Cheers Sexy People!
I hope that you are having a great week! I am experiencing a challenging week I’m not afraid to say. I find that when I’m vulnerable with my sharing and what’s going on with my polyamorous life, I connect better with my readers creating a win-win for all of us. It’s great to talk about all of the wonderful NRE (New Relationship Energy) feelings when we are enjoying them. But if there’s one thing that’s for sure, particularly in polyamorous relationships, there will inevitably be bumps in the road along the way – so hold on tight for the ride! More people can often mean more misunderstandings, challenges, and opportunities for growth.
This week marks the first full week of four that my sweetie is with his family (right now locally) consisting of his wife, his young son, and his mother. They all live out-of-state, a several hour plane ride away. I am still trying to understand how my sweetie and his wife’s relationship works. He does welcome me to ask questions. But occasionally some of his answers are simply “I don’t know.” As human beings, sometimes in the absence of information, we make up stories. I am doing my best not to fill in the blanks incorrectly. All I know that he has told me so far is that she knows about me, knows he’s moving in, and she’s generally a monogamous person who is not currently seeing anyone else. Also I know at one point she said to him in regards to me “I never have to meet her.” When I asked earlier this week if he can please tell me more about what rules and agreements he and his wife have so that I can have a better understanding of how it works and what I am signing up for, his answer was “we don’t have any as of yet.” When I reflected on this later, I do have to wonder what is taking so long as he has been identifying and practicing polyamory at this point for several years.
I had anxiety about this approaching month of his family visiting since I learned about it. I feared and worried about what would happen. As I understood it, I would not really be able to see him while they were with him except maybe at lunch a day or two on days he is at work downtown.
Part of the struggle that I am having is immediately moving from what normally feels like a co-primary (very significant other) to a (very INsignificant other) secondary. Actually I am not even being treated like a friend of my partner, let alone as a valued person in his life. Almost non-existent. Or like a dirty little secret mistress. I feel unwelcome and not deemed as relevant in his life from his family’s eyes. It feels like I’m a doll that is being put on a shelf – “stay there, doll, and I’ll take you back down when I’m ready later. It will all be good then!” Also I am bummed to not get to know important people in HIS life. Short periods of time like this (such as a long weekend) I can handle. But long periods (like a month) is very difficult for me.
At this point, my beau and I have had a couple of heated and uncomfortable discussions about all of this. These are the messages that I seem to be hearing from him.
- You knew about this before you/we got into it. Why are you upset now?
- These feelings you’re struggling with are your issue. It has very little (if anything) to do with me or my actions or or beliefs.
- You just have to accept this the way it is. Once this month is over, everything will go back to normal and it will all be awesome!
If I had to say it in a nutshell what I am seeing and feeling, it is the following:
It seems to me that my sweetie is protecting one relationship and family at all costs while potentially jeopardizing the other. In this case that cost is my feelings.
What are the ethics in this situation? What is the right thing to do for either party? On my end, should I just chill, be patient, and shove my feelings aside? In a moment of clarity, I looked up the amazing and awesome Franklin Veaux’s famous bill of rights for wisdom and a way to try to reach an understanding hopefully with my boyfriend as he seems confused and unsure how to support me through this.
Secondary Bill of Rights (click for the full article, this is just an excerpt):
The best tool you have as a secondary partner is information. One of the defining characteristics of a secondary relationship is a power differential, and it’s vital to understand how that power differential will manifest itself in your relationship. As a secondary partner, your needs may not be given the same weight as those of the primary partners, but that does not mean that your needs are not important. It also does not mean that your needs should be disregarded by the primary couple. It is up to you to decide where your limits are, what needs are non-negotiable, and what you want to get out of your relationship. Bring these things to the table, and all the relationships involved will be healthier…
I have the right to have and express all of my emotions. I knowingly and willingly accept that being secondary may place limits on many things (e.g., sharing family holidays or vacations with my partner, having my partner with me in a time of crisis or celebration). My acceptance of that possibility does not mean that I won’t be disappointed or even sad during such times. Further, being secondary comes with some built-in challenges to security (especially in the beginning) and there may be times I need reassurance as to how and where I fit into my partner’s world. I promise to do my best to keep things in perspective and to avoid guilt, drama, temper tantrums, and pouting, but I ask that my partner and his or her partners accept reasonable expressions of doubt, disappointment, etc., on my part.
