Loneliness first-aid

Recently, a friend of mine wrote to me, saying thay they they were down in the dumps in the dating department. They asked whether there was anything wrong with them, or whether they were “just dating all of the duds”. Said friend has relatively alright self esteem – They work very hard on improving themselves, they “think they are a pretty good person and they don’t play games”. They had also just moved country.

Below is my reply, which I am a little inwardly proud of.

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Dear <friend>,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I am sorry to hear that your soul has been feeling low while trying to make some sense of your new country, specifically in regards to complicated … and occasionally harrowing game of seeking relationships.

Make no mistake; looking for love is brutal. Doing so takes a lot of courage. With so many different types of peoples in the world – and a generation of us looking for the instant fix… feeling isolated is becoming an increasingly easy thing. Sometimes I think that loneliness is going to become the world’s single biggest problem before too long – if it isn’t already. And as for dating: the more that I think about it, the more disenfranchised I feel with the whole format of the current dating model. I mean, how we ever reduced something so potentially important and key to our being as the process of finding meaningful, intimate relationships down to “chairs-and-tables” style interviews, baffles me. At best, dating as we know it is a format that might work a minutely small amount of people (ie. if your love language happens to be words of affirmation – nevermind those of us who prefer physical touch / gifts / acts of service / companionship through activity)… and then, even if you are one of the 20% who prefers words of affirmation as your jam, then there is a whole swirling sea of complexity around discourse, language, what’s too much to say, what isn’t enough….. and that is JUST ONE of the MANY multitudes different biases and preferences that people have. What if you don’t think that your date is a nice person? What if you prefer confidence over shyness? What if you like tall or short, What if you only date right-handed people? and so on… You see, when we pile one’s concept of reciprocated love atop of all other societal and human preferences (eg. race, gender, age, personality, etc). then it becomes somewhat evident that the whole dating regimen is pretty much statistically flawed from the start. And it doesn’t take much to feel sad about that, even after lukewarm success and technologies like dating sites (and hook up sites)… which have a place, and yet don’t fill a void.

This wonderful article is a bit pessimistic, but I think that it sums it up pretty well: http://thephilosophersmail.com/relationships/how-we-end-up-marrying-the-wrong-people

Then there’s the ocean of conflicting “how do I find the right person?” rhetoric: which is largely well-intended but usually overwhelming, and frequently all but conflicting. And there is just so much of it! Personally, I’m a believer in “the secret is not to look” sentiment (at least, that’s what helped to keep me going in terms of retaining hope/remaining grounded/being positive and concentrating on myself instead of my lack of another for so long). But lets be honest, what worked for me is unlikely to work for many others… so take any advice with a grain of salt – and besides, people tend to need empathy a lot more than advice these days – and people with a personality like yours definitely, definitely deserve it.

So, is there anything wrong with you? Well, no, not at all. In fact, you have shining qualities that are enriching and beautiful – even if I’ve only seen a glimpse of them. One thing I love about you is that you’ve walked a very different path compared to many – a wandering, reflective, path that has taken you to a great many places – as many mentally as physical. And whilst your story has been quite different and perhaps one that’s involved a lot of hard and painful periods sometimes… it’s also contained some unique experiences that sound like they have been really beautiful to experience. Somewhere out there, you are someone’s ideal of perfect – in fact, I think you have a lot of qualities that lots of people wish that they had.

So have you been simply dating the duds? Well, not necessarily duds per se… but not only are we all different people – bet we are different people at different times in our lives. Everyone is capable of finding happiness – but then, “finding” is an interesting terminology and one that I don’t think that is accurate: for nobody really goes looking for love and then proceeds to “find” it, as they do a grocery item. It’s more akin to dragging your feet in a certain way, so that you are susceptible to tripping over love whilst not falling flat on your face (or at least, not too many times!) in the interim.

I am trying to avoid cliches as much as possible – and I’m sure that people have probably already told you to try and forget about the concept of ‘your type’ – to ‘just give so-and-so a shot…’, or to ‘why not try dating a such-and-such sort of a guy?’. For me, I’m…. weary of all of these approaches – I have mixed feelings at best. I mean, it’s one thing to keep an open mind and to see some good in others (which I know you already do to some extent), but being untrue to yourself by dating people with qualities that you despise – should also be considered a negative thing. Arguing for a middle ground might well be a perpetual and tepidly-rewarding debate; I would suggest that it is far more important to let go of the circumstances surrounding HOW we meet another, rather than concentrating on the “who”.

As I said earlier, conventional dating rarely works… so what’s left?

You’ve probably heard this one before – but I do believe that there’s something to be said for the “meet people when doing something that you love” idiom. I mean, I know you’ve very likely been there… but hey, at least if you’re doing something that you truly love – then if nothing else then you get to do some more of the awesome thing that you’re passionate about (or at least, persevering with), even if you don’t meet like-minded and interesting people along the way . Also, on that note – if you aren’t already doing it, then I strongly suggest MAKING something angry. It doesn’t matter what: take angry photos, paint something red, write an abhorrently obscene blog about something that you know that you are RIGHT about, graffiti something. Why? Because sometimes loneliness makes us feel like horseshit and dealing with it just feels better when we make something angry… and amazing, too.

You mentioned that you don’t play games – and a semi-serious park of me thought: “well, maybe you should? I mean, games can be great fun! And I think that you would be really good at them 🙂

But seriously, try new things. Maybe you’ll be awesome at them, and besides – life’s all about trying everything once (or, trying everything three times, as a wise monk once told me – because “you might just be in a mood when you try something the first time”)? Maybe it’s Photography? volunteering? handball? hand gliding? cosplay? pup play? HEY I don’t know what you do and don’t like… and for that matter, how will you unless you try? Actually on that, I have to partly – maybe even mostly agree – with some progressive friends of mine who tell me that there’s a refreshing transparency in which people approach interacting with others on a hookup/fetish site as opposed to the unending myriad of projected junk that people put up on regular dating sites. I have a theory that everyone has a fetish of some kind, once “fetish” is defined as something intimate that we love – even if it’s as simple as hugging, massage, being understood by others who also identify as asexual, even dancing could fall under that definition. But these tings are significant, I think: perhaps we learn a lot about people (and ourselves!) based on what their intimate preferences are… and for all of the challenges and hardships involved with exploring physical space with an otherwise-unknown, it can also certainly be a surprising way to get to know someone at a really deep level (and seeing a side of them that you really appreciate), that you otherwise have walked straight past.

A quick example: when I met my partner, it was at a time where I had pursued online dating for some years, with almost no tangible success. When we met, she was still finding her feet and wasn’t looking for any kind of relationship at all. At the time, we knew that we really connected with each other… but I had to open myself to the idea of us being simply “casual” for a while – which was something I’d never even considered with another. This was very different for me, but because I sensed that she was potentially someone who was really worth loving well, it became an easy conclusion (and felt much more comfortable than I could ever express in words) to go with the flow and to simply just get to know her in her current capacity for now, regardless of my preconceptions on coupledom based on what I was brought up with. (two quick asides: [a] Yes, we also tried polyamory for a while, which was multitudes more difficult for me, as I’m sure you know! And no, since thay period we have been 100% exclusive for some years now – and I tentatively expect that we might remain this way. [b] It’s true that the life stories of my partner and I are really similar, and every day I still think that I basically got very lucky in terms of stumbling across her. However, the point is that there was 0% chance that I could have wound up with her – and vice versa – if we met under different circumstances eg. via online organization or by ‘going on a date’ and seeing what happens…).

There’s obviously and excess of rhetoric that I could throw at you also… and although I’ll try and ignore all of it, there’s one more cliche (sorry, it’s an absolute cliche!) that I can’t not mention: the whole “be the person you want to date” idea has some undeniable truth to it. Put another way: well, you’re new to a new country, and that’s a big and sometimes difficult position to be in. Whilst you are certainly capable of finding yourself near someone who turns out charming today, it’s true that people tend to naturally glow when they feel at peace with who they are and what’s going on around them. So if there’s lots of other things that feel yuck and that make you sad in your life, then they might need some more exclusive attention of yours (to be sure, alongside the odd social outing even if it’s a date with your laptop and a drink at a random bar in the interim – of which your new city has plenty of fine ones!). I won’t harp on much about this as I’m sure that I’m not the first to mention such things to you… but yeah. Look after yourself first, and the rest will follow (or it won’t, but you’ll feel better anyway).

Gosh, I’m just about done with this colossus of an email. It’s a tricky caper, and it doesn’t help that everyone plays by different rules when it comes to looking for love. Even with all of the above, you mightn’t get anywhere at all. Or maybe you will. Have courage, remember that you’re amazing (and unique! so wonderfully unique). Don’t forget to try and find some occasional peace in amongst it all. And do remember that everything changes (even the dark bits).

Thinking of you, dear friend – be nurturing to your soul.

x

six months: some trauma, and the inordinately difficult task of getting over it

It’s been around six months since I wrote in here. Although it’s been a lovely six months when looking at it from an overarching perspective, I’ve also been catching myself feeling a little sad over the past week or so… and I wanted to dive into that.

On July 18th (about a month ago) I started writing an idle update for this blog – although it only eventuated to a few sentences in half-post format – one that never looked like getting finished. But as evidence and as a summary of am I was doing (nay, how I WAS doing) – here are some words.

“I thought that I would take time out of an atypically busy period in order to write another update on here. It’s been around four months since I’ve written anything of any kind onto this blog, and as this blog is largely a place to process and write about difficulties (particularly in terms of relationships and polyamory), it’s safe to say that not a lot has been happening within this space.

