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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Jealousy vs. Envy

May 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , )


I was asked recently if I experience jealousy in my open relationship with my husband. My honest answer is no, I haven’t really felt jealousy in several years. I have had moments of distress, however, especially as our relationship evolves and new elements are added. The question made me start thinking about the distinction between jealousy and… whatever that form of distress I keep feeling might be. Like most good citizens, I like labels – I like giving a name to something. So as I am wont to do, I started looking up words on dictionary.com to see what made sense to me:

Jealousy: resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself. Mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

Lots of people have written lots of blogs about jealousy in open or polyamorous relationships, and many of them agree that the root of jealousy is fear. When my relationship with the DH became open, which was shortly before we got married, I wasn’t prepared for it, and it terrified me. It wasn’t completely a surprise – we’d talked about monogamy, and we’d talked about non-monogamy, and I was doing a fair amount of fucking around when we first met, so openness did seem to make sense. But we didn’t exactly agree to an open relationship. He opened it for us. I felt blindsided and spent about a month in a deep depression. But I also felt compelled to figure out why I was in such distress over something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time. I wanted to figure out what I was afraid of.

For me, it was a fear that I wouldn’t be “enough”, that he would find someone better – someone sexier, more adventurous, more open, someone stronger, bolder, happier, more confident – whatever it might be, better than me. It took me about a year to build up my faith in our relationship and to start believing in the fundamentals of any good open relationship:

  • One human being cannot fulfill all the needs – social, emotional, sexual, intellectual, or otherwise – of another human being. Period. It’s just completely unrealistic.
  • One human being does not have a finite amount of love to give. It’s not he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not. He can love me, and love someone else, without stopping loving me.
  • He loves me for who I am – unique, neurotic, sexy, bossy, moody, loopy me – and is committed to a lifelong partnership with me.

As I started living and breathing and accepting these principles as reality, the jealousy gradually dissolved and ultimately disappeared. I can’t say when I stopped having painful jealous reactions to his activities, but I did realize one day that those feelings were gone. And that made me feel a lot freer to do my own thing and start exploring what I wanted out of this arrangement, and to figure out what kinds of relationships I wanted to nurture.

But then the other discomfort started. DH would go out to play, and I would be at home, and I’d feel icky. I’d rewrite my profiles on various dating sites, I’d gird my loins and toss together another Craigslist ad, and I’d paw through the resulting mediocre responses and dick pics, and I’d feel icky. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, but meanwhile he’s living it up with what seemed like a new partner every week. And I felt icky green envy.

Envy: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.

For me, envy doesn’t seem to be fear-based – at least I can’t find the fear after digging around beneath it. It’s simply: you’re having something I’m not and it’s something I want, damnit! You’re having hot sex. You’re feeling the rush of delight at discovering someone new. You’re having adventures. Where’s mine? When’s my turn?

I don’t resent his pleasures, and I don’t fear that his relationships will detract from or harm the one we have.  But I’m definitely discontented, watching him have fun. I know it’s not peaches and cream for him – he seems to meet mainly single women who eventually find themselves a monogamous relationship and morph into “just friends”, and he feels a degree of frustration over the inability to find someone who is open to the intimacy he wants as well as the long-term potential. But it seems like it is a lot easier for him to meet women than it is for me to meet men, which stirs the green envy in me.

I even struggle with envy towards my few playmates who have other playmates, as well. As an avowed introvert and a bit of a misanthrope, nevertheless I’m craving more human interaction these days, and I want that interaction to include both intellectual and sexual stimulation. I can’t seem to get enough – and my “enough” threshold is pretty low compared to other people, so it’s frustrating that I’m struggling to fill my minimal needs in this area. And that frustration leads to envy over having to share people with other people. They should all be mine, damnit, mine mine mine! Except when I want to be by myself, of course, when I wish they would all leave me the hell alone.

A cure for jealousy came to me eventually, so I suppose at some point I will learn how to transmogrify envy into compersion. For now, it’s a flaw I’m very much conscious of, and trying to manage the best I can without placing unreasonable demands on anyone I care for.

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