I'm going through my blog, looking for a particular entry, so I'm coming across some old writings and I found this paragraph:
"I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain. And it did help. It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all. It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me. It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life. The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out". But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex."
It got me to thinking.
I see a lot of "my partner is doing / wants to do this new, scary thing and I don't want them to!" posts in the forums. Sometimes they're asking how to make their partner stop, and sometimes they're asking how to learn to be OK with the thing. I don't want to focus on what they "should" do, because, honestly, it depends on the context.
But I want to address their fear from the perspective of the partner who wants to do / is doing something "scary".
As I mention in this post, and in a lot of other posts that I make on the subject, I went through a turbulent period. I lost everything important in my life at the same time - I lost my place to live and then had to escape from a "friend" who offered to "rescue" me but turned out to be a monster who tortured my cats, and from there I moved 7 times in 2 years because I *kept losing my place to live* through circumstances beyond my control.
If you've never lived in the kind of poverty where the very basics of life such as "shelter" are uncertain, you can't know what this kind of uncertainty does to one's psyche. I've now been in my current apartment for 4 years and I *still* keep all of my things in file boxes on the shelves because I'm afraid I'm going to have to bug out again with no notice.
But, more than that, I have this sort of apathetic distrust of the world. I now expect that people will fail me and abandon me and that life as I know it will get turned upside down, and that this is just how life is and there is nothing I can do about it.
When I was a kid, my parents were lower-middle class. We lived in the suburbs, I went to a private school, didn't have to buy my first car, but my parents were just barely making an income to support their lifestyle. They didn't live above their means, they lived just barely at it. They never got into trouble, they never had their home foreclosed on, they always kept their head just above water. But there were some months that were tense.
My situation now is nothing like that. To live with that level of uncertainty seems to me like a fantasy, like real people don't actually live like that. I aspire to be so wealthy that I can sit up late at night in my spacious kitchen, balancing a checkbook and finding corners to cut so that the kids don't notice how tight the belt is. To me now, that's a level of wealth that's as unattainable as gold-plated toilet seats. And yet, that's my entire childhood experience.
Back to the point - I was experiencing a devastating series of losses. In addition to my unstable living situation, I also lost both of my cats, who had been with me since I first moved out of my parents' home. They were more than just pets. They were part of my transition to adulthood. They were my source of comfort and companionship. I can't overstate my bond with my cats, it was so strong. And I lost them both almost exactly within a month of each other, thanks to that White Knight who decided that he didn't want me there after all and took it out on my cats instead of just telling me to get lost.
On top of that, someone who I had very strong feelings for years and years ago but who had hurt me very deeply, had come back into my life and seemed to be hinting that he could make up for the hurt and offer me some solace and comfort and love that I felt I was missing. And then that person almost immediately took that offer away just when I was starting to trust that the offer was real, by announcing that he was moving to another state.
Plus, the nation was in an economic "recession" and I was not working as much as I needed to pay the bills, let alone put down deposits on all these apartments I had to keep moving into (and out of).
I was living in a quicksand bog with giant attack rats hiding behind every tree and random geysers that shot fire whenever I stepped near them.
At this time, my then-partner was going through his own shit. As I predicted, he had taken on too many partners and they were consuming his time and attention. What I *didn't* predict was that the reason they were consuming his time and attention is because it takes a lot of extra effort to manipulate and control multiple partners, particularly when one of them is resistant to that control.
So he was abusing one of his partners, and she went "crazy". His life was filled with arguments that he thought they had resolved, only to have her bring them up again and again. So all his spare time was taken up by her and her "erratic" behaviour, and all his other partners started to get pissed off that he wasn't available to them. I was allotted 10-minute increments of his time in phone calls 3 times a week. That was the extent of our relationship.
I detail all of this to explain how utterly chaotic my life was and just how dark things got. I spiraled into a suicidal depression. I actually got to the planning stage, where I started trying to tie up loose ends, get my various passwords to people so they could access my social media accounts to make announcements, my bank account to handle my post-mortem financial obligations, my list of Important People so that family and friends would get notified, etc.
Before it got quite this bad, though, when I was still on this path but not at the destination, I felt a pull to do some things. I didn't yet recognize that I was slipping into a depression. I didn't yet recognize what was so valuable about these things that I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to do them, and I wanted to do them very strongly.
These things were very scary to my then-bf who, unbeknownst to me, believed he was right to control his partners when they did scary things. Well, not *totally* unbeknownst ... there were red flags, I just had on rose colored glasses that render the bright red grey.
When I first started dating him 3 years prior, I had 2 other partners - 1 who he had known for over a decade and was friends with him, and another who he didn't know very well but had a decent reputation in the poly community and was *extremely* conservative in his dating practices.
The partner that my abusive ex had known before me was a long-distance partner who I saw only once or twice a year, at best. The other partner only had 2 girlfriends (me and another), had been with us both for a long time, and his other gf had her own conservative sexual history.
There's this phenomenon in the poly community, where people with insecurities seem to have no problem "sharing" their partner with people who came before them, but who then freak out whenever someone new comes along. It's because the preexisting partners are part of the initial calculus when deciding on beginning a relationship, but new partners are a *change*.
People, as a general rule, are frightened by change. We are more comfortable with known variables. Coming to us with existing partners is a known variable. We set up our expectations based on what *is*, right now, so when a new partner comes along, that upsets the status quo and changes the expectations. We don't usually like that.
In the 3 years that I was with that abusive ex, I lost the local partner almost immediately (because he also couldn't deal with the change of me dating the abusive ex - not that either of us knew he was abusive at the time), so I was only dating my long-distance partner and nobody else.
