Cheers Sexy People,
Last week, we discovered one of our beautiful koi fish belly up in our pond. My husband and I were immediately saddened and upset trying to determine what killed the lovely creature that we have been tasked with taking care of ever since we inherited our koi pond (it came with the house). When a living creature inexplicably dies that you are taking care of, it’s difficult not to feel guilty at first wondering if it was something that you did. Could you have prevented it? Are the other fish now freaked out that their buddy kicked the bucket? How do we better protect them and keep them safe? I was surprised actually that I got weepy over the fish, but there it is. Loss… of a fish. Ouch.
What… in the world does this have to do with polyamory and jealousy you ask???
Well, it took a few days for me to figure out the correlation. But here it is…
The emotions that I felt mourning the fish carried over into other areas of my life, such as relationships, in a negative way. And I didn’t realize it until the aftermath. In the moment, sometimes it can be very difficult to keep a clear and balanced state of mind when emotions are whirling around. Hours after the fish died and we were trying to do research to figure out why, my boyfriend went out on a date complete with a sleepover (at our house where we all live). I knew about the upcoming date, have met and gotten to know this upbeat woman, and thus far, I like her! So no big apprehension there. She is poly-friendly, thus I don’t think she’s trying to steal my love away to be monogamous with her, thus no threat that way. I have no reason not to trust her, and I believe she respects the existing relationships. Yay!
But the next day, I ran home to meet the fish pond specialist, and my boyfriend and his date were both enjoying lunch together. OK, that’s fine. They started discussing what they did on their date, going to an area that I have mentioned to my boyfriend that I miss, including visiting a bar & music hall that I have been dying to go to with my boyfriend, as he told me how interesting this bar & music hall was that’s near his old ’hood where we used to frequent. Logically, this should not matter that much to me. My boyfriend and I go on trips, visit all kinds of interesting places and do many “firsts” together. But in the moment, I felt a few small pangs of jealousy… Whoah, look at the time! Gotta get back to work! Anything to avoid that feeling and try to stay rational and friendly, and not become a raving, insecure lunatic. (I wrote more about dealing with jealousy here). So back to work I went. Overall, I was actually fine. But I did wonder if I should talk to my boyfriend just briefly about my feelings later, as a way to keep the communication lines open, and bring us closer by sharing some of my vulnerability with him, in hopefully a sweet, kind way… A way to continue to let intimacy grow between us.
Question: How do you know when to bring up a potentially difficult topic / conversation, OR when it’s better to work out your issues on your own, and let that sleeping dog lie? This I believe is an art knowing which is the better path to take. I think the bottom line is: will the conversation bring you closer and does what you may want to say NEED to be revealed (from an open and honesty perspective)? Or will the conversation become an unnecessary wedge between you, creating more distance? Hmmmm. I welcome your thoughts on this, readers.
So later that evening, I brought up what I thought would be a quick 10-minute conversation, expressing how I felt in a non-judgmental way, just letting him see a vulnerable part of me. It turned into an hour long conversation that did not quite go the way I planned. I was trying to get closer, get some reassurance and comfort during a weak moment. But the conversation became more of a tug of war. He thought: why feel jealousy over such a small thing when we spend so much time together and do so many wonderful things? Fair enough, but that wasn’t the point in my mind. I was SHARING, and trying to be honest and reveal my soft under belly to a loved one. We were able to bring it back around and then snuggle up to one of our favorite shows. The next day I woke up feeling like this was still unresolved, and unsure that I should have brought this up AT ALL! Rats, I thought I’d made the right choice. Communication and honesty are of course paramount in open relationships.
Later that day, I found the below polyamorous article – My Two Husbands – randomly via a Facebook link. Below is an excerpt that really helped me…
One of the biggest hurdles in non-monogamy — probably the hurdle — is jealousy. My husband was an incredibly jealous person back then, but he began to question its usefulness and purpose. Jealousy is born from a fear of losing a partner; if you believe that love and intimacy can be shared, and are not diminished by sharing, then that fear loses a lot of its power. It was liberating for my husband to step outside of the box that saw everyone else as some kind of threat.
Once he became comfortable with the idea, I began dating my friend from school. Those early days were not without challenges. Choosing to be polyamorous doesn’t mean you instantly flip a switch that extinguishes all jealousy. But it does mean that we seek to understand why we’re feeling insecure. Rather than saying, “You can’t do this with this other person,” we try to pinpoint what’s missing from our own relationship. We say things like, “I’m having a hard time, and I could really use some quality one-on-one time with you right now.” Being able to ask for what you need — rather than direct negativity at a partner’s other relationship — is vital in a polyamorous relationship. Opening ourselves up in this way was a revelation for my husband and me. We became more connected with each other than we’d been in years.
I shared some of the above with my boyfriend the next day, to help explain that even though I am very much a polyamorous person through and through, that doesn’t mean any and all jealousy goes away. Jealousy is not a rational emotion, and we don’t always know what will trigger us or when. And then it hit me: feeling some jealousy over this date nite out to a music hall that I’ve been dying to go to hit me harder because I was in a weakened head space after the fish died. I was all tweaked up on that fear of loss. Something died. Something went away, and I had no control over it. And it saddened me. Boom! Our mental state – whether weak or strong at the time – can affect how we perceive things and how quickly we can rise above them. Ah ha! I told him this too.