It’s been a wonderfully enjoyable period of my life. In terms of ‘broader-picture stuff’, I’ve been concentrating energies elsewhere – namely on work (which is squaring up to another restructure scheduled for late August), and additionally I’ve been pouring myself into my study – which, after two years, is finally starting to get somewhere. I’m studying every day and now – finally – should only be 3-4 weeks away from the final exam. In lieu with work’s restructure, this has been significant shift in focus. In other words, I’ve gone from (a) believing that I’d need to re-enroll in my course (which expires mid-september), as to complete the exam around Christmas time, to (b) trying to get the exam done just before the re-enrollment cutoff, of Sept. 18, to (c) trying to get the course and exam out of the way before any restructure EOI stuff is in place (ie. ideally before August 24).

To some, that might sound like torture, but for me its been quite the opposite. I ‘ve what I study, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a long-term, delayed-gratification sort of a guy, and so the feeling of satisfaction that comes with finally making really progress with this stuff is wonderful to say the least. Plus, study is becoming increasingly relevant to my work – which is full of opportunity at the moment. So that’s been great.

I’ve been in fantastic mental health since about March – ie. since I did all of that work earlier in the year. Lots of little proactive things are in place – I’m being creative pretty regularly, I’m seeing my friends a lot more than last year, and I’m averaging 8x hours of sleep per night instead of 7x, and although the rebel in me hates to admit it, that makes a difference too.

Externally, things with my relationship have also been going really well – and co-incidentally (yes, I continue to believe that it’s just a co-incidence) – polyamory has taken a bit of a back seat in the scheme of things, for now. More specifically, we (read: my partner) has not been really practicing much at all in the past few months. This is because of a couple of reasons:
(a) firstly, after a string of relatively lukewarm-at-best dates (and a couple of awkward ‘bad dates’ with a few people), she largely lost interest.
(b) then, for a while, my partner’s wanted to explore the possibility of having experiences with other women. For me, I feel a whole lot better about this than with straight hetero polyamory: for a start, there’s no chance of unwanted pregnancy, plus women are (usually) a lot safer, from both a ‘physical safety’ point of view, and also an ’emotional’ one. So, it’s somewhat easier to come to terms with. However, this exploration also hasn’t really eventuated to much. I think that what it comes down to is that via the above means, my partner’s been doing a lot more thinking about what she really wants from polyamorous relationships, and she’s been slowly redefining concepts of intimacy and so on…

<end of halfpost>

sounded like I was pretty happy, hey? Well that was March through July. then, August happened – and things got a bit harder again.

There’s been a few recent developments in my life that have been hard to deal with. Of these, there’s been one which sticks out as an obvious standout… there’s no neat way to put it, but my partner had a miscarriage.

I’m going to start talking about this by way of an allegory:

My fiancee and I have been planning on having kids for some time – and trying (or more correctly, half-trying) for about a year. About six months ago, we took a step back – partly from exhaustion but also because I realised that I first had to come to terms with something very pressing – basically, I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to be a dad.

I had some philosophical questions about the whole thing – and I also realised that fundamentally, my closest male friend group included a high percentage of people with an extreme – and loud… defeaningly loud – bias against having kids. For example, take my closest friend, J. – I love him and his angry atheism very dearly… but if there’s one thing that he hates more than religion, it is the idea of him ever having kids. Another friend (well, more of an acquaintance these days), P., has an 11-year old daughter and “look, I really love [her], but I honestly can’t see any reason why anyone would want to have kids”. And C. is a lovely and genuine friend, whose warm company I love, but in many ways is a 24yo in a 38yo’s body.. and I can’t see that changing any time soon. About the only happy dad friend that I have is S. , but he also lives in a town that’s two hours away, and we see each other rarely.

So, I naturally went about some extended research – reading books on parenthood, jumping online to try and find answers, and trying to gather whatever I could about fatherhood. I even joined a local dads group. What I discovered in all of this were two truths:

(a) Firstly, there were hundreds of books, resources, blogs and articles on HOW to become a parent, but almost nothing on WHY a perspective punter should want to become a parent. I was (and still kind of am) astounded about this – everyone says that fatherhood is great, but when you start asking men to define why – then getting a clearly articulated answer is a surprisingly difficult undertaking.

What did it for me, in the end – and what changed my perspective on the whole fatherhood prospect – was a mission statement that a CEO for one of the country’s many fatherhood organizations had written. Basically, he mentioned that good fathers equals better communities: that doing a good job as a father leads to safer, more educated, less criminal kids and neighborhoods, regardless of gender. Being a good dad means tremendously impacting the lives of the women around us. In a grotesquely over-patriarchal society, the world desperately and urgently needs bright, genuine males to redefine the male stereotype through actions of kindness and acts of service. Being a good father helps other fathers, too. For someone who is servent-hearted (like me), it’s a wonderful opportunity.

(I should say that this is not nearly the only reason why I want to do fatherhood! I love the idea of starting a family with my beloved – I’ve never wanted to do anything like that with anyone before – but I love the idea of the pair of us raising a child together – and I think that we would be really really good at it).

(b) secondly – and where I am going with all of this – is that I’m now convinced that it is almost impossible to find answers to certain things when searching online only. With fatherhood doubts, every single situation is different – for every man is different, as is every relationship and the way that he was raised by his parents. “Should I have a kid with my partner” is an inherently stupid (or at least, naive) question to google – not because it’s not a well-intended question to ask, but because there’s definitively no such thing as a blanket answer to that kind of question.

So in short, I studied dad stuff for a while, and in my case, I worked it out. I became cool with the idea. In fact, I now think that it would be kind of nice (which is a massive phase shift from the me of 6x months ago).

But why mention all of this if I want to talk about the miscarriage? Because a miscarriage is a situation with striking similarities: if you haven’t joined the dots together yet, no two miscarriages are EVER the same. It’s just not something that you can take in stride on the back of what someone else on the internet says about it. It’s an inherently unique situation, vastly different for all women and for all couples that go through one.

For us, it was a brief period of the heights of intense emotion at either end of the scale, followed by an exhausting undertow of stress, medical appointments and unseen emotional collateral. It was a Friday when we first received a positive pregnancy test… and we had a grueling, anxiety-provoking couple of days where we had to wait until the following Monday with a conclusive blood test result, which confirmed that things were not going to eventuate. Emotionally, my partner (and I) went from 12/10 hope and elation, to 9/10 anxiety, to 3/10 grieving… that last one quickly escalating to more like an 8-9/10 grieving, all within a few days.

Although the pregnancy was ‘only’ a five-or-so weeks in, the emotional toil on my partner was very very real, and very intense. We’ve certainly learned a lot about miscarriages and about people’s responses to them – it seems like there’s a few cohorts of responses: the ‘I don’t know what to say, so I wan’t say anything’ cohort, the indifferent ‘oh’ cohort, the select few that are actually lovely and responsive and who realise that intervening with care isn’t just generous, that it’s necessary; and the hurtful calls of the righteous ‘don’t tell me to change my opinion on what is life – I’m right/you’re wrong/shut up’ folk. Like any strongly felt, non-universal life event, of course all of this gets mixed together into one giant soggy ball of internet garbage, so in spite of my partner’s attempts to find some respite online, she just found more stress and confusion to add to the mix of grief, and stress, and exhaustion.

Fortunately, my work have been truly great about this. Upon hearing the news, my boss gave me almost a week off… and they’ve been pretty much granting whatever additional concessions I apply for. My work is going through a restructure at the moment, and whilst I was initially stressed about this, I’ve pretty much had my work promise/verbally guarantee me that everything will be OK with my own affairs. In a way, the timing’s worked out really well – after one of my other VERY valued workmates suddenly left back in May, I think that work are petrified of the idea of me moving to to another position or department. Having that reassurance during this time has been wonderful.

Just a quick note on work, before I continue: after two’ish years of solid study, I’ve now booked the final exam for my training certification to take place at the end of this month. Whilst it feels great to have come so far and to finally see something resembling a light at the end of this tunnel, on Friday (when I finished the last chapter of my coursework), I felt an overwhelming sense of self-doubt. I guess, after the last time that I invested into such a long-term project, I found myself greeted by a huge anti-climax – basically my partner revealed that she hated my participation in it, and she couldn’t nearly be happy for me completing it. Whilst I think that I’ve learned a lot about the nature of undertaking delayed-gratification goals IN A HEALTHY WAY since then (and I feel like my study has been a rewarding, balanced experience), I immediately felt a sickening, almost self-loathing sense of doubt and 2nd-guessing, after completing the book. “But was it all worth it?” was the question bouncing around in my brain. And I guess that that’s really rattled me. I know intellectually that it was – I’m proud of learning all of this stuff… and I look forward to undertaking and passing the exam, and then having a well-earned break from it all, just in time for spring. Study wasn’t a particularly creative undertaking, but I definitely felt a sense of purpose. Yet when I finished the book on Friday, there was also an unexpected, critical voice that popped up when I needed it least. Perhaps I need to claim bragging rights some more amongst my community technical colleagues and friends… or maybe I need to be more independent about the whole thing: after all, I’m doing something that I love and that I’ve always wanted to do. But yeah, that initial ‘2nd guess’ feeling didn’t feel at all good.

So back to the miscarriage, and the after-effects of it…

So, it’s been tough on my partner, and by extension, to me too. I’ve been doing my best to be as supportive as I can, and I like to think that I am doing a good job – although I’ve also felt a bit overwhelmed sometimes when it comes to fitting in all of the additional housework and the things that need to be done. (especially when I know that I also have to look after my own mental health – with activities like writing this post – and to keep things generally in balance).

There’s some more to the story that I have to mention here. Due to the enormous stress that consumed my fiancee, her BPD symptoms flared up, and for the first time in a long time, she had a couple of BPD episodes. I think that a big contributor of this was the combination of high levels of stress (uni had started back up for her too), and also a stream of people (family, medical professionals, and acquaintances) who were invalidating her feelings – but my partner felt a sudden and strong need to engage in polyamory again.

