Envy

Martina J here.  Last month I wrote about jealousy, and meeting your metamours.

Well, it finally happened. My boyfriend Sphere finally introduced me to his other girlfriend, Blue. (He broke up with his third girlfriend, who I called Greek, before I was able to meet her.)

On Sunday Sphere and Blue went together to the weekly event in the park that we all frequent. I briefly thought about not going, since they were going together, but I refuse to deprive myself of seeing my friends and enjoying an event I went to before meeting Sphere just because he is there with his other girlfriend.

I admit it’s still strange, seeing my boyfriend spend time at and leave an event with someone else. It was very clear we were not to be hanging out there. He was with her. But I mostly wanted to hang out with my friends that day anyway; I felt satiated in the time my boyfriend and I had spent together in the days prior. So it was mostly fine.

Blue was friendly and easy to talk to. It was mostly small talk. And I see similarities in us, even during such a brief encounter. She was even wearing earrings I own. Yes, I can see why he likes her.

It was challenging for me, but went well. I’m glad to have overcome that hurdle, and I made sure to tell myself afterward that I am proud of myself for being brave, and for being willing to have experiences society does not prepare us for or readily accept.

It got a little trickier later this week. Sphere and Blue are having serious issues in their relationship. In fact, they don’t even have sex anymore. Sphere told me he was feeling very sad about a difficult conversation they had on Tuesday. I tried to offer comfort, a listening ear, and support. But when he mentioned Blue is supposed to join him in going to another city for a weeklong trip to visit his family, I immediately got triggered.

I thought he was going alone. Picturing him spending an entire week with her made me so sad and jealous and envious. I cried and cried.

And then I felt even worse because here I was, attempting to support Sphere during his difficult time, but then getting upset with the details and having him need to support me.

I felt badly about being incapable of creating space for him to talk about his other relationship in that moment. I want to be supportive of all aspects of his life, but polyamory is so new to me that I found myself dealing with new information that triggered me instead of being able to just listen and support him. Ugh.

I was upset for many hours, and the entirety of the next day. Usually I can sit with things and get over it in a few hours; not so this time. He asked what he could do to make me feel better.  I told him I was, at the core, afraid he was going to decide he liked her better,  and afraid he would want to spend more time with her, leaving me feeling scarcity and loneliness. I was also feeling inadequate and insignificant, because family time is special, and I felt like he was choosing her over me. I told him I needed positive affirmations.

He obliged. He looked me square in the eyes and said it isn’t about him liking her better. I am not insignificant. He wants to have lots of special time with me in the future. He is not going anywhere.

It made me feel better. I am going through a polyamory jealousy workbook, which helped me to unpack childhood and adulthood experiences I had that inform my jealousy today, and assess whether or not my feelings are actually logical.

But at the end of the day, the feelings are just there. I have to accept them and not try to fight it. All things pass.

I am feeling a little better, and I’ve contacted a counselor with many years of experience dealing with poly relationships and am going to have a few sessions with her. It can’t hurt.

Jealousy, Comparison Brain, and Possessiveness

Martina J here again. Yesterday I was all worked up about a rather negative experience I had when I found myself in a situation where I was at the same event as my partner, Sphere, and my metamours, who he failed to introduce me to. The situation left me feeling a great big ball of complex, new, negative emotions: guilt, sadness, jealousy, fear, disrespect.

I took time for some self-care yesterday – left work to have a cry in the park and unpacked what really was making me upset about the situation: fear that my partner likes his other partners more than me. 

As soon as I had the thought I found it silly. Of course love doesn’t work like that. I immediately thought about the nonsexual relationships that matter to me most: my sister and my best friend. I don’t love my sister more than I love my best friend. I love them both equally and fully. This is something I need to keep reminding myself as I work on undoing 25 years of social conditioning that has convinced me love is zero-sum. It’s not.

Sphere and I had a long and productive talk yesterday. He owned up to his mistake in failing to facilitate an intro. He listened attentively and offered compassion. I expressed my struggles dealing with jealousy, unlearning possessiveness, and “comparison brain”: comparing my metamours to myself, worrying they are better than me.

I told him I’m realizing the whole “one true love” message that comes along with monogamy is actually a logical fallacy. Why? Because it presupposes that someone might choose you, and only you, because you are somehow “the best.” But none of us really are “the best.” None of us are better than anyone else inherently. We are all made of the same star stuff. We are all different but valuable. Wanting to be “the best” or “number one” is just the ego talking.

