I haven’t written much about this lately and after reading a blog written by a guy about being able to deal with things like trust, fear of loss, and jealousy in (I presume) their budding poly relationship, I got to wondering about a few things connected with this.
For a lot of people, having an open relationship is anathema to them; the thought of having to share their partner with someone else is enough to trigger projectile vomiting and can make one’s bowels quite watery. I cannot begin to give voice to all of the horrible thoughts going on in someone’s head when faced with this drastic change in the relationship dynamic and I’d have to say that, usually, if someone put this on the table for discussion, a shit storm of biblical proportions is going to take place. Things like a lack of trust, that fear of loss, jealousy, insecurity, and a few intangible emotions come to the front and I can tell you that none of these things feel good, not when you were raised to believe that monogamy is the best and most right thing.
A lot of people totally and utter fail to open their relationship because they have no idea of what has to be done in order to make it work; it requires some very serious changes, not only in the relationship’s dynamics but at the person level and once you firmly (and even rabidly) believe in monogamy, making these changes can seem to be impossible… and it’s not impossible… it’s just very damned difficult for most people to do.
Here’s the rub: If you love them – and I mean you really love them and, going into the relationship, you know in your heart that you (a) love them unconditionally (most people can’t do this, by the way – there’s always a “but” somewhere) and (b) you know that short of doing something highly illegal – like committing murder – you’d do anything for them, when hit with the open relationship/swinger/polyamory things, you have some choices: Do nothing and let whatever is driving this change continue to poison the relationship; divorce or otherwise leave them because your personal values are more important than the joined goals of living long and prospering with each other come hell or high water; or you can improvise, adapt, and overcome the difficulties in this because your love for each other demands that doing nothing or dissolving the relationship is not in the best interest of things for either one of you.
As I’ve written about in the past, I had to get through this change in the relationship dynamic and it wasn’t even close to being easy to do. I learned that instead of approaching this from a purely emotional standpoint – and that’s the “normal” reaction, I had to approach this in a way that would bring every bit of intelligence and logic I possessed to bear. Once I got over the initial emotional tidal wave, I asked myself a question: “If you love her (and there was no question whether I did or not), what are you willing to do to keep her and to keep the relationship alive and as well as possible?” The emotional side said, “Not one damned thing!” and went on a rant about being betrayed and all that… but the intelligent side said, “Well, now, there is a way this could work and here’s what I’m thinking about…”
Was this a trust issue? Nah, not really because I’d routinely trust her with my life and not give much thought about it. Was this about fear of loss? Oh, hell, yeah it was! Emotionally, my gods, that’s a bitch (putting it mildly) to have hammering at your but, logically, I realized that I was getting upset about something that is an occupational hazard of being in a relationship with someone: There is no guarantee (and despite marriage vows) that you cannot lose them to someone else and, really, nothing is forever – everything ends at some point. For me, it became an issue of whether or not I wanted to continue to be bothered by this fear when, in the face of cold, hard, unemotional, logic, there’s not a whole lot I can do about loss other than do whatever I could to prevent a premature loss or, if I did lose her to someone else, it wasn’t going to be because I did (or didn’t do) something to precipitate it. And, my mother was quite right when she once told me, “There is always someone out there better than you…” and, yep, emotionally that is so fucked up to get a grip on but, logically, it makes sense so if you think that just because you vowed to keep only unto ourselves and this will prevent this loss, you’re just sadly mistaken and pretty damned arrogant to believe that you will always be everything they’re ever going to need in life.
But because we do tend to think like this, we’re ill-prepared to deal with things; there’s the way things in this are supposed to be… and then there’s life’s harsh reality that’ll let you know that you are really clueless if you really believe that something can’t change or shouldn’t.
Was my reaction a jealous one? I’ll eat a little crow at this point and say it probably was even though, in my mind, it didn’t “feel” that way. Was I pissed because she wanted more than I alone could give her? Damned right I was! Was I scared and worried about what would happen if I didn’t “cave in” to her demands? Oh, you just have no idea and even I can’t begin to put into words what was going on inside me. I asked myself, “What’s going on with you about this?” and, nope, it wasn’t an easy question to answer but I had to question whether I was more insecure than I believed myself to be – emotionally, the answer was, “No fucking way!” but, intelligently, the answer was, “Yeah, you are…” and then figure out how to banish jealousy or anything that resembled it because as long as I was feeling these things, all the other fears would just feed off of it.
I can “simplify” this: Emotionally, does changing the dynamic make sense? Nope, it doesn’t. Does it make sense logically? Yes, the logic isn’t all that hard to figure out: If you don’t, you’re gonna lose them because you’re either going to leave them or they’re gonna leave you and if you forbid this, fuck, they’re just gonna do it anyway. If you do, yeah, you could still lose them – remember, there’s always someone better than you and nothing is forever – but, ah, is there a way to do this and (a) keep them by your side (b) make the bond you share stronger while (c) not letting everything go down the drain? Yeah, there is but even when the logic is sound – and in order for it to be sound, it cannot be tainted with emotional input – there’s still one very important thing that must be done:
Communicate. And I mean communicate like you’ve never done it before and you’d better be ready to talk about shit that (a) couples somehow never really talk about in-depth and (b) that just pain cause you some emotional pain along the way. And this is just in the beginning – should things get off the ground, communication becomes even more important and any failure in this is, bluntly, just gonna fuck all your shit up. I know some folks get into the open/poly thing and invoke “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this is an act of self-preservation… and a mistake that shouldn’t be made. Through our communication process, I saw that while this push to be open was “about her,” there was a way to make this about “us” – it was something we could experience together and I worked out the “growth factors” and some other really deep shit – but the thing here is that if we didn’t redefine the meaning of “open communication,” then I would have no information to work with; were I to invoke DADT, I was really disconnecting myself from everything and then only to preserve my own sensibilities.
Emotionally, that makes sense… but intelligently/logically, it doesn’t – well, it didn’t to me because I’ll admit to being a bit of a control freak and the fear of not having any “control” over the whole thing scared me more than anything else did. The real challenges for both of us were (a) are we smart enough to make this work and (b) are we – can we – be grown up enough to not only make it work but make it a thing about us instead of just a me thing.
You improvise, adapt, and overcome because if you don’t, you will make your lives miserable at the least or lose them at the worst. There are many people who just cannot do this; their own mindset about love and monogamy can instantly put them in a defensive posture. I’ve heard other who have been faced with this accuse the asking partner of being selfish – they’re only thinking about themselves – and being greedy – what, I’m not enough for you? – and one of the things that has to be taken into consideration – logically, not emotionally – is whether or not your rejection of this is, in fact, you being selfish and only thinking about yourself. Of course, most of us wouldn’t think that we’re being selfish if we pitched a royal bitch about this but, yeah, step back from the emotional storm for a moment and then think about what you’re seeing.
This is not an easy thing to do and I strongly suggest to anyone thinking about doing this not to do it unless you seriously have your shit in order before you open your mouth to your partner about it. But if you believe your shit is together and your love for your partner is strong and true and you can argue logically and your logic – your overall plan – is sound and you are willing and able to talk about everything that has to be talked about, then together you will be able to improve, adapt, and overcome the hardships so that your relationship and life together will continue to grow and not become dangerously stagnant.