New to Polyamory: Have You Been Here?

By Kendra Holliday | April 6, 2018

Temporarily, anyway.

Ed  Note: I’ve had many woman exploring polyamory contact me lately expressing their gut-wrenching emotions surrounding sharing their partner. I asked one permission to share her story with others, as it will no doubt comfort those going through the same thing.

I started reading about polyamory a couple of years ago. It started out of curiosity, but on the backdrop of “Oh, I could never do that.”

As that backdrop fell away, I found that this kind of lifestyle made more and more sense to me. I’d never had a long term relationship, and the idea of appreciating connections on all levels really appealed to me.

I decided to try it out. I joined OKCupid, and I went on dates with a couple of guys who were in open marriages…nothing really panned out there. Then I exchanged messages with someone who was smart, interesting, and poly.

On our first date (in a coffee shop), we ended up talking for over two hours. We hit it off immediately, plus I found him incredibly attractive. There was a point in the date where we both looked at each other and seemed to both think, “This is going really well!”

We started seeing each other regularly. The sex was (is) mind-blowing. So was (is) our mental connection. Slowly and organically we realized: holy fuck, we’re in love.

We became a “couple”. We aren’t out as non-monogamous to many  people. Some of my friends know–they’ve known I identified as non-mono even before I met him–but discussing my relationship with my mono friends has proved…troubling. I have tried to cultivate more poly friends as resources, and the online communities have certainly been helpful.

He has had a lot more experience with polyamory than I have. As I grew closer with him, I started getting nervous because…he was still going out on dates and I didn’t want to. He was still having sex with play partners from his past, while I found myself turned off to my previous play partners. Sex with an intense emotional connection was the only kind of sex I craved, and these previous partners and I did not have that.

He was very patient and loving with me–he knew I was having a hard time with it, and he even stopped seeing other women for a little while so we could work things out. We discussed why I felt the way I did…at length. I decided that I wanted to know more about his other dates, and after lots of introspection and talking, I realized that I felt left out.

Eventually he found that he felt restricted, and this was something I feared the most: keeping him from doing things he wanted to do. Still, that voice in my head was saying:

You’ll never be enough.

Wait a second, brain-voice, what about all that stuff about infinite love we learned?

Brain-voice: Fuck THAT. You’re just not enough. You never will be. For anyone.

Goddamnit. I know this isn’t true. I know this man loves me, and that I love him. Why can’t I be compersive, like he is? Why can’t I be excited for him? Why don’t I want to have sex with anyone else? What. The fuck. Is wrong with me??

He has a friend visiting from out of town this weekend, someone he knows from the internet, who he has never met in person before. They’ve had an online flirtation for a while, and she’ll be staying at his place for the weekend. I’ve been dreading this for months. The thought of her sleeping next to him in his bed, of them cuddling (let alone fucking) makes me want to tear my hair out. I’m tired of crying about it. He’s been so kind, reminding me how much I mean to him and how special I am…but all of that runs off of me when I see them kissing in my mind.

But come Thursday morning, when I leave his place to go to work after spending the night there, knowing this woman will soon be showing up later that day to stay there for three nights, I will say to him: “Goodbye honey. I hope you have a wonderful time. I love you.” And I will walk out the door, and get in my car, and fucking bawl and probably bang my head on the steering wheel.

Because compersion is a practice. Like yoga, which I hated when I first started, I’m bending myself into shapes I’m not used to. It’s not comfortable, and I want to just quit, truth be told. The tiny nugget of joy I have at this situation is surrounded by hot, seething fear and hurt. To extract this kernel, I will have to go through lava. I have to practice. But I know the more I practice, the better I’ll be at it. And ultimately it will make me a better person.

But for now, it fucking sucks ass.

Comments

EarthyAngel 2012-06-11 06:57:22

I’d love to see a story of a woman who has been through this already, and come out the other side. My own fiancee is struggling right along with the writer on this, and has come to the same conclusion… that she will eventually get through it, but she needs hope.

Reply

    Kendra Holliday 2012-06-11 07:19:41

    This story was initially shared with me about 3 months ago – let’s hope the writer can give us an update!

    ALSO, tomorrow I will post advice from seasoned polyfolk who have been there, done that, and came out a wiser, stronger person!