This manifested itself in one awkward and triggering night where my partner revealed to me that she secretly has (or had) a strong desire to be sexual with our male, platonic roommate. For me, this abruptly displaced me out of my comfort zone – my partner knows that one of our ground rules for polyamory (at least for the forseeable future) is to keep our home free of polyamorous activity so that it can be a safe-haven for myself and an important place of refuge. But fueled by the roommates’ general pleasantness, my partner’s desire to press any imposed boundaries appeared to have reared its head again.

Whilst I’m not saying a “no, not ever” to this one, there’s no way that I can visualize a situation where my partner dating (or just sleeping with) a roommate (or anyone who I lived with) could ever be OK. I think I’ve been cheated on too many times – especially in my formative early 20’s years – to ever tolerate a situation resembling being closely around a partner’s lover ever again. You can define polyamory as definitively “not cheating” (because there’s a lot of two-way mutual consent involved), but even if I found some way to agree to such an arrangement in the near future, I would still be faced with having to deal with the idea that my partner sleeps with other people in my house… and I would feel unloved and hurt and confused and so invalidated by that. Again, I should reiterate that I’m never ruling it out – that is to say, I could do a LOT of work on myself and maybe it could become something that I could accept… but with the current makeup of my psyche? Well, at the very least, I don’t think that I could find a way to even continue living with my partner.

Perhaps there could be a counter-argument of “oh but that’s all just triggered trauma from your the past, and so how would this action be bad in and of itself?”. To me, that line of thinking is dismissive and borderline manipulative – people have rules for all kinds of different reasons… but the fact is that people do have rules. It’s the same reason why I don’t keep naked photos of my partner in amongst porn collections – because I know that that’s hurt her in the past and I would never want her to feel hurt like that again. (Also, pornography is one of society’s biggest problems – it destroys the lives of otherwise capable men, not to mention the lives of so, so many degraded, undervalued women – seriously, if you’re doing porn on a regular basis then you need to take yourself to https://recoverynation.com and think seriously about what you’re engaging with).

In reality though, I fully trust my partner and I know that she won’t do anything that crosses a boundary of such significance that it would hurt me like that, when push comes to shove – she’s definitely learned that lesson in the past. And having that trust is what basically got me through… I know that she values me far more than any one desire, no matter what it is.

However, it remains that my partner was in a state of emotional distress, and besides, she hadn’t really pursued anything resembling polyamory for some time – and it was getting to the point where I was thinking that she probably should – at least from a point of view that it’s always helped her to feel better about herself and about life whenever she’s engaged with it in a balanced/healthy way in the past, and I felt like this would be good for her now. So in a way it’s a good thing that she did meet another polyamorous partner last week – a guy called H., who she met at a poetry night. Admittedly, H. sounds like a safe person (lets be honest, there are a lot of unsafe males out there), and so that’s good – but I’ve also found myself feeling jealous about her newfound excitement with him, and I do feel as though he is somewhat of a threat. This probably has not so much to do do with H. or M., as it does with the way that I’ve had to put a lot of my own life on hold throughout the month of August, as getting my partner through this difficult period + getting myself through this restructure + doing all of the maintenance home things (like additional cleaning and cooking and shopping) has had to take priority at the expense of the more nourishing things like catching up for drinks with friends, or indulging in some TV series or reading a book.

Whilst I think of it – an analogy to this is the way that I view going to bed at a ‘good’ (ie. early) hour. My partner constantly reminds, nay, implores me to go to bed ‘on time’ (ie. about 10:30pm ish), as opposed to my traditional view on bedtime, which has previously been ‘somewhere between 11:30pm – 12am). Whilst I know that I can more-or-less function with the latter timeframe, my partner is absolutely and unequivocally correct in saying that I tend to feel better about life / I have more energy / I manage better with everything… when the extra hour of sleep happens. She’s definitely not wrong about this. But I maintain that occasionally, there’s just some priorities in life that pop up and that demand such attention from you that you have to sacrifice that hour occasionally – it’s just how the world works. For example, when the kitchen dishes have piled up to a point where there are no more clean spoons or forks in the house, and all benches have been covered in cat lick saliva… then life doesn’t work as well. Keeping the 10:30pm ideal is, well, ideal… but occasionally, unavoidable stuff does come up and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and take care of it, even if you know that it’ll mean you being somewhat tired.

So, August has been more than a bit full-on, and whilst I do conceptually like the idea of my partner feeling free during this difficult time via some safe, soothing polyamory… I’m also perhaps not as prepared as I used to be (or should be) to deal with it as succinctly as normal.

But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. (NO disgusting miscarriage jokes intended! Heh, then again, sometimes black humor’s a warranted thing?). Seriously. Things are going well. Health stuff is improving… today was a great example of that. The doctors tell us that it is very likely that my partner will return to full medical health before too long. My exam is booked… and after it is booked, I’ll have a LOT more time on my hands to do some more of the things that I love (reading The Ethical Slut and More Than Two is high on my agenda, as is getting back into exercise and also just reading a book). And I don’t have to worry about work. Also, my band are playing at an enormously prestigious festival at the end of the year, so that’s exciting. The weather’s getting warmer. My self-confidence isn’t especially brimming… but it’s not particularly low, either.

I should also mention that I’ve started to think about maybe.. just maybe… I might start to put myself in a position where I might become ready to try this polyamory thing myself. I mean, not anytime soon – but with the advent of my study coming to an end, and a spring and a summer to concentrate more on self-improvement (of all kinds), I was starting to play with the idea that I too might be interested in exploring the idea of dating someone else in the… mid-term future, maybe?

But my partner and I had a chat about this – and it’s kind of hard to say when this might happen, in lieu of possible pregnancy. More specifically – if she does fall pregnant again, then she doesn’t like the idea of our relationship remaining open (by either of us) during this time. So, I guess it depends on what comes to pass, and how the timing of everything takes place. My partner isn’t against the idea of me ever exploring this realm – she admits that that would be particularly unfair. But I guess it’s a matter of timing – as a period of a pregnancy (and a subsiquent period of handling a newborn) might not be an ideal time to try such things. My partner has expressed a desire for keeping things insular during such a period – and that sounds completely reasonable. So, maybe I’ll try stuff soonish (ie. in the next 12 months), but I might need to wait for another couple of years beyond that. Which isn’t much of a big deal – after all, delayed gratification is my thing. (heh, unless it shouldn’t be? 😐 ).

One last aside: we had an issue surrounding communication during lovemaking, a few days ago… and that kind of rattled me too. I guess neither of us really spoke about how we were really feeling… which is rare for us. And that made me feel pretty yuck inside. I felt a lot of shame about this – for some reason, I became awash in shame for not speaking up – and my partner helped me to recognize that it wasn’t just because of what happened that day, but probably because I had been chastised in the past for revealing my real feelings about things that are very personal. Realizing this made me feel a lot better – there’s definitely some work to be done (from both of us) about speaking our mind and saying what we truly want. But I’m sure that we will get through this stuff together. We always do.

Currently listening to: TISM – Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me

Writing helps me make sense of the world – Why I can’t not write anymore.

It’s been about 18 months since I started this blog, and the initial intent was to keep it squarely focused on the one particular topic (namely, my attempted understandings of the newfound mono/poly relationship dynamic that I found myself in).

But abruptly… crudely… suddenly… I realised that I can’t do this any more – that is, I can’t keep denying myself the desire to write, at the expense of attempts to keep my blog to the one topic… and some perceived greater anonymity. I’m a “written processor”, almost by definition, and I’m coming to realise that maintaining a compartmentalized, separatist blog is not only unrealistic, for me it’s unhealthy.

Let me add some context to this: before I started this blog, I previously kept another personal journal, which I held on LiveJournal (which I maintain has a MUCH nicer user interface than WordPress; if only it had the readership!). My previous journal got me through the guts of my 20’s – I’d had it since about 2007. It was a nice journal, I’d curated it well… and I was proud of it. Whilst it was in the public domain, it wasn’t exactly published everywhere, and I had a readership of about six people (which was entirely fine). But Fast-Forward to 2016, and I decided to part ways with that particular journal, for a few reasons:

(1) First and foremost, it wasn’t anonymous enough. More specifically, I’d shared it with about six of my friends, and I’d used real (first) names of my friends on that blog. But after some quasi-fallings out with one or two of those friends, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with the possibility of them checking up on my posts as much anymore (an amateur mistake, I know). Whilst I didn’t necessarily want to hide lots of my posts from my remaining handful of reader friends, I found myself making an increasing percentage of the posts private… and that’s when I started to think twice about the journal as a whole.

(2) I definitely had an urgent need to start writing about polyamory… and I certainly wasn’t comfortable with disclosing the newfound ‘open’ nature of my relationship with anyone that I knew (hell, 2’ish years in, and I’m still only telling a very select few).

(3) readership. Here’s what it came down to: during times of real difficulty, what I really wanted was some sympathy from other like-minded people. I wanted others (an online community would have been fine) to say things like: “I understand. What you are going through is completely understandable, and it’s actually really really hard”.

So, those things combined meant that I started this blog. Which has been great so far (and I’m really proud of the title!), but I am now starting to realise that one huge, elephant-sized side-effect of keeping a blog restricted to one specific topic is that it limits you… it limits the times when I can/write publish online, and by extension, it limits my comprehension of the world around me.

I want to write more. I need to write more – and I want to write about topics far and wide. Sometimes (like today?), the world seems a little harder than normal… sometimes it seems complicated, confusing. Other times, (admittedly, occasionally by comparison), I want to write about unadulterated beauty – I want to capture the really good moments whilst they sparkle. In short, I want to make more sense of myself and of the world, and so, in brief, are times (like now?) when I simply feel like I “can’t not write”. Writing equals perspective – I can’t state it any more cleanly than what’s in the subject line – writing helps me to make sense of the world.

Currently listening to: The Cure – Close To Me

Dispelling myths about trust: seeing beyond old ideas.

