What Am I Getting Myself Into?
If you aren’t polyamorous from the get-go there can be a lot of changes in your lifestyle and your thinking when moving from monogamous culture to polyamorous culture. An important step in transitioning over is the work you have to do within yourself. That’s the hardest part, but it’s the most vital. Reading lots of blogs, books, watching movies, and getting involved in discussions online, can help you cope with the transition, as well as understand things you aren’t sure about yet. A big problem with many people who are newly opening up to polyamory (especially couples coming in who think polyamory can solve their relationship issues), is that they assume they can just jump right in and everything will go swimmingly. Reality check – things don’t work like that. If you want things to change, you need to be willing to change with them. Change can be hard, and change takes time. That being said, change is also inevitable. Whether it’s this change or another change, change is happening. Embrace it. And work with it, not against it.
What are some challenges that come up during this transition from monogamous culture to polyamorous culture? A big one for many people is jealousy (or what they think is jealousy). In fact, jealousy is pretty rare. Jealousy is the feeling of envy. When you want something someone else has – their qualities, their material possessions, their luck, etc. Occasionally this is an issue for people, and it can be a serious one, so I don’t want to downplay it. However, most people – when they think they’re jealous – are actually just experiencing feelings of insecurity. I read an amazing article on this recently where the author broke down the different types of insecurities. For the life of me I can’t find that article now. If I do I will definitely add it into this one. Anyhoo, insecurities. People have a lot of them. Society makes billions of dollars off pushing people to embrace and drown in their insecurities (about the way their body looks, how many people like them, etc.). Insecurities are infused in our society, they’re part of the economy. A big part. But when it comes to romantic relationships we need to find a way to not allow those insecurities to engulf us. Otherwise we may just screw up the one thing we were afraid to lose.
Insecurities – let’s talk about them. What kinds of insecurities do people have in romantic relationships? Well, in the polyamorous community when a partner finds a new partner a lot of insecurities can surface. The biggest insecurity tends to be the worry that you’ll lose your partner. Some people are insecure about themselves and think that their partner will like their new partner better. They are insecure about who they are. Some people are insecure about change, they’re worried things in their everyday life will change in ways they aren’t ready for. They’re worried about losing love, losing comfort. Loss is a huge insecurity. The thing is…things are going to change. If you didn’t want change then why did you decide to open up to non-monogamy? Of course things will change. And sometimes that change is hard. And sometimes there is loss. But when a relationship ends because it is no longer compatible after one person (or both) outgrew what that relationship had to offer… is that a bad thing? Yes, you can get insecure about your partner being with a new partner. You can get insecure about your identity and your life and your relationship. But things will be okay. You just need to do the self-work.
Another problem, that can go hand-in-hand with ‘jealousy’ is resentment. The feelings of resenting someone you love because of something they’ve done that you don’t approve of, or something you didn’t do that you wanted them to. When your partner starts spending much more time with their new partner (which can be caused by NRE), it can be upsetting and unsettling. However, in the case of these feelings of resentment (along with any insecurities you may feel), the best thing to do is communicate with your partner. You cannot control who they are or what they do. But you do need to advocate for your own needs, and ask when you have wants. If you don’t make an effort to communicate with your partner through your transition into polyamorous culture, then it is unlikely you’ll be able to grow with them in a healthy and beneficial way.
Loss (Making Things Public)
Then there’s the issue of publicity. Some people don’t even think about it until they’re confronted with it. Others worry about it from day one. What will my friends and family think? Will it be safe for me to ‘come out’ to my coworkers? What rights do I have in my relationships? Is this legal? Will I get in trouble? Will people approve of who I am becoming? These are all understandable and valid questions. In some situations it isn’t safe to be open about your polyamorous relationships at work. There are times when telling people about it can put your job at risk. There are times when, if you’re legally married to someone, you can be at risk of being taken to court or put in jail for breaking the law. There can be very serious consequences, occasionally. Sometimes your family decides they can’t accept you. Sometimes your friends turn their back on you. It happens. But it could happen for any number of reasons, not just because you’re now polyamorous. There’s a time that comes for every individual, when they have to decide if being who they truly are is worth the risk. To look at it in another light…would you rather stay surrounded by those who approve of you only conditionally, or do you want to be true to yourself and find those who accept you for who you truly are? That choice is up to you. (Side Note: It is possible to be out to your friends and family but decide to stay closed at work, or other situations, if you absolutely need to. Do what makes you happy. Do what makes you feel safe.) Honestly, dealing with the ignorant questions from people can be the most frustrating out of everything.
It’s Perfectly Normal
Lastly, I’d like to talk simply about the stress of adjustment. It can be hard to adjust your way of thinking so that you aren’t constantly worrying about things. Sometimes it’s best to take a year or so to just research and do some self-growth in order to handle it a little more smoothly once you do finally open up fully to the concept of polyamory (and non-monogamy in general). I’ve written an article about being Polyamorous and Single, which talks a lot about the self-work you need to do in order to fully deal with a non-monogamous lifestyle (and all kinds of relationships). You can find that article here. Mostly, though, I’d like to reassure you that it’s normal. Feeling insecure is normal. Feeling a sense of loss is normal. Feeling resentment is normal. Feelings, no matter what they are, are normal. It’s what you do with those feelings that matters. Everyone, even those who have been polyamorous for many, many years, still have difficulties with some of these things occasionally. But they’ve learned how to deal with them, how to learn and grow from them, and how to turn them into progress within themselves. There are challenges in any relationship you have (no matter what kind of relationship style you choose). It’s the self-work, the self-growth, that ultimately makes a difference between triumph and disaster.