By Michael Love
This article appears in the July issue of PDXScene Magazine. It is best viewed in that context but is also published here for your convenience. If you would like to see this article and others in their original magazine layouts you can find it here.
I saw this… just today… in one of the non-monogamy groups that I am in. Wise advice from the admin of the group to one of the members who is struggling with some insecurity and jealousy.
“You have to stop spending so much time worrying about how others might affect your relationship and focus on how you personally affect your relationship.”
The words… while I’ve said something similar many many times, struck me in a very profound way. The simplicity of the statement and what it means, and how you put it into practice is succinct.
The statement is on the premise, that we cannot control others decisions and we should not compare ourselves to others, or allow ourselves and our relationships to be compared to others.
The problem with comparing, is there are so many variables that go into a relationship that each relationship is as unique as a fingerprint. When we compare relationships we hand pick our criteria, subconsciously omitting important details… we do this subconsciously without realizing it… especially when we are in the throes of despair from insecurity. Try this exercise… have you EVER compared yourself or your relationship to one of your partners and EVER found yours to be better? My guess is you haven’t… because we are not programmed that way. Let me give you an example of someone I know…
These friends of ours, a married couple of 20 years, they share a house together, cars, and a life. They have children and bills and all of the mundane stuff that goes with being a middle aged couple of 20 years, but they are very much connected. They sleep together most nights, but she has a boyfriend whom she sleeps with a couple of nights a week. This is very much a loving relationship… a connected relationship.
One day she tells her husband that she is going on a romantic dinner with him and going to some fun romantic activity that he would have loved to have done with her. He immediately slides into insecurity mode… starts comparing. “She never does this kind of stuff with me” and “their relationship is better” and “she loves him more than she does me”.
Soon he starts to spiral out of control… the shitty feelings come in… and rational thought goes out the door, but he hides it because he wants to be a good and supportive partner.
She comes home, happy and excited from her romantic date, and it is the last straw for him… he explodes and gives her all of that negative energy he’s been bottling up.
Now… not only are they NOT going to enjoy each others company for the evening, with her giving him some of that excitement and joy. They are going to spend the evening bickering, fighting, and negotiating. She gets to hear all of that negativity he has been brewing… And her excitement and joy is gone. If they are lucky it only lasts for the night, but often times it goes on for days.
“You never do anything romantic with me”, he says… he’s in full on comparison mode now, completely forgetting the romantic date they had less than a week ago when they went to a play together. You see… when you’re in insecure and comparison mode… You’re blind to the positive things that would make the difference, that would help you find a healthy way out of your negative feelings. We automatically seek out the negative things that feed the poison brewing in our soul, and discount or ignore the things that would diffuse our negative emotions. We have to make a conscious effort to get out of these feelings and that can be VERY difficult.. But it isn’t impossible.
I’m sure some of you can relate to this situation because chances are, you’ve probably had similar situations play out in your own lives.
Imagine a different ending to the night…
She comes home happy and excited from her romantic date. He is excited to hear about it and he loves to feel her joy and excitement, even if he is not the one directly responsible for it. He is happy to be in love with this woman, and is eager to hear all about her date, and her excitement for this new partner.
Which partner would YOU rather have? The one who makes your life miserable by sharing their chaos with you? Or the one who is genuinely excited for you and loves to share your joy? It is up to YOU to BE that partner for your partner(s).
The first thing you need to do… stop comparing… immediately! You must realize that all relationships are unique and cannot possibly be compared in a way that is fair and equitable.
Often times when we compare… we feel threatened. Truly, if our partners love us.. and it should be pretty safe to assume they do… and the relationship is otherwise healthy, no one in the world can take that relationship away from us. After all we LIVE in the land of plurality right? Why would we trade one relationship for another when we can have both?
On the other hand, with damaging behavior, not dealing with our insecurities properly, and by allowing feelings to take over our rational thought; we essentially BECOME the threat to our relationship. By being the partner who attacks their partner, who steals their joy and squashes their excitement under the weight of their insecure feelings, then you are doing damage to your relationship that no one else possibly could… real damage.
Instead of lashing out in anger, and insecurity… try this… try ASKING for what you need. It’s a very cool thing… and an empowering thing for your partner. If only the husband had come to his wife, after her date, and rather than lash out… had said. “Hey sweetie, I know you’re super excited after your date, and I want to be excited for you too, but I’m struggling with some feelings and I may need a little extra love from you to help me get over this hump. Do you think we could plan a romantic dinner at some point too? I really miss that about us.”
RESPECT is everything… this example shows respect. You’re respecting your partner’s autonomy. You’re honoring their excitement, and their joy… and you’re acknowledging that you’re feeling weak and may need a little extra love. By appealing to your partner’s nurturing side, you’re letting them know you need their help . To hold your hand in a way that is not threatening to them, that is respectful to them and their other relationships, and most importantly… it shows a level of respect and love for them that they need from you in your own relationship with them.
In doing this… you are BECOMING that partner who can be excited for your partner’s joy and excitement. Imagine when they come home from their date, excited and exuberant and you get to enjoy that as well… when you can share that joy with them, it builds the joy in your relationship exponentially… which is so much better than the damage created by the alternative.
Michael Love is someone who is experienced in Ethical Non-monogamy and Relationship Anarchy type relationships. Michael is not a licensed professional and therefore the information he conveys here should not be taken as clinical advice. If you are having serious emotional struggles that you are having difficulty dealing with, we encourage you to seek the advice of a licensed professional that specializes in non-monogamous relationships.