I’ve been on quite a journey recently, surrounding my own perceptions of trust. Here’s what I’ve learned:

——-

During our most recent Couple’s Counseling session, our wonderful counselor chatted briefly about anxiety – mostly about the pervasive, overwhelming physiology that constricts us during a bout of anxiety – and what to do about it. Our counselor was very happy to hear that my anxiety levels have been significantly lower – in both frequency and intensity – since the start of the year – and that alone is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

But there’s still some way to go, with it all – and one strategy that our counselor suggested was for me to employ the hard-facts method during times where I feel a bit of anxiety creeping up. The approach that she suggested involved asking myself three hard-and-fast questions, as a sort of “reality check”, I guess… and if I could give a steadfast “yes” to each of these questions, then this might really help with triaging what my anxiety is all about – or rather, whether it’s really warranted… and hence whether I should label it as irrational and therefore tell it to quieten the hell down.

Although my counselor said that it doesn’t especially matter exactly what the three questions are, her suggested interrogations were insightful – I felt like they could be great diagnostic steps:

1) Am I comfortable in my decision to continue investing in this relationship? ,
2) Do I continue to feel as though polyamory is more of a help than a hindrance to our relationship? , and
3) Do I fully trust my partner?

Questions #1 and #2 are a no-brainer (ie. yes my partner is amazing, and yes polyamory IS genuinely helping us to have balance, closeness and to feel voluntarily connected to one another). But I was unnerved to learn that Question #3 was one that I couldn’t give a straight answer for. I’ve therefore been dismantling the banner of ‘trust’ throughout the past fortnight, in an endevour to get to the bottom of it.

————-

“We all carry around so much pain in our hearts. So much pain, and love, and beauty”. – anon.

Like with most things, what I’ve found is that there’s a sizable combination of factors – both distant-past and recent-past, which led me to this murky grey area that I wish to move away from. I’ve been concentrating hard on identifying these factors – these ‘value systems’ (as the textbooks would call them), and thinking pragmatically about how I might reshape these myths/perspectives/’tangled webs’, once they are… well… untangled.

Myth #1: Honesty vs. dishonesty.

I’m so uncannily fortunate with this one. Maybe not many people are in my current situation (or maybe they are) – that is, where they’ve experienced both the fallout of a partner who is scathingly dishonest, as well as the sheer peace of a partner who is unfailingly honest. My current partner is most certainly the latter, and I love that honesty’s not really something that I have to think about very much. I am so thankful for it.

Honesty is a fundamental – one of those absolute cornerstones that make a relationship live or die. Having experienced it, I know that dishonesty is about a million times worse – multitudes upon multitudes worse – when it comes to human relationships. Indeed, it’s such a time-honoured, universally-known clichĂ© that I refuse to harp on about it here – suffice to say that I’m unspeakably happy that my partner is so undeniably honest and forthright in her communication with me. Honesty is just who she is. And it’s beautiful.

So, I don’t need to worry about honesty – because my partner displays exemplary honesty, every day of her life.

Lets look at what else is in here.

Myth #2: “My partner is motivated to polyamory because of some dissatisfaction (with our current relationship), and this leads her to being distrustful”.

Ok, there’s a LOT in this. Before I jump into the details, it’s worth mentioning that I’m still “in progress” with working out & understanding all of the angles of this one. I mean, some of the elements add up: they’re kosher; they’re non-disputable, they resolve, if you will. For other parts, I may understand them at an intellectual level, but I’m still in the process of learning to ‘feel’ them in an inherent, instinctive way. (That’s just where I’m at right now – today, and it’s with hope that I speculate that I’ll be somewhere different tomorrow {or next week, or whenever}).

For a start, there’s the segregation – the disassociation – of the relationship qualities from my former partners (ie. “Long Term Relationships #1 and #2) vs. the one that I’m currently in. I mention this because I feel like it’s important to say that I think that a fair amount of my trust issues stem from both of those relationships (both involving secrecy, HIDDEN AGENDA, and manipulation)… if only because it’s here that I feel like I’ve experienced probably the highest amount of hurt in my life. Whilst it’s logical (and arguably normal) to protect ourselves from what hurts the most, that doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge it.

Next, there’s the obvious, pragmatic, fleshed-out day-to-day reasoning behind why my partner seeks secondary relationships at all: she does this because it makes her feel free, less trapped/confined to the boundaries of traditional relationships, and it’s affirming for her. She tells me time and time again that her reasoning has nothing to do with any shortcomings or anything lacking between me and her… and I believe her. That said, still very much learning and re-learning about these motivations – because it’s stark contrast to the couple of previous long-term relationships that I’ve been in before (where other people were only ever brought in as a direct consequence of something very much lacking within the relationship itself. One thing that’s really helped me here is to remember that what my former partners were doing was NOT polyamory – it was cheating… even where T. did her best to blur the lines by falsely labeling her behaviour as nonmonogomy. The confirmation and support of the polyamory community has been really monumental here: polyamory is nothing if not about honesty, openness, ethics, and respectful – and cheating is none of those things.

Another rule that M. and I have – and one which helps immensely in dispelling Myth #2: is that M. and I never attempt to do polyamory if we know that things are not right with us. It’s an INCREDIBLY assuring and beautiful rule, and I’d recommend it to absolutely any couple who are looking to open their relationship whilst keeping their current idiom as a primary partnership. I’ve even seen this in action a couple of times now, where my partner has definitely leaned towards me whenever something hasn’t been sitting right with us in the first instance – and words can’t express how beautiful and refreshing it feels when you partner shows you (by their actions… or non-actions, if you will, as well as their words) that they love you more than ANY poly development. Yeah, I’ve got nothing. I love this.

As hinted earlier, I’m still learning some of this stuff. In particular, getting my head past the ‘Scarcity of Love’ model – and subscribing to alternatives – continues to be one of the hardest concepts for me. When I think about it, I know that the alternatives to this model (ie. the ‘abundance of love’ theory – so pivotal and necessary in embracing open relationship culture) makes sense: I don’t dispute its validity; it just happens to fly in the face of every social definition of love that I embodied (and probably embodied far too much, as per my previous post, over the first ~30 years of my life). Even now, I wonder whether I would ever *feel it*, so to speak; that is, I’m really not sure whether i’ll ever *feel* like polyamory is ‘the norm’ at any deep, intrinsic level. Right now it’s hard for me to engage with an ‘abundance of love’ model at anything deeper than an academic level… but again, that’s just where I am at today.

Of course, I couldn’t talk about myth #2 without talking about the main subject of my last blog post – that is, about my own internal self dialogue and my own self-esteem over the years. Perhaps the link is obvious – but it definitely figures that if you’ve been constantly telling yourself that you’re not enough for a very long time, then it doesn’t take much to perceive someone’s actions (especially a partner who starts to see other people!) as anything other than a confirmation of the same old internal voices. Indeed, this is probably the biggest factor surrounding why Myth #2 exists at all. I’m continuing to work with it – and indeed during today’s Psych appointment (it’s Psych day again), I will be discussing ways to continue to adopt, embrace, and ratify the much-needed affirmations as listed in the last post. But again, I’m learning – and that feels good.

Lastly, there’s one more pragmatic thing that my partner does, to help dispel this myth. It’s hard to articulate with exact examples – but basically I know that if/whenever anything is awry, I know that she will always come back to me. Put another way: I know that my fiancĂ©e believes our relationship to be effectively the most rewarding relationship that she’s ever had… and I know that she’s as thankful as I am for what we have. We’ve been together close to three years now… and it continues to be surprising, refreshing, and good. When/if there’s ever a problem, we always work through it, with a demeanor of honour, gentleness, and respect. As I’ve mentioned a few times: we have a high quality relationship, but we also INVEST in it SO MUCH, every day… and seems to have led us to a space where we always work with each other, and never against. We have the same vested interests – ie. each other! And because we continually MAINTAIN the quality of our relationship, it’s impeccably unlikely that it would suddenly change and deteriorate.

Myth #3: The more that I put rules in place, the more my partner is tempted to break them. “I have no choice.”

This myth is perpetuated by fear, and dispelled by communication.

About six months ago, my partner did something that I really didn’t want her to do. Namely, she went on a date on a day where things weren’t great between us. Given our ground rule of “we don’t go on dates if stuff isn’t right between us”, I initially interpreted this as a violation of trust – I felt really hurt that she went. When we both talked about it, she mentioned that se felt it tempting to push past the boundary which I’d set, precisely because I had set it… this being one of the reasons why she chose to do something counter to what I badly wanted.

This invoked a lot of fear in me. My response – and one which I harboured – was an assumption that maybe my wishes weren’t really going to be honoured – if my partner ever really felt like doing something, then she would go ahead and do it in spite of however it affected me. I felt as though this was a violation of trust, and it scared me a lot.

Much has changed since then, but if we fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, my partner and I never really talked about this until recently. When we discussed it in person (ie. after our latest counseling session), my partner did mention one key factor that I’d managed to forget about whilst remembering the rest: On the day, I said to my partner “I will be very disappointed if you do this, but I won’t stop you from doing it”. In my partner’s ears, she interpreted this as “it’s OK to do it, even if it makes things sad with my fiancĂ©e for a time”. The point is, I could have (and should have) been more direct in my communication. In hindsight, what I should have said was “no I really don’t want you to do this today, and I will be grumpy with you if you do”, which is apparently very different from “I’ll be disappointed if you do, but I can’t stop you”. To her, they are very different things – and that’s what is important.

Since then, we’ve been through worlds of experience – some big highs, and very big lows. Thing is, when push comes to shove, I definitely believe that my partner doesn’t want to hurt me – and so it’s not like boundaries can’t be put in place if they really have to be. In return, I owe it to my partner to try everything within my reasonable power to help to allow her to feel as free as she possibly can. It’s a give-and-take… and after all, this isn’t like other relationships – for a start, it’s organic and wholesome, and it’s honest and clear.

