Having been “successfully” poly and pretty open about my lifestyle for about seven years with my SO, and not so successfully poly with my ex husband for about two years before that, I have grown pretty accustomed to being asked all kinds of questions about poly in general and about my life in particular. How do I make it work? Why didn’t it work with my ex? What kind of advice would I give to new people just embarking on a poly life? Because I talk openly about poly on my OK Cupid profile, about half of the many emails I get on there are questions about poly as well, as opposed to people hitting on me (darn! lol) The following question from a fellow OKCer may be one of the ones I get asked the most though.
I guess my number one question is: Is it normal for me to freak out a little? It’s something he and I both want…in fact, it was my idea; no pressure from him at all…but I still get nervous thinking about him with another woman.
This is something I’ve wanted to write about for some time. Occasionally I hint at issues I may be having, when I am feeling insecure or jealous, but I don’t talk about it too much, which, frankly, goes against the grain for me. I want people to know that sometimes, yes, it’s a struggle. Yes, I do “freak out,” sometimes more than “a little.” I’ve had my share of insecurities and worries and anxieties. (Ad just read what I am writing and chuckled. I hit him with a pillow.) But because my most recent struggles with this have involved someone that reads my blog–or rather, used to–I didn’t feel comfortable sharing that kind of stuff here. Now that that is over, I probably will talk about it more often–what worked, what didn’t–because I think it’s important to have these kinds of examples out here in blogland. Maybe it will help someone else dealing with the same things, you know?
The fact of the matter is yes–it is normal to “freak out a little.” (It’s also normal not to, although I have met very few people that have honestly told me they never suffered from some, at least occasional, anxiety about sharing their partner with someone else.) We have been raised in a society that thrives on the “scarcity” model–the model that says there is only so much love, and if your partner is giving that love to someone else, he or she has less of it for you. We are also acculturated to believe that being competitive is a good thing, and that we must compete for the love and attention of our paramours. If he/she is paying attention to someone else, that someone else has “won” in a way.
It’s also perfectly normal, when you are just opening up a relationship, to have some fears and anxieties about what will happen. Most people are scared of the unknown, and trying to negotiate your way through the beginnings of opening up a relationship, with so few examples of them out there, is definitely an unknown. Even if you did have scads of healthy, non-monogamous relationship models out there, it still doesn’t mean that you can know what you will feel like when it happens in yours.
As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, my attempt to open up my marriage was a big fat failure. It failed mostly because he is monogamous, true, but if I am being perfectly honest, it also failed because I didn’t handle poly well. I handled my ex sleeping with other women just fine (especially when I was there, yumm) but when he fell in love with one of the women we were seeing, I totally lost it. “Freaked out a little” doesn’t begin to describe it. I had a major meltdown. And the result of that meltdown was that, even though we managed to work through it, he never trusted me again not to freak out when he got involved with someone else. That was an extreme case, to be certain. But it goes to show that we just never know how we will react in a given situation. Up to that point, I never would have thought I’d react that way.
The things is, we don’t have control over what we feel. We feel what we feel, right or wrong. What matters is how we manage it. I learned a lot from that first freak out. And I have applied that learning to the times now when I feel insecure, so, in the long run, it was an important, valuable experience, even if I do regret the pain/confusion I caused my ex. And yes, I do still have those moments, those “freak out” moments, even now, even in these two wonderful relationships I have, in which I know I am loved and have no fear of losing that love. I have come to realize it is part of my nature, but more than that, it may be part of most people’s nature, whether that is because we have been socialized to it or it is innate.
I’ll talk more about my own methods for dealing with those moments in another post.