I have the right to be not just tolerated, but actively wanted by everyone in the primary relationship. I have the right to feel that I am not a problem or a compromise, but that I add value. This may sound unreasonable to some people, but the fact is, if I’m not wanted by my partner’s partner, that has an effect on me.
When I am in a relationship with one person, I am in a relationship with all the other people that person is involved with, especially the primary partner(s)—even if there is no romantic connection between us! If I am resented in any way by them, that resentment serves to undermine the secondary relationship and keep it from being “real.” It creeps into the rules that are created and the definitions that are set in place.
When one partner has problems with a poly relationship, it can tend to negatively affect a secondary partner, creating unhappiness for everyone. Compassion demands that everyone involved work to resolve any resentment that may exist on the part of any of the members of a primary relationship toward the secondary relationship.
I have the right to have a voice in the form my relationship takes. I am a person, with my own needs and my own ideas about what’s important in my life; even when I am joining a pre-existing relationship, I have a right to have some say in the time I can spend with my lover and other things about the form and structure of that relationship. If my partners attempt to impose pre-existing agreements about the form, time, or circumstances under which I may spend time with my lover, I have a right to speak up if those agreements do not meet my needs, and I have a right to have my partner and my partner’s partner hear me and consider what I say. That doesn’t mean they have to do whatever I say, but it does mean that I can and should have a voice.
Wow. Right? Franklin, that is flipping AWESOME! And that’s just an excerpt. I want to hug you SO BIG right now, Franklin! Actually, I kinda love you. 🙂
Anyway that helps put everything in context for me. Also I had great coaching training this past weekend and we discussed how we all have energy “blocks.” I tried to play out below what some possible blocks could be in this situation by any of the parties.
Limiting Belief – Something that you accept about life, about yourself, about your world, or about the people in it, that limits you in some way.
“Poly people who are not in the true primary position should be grateful for whatever they get. There are no “minimum requirements” needed or allowed for a non-primary relationship. Take what you get when you get it and be grateful.”
“Those in a secondary position or lower just have to wait their turn after the primary for however long that takes with no discussion or compromise, because their feelings do not matter as much as the primary.”
“When entering a secondary or lower relationship, one does not need to fully understand what they are signing up for, such as pre-existing or yet to made rules and agreements. They should just roll with it and wait it out indefinitely and see what happens even if they are not certain what they are ‘signing up for’ exactly.”
Gremlin – Your inner critic that tells you, in one way or another, that you’re not enough.
“I don’t deserve any better than this. It’s OK for me to be pushed aside and treated as irrelevant and non-existent by my partner’s family. My feelings don’t matter much, and it’s OK to not feel like a valued member of my partner’s life.”
“I’m fragile and must be protected.”
“I don’t deserve to have my questions answered in a reasonable timeframe. I have to abide by the ‘rules’ even if the rules have not been defined at all. Just wait indefinitely.”
“It’s OK if even my minimum requirements I deem as appropriate and respectful or what I will allow in my life are not met.”
How do those statements feel to you? Have you ever felt them? Have you internalized any in your polyamorous journey? What would your life and relationships be like if you dropped these beliefs?
Briefly, what could my sweetie do to support me in this situation? If indeed I do need to wait this out, give him the benefit of the doubt that he is working on bettering this on his end (such as defining agreements, helping create acceptance if possible, having needed conversations, etc), what can he do? Here’s a three step process I can offer:
- Acknowledge – When we acknowledge what someone has said (by paraphrasing), we let them know we have really listened, and care about what they are saying.
- Validate – We all have feelings and many feel guilty for having them. When we validate, we let others know they have a the right to feel the way they do. Example: “That makes perfect sense that you feel that way. Anyone in your shoes would.”
- Appreciate – If you are asking something of someone that feels uncomfortable for them or is out of the range of what feels acceptable to them (whether for five minutes or a month+), show appreciation for their efforts, patience, and sacrifices that they are making for you. Show in words, or a thank you card, or a thoughtful gift. Realize how far a show of appreciation can be to bridging gaps and creating connection. This is HUGE!
I do love my boyfriend very much, and I do have faith and confidence that we will both do our best to get through this and come out the other side with more personal growth and experience under our belts.
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)