    Reply

    Anna 2013-08-22 16:59:05

    I did, I did! 🙂

    Reply

Jenn 2012-06-11 14:41:39

I think I deal with my partner being poly by just not thinking about that aspect of it. I mean, I spent 6 hours in a car with his other yesterday, and I like her a lot, I just don’t know how to deal with thinking about them long term, or any kind of emotions between them. I’ve realized it’s not the sex that bothers me, he can bang whoever he likes, as often as he likes. It’s when they stick around that it starts to eat at me. And then I feel like a failure at poly because I’ve not really found anyone that interests me outside of once, and I felt horribly guilty the entire time I was with him, and it made the entire experience this horrible, emotional thing that I don’t ever care to repeat. So thanks for sharing this… it makes me feel like I’m not the only person who struggles.

Reply

Kundry 2012-06-11 15:55:29

Yes, I’ve been there! And take heart, because while I remember it all so clearly it’s very hard to imagine ever feeling that way again.

My husband and I had been married for quite a while before we figured out that monogamy was a terrible idea for us. But even though we read everything we could get our hands on and talked endlessly with one another about all the important issues involved in sustaining an open marriage, once he began pursuing other women it was very difficult for me. There was a serious learning curve for both of us:

1. He’s gotten much better at choosing appropriate partners. He’d date these girls who would start out saying they totally got it, and within a few weeks they’d change their tune and express a desire to have him all to themselves. He had the sense to extricate himself from these situations immediately, but it was tough on me while it was unfolding.

2. We started out with far too many rules: when you need to be home, when it’s okay to spend the night, how frequently it’s okay to see someone, talk to them on the phone, etc. Relationships evolve according to their own unfathomable logic, not the rules we’d set for them, so when there was dissonance between what we had agreed should happen and what was actually unfolding organically, I’d flip out. I was always complaining about how he’d broken agreements we shouldn’t have made in the first place, which left him ducking for the punch and believing like I just didn’t really want him to see other people at all.

3. I don’t buy the whole compersion thing – that if you’re really healthy, loving and mature you’ll naturally come to experience happiness in resonance with the joy your partner gets from their relationships. The truth is, you’re going to feel what you’re going to feel. Sometimes you’ll be really uncomfortable with the situation. Sometimes you’ll appreciate what this other person brings to your partner’s live and be glad of it. But if you judge yourself for your own reactions that will only make you miserable. I don’t think that compersion takes practice. I think that dealing with jealousy requires practice, cultivating equanimity, and also being able to recognize when situations are pushing you too far outside your comfort zone and being able to discuss this compassionately with your partner rather than complaining and nagging and pointing to rules.

There were two things that contributed to my being as comfortable with my partner’s other involvements as I now am. One was seeing that in fact he did come home to me every time and that our relationship was enhanced, not diminished, as a result of his having other partners. Mostly because they were meeting needs of his that I either couldn’t or didn’t wish to – thus, he stopped looking to me for things I couldn’t give him, and that was a huge big deal.

The other thing was finding satisfying partners of my own. It’s one thing to have to try to sleep through the night by yourself while your partner is off having fun with someone else, and quite another when you have your own adventures to keep you occupied. I love my husband but I also look forward to his absences, as they mean more time with the others I love.

Reply

    Kundry 2012-06-11 21:00:46

    @Jenn, I was also surprised to find myself dealing with the prospect of my husband finding a partner w/ whom he shares a strong emotional bond. It’s been going on for nearly two years and shows no signs of waning, and most shockingly, she’s actually monogamous with him and they will often spend a week or more together. She has proved to be a good companion to him and to be totally respectful of our marriage and his boundaries, but this wasn’t what either one of us had in mind when we started down this path. I remember feeling really stunned when it hit me that she was around for the long term; I concluded that so long as it didn’t change my relationship with him and I was still getting what I needed from my marriage, everything would be fine, and if things got to the point where it wasn’t working for me I’d do something about it. It really doesn’t look like it’s ever going to get to that point – it has surprisingly little impact on my marriage. Then again, I don’t see her all that often, let alone ever have to spend 6 hours in a car with her. I like her just fine, but she’s his girlfriend, not mine.

    Part of our learning curve was realizing that I want from other relationships wasn’t necessarily the same as what he does, e.g. I wouldn’t want a relationship like the one he has with his girlfriend. I do have a partner I’ve been seeing for more than a year who I love madly, but we only see one another on average once every week or two and he also has a significant other who he lives with. And unlike my husband, I date a LOT. Interestingly, it didn’t bother my husband one bit when I was just happily screwing around, but he had a very hard time when things started turning serious with my boyfriend.