So even though I'm solo poly with a HUGE rap sheet of dating partners, I was, in effect, basically monogamous with this abusive ex. I had an LD partner who I never saw, so the abusive ex could almost forget that he existed, except to capitalize on the fame-by-association he got for being metamours with him, and I had the abusive ex, and that was it, except for group sex that included the abusive ex's own branch of the network. I could focus all my relationship energy on the abusive ex because I wasn't *dating* anyone else, even though I was technically connected to a couple of others.
He got used to that. For 3 years, that's how it was. I don't actually need a whole lot of partners in my life. I don't really have the time or attention for that. I need the *freedom* for multiple partners, but one or two healthy relationships and *maybe* a couple of casual hookups every year or so is pretty good for me. I can get by on just one, long-term, satisfying relationship for years, especially when my sex drive tanks for months at a time.
So then the abusive ex became unavailable, and then all that chaos happened. And I needed ... something. I found myself drawn to a couple of experiences that frightened my abusive ex. In our entire relationship of several years, this was the first time I had ever taken on a new partner, or wanted to. This was the first time he had ever had to deal with how, when, and why I take on new partners.
And he really didn't like it.
So he sought to prevent me by pulling out all the usual SJW, "enlightened" poly language - I was hurting him, I was disrespecting his "boundaries", I didn't care about his feelings, you're supposed to move only as fast as the slowest person in the group, I need to consider the safety of everyone else in the group, I need to consider group cohesion and how these new experiences fit (or didn't) into the style of the group, everyone else in the group needs to have a vote on what I do because it affects them, etc.
I needed to have these experiences for me, but he turned them entirely from things that happened to me into things that I DID TO him.
What I was unable to articulate at the time, because none of this stuff ever becomes clear until after the fact, was that these experiences literally saved my life and I *needed* to experience them. We throw around the word "need" a lot in poly relationships. "Different people meet different needs". "I need for all my women to be with no other men." We all "need" a lot. But most of the time, this word is not used correctly.
As it turned out, I *needed* these experiences. And I needed them in ways that I couldn't predict. There is no way that I could have known that, in just a few months, I would find myself sitting on the floor of my storage unit, sobbing hysterically, and gazing longingly at the gun that was just out of my reach but having literally not enough motivation to get up off the floor to either grab the gun or dust myself off and leave; and no way to predict that these experiences that I had would lead to relationships that gave me the sort of comfort and stable base that I needed to eventually leave that storage unit and not reach for the gun that night, or on future nights.
These specific experiences that I wanted that my abusive ex yelled at me about one night, keeping me up several hours past my bedtime the night before a performance when I really needed my sleep (and told him that I could not have that discussion that night for that reason) - these specific experiences were not some magical sex dates that brought life back into my suicidal brain. It wasn't that simple.
These experiences led to things that led to things that brought about a relationship and a renewed attachment and affirmation of my other relationship and a deep bond in solidarity with a metamour, that all became my rock and my salvation after that night on the floor of the storage unit.
Those experiences that drove a wedge between me and my insecure, abusive ex were not directly responsible for saving me from suicide, but I can draw *direct* lines from those experiences to the broader circumstances that provided me with the safety net that I needed to pull back from the edge.
If you think of a safety net, with its webbing of rope connecting from multiple points to multiple points, and all those strands and connections are what make it safe to catch you, my couple of experiences that so freaked out my ex even before I had them and they were just possibilities, those experiences are the spools from which all that safety rope came.
So, when you're thinking about your partner who wants to do a thing that frightens you, remember this story. Your partner is probably not on the brink of suicide at this very moment, and likely won't ever be. Your partner's experiences probably won't be literally life-saving to them.
But the things that your partner wants to experience will be the foundation of who they will become in the future. There's no way to predict who they will become or how their experiences will affect that. But those experiences are things that their future selves need to become their future selves.
Sometimes that's not a good thing. Sometimes we have experiences that we do not benefit from. But, again, we can't predict that.
So, you can be like my abusive ex, who was so frightened of me having experiences that I *needed* to have even though I didn't know yet that I needed them or I didn't know how to articulate how important they were that I have them, he was so frightened that he tried to manipulate and control his partners in order to avoid feeling that fear, and when that didn't work, he ended up losing the very relationships that those experiences made him afraid of losing in the first place. You can be that person.
Or you can recognize that your partner is not your possession, and is a fully formed human being, who needs to have experiences in order to become who they will become. And sometimes those experiences are life-saving. You can ride the curl, or you can try to push back the ocean with a broom. Either you will fail and the tide will wash over you anyway, or you will succeed in containing and hampering all the wild glory that is an unfettered wave.
I know it's scary to face the unknown. But this isn't about you. This is about your partner and who they are and who they will be. Are you the kind of partner who stands before your mate and blocks their path?
Or are you the kind of partner who feels fear, takes a deep breath, tells that fear that it will not control you or make you control your partner, and musters up every ounce of courage you have to trust in your partner and let them be who they will be?
This isn't about you, this is about them. What kind of partner will you be to them?
Life rewards those who take the Path of Greatest Courage. I took mine. I risked losing a relationship that I valued, and I did lose it, but in exchange I also lost an abusive partner, the scales from my eyes hiding his abuse of his other partners, and I gained a measure of control over my circumstances, and my life as well as some deep connections and a better understanding of myself. I think it was a fair exchange.
So when you and your partner make it through all of this to the other side, how do you want them to look back on their relationship with you over this? Do you want them to see you as I see my ex? Someone who was holding me back and causing harm, who I am better off now for having traded him in for those experiences he was so afraid of?
Or as someone with courage who faced your fears, trusted in their love, and embraced your partner for all they are and all they will become?