“So many things to unlearn….” ~ The Other Me.
We learn from experiences and sometimes the things we learn are positive and sometimes they are not. This post deals with both the things, in the context of monogamy, non-monogamy, and jealousy.
When I started my relationship with Michael he knew that I identified as non-monogamous. I also knew that jealousy was an issue for him. We agreed that it would be something we would work out together. Maybe that was a mistake but I believed him when he said he was open to working on his jealousy and in truth I think he believed it at the time or at least very much wanted to.
At first I was happy with how things where. A new relationship, I was in love. I was happy. We were happy but the truth is I am at my absolute core a non-monogamous person and over time the constraints of a monogamous relationship became increasing hard to bear.
Just to be clear we were not strictly monogamous, I was more than happy for Michael to have other partners and he did and he was comfortable with me seeing other women but not men. I tried very hard to be OK with that but as time went on I find myself wanting things, people, I couldn’t have and on top of that Michael’s jealousy rather than abating actually intensified.
But still I tried to fit my square non-monogamous self into a round monogamous hole. It was uncomfortable and restrictive and I gradually came to deeply resent it.
Just to be clear, Michael never forced me into this. I consented. I thought love was enough. I thought I could give up that for love. I was wrong, I know that now. Likewise I think he believed that he could find a way through his jealousy but as time passed it became absolutely evident that he could not. We both started with the best of intentions that I know for sure.
Along the way though things really started to get harder. Michael’s jealous grew and grew. If I showed interest in anyone (men) in any way it would become an issue between us. He accused me more than once of cheating on him. For the record apart from sharing a kiss I never ever cheated on Michael. I am not sure he will ever truly believe that and I know for a long time the fact that I maintained any contact with someone was in his head cheating, emotional cheating I guess. But it wasn’t because he knew about it and I never hid it.
The truth is I become scared of Michael’s jealousy. Not physically scared but emotionally scared because his reactions to things where often so intense, he would be angry and sometimes full of accusations and/or deeply sad to the extent that I felt like I was wounding him. There were times when I too felt so angry towards him for making me feel dirty and sordid because the one thing that definitely resulted over the years was that I started to internalise the idea that my desire for other people was inherently unattractive.
I don’t think Michael ever intended for that to be the case. I also know that his jealousy responses are deeply routed in his own past trauma. The simple truth is on this one area that didn’t seem a big deal at the beginning of our relationship gradually turned into a monster that was eating both of us alive and the worse it got the more we tried to ignore it and the less we talked about it. What has started as a journey together, a promise to work on it as a couple had turned into something really complicated that was driving a wedge.
It is not the reason we split up. Funny really because I had bent over backwards to safeguard this relationship, compromising my core self to keep ‘us’ safe but in the end it was for nothing. There are days, well there have certainly been days when I have felt hugely resentful about that. The time wasted, the opportunities missed. At the end of my 30’s I knew what I was, what I wanted and I was not shy about that but it is only now in my late 40’s that I am actually finally getting to truly to explore my non-monogamous self. I am glad I finally got to this moment but fuck I wish I had not wasted those years. But holding onto that does nothing to correct that and only brings that pain into the now and so I have tried really hard to put it behind me.
Now I have a partner who is not only cool with non-monogamy but is actually an active participant in my exploration. He is excited for me, he wants to know all about it, he encourages me and turns out is turned on by me being without other people. Massive sexy bonus there! It could not be different from my previous relationship and as a result has taken some getting used to.
I was so tentative about it all for so long, unlearning the negative messages I have received has been hard. Despite him never being anything other than encouraging and supportive I have been nervous about actually doing anything other than talking about maybe doing something one day. He has been patient and resolute in his messaging. Always reiterating that as long as I am safe and happy that is all he cares about. He has spent long hours talking to me about so many aspects of this subject, exploring his and my feelings on it and told me again and again that me wanting to have other partners in my life is not only something he is on board with but something that he finds sexy.
Despite all that I have found it hard to trust in what he says. Not because of him but because of me and my past. I find myself checking with him a lot that what I am doing he is OK with and that the level of sharing, the amount of detail in what I am telling him is not making him uncomfortable. Even now, after nearly a year I still find myself doing it. Are you sure? Are you really sure this is OK? You would say if it wasn’t right? Because the idea that there is something unattractive about my desires is so fucking hard to unlearn, it is has been drilled into me by society that definitely portrays monogamy as the ideal and then reconfirmed by a past relationship and shaking it off is not easy.
The other day I said to him
“What will people think of me if I have 2 boyfriends and you?”
He replied with something like… “What a lucky girl you are” whilst laughing. But I responded pointing out I was serious. It’s too much, it’s greedy, it’s weird, it’s… and I didn’t say it but in my head I was thinking… It is icky and yet intellectually I know it is not. I don’t look at other people I know who have other multiple partners and think that so why do I think it might be true of me?
I guess internalised messages of shame are really fucking hard to throw off
But I am getting there. I have been brave recently, more on that another time, and the results have been rather amazingly wonderful. I am happier now than I have been in a very long time.
Unlearning has not been easy but I really do finally feel free of that past and I am truly excited about the future and the people whom I hope are going to be a long term part of it. I am finally getting to be my true non-monogamous self and it feels really fucking good.