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.

The Single Slut

pexels-photo-89820In the book Ethical Slut, a person without a primary partner is described as a single slut. This person may be seeing no one or may be seeing a few people, but they aren’t really committed to anyone in a deep way.

I had thought Spouse could be my primary partner. But I realized recently that I don’t actually feel that he is. Words like primary only have the meaning we put behind them and only matters insofar as they inspire action. The truth is, I don’t trust Spouse again yet and while I was fulfilling his needs in a primary partner, he was not fulfilling mine.

This became obvious when he forgot to wish me a happy birthday and couldn’t understand why that felt upsetting to me. I should be clear in saying that Spouse is not a jerk or an idiot. In fact, he’s very kind and very intelligent. But certain basic things that come to other people seem to elude him completely. I’ve often theorized that he exists somewhere on the spectrum, but who really knows.

But there was this moment when we finally talked about him forgetting that I realized: this man is not my primary partner. He’s a man I love, a man I grew up with, a man I hope will always be a part of my life. But he is not my person anymore. He cannot now and may never be able to be the kind of primary partner I need.

In the same week, Storyteller, who I had started to become quite close with ended things with me. I started seeing him before transitioning to nonmonogamy and so he really didn’t sign up for this. We both knew that eventually he would choose to be monogamous with someone else. I’m very sad that that day came. But I understand.

So that leaves me with a few things. There is Feathers, who already has a primary and who I wouldn’t want to couple in that way with in any case. Then there is Spouse, who I am disentangling myself more and more each time things like this happen. And then a few relationships that are sporadic and primarily sexual in nature.

And so, I am something of a single slut these days. And that’s a good thing. Losing Storyteller and in some ways, Spouse has made space in my life for whatever is next and I can’t wait to see what that is.

 

Dividing the books

Spouse and I decided it doesn’t make sense to live together in our old apartment again. For years we haven’t slept in the same bed anyway, one of us always ended up on the couch. He snores and we both have serious sleeping problems. We also have very different ideas about acceptable levels of cleanliness at home. And now, with non monogamy, it’s hard to imagine living together again. 

Anyway, it’s a decision we both feel good about. Our lease is up in August and depending on how things are we may move into a two bedroom and have separate bedrooms and hire a cleaner. Or, separate apartments in the same building. Or on the same block. Who knows. 

But, I won’t be moving back into the place we built together. So today, I went to go get the rest of my things. Not every last item.. and it isn’t time to divide furniture or anything. 

The process of packing the rest of my things up, alone, was sadder than I expected. Especially dividing our books. Spouse and I both love to read and own the books we love. 

I remember when Spouse and I moved in together after we got married, we had such a great time combining our books. We were so young and totally poor. In fact, we had a pile of blankets in the living room we referred to as our “couch” for months and we could not afford book shelves. So we sat on the wood floor in the sun from the big front window, categorizing and stacking our books, telling each other the signifance of many as we did. It is one of my most tender memories from the beginning of our marriage. 

So today, as I scanned our bookshelves in our fancy apartment downtown, I felt so sad to be dividing our collection. It was also hard to decide who kept what. Some were mine before but became favorites of his and vice versa. Some we bought one another and even harder, the books we bought together because we both wanted to read them and both ended up loving them. 

Even though this isn’t the end of our marriage, it is the end of our marriage in the way it had existed. I tried to remind myself of the months I spent crying myself to sleep out of pain and loneliness in that apartment. I tried to remind myself that this is the right choice for us both. I tried to remind myself that we are happier now. But it still hurt to separate those books and bring them to my new place. 

I also took some things from the walls. I had carefully constructed a collage above our king sized bed of pictures of us, our dogs, our families, our vows written out in beautiful calligraphy and framed, dried flowers from our wedding day, and some of our favorite art. I just took two small things from the collage because disturbing it too much felt wrong. Although our marriage wasn’t working, it also needn’t be destroyed. Just reworked. Which this collage will also need now. 

So I spent a lot of the day crying to sad music as I sorted. But. I finally feel fully moved into my new place. I’m glad I did that alone. I am truly on my own for the first time in my life. I still relied partially on my parents before I met Spouse and then when we got married I took on so much responsibility for our lives. So even though he’s still in my life, I don’t know that we’ll ever combine lives the way again. 

And so, dividing the books was emotional, but as I’m laying here in bed looking at my full collection of poetry, I feel calm. 

One night stands

Plural. I’ve had a few lately.

I’ve been trying to track down some things that I want. In life. In love. And I’m not a whole lot closer to knowing those things. But I am a little bit closer. For example, I learned I’m not really interested in one night stands.

I do like a fleeting experience or a thing that could never be. In fact, I invested quite a lot into what I called ‘travel boyfriends’ over the years when I’d travel.