I’ve said it before, but I find polyamory to overlap with Buddhism quite a bit. When it comes to jealousy, part of my worry is my partner liking someone else more than me. The other part of that worry is fear of abandonment (he’ll like my metamour more than me and he’ll leave me), which is actually a future-focused thought. Buddhism teaches us to be in the present moment as much as we possibly can, to eschew future-focused thoughts, because they create anxiety and do not serve our well-being.

Sphere said he used to be where I am — totally new to all this. He used to struggle with the same aspects of polyamory that I’m struggling with. He said he made it a personal, self-development goal to practice poly. He said that while he still struggles and has jealous or challenging feelings come up sometimes, it does get easier. He said he now experiences compersion, or a happy feeling when his partner spends time with or finds someone else they really love.

I’m making polyamory a self-development goal, too. I’m working on manifesting compersion. I just ordered a few more books on the issue and am committed to working through my comparison brain, jealousy, and possessiveness.

And someday soon, I’ll meet my metamours, and it will be just fine. Because they’re not better than me, or taking anything away from me.

Meeting Your Metamours

Hi there. It’s me again, Martina J.  Let’s talk meeting metamours, and hostile metamours.

I started exploring polyamory seriously two months ago, when I met a wonderful man, let’s call him Sphere. I had seen him around the park at a weekly event we both frequent on Saturdays, let’s call the event Meetup. I constantly asked my friends, “Does anyone know who that cute guy is?”

Sphere ended up finding me on OkCupid, and we connected there. I didn’t have the guts to go up to him in person! I’m so, so, so glad he found me otherwise 🙂

I haven’t been this into someone in a really, really long time. I will spare you the gushy details.

Sphere has two other partners. One is a girlfriend of four years, let’s call her Blue; the other he’s been dating about a year, let’s call her Greek. The three of them often hang out together at Meetup.

Around the time of our second date, I told Sphere I was going to Meetup. Sphere called me to let me know Blue was going to be there that day, and she was very unhappy about him seeing me and did not want to meet or be friendly with me. I decided not to go.

Although Meetup is a public event and lots of my friends attend, and I have so, so much fun there, I ended up avoiding it for about two months. I wanted to avoid the awkwardness of interacting with my metamour (Greek), and being in close proximity to a second, hostile metamour (Blue).

The whole thing felt intimidating to me. Sphere assured me Blue’s negative feelings were not personal, it was more a reflection that their relationship was on the rocks and starting to unwind. He said that if I ended up at Meetup and Greek was there, she’d likely want to meet me and be friendly, though.

Although not ideal, it felt like avoiding Meetup was the right choice to give Blue space, and to make sure I was in a place where I’d be comfortable meeting Greek.

I have given meeting my metamour a lot of thought. The last time Sphere and I talked about me meeting Greek, I told him I was unsure about meeting her and felt intimidated. I wanted to cry thinking about it, in fact. But a week or so later I came around to the idea and wanted to at least be introduced.

I finally decided to go to the Meetup event this weekend. I had woken up in Sphere’s bed and knew he had plans with Greek that day, so I figured they wouldn’t be at Meetup.

Yet when I arrived to meet a friend, she happened to be sitting right next to Blue.

Blue’s unfriendliness cast a rather distracting and uncomfortable shadow over me all day. I enjoyed myself regardless, but then Sphere showed up with Greek in tow. He approached me, and said he’d like to facilitate an introduction with me and Greek. I said yes. I felt as ready as I could be.

But Sphere never did it! What followed was a very awkward hour of watching Sphere sit and talk to Blue, and presumably Greek, although I still am unsure which woman Greek was within the group of people at the park.

Sphere said bye to me without another word about my metamours. I left the park feeling horrible, and guilty, and rejected, and disrespected, and confused, and upset. I’ve been feeling that way ever since. I’m hiding in a private room at work right now to cry a bit.

It’s brought up a lot of new feelings. I can see clearly from Blue’s behavior that being a hostile, unfriendly metamour creates negativity for all parties, and I don’t want that. That’s why I want to be friendly with Greek, as challenging as it may be. Yet I’m also working on unlearning 25 years of feeling possessive over men I date, and that is no small thing to work through.

But I want so badly to be okay with all of it! To meet my metamours and be fine with it. I want to be chill and free and not give any fucks about the other women my partner is seeing.

But, the limbic system (the part of the brain that regulates emotions) can’t just be shut off when you want it to stop giving you feels. I am trying to be compassionate with myself while I work through difficult emotions, but I admit I’ve been having silly thoughts, too: Does my upset about this and intimidation about meeting Greek indicate I’m not really poly? Am I really cut out for this? Am I working against my inherent nature?

