being the case I do not know what it is to be her partner around others, I don’t know how she is in general interactions with others, or how I ‘should be’ with her around others.

I have had other partners (much shorter term), who did not want to be a ‘couple’ in public or found it hard for various reasons. I also believe that be interacting socially with my partner I learn a lot about her and what she is like if she fancies someone else. I get to see her flirting, there is opportunity to desensitise by witnessing all sorts of behaviours that can assist me with any jealousy issues, very early on. This type of social interaction is something I have realised I really need or would prefer and is key to me in understanding my partner and dealing with any jealousy issues. It is a foundation stone in a relationship.

8. I do know that once I have been through some experiences of my partner being with others I am perfectly fine and don’t feel any kind of threat. I think this is because they have ‘proved’ that nothing has changed with me. I know when I first meet someone that I will be hurt, I prepare myself for that. I take this as a challenge to look at why I feel that way and question my own insecurities. Although this is hard at the time, I know I can do this and do my best to look at my own my feelings and process them. I believe I learn something new every time.

In my experience, this is always a very difficult thing to manage. No one likes to hurt someone they care about, and basically I think the other person is hurt by hurting others. So the dilemma here is that if you tell the person you are hurting then they feel hurt and bad and guilty. No matter how much you attempt to own that for yourself, you can’t stop the other person’s response. I always find this hard. If I don’t tell the person I am feeling hurt they might not know at all (in the case of distance) and I can move on in my own time. But then by not telling them it feels like lying and is not a positive step in a relationship if you are trying to be honest with each other. I don’t have a solution to this one at all. I guess it could come down to monitoring how I might tell the other person how I am feeling and have them also look more into why they feel so responsible for hurting your feelings, when in fact they have done nothing wrong.

9. Social media can be a tricky thing with any relationship. It’s important it is not used as a method of communication and anyone posting anything to be careful of who might actually see it. It is fine if everyone is on the same page and has an understanding of all the relationships and how they are progressing, but I think it’s something to be very mindful of, particularly if this is not the case. If relationships are being negotiated or if there has been big shifts in existing relationships. Everyone uses social media in different ways for different reasons.

10. I think with poly relationships it is not ok to assume that your partner is getting ‘something’ from their other relationship/s without checking with you first. I am not talking about a case of jealousy, I’m talking nuts and bolts. I have been in situations where partners have assumed that I am getting ‘something’ from someone else . Whilst one of the good things about poly is being able to share workloads etc it is not always the case.Check your assumptions with your partner/s, they might not be accurate.

11. The grass is not greener over there. This comes back to the idea that there is a place for anyone who is important to you and who you might want a relationship with, or who you might want to change the way you are doing your relationship with. It also comes back to not making assumptions. I have picked up bits and pieces of stories/information on people talking about primaries and secondaries, and I guess this is why I don’t like these expressions because it implies a hierarchy and also relationship styles that I don’t subscribe to.

However, some of the assumptions might be that a primary is somehow more important. The markers of this are things like physical proximity, shared bank accounts, time spent together and living arrangements. There is assumptions that this means that the person has more dedication from the partner. I would see this more as being a proven track record.‘Secondaries’ might think they are less important, they don’t get to see their partner when they want or as often, their partner is more dedicated somehow to their primary.

Suppose these simple things...

It could simply be that that person came along first, and this is the track their relationship went on. In a primary relationship it could be hard for them to get the ‘quality’ time. It’s could all be about domestic chores and managing the day to day. It might seem to lack romance that comes with a ‘secondary’ relationship. The partner watches as their loved one goes off for an exciting night with the ‘secondary’. In the meantime the secondary thinks they mean less, they get less time (perhaps) and there is less dedication and that somehow there is a time limit to this relationship.

Some of the elements of this scenario might have truths, but this is the extreme. Anything is possible. It can be difficult for the person who is the ‘meat in the sandwich’ who has to negotiate these negative ideas held by their partners. Shape the relationship into what you want it to be. Not all relationships work out, monogamous or poly, it is not more or less likely to collapse because you are poly or because you are monogamous. It’s about relating what you want.

It could also be difficult if your relationship shifts into something that you didn’t think it would be, or become. This is about coping with change and reviewing what it is you want from the relationship. The relationship may not suit you anymore; You may think you want more or less, or to spend more or less time with your partner. You may have a breakup with a partner and that means that you want to now focus more on one of your other partners. We all have different styles and things that we want. Talk about it with your partner.

12. I have found distance poly difficult. But this is my experience. In reality it is about determining goals and what you want from your relationship. It might be determined by how close you feel to the person, if it is casual and based on sex, you might be happy to see them a couple of times a year, if you feel you want more from the relationship you might need to discuss future goals together, including being in the same place. In doing this you will need to talk about how you might cope with the change and what your relationship might look like once the move has taken place. Simple and big things like living arrangements, how often you might see each other, how your partner will fit in with your other partner/s.

If your partner is in a different place, you might need to discuss how you fit in, if they meet another partner, or if they have another partner how you fit into the existing picture. Also if they are leaving a partner behind what you can do to assist them, if they need assistance and if they will see that partner again.

13. I like to keep the big picture view. Especially when I am feeling emotionally challenged. I bring myself back to this. I am poly because I know I can and have loved more than one person at a time. It hurts me when my lovers have new lovers, but I get over it. I know this because I have done it. I know it gets easier with a new partner over time and eventually the trust is very high and I almost wish they’d go out and get someone else so I can have some time to myself  The rewards far outweigh the short periods of discomfort I have felt.

14. I can put my partners needs above my own when I am in pain/jealous and in fact it is a good strategy. If they tell me what they need and we communicate openly I will try my best to assist/enable them into a successful new relationship.

15. When I am feeling inadequate and low, I try my best to look at why I am feeling this way. What is it that is driving it. I have found that being poly brings up lots of insecurities that might otherwise stay buried. I try to reflect and figure out what button has been pressed and to deal with it in the most positive way I can. I think being poly is helping me to become a better person because of the self reflection.

16. Safe sex. Practising safe sex is high on my agenda, it’s important to me to have the conversation very early on (before you have sex!) on safe sex. I also like to get an idea about what is ok and not ok with my partners in terms of sexual activities, I like to get an idea if we are sexually compatible and work out consent. I also like to discuss issues around latex use.

17. I am not into poly families. More into each person being responsible for their relationships. I don’t believe that consent is required from anyone for my partner to enter into a new relationship. As mentioned above l like to like my partner’s partner and I like my partners to like my partners. I believe that if I wanted to introduce a new partner and my existing partner/s didn’t like them for whatever reasons the relationship with the new person would not get that far. It has not happened to me as yet, that my existing partner/s has not liked the new partner, I consider myself fortunate here.

18. Terminology and meaning. I think this is an important conversation to have and keep having. I believe many people can potentially set themself up for heartache because there is a different understanding of particular words or labels. An assumption is made as to what something means, without discussion and then it is found later that the understanding was different. Some common ones I have come across; kissing – can be seen as vitally important or not important at all; sex- different understandings of what sex actually is; open relationship – a core relationship where two people are dedicated to each other but they fuck around with others (is one understanding but not to all).

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