But now, staying in one place, it isn’t very appealing. Particularly if non-monogamy is in play. Because, if it’s a good experience, I’d like to repeat it. And, if it’s a bad experience, then I guess that’s a one night stand? But why aim for bad experiences?

Last week I had two one-offs. The first was an older guy I met on Tinder, newly single after 7 years. Truly charming and sweet and I wanted to see him again. But later he said he wasn’t ready. I’m choosing to believe it. The second, a writer, a satirist that cycled to meet me and girlfriends late on a Saturday night. Funny, cute. I still want to see him again. But I think, for him, it was a one-night thing.

Le sigh.

It was a revelation really. The fact that I could be sexually empowered and actually that meant I could say yes & no.

What do I want?

 

*I wrote the following a few weeks ago, but didn’t feel satisfied with it, so didn’t publish. But, this isn’t a place for only finished products. So. Here it is.*

 

My therapist asked me a question last week and I feel shocked and kind of embarrassed that I had never asked it of myself. The question was: what do you want out of love and Spouse specifically.

I don’t have a full answer and I imagine it will be a moving target throughout my life. I desperately want to make lists and categories and check boxes, but only to soothe my fear of what is true: it’s a bit of a nebulous thing, subject to change and circumstance. So here it is today. What I want. We’ll save what I can offer in return for another post.

I want to have sex. I want to have a few men who love to have sex with me. I want both comfortable, satisfying sex and adventurous, wild sex. And I want all my sexual partners to be good communicators about what they want in bed.

I want emotional intimacy. I want men around me who share of themselves and with whom I can safely share. I want to lie in bed under my twinkle lights and stroke one another while we talk about love and risk and family.

I want to always be open to new things. I want to be receptive to each person and what they can show me. I want to try new things with new people for the hell of it.

I want someone to know me and me to know them, but never take that knowledge for granted.

I want someone to eat cookies in bed with and most nights, I want my bed all to myself.

I want a reliable partner. The kind that will drive you to get your tonsils out and cares for you for days.

I want to have men who challenge me and surprise me. I want men who never stop asking questions.

I want brilliant men who know when it’s annoying.

I want men who won’t let me push them around.

I want men who don’t need me but want me.

 

 

 

Sometimes you accidentally sext a total tool

Most people in my world have been super open to the idea of non-monogamy. They are adults with a nuanced view of relationships and love and sex and marriage. Well, I just got a reminder of how much this is not the norm.

Sometimes, when I have a free night and I want to get off, I will sext with a random. I’m really into dirty words and so this works for me. The other night I met this dude on Tinder and he didn’t immediately seem like a dudebro, he was cute and nice and down. So we got on snapchat and sexted. It was hot and fun.

Since my Tinder profile says I’m nonmonogamous, I sometimes get questions right away on what that means. So this dudebro knew I was married, dating and sometimes sexting. I have nothing to hide, so I told him all that. Then today, he comes at me on snapchat asking me why I’m married and why I don’t just get a divorce and why I don’t love my husband. YIKES YIKES YIKES!

This is the first time I’ve had such an intense reaction from someone. He was pissed that I don’t live with Spouse and that I was an adulterer. I’m like “YOU SEXTED ME TOO MOTHERFUCKER!”. What a fucking tool. This narrow-minded obsession with how relationships ought to be is super common, the norm, even.

He continued on asking me why I don’t just live with my husband instead of moving out and fucking guys on Tinder. He also told me that my marriage vows included fidelity. I was like “actually, we wrote our own vows and they didn’t say that” haha. WTF, though. I do not know why this person felt like they should attack me for my choices. Maybe it’s threatening to him somehow? I get that. I guess. But the vitriole, I do not get and do not accept. Jesus Fucking Christ.

I told him he was a dipshit and then blocked him. UGH. Lesson learned, be a little careful about who you talk to about this shit because you may get randomly verbally attacked by dudebros from Tinder.

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

Livin’ that low bar lyfe

I have expressed it before and I’ll say it again: I might be married to an idiot savant. He can explain in depth disease processes and philosophy theories, but he also recently asked me where one buys stamps….

I’m not sure how much of this is him and how much is society’s low expectations of men who achieve highly in certain realms. As I’ve told other friends these stories about my genius spouse missing the most common sense, basic life management principles, I’ve learned that he’s not the only one who can’t seem to get it together.

G told me:

“I’ve been to guys houses with dishes sitting in a dying rack and a load of towels in the washer and I’m like dayyyyuuuum!”

The first year Spouse and I were together during tax season he said “oh, taxes. Is that something I should be doing?” and I thought “oh you beautiful idiot. I will take care of you.” PUKE. In my defense, I was 22 and experiencing the equivalent of ecstasy in my veins from *LOVE*.