    I’d look for the source of your guilt feelings – were they due to the specifics of your relationship, or do you think they’d arise with any new partner? If it’s the latter, either you’ve got a fabulous opportunity to learn something important about yourself, or perhaps you just aren’t poly after all. It’s not a question of success or failure; I suspect you can’t will yourself to be poly any more than you could will yourself to be a lesbian, or a Republican (assuming you’re neither). If you’re not, it may have consequences for your relationship with your significant other, but it’s always best to be as forthright as possible in these situations.

    Reply

      Gwn 2012-06-13 10:55:41

      Kundry – great post. I’m in pretty much exactly the same place as Jenn, with many of the same problems. So great to see others going through the same thing. (One of the things I remember saying at some point was how much I miss discussions of EARLY poly days. I think there’s a tendency to either forget or romanticize how hard it can be to start, and that leaves a real dearth of voices for those of us who are in the same spot.)

      One of the struggles I have is that I have a LOT of problems with all the stuff described here, while still enjoying my “outside activities” with my guy(s). I hate how that makes me feel — doesn’t seem like I’m not-poly, just like I’m freaking selfish. But also don’t know how to get past how crappy I feel about the girlfriend and how much time he seems to want to spend with her.

      Reply

Amy 2012-06-11 23:54:17

Great comments Kundry!
I am not currently in an open relationship, but I had a year with my ex boyfriend where we were still sort of together, but we were also dating other people.
ABSOLUTELY it helps to met new guys for yourself! It may take a little while, but try to keep getting out there, go out, see if any friends have friends…
Sometimes there’s nothing like that new relationship energy to give your self-esteem a boost. And when you know you’re hot and that there are other people out there, you don’t feel as jealous.

Reply

fuzzilla 2012-06-12 11:02:25

It does sound to me like she wants *this guy* but not polyamory. It sound like the situation is making her miserable and it’s gonna implode (if hasn’t already as this is an old letter). But I agree with other comments that putting her energy into dating others and having fun herself is at least worth trying first to see if that helps (although she says she doesn’t want to and sounds like she might be distracted and not-that-into-it with other guys she tried dating).

Reply

Beth 2012-06-12 16:47:12

I believe in poly-life, but never tried it out until recently with my partner. Unfortunately it didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped, so we had a bad experience that we are still getting over. After going to couples counseling since the aftermath I have learned that our relationship did have some weaknesses that we should have worked on before hand. But the main factor was the third party, even though she knew the situation, knew that him and I were the main couple, after things started to get serious, she also got serious about being the main and only woman in his life. So things went bad fast and threw me for a loop. Emotions got involved, and it wasn’t pretty. So since then we are sticking with monogamy and working on our relationship. Even though at the time it felt like our 10 year relationship was falling apart, I do think our relationship was strengthened by it in the end.

Reply

Katja 2012-06-15 08:35:00

I’m monogamous and I have nothing against poly, but this story made me think… wtf? Why would you want to try to accept something that makes you cry and bang your head against the wheel? Just because you want to be poly to be special, because you think it will make you a better person? If you don’t like it, don’t do it! It’s as simple as that to me. I have no desire to have sex with other people and neither does my boyfriend. If he would, he wouldn’t be my boyfriend anymore.

Reply

    Brian 2013-08-22 19:24:50

    Excellent points Katja. Seems like a no-brainer but if it doesn’t feel good – don’t do it. But so many people squash their feelings “for the good of” their relationships. TBK has another post about settling.

    Settling only leads to heartache – and then more settling – and then more heartache after some explosion occurs in the relationship only after which you find yourself sitting alone at the Gas-n-Sip muttering under your breath, “How did I get here?”

    Don’t settle – just say no.

    Reply

polynewb 2013-08-25 08:02:44

Great post and excellent comments. Its a work in progress. I would love to have a new to poly support group meeting. I have no single or solo poly friends so if anyone would like to get in touch, please let Kendra know and she can give you my info. Hang in there; it does get easier!

Reply

    Kendra Holliday 2013-08-26 07:54:37

    SEX+STL is working on some discussion groups and panel talks – it would be great to have a New to Poly meeting, as well as a Polamory Panel where you can ask experienced poly people who represent various relationship dynamics how they do it.

    Reply

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