You know one of the quickest ways to tank your self esteem as a poly person? Start comparing yourself to any of your metamours or things your partner(s) are doing with other partners.
And yet, I’ve fallen into that trap waaaaaay more times than I care to count. Today alone.
Just kidding. That was yesterday. Today it’s only happened a little.
It sucks. Because reason tells me that I know better than this. All I’ve read and written and experienced tells me, for the most part, better than this.
And yet, there are times when I can’t see past it. Past the fear, the panic, the “are they better than me?” Sexier? Kinkier? More flexible? And if they are, the root of it….am I going to be left behind?
This is probably the pit my brain tosses myself into headlong most frequently. Therapists and I have theorized about an abandonment complex based on things from my past when I was younger and people who were supposed to care about me dropped off the face of the earth when I was younger. In the span of about four years, my mother disappeared, my sister went off to college, my aunt and uncle, whom I used to see every other weekend along with my cousins who were like my little brothers, stopped seeing me and calling me, my grandfather stopped contacting me. Hell, even the guitar teacher I had just…stopped. This was from was from when I was eight until I was twelve. And yeah, I spent many years obsessing, wondering, afraid. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? What could I have done to have made them stay?
The answer(s)? Nothing. Nothing. And nothing.
I know this now, after many years have passed and conversations have happened.
But on the other hand, people have told me I’m “too much”. I think too much, feel too much, laugh too loudly, get into hobbies too deeply, am too dramatic. So I’ve retreated sometimes. I’ve been worried about what I say, what I do, if it’s too much. If I’m too much.
Conversely, my brain also tells me I’m not enough. I’m not enough to for people to want…anything from. Not sexy enough, or attractive enough, or kinky enough, or interesting enough, or competent enough, or intelligent enough, or witty enough. I fight feeling like I’m failing at everything….my job, relationships, writing, life. It’s hard to see the things I’ve done right while the things I’ve done wrong scream at me.
Add metamours into this mix and sometimes, my brain sometimes goes haywire.
Here’s the thing. I actively chose and continue to choose to be in open relationships. After over 15 years, I know this is how I’m wired. It just makes sense to me to love more than one person. And that love can come in many different shapes and forms. I err more towards relationship anarchy style of poly these day, in that I do not want to tell my partners what they can or can’t do with other people and I don’t ever want anyone to tell me what I can and can’t do with other people. And most times, I love hearing fun stories of scenes that other partners have done, or fun experiences. I can usually do compersion like a mofo.
And yet. That pesky “and yet” slams me upside the heart and I’m gone.
I’ll think of a metamour, especially a new one (because new ones are waaaay harder to process than existing ones, most times), and go….fuuuuuuuucccckkkkk. They’re hot. Which, for some reason, suddenly means I’m not. They’re into things I’m not. Which suddenly, for some reason, means that I’m less valuable or interesting. They see said partner more than I do. Which suddenly diminishes the time I spend with that partner. All of the things I am and do and are interested in suddenly, in my stupid, stupid brain, are warring to be both not good enough and too much. Because that’s a thing that my brain can magically maintain.
Because it’s easier to beat myself up than to just understand that a new person does not automatically mean I lose.
Because a partner having NRE or wanting to see someone he hasn’t seen in months makes it feel like our communication is less/different and I feel like I’m kind of all alone. Add to the mix when life is crazy hella hectic and I’m at a touch and sex and play deficiency and suddenly everyone becomes competition. Suddenly, I’m afraid of losing everything.
Two of the best ways I’ve found to combat this are to talk and to focus solely on my relationship with my partner, not their relationship with anyone else. That latter one came from this gem of an article I read about a month ago called “Change your Cookbook: A monogamuggle’s guide to cookin’ with polyfolk”. (side note: I love that some of the best poly advice I’ve ever gotten comes from a monogamuggle. Also, I love the term “monogamuggle”.)
When it comes to talking, I’m finding that talking to partners is one thing. And that can be incredibly helpful. I mean, if you’re focusing on your relationship with your partner and you feel like they’ve been pulling back or things have changed, checking in with them is a good idea. But the best people I’ve found to talk to? The metamours themselves.
This used to scare the ever-lovin’ fuck out of me. Talk to the people that must be better than me? That might be taking my partner away? But…that seems impossible and painful. Like the bad kind of masochism. And that’s coming from an emotional masochist.
Funny thing, though? Metamours are fucking awesome. And when you start talking to the them, sometimes, you wind up having conversations with them and you find that you’re way more alike than you are different. You learn that they have similar hobbies, interests, and are really cool people. You also sometimes discover that they have similar insecurities or struggles and then you are gobsmacked but feel way less alone. They’re not trying to take everything away from you. They’re agenda is exactly the same as yours…to love, to have fun, and to enjoy time with the person you both care about. Because that makes sense, right? Isn’t that what this is all about?
And there’s time and space for all of these things to happen. And sometimes, you wind up wanting to hang out with them…like, without your partner! And sometimes you even are able to and suddenly you’ve made new friends and holy shit kitchen table poly can work.
This may or may not’ve happened to me a few times. And yet…each time it surprises me. But in that good way. Like, right. I don’t have to torture myself with horrible thoughts of being left and sad. The reality is way different than my fears and anxiety keep trying to tell me sometimes.
So those are two ways I’ve found to help quell the brain beasts. Does anyone else have any other advice on how to deal with this damn pitfall? I’d love to hear it, if so.