I still have no idea what to say about some of the stuff going on in my own head surrounding my relationship lately, except to say that today I’m in a better place than I was yesterday. But in the meantime I love this post by the new Dear Poly blog. It’s about how you can logically know something but still feel completely different about it.
You can feel emotions 100% contrary to your actual intellectual beliefs about a situation. You can feel secure intellectually and threatened emotionally. In these moments you need to know that though you feel pissed your relationship isn’t in trouble.
The blog is new and I’m still getting the feel of it, but I liked this post a lot. It really resonated with me. I feel like Mike and I have been through so much that I have no excuse for feeling insecure in my relationship. I know he is very committed to me. I thought that when I finally understood this, my jealousy would ease up. But sometimes, it’s still really hard. And now I have better words to explain why.
Well, not officially as in “confirmed by a medical specialist” but officially as in “finally forced to admit it to myself.” It’s not a bad depression; God knows I’ve been through worse. But I’m a little frustrated. It’s partly my own fault for letting my therapy appointments lapse, I’m sure. It’s making staying on top of class difficult. Mike is also making plans to start seeing someone new, so it’s complicating that on my end. I’ll try to post about that soon, but right now I don’t have the mental energy to process it well enough for this medium. Not really much to say about the depression other than that. I know that depression is cyclical, I just wish that my cycles tended more towards not being depressed for more time.
So two important things happened to me yesterday. The first (and arguably most important), is that I got over my aversion to Jane Austen fan fiction. I’m currently reading this charming piece about Miss Anne de Bourgh, and I now own copies of both Death Comes to Pemberley and Spank Me, Mr. Darcy. But the other, more relevant to this blog thing, is that I went to a meet-up for ethically non-monogamous people.
I’ve been involved with my local BDSM/kink community for a few years now, and there is a lot of overlap between the two groups, but my town has never had an organized poly/non-monogamy group that I’m aware of. This was a new group’s first meeting. As I anticipated, the group was mostly poly people. I consider myself to be in an open relationship, as Mike and I don’t really date our other partners romantically, but I feel like I identify more with poly people than a lot of other ethically non-monogamous folk. I was the only non-poly person there, but the group is trying to include more types of relationships, like swingers and people like me. And of course, poly means something slightly different in every relationship anyway. We talked about a variety of issues, including poly in the media (this blog came up in conversation), raising children, jealousy and vetting other partners.
Talking with other people was interesting and fun and I learned some stuff, but mostly it just made me feel really capable of continuing to be non-monogamous. I struggle sometimes, but last night I came home feeling connected and supported and like I had new energy to make it work. Sometimes I get discouraged, but right now I’m feeling good about things. I saw a long-distance play partner who was in town the other night, Mike and I have been having great conversations about how we feel about each other and what we want our relationship to look like, and now I feel a little more connected to the poly community, which is somehow giving me the confidence to feel like this is no big deal.
This isn’t going to be about how the media contributes to the erasure of sexual non-monogamy, although that is a worthy topic of discussion. This is about how, when you are feeling vulnerable, you have to be careful what messages you allow into your life. If you’re feeling shitty about your weight today, perhaps don’t read Cosmo, for instance. Of course, sometimes you don’t see it coming and you’ll be reading or watching something you think is safe when you get hit with something right in a sore spot.
About six months ago I got so depressed that I almost checked myself into the hospital. Mike and I were on the verge of breaking up because my mental health was making a relationship almost impossible. Instead I took a week off from work. I spent it sleeping with my dog on my dad’s couch, going to emergency therapy appointments and working out of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy workbook. When I was relaxing on the couch, trying to turn off my brain for a bit, I watched that British TV show “Extras.” It’s pretty funny overall, but there was this one part that was really hard to watch. Ricky Gervais’ character is being set up by a friend who tells him that the girl is perfect because she’s depressed so you know she’s desperate. He turns her down. It was like a punch in the gut. I was struggling with the way my depression made having a romantic relationship difficult and there was confirmation that I was unlovable and going to die alone. Of course I am very lovable (just ask anyone) and it was the depression talking, but it was the worst possible thing for me to hear that week.
When I have problems with jealousy, I sometimes think about the sit com staple of the controlling/jealous/possessive woman. She’s never a sympathetic character, usually gets dumped in some humiliating fashion and is always seen as a pariah who is inflicting herself on some poor man. I get torn up worrying that I’m that woman. I don’t want to be her. I want Mike to feel happy and free and comfortable in our relationship. But this is a challenge for me. I do get jealous. And while I try not to take it out on other people, it’s not like I can hide it from my partner. He can see right through me. Sometimes I get sucked into loops of self-loathing where I see myself as this stereotype. I wonder why Mike doesn’t just dump me and I think that if he did everyone would think “why didn’t he do that sooner? She’s so jealous I can’t believe he put up with her for that long anyway.”
The only thing that calms me down when I get into that loop is to remember that the people on TV are characters. They are flat. From the broken, depressed girl to the crazy jealous bitch, they are all stereotypes. I’m a complete person. Sure I have qualities that are hard to live with, but I also have other aspects to my personality. My partner loves me for the totality of myself. He loves me as much as I love him, and I manage to be aware of his faults while still finding him absolutely perfect.
The media we consume can hurt us in so many ways when we already have a weakness to exploit. It’s shitty and painful when it happens, but ultimately we do have a choice about what we allow into our heads. You don’t have to make it about you. You are a person, not a character.
Neither Mike nor I have had sexual intercourse with anyone else for several months now. I’ve had one or two somewhat sexual experiences, but Mike’s been somewhat uninterested in other people. He even canceled one or two dates. In a way it’s nice having time that’s just for the two of us (we’ve gone through times before when I felt like I never got time with him to myself, and this is definitely better), but recently I’ve started to worry. The longer I go without having to deal with jealousy, the more I dread how I will react when the monogamous stretch ends.
The thing is, I feel more secure and confident in our relationship than ever. I know Mike loves me. But the lizard part of my brain still doesn’t see why he does and thinks that any other woman he sees will be so much better than me, so much thinner and sexier and more fun, that he will wake up and leave. It’s all a self-esteem problem.
The longer I go without having to deal with jealousy, the more I can’t remember how I dealt with it in the past in successful ways. The only times that stick out in my memory are the times I’ve had a huge meltdown and made myself miserable for days. I know I’ve gotten better and that I have strategies for dealing with difficult emotions, but it just feels sort of insurmountable. But I suspect that’s all down to poor self-esteem too. Maybe I’m stronger than I’m giving myself credit for.
I want to end this post on a happy note, but I’m feeling sort of anxious and vulnerable right now. But I think that if I keep calm and follow all the strategies I’ve planned for, I can get through it when Mike starts seeing other people again. And the most important thing is to not lash out at Mike, which I’ve had problems with in the past before I learned to channel my pain better. I’ll just read my In Case of Emergency note and I’ll distract myself and practice being OK. And if I really need help, I can ask him to comfort me after. I’ll try to be fine.