This year, tax season is coming up and Spouse has said he will do our taxes. We’ve talked endlessly about how I unfairly managed every aspect of our practical lives our whole marriage. So, the taxes would go a long way. But I am skeptical of his ability to manage it. We have a date tonight. If he manages to file our taxes today, I swear to god I will fuck his brains out. 

But. This is a low bar. Like, if my partner does something that everyone has to fucking do that I have been doing for us both for YEARS, I am going to be extremely impressed. Um. WHAT?

I’m not the only 20 something who has been partnered with a manchild and therefore lives that #lowbarlyfe.

G also said:

“Oh one time I went to this guy’s house and we were going hot tubbing and not only were his towels clean but they were folded in a cupboard. We fucked.”

How did our expectations of the men around us drop SO MUCH?

When I was dating Barista, he’d wake up before me and clean his kitchen and I’d be like “wow, he’s really got it together”. *eye roll*. I told my therapist this once she noted that I was living that #lowbarlyfe. It should not be impressive to us when men we date do the BARE MINIMUM of life management.

We should not get dripping panties when a guy says “I’ve got to go to the store to buy more body wash.” But alas, here we are. Looking for men who can do basic things like pay the rent on time and keep their spaces relatively clean.

L says:

“It’s very difficult to hook a guy with good hygiene and a design sense.

This may be the new feat for the modern woman.”

Agreed, L, agreed.

WTF is a dental dam: Or, how abstinence-only sex ed failed me

I am an adult. A sex positive adult. An open and progressive and educated adult. I have been sexually active to some extent since 2006. So how the fuck have I missed SO MUCH over the years in terms of sex education?

My first brush with misinformation causing me personal turmoil came at 14. I got pushed in a pool and ended up borrowing my boyfriend’s basketball shorts. I was wearing a thong and in my adolescent mind, I was sure I had gotten pregnant because he probably jacked off IN HIS SHORTS at some point and my thong left my vagina OPEN TO SEMEN.

After that, I figured a few things out. But still, at 19 I had another insane brush with misinformation about sex! I had full-on penetrative sex for the first time (not counting a one-time encounter with the biggest penis I’ve ever seen in high school). More on both of those another time. But, even though the guy didn’t cum – we were both halfway trying to be Mormon – I was SURE I was pregnant. Even though he didn’t cum and even though I was on birth control. I know that I could have been pregnant despite both, but those chances are TINY!

Anyway, the last few months I have been on something of a sexual rumspringa. And I thought I knew the basics about STIs and pregnancy and risk factors with different acts. Which is why I was shocked and mortified to find out how much I didn’t know when reading a book about non-monogamy.

Here’s what happened: Spouse and I decided to date again about a month ago and the intimacy we experienced in making that decision opened us up to have sex for the first time in almost a year. Before that happened, Spouse asked if I had used protection with other partners and I said yes. Because I had been using condoms with everyone but Barista, who had been tested before we had sex. Remember that Spouse is a doctor, so it was a practical and smart question. So we had condomless sex. Yay!

The next day, I read the chapter in my book about safer sex practices and was horrified to learn that dental dams are a thing! And a thing I maybe should have been using! I spent the next 24 hours doing a deep dive on sex-ed. I took my sexual health in my hands. I read up, set up an appointment for testing and started considering what my level of comfort for different risks really is.

Then I saw Spouse again. And I told him that I had not been practicing protected oral sex. He was really upset. In his mind, when he asked if I’d had protected sex, he was asking if I’d used a barrier for every single act. In my mind, it meant, did I use a condom for penis-in-vagina sex. Upon telling this story to friends, they agree with me, and knowing Spouse, they laugh at his perspective.

It’s not that we think protected oral sex is a joke. It’s not. But Spouse is a total dork. It’s one of the most endearing things about him. He’s an actual genius, but he can really miss some obvious things. And I was his first sexual partner. So, of course, he didn’t know that most people don’t use a dental dam or a condom for oral sex (though maybe more of us should). In his doctor mind, he thought “of course everyone uses all protective measures”. haha

Sweet angel.

We used a condom that night but haven’t had sex since. I told him I’d use protection with other partners in every way. And I intended to…

But after that conversation, I realized I’d like to renegotiate the oral sex thing. After talking to my NP and getting a clean bill of health STI wise (yay!), I’ve decided that if I’ve had a good talk with a partner on their history, that I don’t want to use a dental dam or a condom for oral sex. I haven’t told him this yet because we haven’t been physical again since and also, I’m a chicken shit and don’t want to have to say “no rubber between my pussy and a tongue, sorry Spouse”.

But alas, I gotta do it. Wish me luck?