There was a post recently in one of our FB groups, Polyamorous Living, that sparked a train of thought in me. It made me think about how hard it is to deconstruct the things we learn through unhealthy monogamous culture structures, and how there is always some leftover residue no matter how much we grow as individuals. It’s like people who grow up Christian and then break away from that path later in life. No matter how much we believe in a different way of living, our minds have been trained for so long to think in a certain way that all the change in the world can’t completely eradicate some of the lingering thought processes and habits we’ve been programmed to execute subconsciously. However, we can create new processes to override or avoid certain obstacles in our brains.
For example, instead of trying to change the way in which you are triggered by something – change the response you take to the emotion you receive when triggered. The concept of jealousy, for example, can’t be completely gotten rid of it. An emotional response can’t be changed just because you don’t want to feel that way. But all emotional responses are there for a reason. They are telling you something. You can learn from every emotion you have – whether that’s learning more about the situation, or more about yourself. When it comes to jealousy, it often means you have some self work to do with your insecurities. Other times it means there are things you need to discuss with your partner(s). It isn’t always cut and dry what every emotional response is telling you, but you’re the only one who can truly figure it out.
What Do Possessive Tendencies Look Like?
When Things Are Clear
There are many different ways possessive tendencies can come through in a relationship. It can be as obvious as someone point blank telling you what you can or can’t do, or saying ‘You are mine’ and trying to control who you are with. Those cases are easy to spot and solutions are usually pretty clear. It’s typically a matter of whether or not you want to deal with that, do you really want to be with that person? Will a discussion with them change anything? Are they willing to accept you as a separate person and respect your freedoms or not? Don’t get me wrong, romantic relationships are emotional and it can be tough letting go of someone even when they are super possessive and abusive, but typically even when you don’t want to…you know what you should do.
When Things Are Unclear
Let’s discuss situations where the tendencies aren’t as clear. Or where they are basically non-existent. Sometimes a person is so open and accepting that when a possessive tendency does occur no one involved is even aware that it could be a possessive tendency. Who? Jim? No way! He’s way too free spirited and loving. What? Julie? Not possible! She’s basically an icon for consensual non-monogamy. Unfortunately, no matter how much experience someone has in the polyamorous community and no matter how amazing and open they seem… everyone has faults. Everyone has things they are working on. Everyone slips up from time to time. No one is perfect. Really, this is a blessing. You shouldn’t feel so bad about your own mistakes because even the people who seem to have all their shit together fuck up too. We are all together in that aspect.
The Reality Of It
Alright, so what does it actually look like when someone has a slip up in their ability to see with complete humility, unconditionality and open-mindedness? Well…it’s little things really. The feelings of upset or jealousy over random acts or thoughts that otherwise wouldn’t be of big concern. To bring about the example from our FB group – sometimes people forget that they are not entitled to every facet of their partner. A partner is allowed to share different bits and pieces of themself with whoever they choose to. When your partner shares a portion of themself with another partner and not with you, the question here isn’t whether you should be upset that you aren’t getting what someone else is getting, the question is whether or not you can accept not getting the thing you’re wanting.
It Isn’t About Being Fair
Things in life, including relationships, do not have to be fair. Polyamory especially – people get caught up in this idea that if you have more than one partner then you must treat them all exactly the same and you have to give the exact same amount of time to every partner, otherwise people will feel unloved or less important, etc. That’s just completely untrue. If you are the type of person to feel less important just because Bob gets 3 nights with your partner and you only get 1 or 2, then the real thing that needs work is you – not your partner. You can’t change someone to be who you want them to be. And you can’t force a relationship dynamic that doesn’t come naturally. If you’re feeling insecure, then you need to work on your insecurities. If you’re needing more time with a loved one you have 2 options: 1) Find a new partner to take up some of your time/who wants to spend more time with you, 2) Discuss things with your current partner to see if it’s possible to get more time together (If it is – great! If it’s not – you have to make the decision on whether or not this type of relationship will work for you). Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make sure your needs are being met.
