I have three or four drafts working for blog posts. Some deep thinking kind of stuff. But it’s not coming together. I want to write, but I can’t find my words.
In the morning I start my prep day for Thanksgiving. I can’t wait. I’m excited to have a house full of people. I’m excited to have Special Man and CC here, their son, and Special Man’s sister is coming and bringing a friend. My kids will be here, and I hope it’s fun and loud, and that the house smells good and that my teenagers don’t fight with each other.
Or with me.
I’ve had a bit of a rough patch the last few days. I had a revelation. And I don’t like it one bit.
In the last year, as I’ve become more and more “out” and open and honest with others, and with myself, I have found myself strongly triggered in certain situations. I have spoken with my fabulous therapist about it, and she was surprised that I had never had any counseling to deal with the aftermath of my abusive marriage. As a nurse, I can intellectually talk myself through some of these things, simply because I recognize what is happening.
I was sitting in my therapists waiting room one time, not long ago. There was a couple’s session going on, and I’m not sure if the door was open, or the walls were thin, but I could hear much of what was being said by the male partner, who was speaking in a loud, agitated, voice. The female partner would occasionally respond in softer tones, and was generally interrupted by the man. I heard a lot of “you did” this and “you should have” that. I was uncomfortable. I started to get hot, and I felt my face start to tingle. My heart was beating fast, my palms were sweaty, and I was fighting not to cry.
The odd thing about this whole experience, was that my mind was calm. I was thinking, ‘What is wrong with me? I don’t feel upset, but my body is absolutely freaking out. This is kind of PTSD-like. I don’t have PTSD. This is so weird.”
Except I probably do have some PTSD.
I’m just starting to get into it with my therapist now. SMF snapped at me last week about something silly. In three years, I can honestly say, that he has shown anger to me only a scant handful of times. It’s a good thing, because my reactions are becoming more intense. I don’t want to be this person.
But I am.
When Mrs. A verbally attacked me, my head went quiet. I remember thinking after, that I was surprised I wasn’t more upset. It was similar to when I was sitting in the waiting room, listening to the man and woman fighting. My heart was pounding, my stomach hurt, and I felt like throwing up, but inside I was thinking, “Huh, this kind of weird.” She said a lot of mean and ugly things; things I just haven’t been able to move past. And it’s really starting to affect me. A few nights ago, I lashed out at SMF. Every time I know he’s with her, I’ve been upset and hurt, because I felt (feel?) abandoned. I mean, don’t the sacred rules of couplehood and loyalty and all that, demand that he stand by me? Put his foot down? Never talk to her again?
I’ve got all these concepts swirling around in my head. Where do obligation and autonomy meet? Is SMF obligated to share the same boundary as I have? What’s my obligation to Mrs. A as a metamour? What’s my obligation to my larger poly “family” if he continues to see her? Falls in love with her? At this point, I cannot be around her. I don’t feel safe. I have to protect myself, and in doing so, I want to protect those around me, and that includes HIM.
But he doesn’t feel unsafe around her. He simply doesn’t have the same boundary around her behavior that I do. And that is both okay, and not okay. I’ve almost worked through this in my head. Almost.
But not quite.
I sent her a message this week asking her to have coffee. I did it because I was trying to Do Good Poly. (This phrase, Doing Good Poly, is now my nemesis. I think it’s now become a normative set of polyamorous expectations, and I hate it. More on that another day, though.) I did it because I felt obligated to SMF. I did it because I felt obligated even, to my own vision of a comfortable and close poly network.
The same day, the anticipation of having to make nice with her, simply because she’s seeing my partner, made me anxious and tearful and the now-familiar stomach ache came back. I sent her another message. I won’t be meeting with her. I am protecting myself and holding my boundaries. The end.
So now we come back around to Special Man. I sent him this message:
“I’ve been acting under an assumption that I was obligated to make things good with me and A. in the name of good poly, or for the good of our greater poly network. I think it’s something I put on myself, and it’s something that you have put on me in the past with CC and anticipate will put on me in the future with A. Ideally, I want to be friendly with your other partners and with Cc’s partners and with their other partners. I made a huge effort with A. even when I was uncomfortable out of obligation to you and *good poly*. My obligation ended when she made it clear to me that I have some serious and valid! boundaries around cultivating relationships with people whose mental illness causes them to be irrational, abusive, and out of control. And I have been feeling hurt that you don’t have the same boundaries and that isn’t fair to you. You don’t have the same boundaries. You’re OK with her. And that should be okay with me. I need to respect you and your choices while still taking care of myself. And you’ll have to respect my choices. Don’t ask me to hang out with her and don’t give me a hard time when I choose not to come to things, like poly potluck for example. I will not take your relationship with her as disloyalty to me, but you can’t take my purposeful distance from her as disloyalty to either you*or* to polyamory. I know I’m going to miss things and people and opportunities to spend time with you because of my choice, but it’s also because of your choice. And that’s just the way it is. I messaged her last night in a fit of obligation, to see if she wanted to have coffee. Maybe she already told you. But I was wrong. I don’t have to fix this, because I am trying to keep myself happy and healthy.”
Monogamy tells us how we are “supposed” to act and feel. Not being monogamous? Well, that’s a whole different ballgame.
Most of the time I don’t even feel like I’m playing ball, at all.