And actually, in the end, I did feel closer to him. And we understood each other better. (Also, maybe I THOUGHT I was asking for what I needed – some reassurance and comfort – but maybe I wasn’t all that clear at the time). It amazes me how many of us in relationships – whether polyamorous or not, but certainly even moreso for polyamorous relationships in regards to jealousy – just keep pushing through to the other side. If you really want to be with someone, you make it work. You do the work that needs to be done. You talk it out. You help each other. You get stronger each time. You strive to understand each other. You love each other and support each other through trials, whatever they are.
Love. Forgive. Appreciate. Connect. Improve.
Here is the full article that I referenced above if you would like to give it a read. I thought it was great!
(Side note: The rest of the fish are healthy and the pond is fine. The specialist thinks the unlucky fish might have eaten something poisonous by accident. Whew!)
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)
I love how you worked through this over the course of a couple of days. There’s nothing that increases drama like a good knee-jerk reaction.
Our emotional reactions are extremely complex, not often rational, and are often thrown off by other things that are going on around us that have nothing to do with the situation. Learning that we can take some time to let our emotions untangle — like you did with your feeling about the death of your koi — is a really valuable relationship skill. As long as we keep in mind the value of staying together, we can work pretty much anything out.
A thought about your question: I’m experimenting with the idea of objectives in communicating. While that sounds like it comes from a business background I think it applies well to almost any communication. Defining the objective behind a conversation can help determine whether you need to have the conversation or in what form you need to have it.
That objective doesn’t have to be earth-shatteringly huge such as, “I need to fix my jealousy” but can be more simple and subtle: “I need clarity”. “I need to let my partner know how I feel”. If you can go into the conversation with a goal in mind, keep to that goal, and stop when you’ve met your objective (or state a new one) you can keep it calm and not get derailed by drama.
Perhaps more importantly, in your situation, you can also let your partner know what you are looking for. I think in your partner’s position, if you’d approached me, I might have been thinking I needed to fix something which might have triggered all sorts of crazy behaviour. If you were to honestly say, “I just need some clarity” or “I need to sort out my own feelings a bit” then your partner understands your objective and can engage more fully in that process.
Maybe once you’ve got clarity and sorted out your feelings you can go away and come back later, just as you did, with another objective in mind.
I talk like I know what I’m doing. LOL — as I said, I’m experimenting. I actually am far more successful with this in business settings but I think it can work just as well in personal settings. The difference I think is in how much you inform the other party of your objective: I don’t always want people in business dealings to know my full agenda but I usually want my partner, or child, or parent, know what I’m looking for.
Sorry to hear about your koi. It can take us by surprise what these little creatures mean to us. Glad to hear the rest are doing well. 🙂
Thank you for your thoughtful response and for contributing your insights. Yes, it can be challenging to learn to stop, and think before reacting but we would all be better off if we did that more often, eh? That “pause” while we let something sink in and before we react can be crucial. And that is a good way to describe it: “letting emotions untangle”. That’s how it felt for me in this particular situation. And it also makes me have more empathy for those situations where emotions don’t actually get a chance to “untangle”, say if someone you love is very ill. But luckily, in this case, the rest of the fish were fine and it helped me move on and sift through my emotions in a not-too-puzzling way.
I like your notion about having an objective for a communication. That makes a lot of sense to me. When dealing with relationships, it’s easy to just put our “feeler” hat on and feel our way through it, but sometimes, being extremely logical can be very helpful. Very sound advice, thank you for sharing here.
And your next piece of advice was great too: to very clearly let your partner know what you are looking for to help them get more fully engaged in the process and get them “on your team” by reaching a hopefully attainable goal with you, and therefore, have a more productive conversation as a result. Brilliant!
And yes, I miss the fish. I know it’s just a fish. But I miss him (or her) anyway. I hope he/she is in fishy heaven. 🙂
To try and answer your question: I’d take it one step further meta. I sometimes tell my partners that I am working through something, but that I want to give it a shot on my own and I will let them know if I need anything specifically. That way at least they are aware something is processing in the background.
I was just thinking the other day about emotional ripples like the one you described. Both good and bad internal feelings tend to propagate, and we might not be conscious of their spread. In that way, I’ve found it really valuable to check in with my partners about how I appear to be doing sometimes, just to make sure that those lines of communication are open in case something does happen.
Thank you for contributing your thoughts, Peter L. I liked your thoughts and perspectives based on your experience with your partners and what works for you. And I agree with you that feelings are contagious. That’s partly why even though I’m a woman and it’s typically a “man’s response”, I often “go in my cave” when I’m really down or really processing something that I feel I want to think on on my own, partly so that I don’t bring others down. When you can’t get alone time for some reason though, you need to process on the fly and/or as you suggested, ask for some time or their feedback on how you are doing.
I appreciate the poly community we are creating here, and I value your feedback. I enjoy your blog, by the way! 🙂