Letting go of fear.

June 26, 2011 at 11:03 am (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , , , )

Recently I’ve been struggling with the dear husband’s budding relationship with his Latvian hairdresser. (Literally, she cuts his hair and waxes his eyebrows.) It has been a slow-evolving one, and he has said that he would be content if it remained platonic. She doesn’t have a lot of American friends, though she’s lived here for about ten years I think, and in some ways he’s helping her become more accustomed to American culture and the English language. He enjoys learning about her culture and experiences, and she seems to be an adventurous and insightful person. But she is also married, with one pre-teen child and another adult child who is living with her. The DH says she’s described her husband as possessive and controlling. So when I recently went out of town for business and found out upon my return that their relationship had become a sexual one, I experienced a big ol’ jumble of negative emotions.

To start with, I’ve been under an unusual amount of work-related stress lately (though my job is always stressful, I’m working longer hours and worrying a lot more than usual), so my emotional state is a bit on the tender side. I wasn’t aware that anything would happen between them while I was out of town, and so I wasn’t prepared for that conversation when I came home. Plus we had already discussed the potential pitfalls of developing a relationship with someone who is married and cheating, so I was surprised that he had decided to take it to the next level. All this quickly wound itself up into a little ball of anxiety and I found myself acting out in stupid, passive-aggressive ways: cutting him off when he mentioned her, for example, and telling him I didn’t want to hear about her. When she showed up at our usual Friday night hangout, I made some gestures that were possessive and territorial and then sulked for a while.

The DH has not called me out on this behavior, but I’m calling myself out. It’s petty. I know that his relationship with her is not a threat to our relationship; none of his relationships are a threat to ours, because we have a bond that is different from any that either of us has ever experienced, and we’re committed to our partnership. But I do feel like this relationship could be a threat to our peace and tranquility and the drama-free zone we live in. And my inability to control that potential threat has me very anxious and thus, acting out in inappropriate ways.

But the point here is — I can’t control what MIGHT happen. Yes, her husband might find out that she’s cheating, but I can’t prevent that. Yes, that could result in someone or multiple someones having painful emotions, but I can’t prevent that. Yes, it could cause some upheaval; it could – heaven forbid – involve a confrontation which could be violent in nature; but I can’t control any of this. And NOTHING could happen. They might never sleep together again. She might decide she’s devoted to her husband. She might be really good at keeping secrets. She might decide to leave her husband. I can’t know what she’ll do. I don’t know what might or might not happen. I can’t control it.

I have big, big control issues. So I have to make myself stop, sit down, and think through this series of events, and admit to each one, I can’t control you. I can neither prevent nor encourage any particular outcome. The future is not in my hands. And I sigh, and I open my hands, and I say to myself, that’s okay. You can’t control it, so let it go.

It feels good to let go. It’s scary, and it’s not comfortable, and it doesn’t feel natural for me, because I cling to my ability to control what goes on around me. But it does feel good, like peeling a scab feels good sometimes.

Fear holds you back. Trying to control things is a fearful reaction. Letting go of fear is the only way you can grow.

 

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2 Comments

  1. omnivores said,

    Hey Alice,

    Very interesting post. Really enjoying catching up with your blog, your honesty and insight in terms of the personal and relationship challenges we all face in navigating non-traditional relationships. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I’ve been thinking a bit about this one. Whether it’s a situation where a partner is seeing someone who is cheating, or a partner is seeing a mutual friend, etc., would be interested to hear your thoughts on spillover effects. You’re absolutely right that you can’t control the outcome in this scenario, but at what point does DH have a responsibility to you not to enter into relationships where the consequences could have a direct impact on you personally, or your relationship? If the possessive husband does find out and makes trouble, that could have personal implications for you – what happens if he comes banging on the door in the middle of the night before you’ve got an important early meeting the next day? What happens if he sees you out with DH and initiates a confrontation on the street? What if you’re with friends or family who don’t know about this side of your life at the time?

    While there’s no way to completely contain spillover effects when we choose to live in this manner, I always find it interesting to see where others draw the line.

    Best,
    Mr O

  2. Alice Digitalis said,

    You make a great point – DH absolutely does have a responsibility to protect both of us from the fallout if a partner is cheating and gets caught. Just as he has a responsibility to use protection and get regularly tested for STIs, and all the other health-related issues of non-monogamy that each partner should gladly do as a part of the commitment.

    I also have to trust him, since he knows her and her situation better than I do, and have faith that if those scarier possibilities really could happen, he would be wise enough to see it coming and take action to protect us both. In this situation, I do trust him and believe that he’s proceeding with the necessary caution.

    As to where the line would be drawn… who knows. There was one situation in the recent past when I put my foot firmly down because I had a really bad feeling about the woman, and it turned out I was justified in that feeling. So maybe I’ll just go on instinct? Mainly, we just take it one relationship at a time.

    Thanks for commenting, I really enjoy reading other’s perspectives.

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