Variety Is Natural
It is natural and healthy to have different types of connections with different people. It is normal for your relationships to have a variety of dynamics, as each person you are involved with is a different individual. No two people are the same. No two connections are the same. No two relationships will be identical. That’s just a fact. A hard truth for some, maybe, but a fact nonetheless. If one partner brings something out in your beloved that you simply don’t, that is okay. It isn’t a failing on your part. It isn’t malicious intent on their part. Different people make you feel differently about yourself. And you feel differently about different people. You shouldn’t feel bad that you aren’t the one who makes your partner feel a certain way, or who is able to open them up in a certain way. Your partner has unique connections with you and all their partners. Each relationship is special in its own way. You don’t need things to be the same as they are for your partner and someone else. At the very least, you should be happy that your partner is able to explore new parts of themself with someone (even if that someone isn’t you).
What Are You Feeling?
Sometimes there can be feelings of inadequacy when you see someone else is able to make your partner feel a certain way that you can’t. Other times it’s envy that your partner will do something with someone else and not with you. Both of these feelings are valid. All feelings are valid. It’s the way you go about dealing with them (responding to them and acting upon them) that defines the situation. You cannot control what others do or the way things make you feel, but you do have control over how you react to things. Sit with that thought for a while. Hint – it’s important! If you’re feeling inadequate you may need to do some self work or have a discussion with your partner, but never try to make it seem like it’s somehow your partner’s fault. It isn’t. If you’re envious about something, you need to deconstruct that feeling. What is it you really are wanting? Are you wanting your partner to be as open with you as they are with another partner? Or are you simply wanting to be able to do what it is your partner is doing?
Find Another Partner
First off, the good thing about polyamory is that if your partner(s) don’t want to do something that you really want to do (or don’t want a specific relationship dynamic you want), you are able to find a new partner who shares the same interest for something as you do without losing the other people you love. If all you’re wanting is the ability to do a certain act with somebody, and your partner(s) don’t want to do it with you (whether they do it with another partner or not), then go ahead and find yourself someone who does want to do it with you. Sometimes this takes time, but if you really want something you need to go for it.
Break Up With Your Current Partner
Secondly, it is your partner’s choice whether or not to do things with you – not yours. You can discuss with them what you want. You can talk to them about your feelings. But in the end it is up to them to decide what they want. If you cannot accept a relationship with someone unless it includes something your partner does not want, then perhaps the relationship was not meant to last. It sucks, but it’s not terrible. People break up. Not everyone is a good fit for everyone else. It’s better to find people who you really mesh well with than staying in a relationship you’re unhappy with just because you wish the person you were with would be the person you want them to be.
Start Appreciating Your Relationship For What It Is
Thirdly, your happiness should not be based on what your partner does or doesn’t do. You need to find happiness within yourself. If you put that pressure and responsibility on a partner…you will always be disappointed in the end. Yes, sometimes people just aren’t meant to be together, and that’s okay. But sometimes it’s your own brain that’s keeping you from enjoying what’s right in front of you. Over analyzing. Over criticizing. Comparing, contrasting, and focusing on everybody else besides yourself and your own relationship. You need to decide whether a relationship is right for you based on that relationship and that relationship alone. You can’t compare your relationship with your partner to a relationship they (or you) have with another person.
It Is All Up To You
The health of your own relationship cannot be determined by what you see in other relationships. Your relationship with this person is its own entity. It should not be judged by other relationships, just as you should not judge yourself based on other people. You can only compare yourself to the other versions of yourself you’ve been in the past and the idea of who you’d like to be in the future. The same goes for your relationships. You can only compare your relationship to itself and the way it’s been in the past and the way you hope it’ll be in the future. Nothing else matters. Just because your friend is a pro gymnast doesn’t mean you have to be one too, even if you think it’s super cool. You can be happy for your friend’s success while also feeling complete as your own person and happy with who you are. As is true with relationships – you can be happy for a relationship’s prosperity even if you are not involved in it. Subsequently, if you happen to want to become a gymnast, too, then you have to work at it. Getting upset that your friend is a talented professional won’t change anything about you. The only thing you can do is work at it yourself. Try to better yourself for yourself, not to be as good as or better than your friend, but so that you’re happy with who you are and where you’re at in life. That’s the only thing that really does matter – are you happy with your relationship?