This helps me feel like I do have choice. Since then, I can think of one occasion where my partner said to me that she might be tempted to do something if I suggest that it makes me uncomfortable… (I’m not assuming that she would act on this temptation! She’s a lot more considerate than I might make out), but at least now I also have some (ie. a lot) more of a guideline in terms of the language I need to effectively communicate how I feel about certain situations. So, do I have choice? Answer is yes.

Myth #4: is seeing really believing?

There’s mixed feelings about this myth. On one hand, it’s the least significant factor in the topic of trust – because the other myths constitute at least 80% + of how I perceive trust. In another light, it’s also a myth with a lot less empirical evidence to counter it, and so it requires a relatively high amount of faith compared to the others.

About a month ago, I did something that I am not at all proud of… and about six months ago, I did the same thing. You can probably guess what it was: I read through some of the messages on my partner’s phone. In both cases, I was already feeling insecure before this… in both cases I didn’t stop and think too much about the action… and in both cases I felt terrible afterwards. Whilst I was struck with guilt enormously afterwards for doing so, in both cases (well, mostly the recent one), I found some text messages there that were a lot more sexually overt than I was expecting, and therefore they went a little way towards painting a picture of dishonesty and untold feelings that I didn’t feel like my partner was relaying to me. The worst of these was an SMS that my partner sent to a man, saying that she couldn’t sleep that night for lewd thoughts of getting down and dirty with him, sent on the morning following what I perceived to be a peaceful night of her sleeping in my bed. Was my partner keeping her feelings from me?

When I confessed this to my partner, she was very concerned – and somewhat hurt… and rightly so. However, she also explained that the content of these messages was not true – that she simply says these things to another man in order to hopefully make him feel better about himself, even if she doesn’t actually feel genuinely as though she’s expressing her deepest desires.

There’s a lot going on here. Mostly – and I mean mostly – I feel that this insecurity and comparison-based jealousy is a likely deeply-rooted problem within me, that I am concertedly trying to stamp out. I’m doing this with things like the last blog post – with changing my perception about myself, with compassion-based therapy and self-soothing. The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Similarly, it says something of my discipline in terms of not chatting with my partner about the concerns that I have, and instead I went about it in… convoluted ways, twice now. I can – and need to – work on the art of taking myself out of the moment. Further, Sparks are flown from a demon of the past – ie. I’ve had at least one long-term relationship/engagement split up as a result of me ‘discovering’, suddenly, a long back-trail of deceit. More recognition of the very large differences between that relationship and this one – can only be a good thing.

At my request, my partner continues to find a mid-point between telling me enough details of her accounts to be honest and ultimately very clear about what’s going on, whilst only disclosing enough information that I don’t dwell or get hurt by the fine details. Although she generally does a great job with this (and it’s kind of a very tall order!), ultimately I have to have some faith that what she tells me is indeed an ‘open’ account of what’s going on… especially considering that maybe I’m taking the few bits of comments/texts that I’ve read out of context… or at least, not seeing the bigger picture.

I believe I owe it to myself to have the presence of mind (and assurance of self!) to not be bothered by her communications of others… and I’m proud of the times when I honour her digital privacy, and she does mine, in return. Further, I feel like I owe it to the universe – and I certainly owe it to M.! – to have the faith necessary to truly trust my partner in a full and unfettering way. Because of her openness, her honesty, her gentleness with me, and above all, the sheer authenticity of her actions and her words… how could I not call all things square, and label what we have as trusting?

TL; DR: I can think of about ten reasons why my past says that I shouldn’t trust partners ever again, and about a thousand reasons – practical, everyday reasons – why I should trust this one.

 

finally! We are getting somewhere (and it feels amazing).

It’s been a huge couple of weeks – I’ve had a lot going on (ie. mentally) – mostly good stuff. A few definite hiccups, but still mostly some really good stuff going on, and I wanted to write about them.

Most significant: I had an amazing counseling session, a couple of weeks ago with my psychologist… and it’s really helped in starting to change my view on things. I had an enormous response to this – I was overwhelmed with relief and happiness at being understood, as well as a moderate discomfort due to the rawness of the whole ordeal. It was the first time that a counseling session has ever had such an impact on me – and I found myself crying a little bit, immediately afterwards. I’d heard from friends that it were possible for psychology sessions to have such a huge effect on people, and I was starting to doubt that my current therapist would ever be able to draw me out so much… after all, it was session #4 with her – following on from some very lukewarm sessions in the months gone by. But I feel wonderful that we landed where we did.

We talked about a whole range of stuff: an update on my relationship, the pros and cons of the polyamorous dynamic, about physiology and anxiety, about porn addiction and recovering from that as a mid-20s young man… about past relationships big and small. But most of all, we talked about SEXUALITY – or rather, sexuality and SELF-WORTH – and here I finally felt like we were starting to hit some nails on their heads.

Probably the most significant thing that I realised was this: I discovered that I actually did feel an enormous (crippling, you might say) sense of pressure surrounding perceptions of sexual competency, as a young teenager growing up. It turns out that the cocktail of:

a) country town +
b) being a bit different/misunderstood by your peers +
c) relatively extreme loneliness +
d) enormously ‘jock’ all-male highschool + emotional isolation at hands of parents +
e) first encounters with pornography (which was a staple between about 16 and 24, for those playing at home)

= some pretty (nay, VERY) misconstrued views about:

– sex in general
– about how sex was supposed to look and sound and feel like, regardless of partners and/or experience
– about what defines a successful man
– about how sex relates to relationships
– about the importance of relationships, and about the extent to which relationships (or lack thereof) are an indicator of a successful life.

Suffice to say, by the time I actually had sex (at 19), I had already built up a CONSIDERABLY (and misconstrued) image, where I believed that:

– Sex was something that was amazing all of the time
– That there were no sexual ups and downs, ebbs and flows
– that men were super-human
– that women were superficial and judgmental
– that sex, when it happened, was more important than anything else
– that sexual competency was directly related to physical attractiveness and nothing else
– that there was something wrong with a man if he were not great at sex under all circumstances

So, basically a recipe for disaster.

Of course, we develop and change in lots of ways following on from our teenage years. But some of this stuff was basically left unchallenged… and this meant that the greater long-term picture started to look like this:

When you take the kind of values that I held at the time – especially surrounding my own sense of sexual self worth (ie. I wasn’t getting any, period – I’d barely kissed a girl… therefore something must have been very clearly wrong with me)… and you multiply it by the first two “long-term relationships” that I had in the next 10x years to come (ie. a vain, manipulative cheater/emotional abuser, plus an anger-filled neurotic)… with little in between (a couple of incredibly restorative, but few-and-far-between experiences)… and not much in between? Then you get a very ingrained, very self-critical trained inner voice, and a pretty consistent one at that. An inner voice that pretty frequently echoes phrases like “maybe I’m not actually good enough? / maybe there’s something wrong with me?”… at least some of the time, to put it very diplomatically.

Oh, and throw in a few years of cutthroat-competitive art school + music industry battling, just for good measure. All of this has gone unchecked for some time now… and here we are.

————–

Phew. Ok.

Getting back to this fortnight: one thing that my psychologist said to me that really resonated was this: “it sounds like your current relationship is really the first sexually-gratifying relationship that you’ve had”. And basically she’s right – she’s very right: because the wonderful qualities of the sexual dynamic that I have with M. resembles nothing of the relationships gone prior. (Okay, maybe glimpses of one or two positive short-term experiences in the past, but nothing of sustenance).

Although I believe that I’ve come a long way over the years (and this is very true!), it is also true that I’ve not really had many, if any (well, I can think of two?) genuinely positive/sexually compatible partners before this current one. In one light, it feels like I’ve not really a lot to go on in terms of staking a claim in the land of sexual-based self worth.

Not that I would, or should, place this type of self-esteem in the hands of my lovers past or present (or future, even). This is critically important: basing my sense of self-worth on the actions or opinions of others is not at all what I’m about. Another key point: while it’s true that my inner voice has traditionally prioritised sexual activity far too much when it comes to developing a sense of self-confidence and self worth… it’s also pivotal to note that I’ve also been blessed with some very fortunate, very empowering experiences later in life. For example, it’s of fundamental significance to remember 2012/2013: where I invested HEAVILY in learning about the art of loving myself, after my last breakup. This came about through a combination of things – but largely through lots of exercise, yoga, meditation, reading, music, holidays, and even dating (well a little bit: in retrospect, my friendship and then my couple of dates with W. were incredibly healing experiences). So those activities, and any number of other hedonistic pursuits that served as exercises in NURTURING, and learning more about who I am.

The point is this: not only did I feel strong, capable, and independent during this time… but I felt BEAUTIFUL. I learned to love myself – physically, and otherwise.

But there’s this: when you compare two (or three, lets call it) years of such new-age independent self-assurance to the 15x years or so that preceded it… then you quickly see that the former way of thinking is still relatively new and fresh. The old voices haven’t gone away, even if they are dormant a lot of the time. And what I’ve been discovering recently is that something as confronting as polyamory soon makes these voices pipe up again and get busy. It’s easy for them to be dominant.

Whilst walking in the park last week, I thought long and OBJECTIVELY, about what the past 20 or so years have taught me. I don’t think that my path has been similar to that of most men – certainly, I believe that it looks quite different to that of most of my male peers. And there’s been a lot of hardship over the years – particularly in formative years: some VERY lengthy periods of lonliness – a good amount of isolation, and a few hurtful/traumatic experiences in the mix too. But the key is this (and here’s where I think I’m going with all of this): It certainly hasn’t been all bad. THERE’S BEEN SOME GOOD STUFF, TOO! Some really good stuff. I like to think that I’ve developed some quite lovely qualities over the years, and learning to focus on that is exactly where I want to go.