I want badly to be polyamorous, to be open and to be free and to allow my partners to be free, and so I know I will find a way to be okay with this. But I’m so upset with Sphere for not facilitating this interaction and making it easier on me. I would have loved to build a bridge and cut through some of the internal tension and anticipation I’ve been feeling about meeting my metamour.  

I plan to see Sphere today and talk to him about it. I’ll write an update as things progress. For now, I know that I am working toward a place where I will feel peaceful about meeting my metamours, and navigating the complexity of emotion that comes with it, and wherever I am in the process right now is okay. I am being compassionate with myself.

Intro: Martina J & the Relationship Escalator

Hi there. So far, you’ve been reading posts from the creator of this blog, Sasha X (or, SX) the 20-something Chicago-based female recently separated from her spouse and exploring non-monogamy. Today, we introduce a new character: me.

Let’s call me Martina J (or, MJ). I’m a friend of SX’s who lives in San Francisco. I’m also trying out non-monogamy for the first time.I am also a female, and also a twenty something. I’ll be using pseudonyms for the people I date, too. I have never been married, and all of my serious relationships have been monogamous. Yet I’ve been thinking about polyamory for the last three and a half years — or at least since that time I watched my friend’s eyes sparkle as she gave me the rundown on polyamory at my going away party, as I prepared to leave the East Coast for SF.

“Love isn’t finite!” she gushed.

I’m so thrilled SX invited me to contribute here. I started being serious about researching and practicing non-monogamy a few weeks ago. I had been dating someone I met on Tinder for 6 months. Let’s call him Designer.

Our relationship was mostly about chilling, watching TV (meh), and having sex. Really rough sex that was even sort of scary sometimes, but always safe and exciting. He was charismatic but it was clear he hadn’t met himself very deeply. He never really listened to me talk. So I was totally fine with this casual construction.

We never talked about our expectations or boundaries or goals with our relationship at all. So much went unspoken. I was pretty sure he didn’t want to be serious with me, but sometimes he would act like maybe he did. I was confused about what he wanted, but was sure I didn’t want something serious with him. He wasn’t right for me emotionally.

One night we were finally pushed to have The Conversation About How We See Us. Although neither of us was seeing anyone else, we were on the same page. We wanted it casual, open. Not trying to be serious with one another. Great. I was already going on a few other dates.

Then he got distant. Two weeks later, Designer called me up and said he didn’t want to see me anymore. He said he felt bad and guilty. He said he couldn’t get the nagging thought out of his head that we weren’t “going anywhere.” “What’s the point?” he asked. Yet he contradicted himself too, and also said he wasn’t even sure he even wanted a serious relationship! He was all over the place, and upset, and seemed quite mixed up inside. I felt badly for him. It ended up being an amicable separation.

I started reading into polyamory shortly after. I realized Designer was upset because we weren’t riding the “Relationship Escalator.” Here is how this site defines it:

Relationship Escalator: The default set of societal expectations for the proper conduct of intimate relationships. Progressive steps with clearly visible markers and a presumed structural goal of permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive), cohabitating [sic] marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. The social standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

I was sort of blown away when I read this (seriously, read the whole page). Finally, language that describes why monogamous relationships have always ended up feeling like a cage to me!

I’m mostly Buddhist. I strive not to be too future-focused beyond practical life matters. I believe in the power of the present moment. So I was never upset that Designer and I weren’t “going anywhere.” I read this somewhere: If you’re having a casual fling that goes on for 3 years, who’s to say that isn’t a serious relationship, anyway? If you’re enjoying it and having fun, what’s the rub?

The relationship escalator is a personal choice, but also very, very heavily societally ingrained. It is the default social order. That’s why Designer became upset at our casual thing. He had different goals. He wants someone to ride the escalator with him. And that’s fine.

But once I had language for it, I immediately knew I wanted to eschew the relationship escalator. And I feel so peaceful. Like a weight, a burden I’ve been unknowingly carrying around for years, has been lifted.

I always knew marriage didn’t have to be a goal for me. Yet I admit I clung to marriage and at the very least, cohabiting, as potential milestones that would boost my self-worth and value. But I’ve let it go.

I don’t have to ride the relationship escalator anymore, or try to find someone to ride it with me. I can enjoy relationships for what they are, not hope and strive for more or try to mash things into boxes where they don’t fit. I can be free. I can just be.

– MJ