This week, I am honored to feature a guest blog post from a good friend of mine that I met through this blog here at Loving Without Boundaries. Her name is Louisa Leontiades and I have interviewed her in the past here. Louisa is a blogger and author that lives in Sweden. She is the mother of two small children, and lives with them and the father of her children. We have been friends for quite awhile now, and support each other’s efforts as writers. She is releasing several books this year, and has a thriving blog at PostModernWoman.com with oodles of awesome and handy information. I hope that you enjoy this guest blog post! I sure did!
I am once again humbled. It happens a lot nowadays and I kind of like it, as it usually means an “a-ha” moment, a piece of learning which floats through the stream on my Facebook feed. But peculiarly, this time I am humbled by the writing of my former self. And believe me, no one could have been more shocked about it than I. Really, I thought, have I ever been as wise as the words I write?
In what appears to be a surprisingly wise moment, I wrote a companion guide to The Husband Swap called “Lessons to my Younger Self” which is now going through the review process. Three months had passed since I put it aside, but surely since I wrote the damn thing, I would know the lessons. Or not. Because as I read it through again, I see that only yesterday, I forgot one. It’s the same one I forgot when I was twenty, thirty and now forty.
You have the freedom to choose which relationships to keep and which to let go.
I’m lucky that I had that wise moment, even if it disappeared afterwards. I’m even luckier that I wrote it down when it occurred to me. But lessons remain lessons, languishing in books if you don’t practice them. Even if you’ve written those books yourself, because I’ve rarely been in a position since where I have had to use this lesson. Yesterday I did.
My partner met his ex-wife for a drink, my ex-sisterwife from the old days of our polyamorous quad. She’s a woman I no longer see and no longer care to see – because ours was one of those relationships which did not serve me in any way. I thought I’d learned that it was okay to let it go. But when my partner asked me whether I’d also like to meet her, I said “no” and then itched my way through around 30 minutes of guilt, forgetting that I was perfectly within my rights to choose. The sad truth is that when there is a broken relationship, you often try far harder to repair it than simply recognizing that this particular relationship isn’t healthy for you – forgetting that a relationship is made up of more than one person. Surely, I thought, if only I were more emotionally mature, I could meet her. I could heal this broken relationship.
So often in polyamory, we are encouraged to “work through our issues” and “take ownership of our shit”. That’s great advice, because so often our issues do come from our internal triggers. Pain from the unhealed wounds of our childhood resound through our adult years and whisper fears into the chaos of our minds. But our formative years, unhealed wounds and all, play a large part in defining how we operate and what we need from life to be happy. Sometimes those needs, and the strategies we use to meet them, clash so severely that another person’s strategies encroaches on another person’s needs. It was our case (for several people). That’s why all individuals in a relationship also have the right “to choose the level of involvement and intimacy [they] want with [their] partners’ other partners.”~ Relationship Bill of Rights, Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert.
That wasn’t a right we used back then, through circumstance and long distance geographical separation, our poly-quad lived in intimate proximity almost from day one. A woman I hardly knew spent weeks in our home with my husband, ate with us, took part in our conversations – and our arguments – she was all pervasive presence until I felt that my home was no longer my home. I didn’t feel safe. It seems impossible now I look back at it, that I believed this might be acceptable for me. Yet when you discover polyamory, many of us go through a period of utter uncertainty. Values which were certain are now uncertain. Convention flies out of the window.
I have a fundamental need for space and freedom. I have learned that I work well when each individual in the relationship acts as a single unit, collaborating and connecting in a way that doesn’t resemble the traditional monogamous relationship, or indeed a quad as we defined it. I can adjust and compromise of course, always checking in with myself to make sure that my need for freedom and space is met. It requires putting boundaries to protect those needs. At the time, I had no idea of what a boundary was, how to set one, nor even what fundamental needs I might protect with those boundaries.
I believe that my sisterwife’s fundamental needs were companionship and inclusion. She used a strategy of loyalty and constant togetherness to meet her needs. Strategies which encroached on the freedom and space I so desperately needed to be happy. At the time, she didn’t see any other way to meet her needs and I wasn’t even aware of why I felt so bad. A perfectly passive communicator, I kept silent and my anger grew; I played the martyr for over a year until through mismatched expectations, unstated boundaries and unrecognized needs, our dream of paradise turned into a land where the rivers ran blood.
The best advice I can give to newcomers is to get to know your fundamental needs (learning to define boundaries in order to protect them, is another often even harder second step). Thanks to several non-violent communication exercises, I have since been able to define mine and can also periodically re-examine them. Fundamental needs as with anything else, can change – at the very least in their priority. I don’t wish it had worked out any other way. For if it weren’t for that relationship, perhaps I would have never learned about needs, boundaries and strategies… and how essential they are to our integrity and self-esteem. And that’s a lesson which is really worth learning.
Wow, thank you, Louisa, for such a great and timely piece! I have been pondering this very concept the past several months. It’s like you were sifting through my mind, pondering the very same thing, but “across the pond” as it were. Also, you and I are surprisingly similar, both in how we think, the experiences we have had, and our needs (I highly value freedom and space as well, but struggle to balance it with companionship and inclusion – a tricky mix). You rock, lady! Keep being awesome!
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)