During that park walk, I compiled a bit of a list of some of my better qualities:

As a lover, I am:
– attractive
– respectful
– physically fit
– willing to serve
– emotionally aware; willing to be vulnerable
– kind
– a good listener
– a good communicator
– a feminist; keen to challenge traditional views of masculinity
– bdsm-friendly
– gentle
– I have stamina
– I have a clear mind
– clever/intellectual
– funny; good-humoured
– open-minded
– honest
– generous
– lighthearted
– worldly
– reliable
– optimistic
– great with words
– proactive

As a friend, I am:

– a great listener
– great at mediation
– insightful
– adventurous
– generous
– lighthearted
– worldly
– fun
– reliable
– optimistic
– supportive
– trustworthy
– gentle
– calm

As a person, I am:

– curious
– spiritual
– endearing
– philosophical
– full of diverse interests
– dedicated/hard-working
– creative
– constantly seeing the beauty in the small
– altruistic
– educated
– utilitarian
– modest

———-

I think these lists need to become a mantra – I’m envisaging them stuck to the back of my bedroom cupboard, perhaps in place of (or at least, alongside) some of the now-out of date “poly=OK!” notes that are scribbled there. Hopefully, they’ll stick into the back of my mind. I need to learn this stuff… to know it and breathe it. I’m definitely getting there (one thing I’ve been doing lately is trying the “affirmations in the mirror” trick – and I think that it’s having some effect…). But concentrating on this stuff – far, far more than ever before – is going to be my focus, from this point on.

The three-dates weekend, part 2

So many good things came out of this weekend. So, so many unexpectedly good things.

I guess most of my impending thoughts from the last weekend were turned upside down on Friday morning, when I still had the last blog post in my head and I was feeling a bit… well, not-quite-right… when heading to work at ~8am. I gave M. her morning goodbye-kiss, and that turned into a hug, which in turn became a spontaneous and most incredibly reassuring hour-long conversation. We hugged tightly, we talked gently and quietly through things, and I felt incredibly REASSURED. Reassured that my partner’s desire for polyamory did not indicate an underlying problem in our relationship… that it was simply a case of my partner doing whatever she needed to do in order to feel as comfortable as possible in terms of viewing our relationship as a longevity measure. And ultimately, It was affirming – affirming in a way that I treasure and in a way that challenges a core value: it was a conversation that assured me, in no uncertain terms, that there was NOTHING WRONG WITH ME as a result of my partner dating (or not dating) other people.

It’s such a core value. I’m realising more and more that indeed this might be the very most inner core value that affects my whole perspective on this polyamory stuff. Whilst there’s a LOT more fleshing out of this to do: with other, deeper blog posts… with more of those brutally-honest CCI workbooks… with my counselor, with some very confronting and difficult, brutally-honest CBT. But for now, I’m labeling it: it’s very true to say that I often thing of myself as not good enough as a result of the status (and health) of my personal relationships – or lack thereof).

So, all of Friday and even throughout Saturday (to my pleasant surprise) – I felt incredibly good… I wasn’t anxious at all. Friday was a happy day at work, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending an hour with my fantastic work colleagues after work. On Friday night, I found that the house was remarkably clean, and it was a huge stress-relief to not have to worry about cleaning all night. Instead, I ate a nice/simple dinner, and I went to bed early – 10am, and I had ten hours of sleep.

A quick but important aside here: sleep and vitamins. I’m quickly developing a theory that anxiety is a lot more physiological than I initially gave credit for. Recently, I was diagnosed as iron-deficient, and whilst I initially faffed about with half-taking iron tablets maybe once a week… I’m coming to realise that I just feel better when I take them. It’s as though I aren’t as exhausted, and life isn’t so hard. Sleep also has a similar affect: I’ve been making 10pm my bed time (instead of 12am), and it just really really helps.

Yesterday was Saturday, and that was a great day too. I woke early and spent a couple of hours doing some nice things for my landlord – and I busied myself during the morning with running some errands and complying some physical around-home tasks that I’d wanted to do for some time. In particular, I really enjoyed getting my car cleaned/detailed (finally!), and it was fun to play scientist with the weather in order to sneak out and do bits of vacuuming whenever it had stopped raining for a 10 or 15-minute period. I also spent the afternoon + evening studying, and this I absolutely loved! It was so, so nice to finally be able to sit down and get my head into the books for a consolidated period spanning several hours – such a welcome break to the tidbits of 30-minute stints that I get in over this lunchtime or that. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I was finally making perhaps some headway through it all – I’m now almost 14/18 chapters completed for the pre-requisite-course-to-the-course-proper that I’ve meant to study. Every time that I study, I think about the tattoo that I’m going to shout myself as a reward for passing – I am so looking forward to making that technology’s logo a part of me in a new symbolic way.

I then cooked for a couple of hours, which was initially a bit longer than I’d hoped to spend in the kitchen – but I was proud of making myself lunches for another week – and besides, with the right music, cooking is really enjoyable.

My partner came home about 9:30pm, and she was over the moon with happiness. It was no surprise that she was bordering elation, almost overwhelmed by a sense of freedom that she felt as consequence of her few days away. I’ll admit that I wasn’t feeling the same – not nearly, from the moment she arrived home. Don’t get me wrong – I was super-happy, and PROUD of how I’d handled my weekend – and again, I was specifically proud of the quantity and quality of my studying – which I feel like is a harbinger of so many things in the future. But I found myself being pulled out of this space when I heard about the succession of my partner’s experiences; as my partner talked about all of the positive aspects of her experiences with other people, I immediately started equating that with the theory that I am not good enough – that I am not enough. Same as I always do.

And so with that, I’ve retreated a bit. Specifically, I didn’t / don’t really want to be physically affectionate with my partner – I want to protect myself. There’s an interesting word, ‘protect’.

For me, I guess that having a partner be with someone else is so, so synonymous to those deepest feelings of the few times where I’ve opened myself up fully to someone and been hut by it, that I want to keep myself protected – to reserve myself… keep myself safe by not exposing myself. This is a core, deep-down feeling… perhaps more deep down than any other… even if I intellectualize or even know that my current situation is very different to those of the past, in several very important and significant ways. My first association with this feeling of ‘protection’ is that I need to protect myself as a result those of the few -ex’s that I’ve really opened myself up to, only to have that pulled down (namely, T. and J.). But also, I am aware that it’s the same thing about what happened with my parents and music – it was the most invalidating, painful, abandoning feeling in the world, and therefore I’ve been frightened about talking about music with pretty much anyone ever since. This is why I feel withdrawn, and reserved.

(Yes, all of this is counselor time).

In a relationship context, I think that a combination of this hurt combined with the years of being alone = re-enforcing the “i’m defective” mentality… means that I’m still struggling in times when polyamory is bought to the forefront of my attention. I can block it out and ignore with other things… (lord knows I’m damn good at doing that), but really it’s the re-shaping of “multiple partners = the worst kind of pain” that I need to continue to come to terms with.

But I feel completely like this is my responsibility to work on, by myself and with my counselor. I don’t even really want to talk about it with my partner, because it’s not her job to sort through my baggage and I think that I don’t even want her to start trying.

Maybe I need to work through this stuff before I continue finishing Chapter 13/18 of the damn course that I so enthusiastically escape into. At the very least, alongside it.

 

 

 

dating: as bad as it is good.

A couple of things happened last night.

Firstly, my partner got a message from a former lover/romantic interest of hers, A. , who she hadn’t heard from in many years. A. contacted M. out of the blue, and mentioned that he had broken up with his long-term partner a few months ago. Coincidentally, A. also mentioned that he was randomly staying in a hotel over the weekend, and he was interested in “catching up” with M.

Initially, before M. and A. spoke, M. mentioned that she would really like to see A. again, and to try and help him heal / get to know him probably just as friends. She was initially against the idea of developing any sort of intimacy with A. , because she didn’t think that this is what A. needs right now, and she didn’t want to be a rebound of any kind for A. But after they spoke again, it turns out that M. and A. are going to meet tomorrow night, and M. is probably going to stay the night with A. in the hotel room, “probably just as friends, but hey it’s a hotel room, so anything goes”.

To me, it feels like a quick escalation… a quick change of heart, and arguably one that’s too quick for me to feel comfortable with.

Coincidentally, M. has expressed that she wants to try and keep her quantity of dates down to “about a maximum of two per week”, however she’s going out three nights/days in a row. Right now, I feel jealous and uncomfortable about the A. situation tomorrow (curiously, the dates tonight with H. , and Saturday with S. , don’t seem to phase me all that much). I think I feel uncomfortable because of the sudden change of heart? This isn’t the first time that she’s over-committed herself in regards to quantity of dates, and I feel as though the nature of the polyamorous dating world means that there is alway going to be another proverbial carrot dangling from the sky…

I think that my mood is intertwined with the long conversation that we had last night. We’ve been talking some more about my last post – specifically about what it was that made my experience of Thursday’s date such a good one. More and more, I’m looking at why I feel dates so validating, and while I still can’t point my finger on a one-sentence answer, I believe that it at least partly has something to do with the notion that dates = “I’m interesting / I’m not boring” = “I’m exciting” = “my partner wants me as a lover” = “our relationship is youthful, dynamic, and has *spark* (which I feel very firmly is a good indicator that it’s healthy). Conversely, I think that when I’m home and/or not doing similar things with my partner that she chooses to do with other lovers… then I get the feeling that I must be boring, perhaps. Or… like my partner is sick of me / uninterested in me romantically anymore… and is therefore looking for at least something… extra… elsewhere. The Scarcity of love theory, yet again.

For my partner, dating equates to a very different thing. For her, she feels awful around the idea of dates – she feels as though they are a harbinger of massive expectation, and that they are not an indicator of love, but of suffocating, lifeless commitment. She has a huge amount of anxiety when it comes to “going out” with her partner… because of various reasons that run very, very deep (mostly centered around her fist marriage, and conservative Christianity’s pressure for young women to find a husband).

So, we are at different places, with regards to our impressions of dating. My partner was very gentle, but she suggested that I need to do some work to look at some of the reasons why I hold that core belief about “being at home = I am boring / there is something wrong with me”. I know that she’s right, and I agree with her, but I am dreading the emotional shoveling that I’m going to have to do to change my opinion of this. It’s going to be exhausting. It’s going to be time-consuming. Above all, it’s going to be emotionally excruciating to do… and there’s only so much of this that I can afford to do, if I am to continue to work full-time, plus engage in my life-admin, hobbies, household, relationship and all of the other things that I mentioned two blog posts ago.

And I haven’t even touched on exploring the feelings I have surrounding my partner getting home after a date before/after me. (which is equally something else that I need to nut out).

I also felt a bit negated when my partner suggested this route. It felt a little inequitable – that is, if I am to work on some of the core values surrounding why a lack of dates makes me feel uncomfortable, then I want partner to work on some of her core values surrounding why a presence of dates makes her feel the same way. This doesn’t seem fair to me.

Today, my partner was incredibly lovely to me. She sent me some lovely flowers at work (which was unexpected and sweet!), and – slightly better than this – she sent me some very meaningful, absolutely lovely heartfelt messages to say that she cares about me immensely, and that she loves me unfailingly. That was so touching. She also mentioned that she is happy for us to ‘just go on some dates as well as challenging me to think about why I want it’. But I don’t think that my partner simply submitting to going on dates (and possibly repressing her negative responses to them) is necessarily the right approach. I want us to both do some of the emotional hard yards, and find a way to meet in the middle. At the moment, I don’t know what or how this might be – I suspect we both have to do a little inward-focusing in order to reckon with our fears and then meet in the middle… before deciding on maybe some other form of discourse that helps us to both meet our needs at the same time. That’s what I want.

For now, it remains that my partner’s staying in a fancy hotel suite – and probably sharing a bed with – a former love interest, tomorrow night. If it were her and me, there’d be a fair-to-good chance that my partner would hate the experience – apparently she “likes hotels”, but I feel that with her current mindset, the expectations that she would feel surrounding the event of us being there would be possibly (or possibly not) too much for her to handle.

But apparently, when dating a secondary partner, all of that expectation stuff is circumvented.

Reconciling where we both stand on this issue is something that I am really looking forward to. Until then, I’m… not actually sure… how I will deal with the next few days. In just the usual ways, I guess. I figure that it probably doesn’t help that my mental health when I am going to bed late, and/or when the house is messy, again (I literally had no energy to clean, tonight)… and/or when work is so stressful that I can barely handle it.

I should go to bed.

we went on a date, and I was blown away.

There’s a bit of a back story, but M. and I ended up on a date on Thursday night, and it was actually a wonderful experience.

OK OK, I guess I can’t tell this story without writing saying a bit about the context: lets just say that Valentines Day was a terrible experience – more specifically, I made a royal mess of it. Going into Valentines Day, M. and I hand’t really communicated what we did and didn’t expect from the day, and – basing some assumptions very loosely on last year’s faded memories, I assumed that although we wouldn’t really do anything “official” for it, ‘unofficially’, we would. I guess I fed myself this assumption far too much during the day, and that was a terrible idea. When I got home, I was exhausted – because I’d had a rough commute home and I was stressing and rushing because I thought that M. might be expecting to see me, and therefore she might be worried about my whereabouts. So I was a bit of a mess (ie. confused and tired) when I finally got home… I wasn’t really in a place to think or plan any valentines-related activities off the top of my head. But I did an appalling job of communicating my preconceptions – I pretty much didn’t say anything, other than a “sure!”, when asked whether we should do something that night.

That didn’t eventuate – and we ended up going about our separate activities instead of spending time together. I felt inwardly disappointed by this – and that was amplified when it came to sink in that my partner had opted to make (and plan to deliver) some paper flowers for another friend of ours, instead of doing something with me. I feel like I did a spectacular, almost unprecedented job of not communicating that I didn’t feel great about this, and when I finally uttered something – some hours later – I felt like I unequivocally ruined the evening. I felt a huge amount of guilt, but also discomfort, and we argued for a while. I mentioned that I felt a little jealous of her romantic gestures towards other people, and that I’d like it if we went on some more formal dates. But I also felt like I ruined her night – she felt incredibly restricted that we started having such a conversation instead of her just taking off and following through with her plan to deliver the paper roses. Whilst I take full responsibility for basically doing a terrible job of communicating my emotions, later my partner also later admitted that she was thinking of making the roses for a couple of weeks now, and so it didn’t feel good that she kept her intention of this gesture from me for so long. Suffice to say, we went to bed unhappy, and it was really yucky.

—-

Ugh. Good news – is that going on from there, the next day felt completely different.

During the day, I received a message from M. suggesting that we dress up in our Sunday-best and head out for a date from 7pm. This was surprising to the point of flabbergasted… I think that I felt very surprised that my partner listened to me in regards to the things that I said last night, and she’d decided to take in upon herself to take my suggestions into consideration and do something different.
I felt so pleasantly surprised and so honoured, that my partner was willing to take time to invest in something new/different for us. To use an unrelated analogy; it’s a bit like when one couple asks the other to go to counseling…, and to their surprise, the partner completely agrees and embraces the suggestion. Not every partner does this – certainly not ones that I’ve been with in the past… and I was touched. I felt listened to, and excited, just pleasantly surprised.

The date itself was absolutely wonderful. Even though it was just dinner and a movie, the attention to detail was one of the things that I completely loved about the evening. My partner had organized everything – from uber rides to pre-booking restaurants… to arranging a nice walk, to booking the movie tickets. None of these things alone doesn’t make it special – but I enjoyed reveling in the fact that my fiancĂ©e is indeed exceptionally brilliant (aside: no really, she really is – she’s one of the most brilliant people that I’ve ever met), and whenever she puts her mind to doing something, she does it incredibly well.

But best of all, throughout the night, I kept feeling like my parter wanted ME. The crux of it is this: I felt like she was CHOOSING me: romantically, as a lover, as a partner… Not by way of any gifts or by acts of service like making the house nice… but by taking me out into the world as if to say to it: ‘this is the one I want. This is the one I love”. From the attention and intent of this beautiful human, I felt incredibly wanted. She was demonstrating this in no uncertain terms, and it made me feel good all over. Even though we saw a downright lovely movie (Lady Bird is a great movie) and we were at a gorgeous cinema complex… it wasn’t the movie or the fact that we were seeing a movie that felt so wonderful. It was that my baby was choosing me – intentionally, deliberately setting time aside just to show me that I was wanted – as a partner, as a lover. The attention was lovely.

I think that our current polyamorous context had a lot to do with amplifying how I felt. That is, i felt like the notion of my partner taking me out on a date (which is what she does with other people sometimes) meant that she wanted me IN A SIMILAR WAY, ie. romantically; not because I am a best friend and/or someone who takes really good care of her. I’m pretty sure that that’s what I liked the most. I felt valued and loved *as a lover* (and as a PRIMARY partner, at that).

I guess I’ve always had a phobia that a static relationship might theoretically deteriorate to a point where the couple looks after each other, but they don’t really feel much attraction towards each other. And so by going on a date (versus perhaps a romantic daytime activity together, or a romantic night in – no matter how nice those things might be of their own accord), to me the act of getting out of the house and doing something that’s similar (note: not identical) to the gestures and expressions that she might make towards other people… made it unfailing obvious to me that I was valued romantically. Again, I felt ‘as a lover’ – in the same ball park as my partner’s other dates, instead of because of something complimentary or supplementary or ancillary. I guess I felt overwhelmingly ‘chosen’. To use another analogy: maybe the feeling is a bit like when it’s discovered that a slower/bigger kid in school is actually awesome at hockey… and so he suddenly starts getting picked first for hockey teams, rather than traditionally being picked last. Maybe that analogy doesn’t exactly fit… but I really felt that the night was romantic. I felt desired, attractive, and like a deserving primary partner.

I think that that’s the key. Thursday felt quite different for me. I felt renewed in our love; rejuvenated. Since then, we spent the weekend thoroughly enjoying each other’s company: cooking and going about life, going out to cafes, seeing friends at a concert, and passionately making love. I didn’t think that a single date night could suddenly make me feel so much closer to M. : it was just unexpected, and it’s an incredibly lovely feeling.

A new year, a new leaf, and the wheels keep turning.

Good afternoon Journal,

It’s been an impeccably long time since I wrote last – not even in the usual sense of “oh, it’s been a while”, but an uncharacteristically long time. And much has changed in the interim, albeit mostly in some subtle ways.

With the new year – I’ve decided to give this blog a facelift – both aesthetically but also – and more importantly, with regards to content. That is – although this was traditionally a blog that focused solely around relationships and polyamory, I’ve now decided taht I will expand it out into some other things. Basically, my need to keep apersonal blog has proven to be much stronger than my desire to consolidate one that focuses around just one tiny aspect of life… and besides, it’s kind of wrong to pretend that one area of life can be segregated and considered independently of the others, without influence.

So, today’s update is really the first in a new perspective for this blog: and, it really is just that – just an update.

The other logistical change with this blog – I’ve decided that I’m not going to continue with the increasingly complex matrix of substitute-first-initials (which was an experiment in confidentiality that I tried for a time throughout last year). I’m still very keen to keep my blog anonymous – and I won’t be sharing it with any of my friends, for example – but from now on, if I’m writing about P. , then P. = P. The initial isn’t going to corellate to some code that needs to be assessed via a glossery. I’m also not going to cross-check any of my old 2017 posts in order to update the initials for th sake of fluency for the long-term reader – you’ll just have to work it out. Life’s too short for such detail.

So yes, it’s been a good while since I wrote. A lot of good things have been happening since christmas – and with those, I am feeling decidedly a LOT better about this year, compared with last. In case you haven’t gathered, 2017 was one of the utmost difficult years of my life – bar none – certainly it wasn’t the ugliest year in history, but it was still unusually hard. But – it’s over now, and with the birth of the new year, there’s an awful lot of promise, which I am looking forward to.

Some of the good 2018 things include:

– I’ve been feeling a lot better about the dynamics of my relationship (and about polyamory in general), since my last blog post. Although Christmas day was necessary, I think that the subsiquent post on hardship helped me enormously – profoundly, even. In particular, identifying the core beliefs that tend to spark my anxiety (or empowerment) was a eral step forward… and having the three baskets of “what makes me feel listened to? / What makes me feel understood? / What makes me feel as though I am empowered with a choice?” was of huge benefit. I feel like I’ve been trying to define these categories for a long time. Finally, I have a toolkit – a collection of resoures that I can both draw upon and cultivate, and for me that feels like a powerful step in the right direction towards good mental health. So, that post was pivotal.

– I also wrote to my abroad friend, P. , who I’ve been meaning to write to for six months. I did this during an otherwise kind of stressful/intense holiday, and collating my thoughts to my friend was an incredibly therapeutic act of self-care. Indeed, P. (a girl, not to be confused with my oldest friend P. – the latter who is a guy) has always been one of my (surprisingly few) “tell everything” people, and I did just that – writing out some ~9,000 words to her over the course of a couple of weeks. Even if I don’t hear back from her anytime soon – or ever – it was just a lovely exercise to consolidate all of my thoughts onto paper… not only did it help me make sense of things from a big-picture perspective, it helped me to feel listened to and understood. So that was downright lovely.

– Counselling. I’ve been seeing a new counsellor since Feb, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this is helping. Sometimes, I wonder whether she’s succinct enough in seeing the big picture (am I talking too much in these things?), but in hindsight perhaps it’s been quite rewarding for me to be able to speak my mind during these sessions as well – lord knows, in the absence of a journal or the opportunity to chat with friends, that’s been quite beneficial in itself. I’m hoping that counselling gets a lot ‘tougher’ soon, but so far, it’s been enjoyable as well.

– And finally, there’s been one other big change that you can probably guess – one that simultaneously doesn’t matter and yet which matters a whole bunch – my godawful renovations are complete now; and I’m set to become a landlord. This might sound minor, but actually, it’s unbelievably freeing – I’ve felt as though not only do I have my life back (in terms of net free time), but I’ve had far greater peace of mind. Peace is the key word: I’ve BEEN ABLE to invest in other things – such as getting our household in order at home… and that’s been wonderful for both my partner and also myself, on a regular basis. It’s not like “everything is done” just now… but things have come a decidedly long way.

So, that’s what I mean when I say that things are looking to be much better than they were last year. The standings are significantly different. My english soccer team are even winning, and that’s kind of great too.

Onto something that I struggle with occasionally – at least, something that I’ve been struggling to get my head around over the past couple of days. I was working on some of my study, and getting a bit frustrated with how slowly it was progressing. I found myself working through the first three chapters of some interactive 7x-chapter tutorial… as a part of Chapter 11… which is only Ch 11 of 18x prerequisite chapters… for the course that I’m actually wanting to study, which contains 44x chapters. (Also, I was learning about Vim, which is complicated and there are no shortcuts, to use an impressive nerd pun).

I was feeling a little (nay, a fair amount) of despair at the relative stasis of things, and that’s when I had the realisation: things are indeed moving slowly because I am dedicated to such a BROAD range of things – perhaps broader than most people. During any given week, this breadth of interests – however hedonistic or altruistic – necessitate a “slowly, slowly” approach when it comes to progressing very far in any one individual pursuit.

Loosely, weeks correlate to something like this:

– I spend one day studying,
– one day making music,
– one day playing sport,
– one day cleaning up my house, and
– one day with my partner.

When weekends come around, there’s a little more space – usually for more partner and/or housework, sometimes with a bit of hobbie stuff if it comes to pass. And of course, there’s all of the other things – like the times when you write in your journal, or sit on a couch and do nothing because you feel exhausted at the end of a week or at 4pm on a Sunday… or when you see mates or family, or you cook and/or wash clothes in an evening, so that you have those things for the next day. And god forbid if we were to ever have a child – which, don’t get me wrong, would be wonderful – but it would be simultaneously as wonderful as it would be chaotic, and I can forsee much of this routine getting dropped due to the overwheleming basic physical demands of parenting (which, you know, would be fine, if that’s how the dice rolls… it’d just be very… different).

Why do I study? Why am I learning the cello? What do I want from my current soccer team? And – importantly – why do I chose to invest in the relationship and the home situation that I currently have? Asking these question is an act in grounding myself; and reconciling the andante development of my own projects with the the demands of daily life is one of the more healthy things that I do. Reminding myself that I am indeed dedicated to the BALANCE of those five worknight-things – rather than being obsessive about any one thing – helps me to feel better about the world. It’s also the reason why I don’t meet any number of ideals: I’m still struggling with 1st position extensions on the cello… maybe I’m not considered a ‘greyeard’ at work. Maybe I haven’t suddenly become a lot fitter and embarked on an early-morning health kick – which could really improve my soccer game, not to mention my physique… maybe there’s always a little more to do around the house (although – with getting the other property finished, there’s now A LOT more time for this!). And maybe this is the reason why I don’t even consider the concept of dating other people as a real possibility for me any time soon – which I will admit is gradually shifting from a “nah, not ever” proposal to a “maybe one day” concept within my head. Maybe when my study is over, I’ll think more about polyamory – maybe there is some good to become of it (who knows, maybe it’ll be wonderful?).

But for now, why would I bother? What it comes down to is that right now, nothing is missing in my life… and why give up something that I’m passionate about, and which makes me ‘me’, for something that might not?

breadth over depth; and acceptance of this. That’s where I’m at right now.

Christmas Day felt exceptionally yuck, but writing this made me feel a lot better.

why I felt yuck on Christmas day – short version:

(environmental factors: too busy, very stressed by christmas preparation tasks, stressed by needing to get ridiculous amounts of cleaning done, stressed by greater issues this year ie. ‘small window’).
Also, Exhausted. Fatigue = huge factor in ability to regulate emotions.

For the record, my Christmas eve sucked: primarily because of a combination of exhaustion (as above), plus a sizeable dose of ‘conservation religion still sucks’ rebellion that I had to deal with at a midnight mass that I mistakenly agreed to sing at.

Getting back to xmas day. What happened on xmas day:

I was enormously stressed when I overheard M. saying to C. ‘discretely’ that she wanted to be with her in January:

– flirting in front of my face = similar to ‘night when everything hit the fan’. feeling of not being understood (ie. in terms of how detrimental this specific action is for me at the moment)
– flirting in my house = rule broken, feel like I can’t retreat anywhere. = feeling of not being listened to
– slight feeling of distrust: wonder whether M. was minimising with “just wanted to communicate to C.” but was actually flirting
– slight feeling of sadness (earlier) when G. and I started having a conversation about how I was really doing this year, and I started opening up, but then C. walked in and changed the conversation. Embarassed and annoyed with myself for not taking control in that moment and standing up for something that I felt was important ie. expressing myself.
– everyone talking about polyamory and online dating = feeling like I don’t matter, feeling like I am powerless. That is: ‘polyamory is here, it’s prevalent, it’s in my house, it’s disclosed to everyone, like I have no choice in the matter (insignificant, outvoted?), like I just have to deal with it.

KEY NEGATIVE EMOTIoNS:

– not listened to
– powerless to have a vocie / to say things
– not understood

When do I feel listened to? Why?

M. stays up all night to talk with me. She hears me. She doesn’t get upset and she doesn’t tell me to get over it. She even takes steps in my direction, when it’s really bad.
My friends to date don’t really get it, and I long for the two aspects of anxiety (encouragement and empathy, ie. “it’s really hard” and “you’re doing good”), so not getting that from many other sources other than M…. but I perhaps need to communicate this more with people. I told sam and that was a start, even though his response was essentially entirely neutral. maybe i’ll tell engage with some online community forums or similar.\

What other things make me feel listened to?

– Writing a blog where other people could potentially read it
– when I can open up with friends (rare: with P., J., other J., Z.)
– People being affirming about my music etc
– work – makes me feel listed to AND understood
– Playing in my band, spending time with S.

When do I feel understood? Why?

When M. holds me, it really helps.
When she understands my anxiety, this also helps. Also, self-help books make me feel more understood, and that’s wonderful. The anxiety book is helping (a lot) to calm me down, but there’s never any single factor that causes anxiety – it’s a combination of circumstance and self-worth / confidence / opinion.
My last counsellor was a huge sourse of affirmation in the sense that I felt very understood after talking with her. I’m hoping (and i expect) that my current psychologist will help me feel the same.

What other things make me feel understood?

– time with pets
– When I write music (or make art eg. graphic design, animation, art coding, etc) and do a good job of it… and people ‘get it’. When I am creative
– work – makes me feel listed to AND understood
– When I read literature (ie. when I relate to other people’s experiences)

When do I feel powerful? Why?

I feel powerful when M. tells me that she loves me more than she loves polyamory. I feel powerful when I feel like I have CHOICE in a situation. Sometimes it’s exceptionally difficult for me to feel like I have choice.
I also feel powerful when my confidence levels are high, because this makes everything else easier.

What other things make me feel powerful?

– Exercise. I feel powerful when I play sport… and more powerful when I am fitter/when I play better
– When I STUDY. Learning is a very powerful thing.
– When I listen to new music, and I get to choose what that music is
– When I pursue my hobbies (instruments, writing music, sports of various kinds, watching sports, environment, writing words, etc ).