Boundaries– controlling someone’s behavior??

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my atrocious behavior around my partner wanting to rekindle a friendship with a former lover.  This has been an issue on our relationship plate for several months now.   When I wrote that post, I had no idea that J was actually still texting with her and growing a wee friendship with her in the only way he could.   I had moved on my merry way thinking she was out of the picture when suddenly two days ago he asked to see her.

My initial response was emotional.  I felt immediately upset that he hadn’t shared with me that they’d continued to text over the past two months.  I felt anger and jealousy start to rise up inside me.  But, I recognized it for what it was, I was able to see that it was irrational for me to be upset about them texting when I’d agreed to that as part of our boundaries around his interactions with her (without him telling me was part of the deal, too, BTW) and I had no right to be upset about the situation.   I’m proud of my progress in that I was able to:  1) immediately recognize the emotion and 2) clearly see that my thoughts were not rational around this.

Last night, we had an argument when leaving our place of work after I asked to speak to him about this situation being on my mind all day yesterday.  At first, it quickly flared into a little argument since he was very emotionally reactive to me being even the slightest upset about her– again.  I was mad.  He was mad.  We parted with a huff, me going home to mope and he going out to “run errands’.  He came home a few hours later, smelling of alcohol.  J rarely goes on adventures like this, much preferring to be a homebody, and he never goes to bars.  But, after at first trying to tell me the smell was just a “tincture” he’d taken for his sore throat, he told me that he’d been drinking.

 jealousy pic for blog

We broached the conversation of her again.  The issue, he said, was that she didn’t want to deal with the dynamics of me in order to build any kind of relationship with him.  This was upsetting him greatly.  I was confused by this response from him since he had told me after their last phone contacts two months ago that she was “not the person he thought she was” and that he was choosing not to pursue even a friendship with her because of her and not because of anything I was doing.  However, this apparently was not the case and he unloaded on me last night that she was very frustrated and turned off by the boundaries around their interactions we’d agreed to.

I know we could argue on poly sites about boundaries forever.  I know that many poly folks feel that none of us has the right to set any restrictions on anyone else’s behavior. Yep, I agree.  But, I also know that that’s not a realistic bar for me to set for myself as someone who lived monogamously for all of my life until I was over 40.  I’ve only been at this for 4 years.  It’s pretty hard to undo the social conditioning of jealousy and possessiveness in just a short time.  I can’t magically snap my fingers and make it all go away as much as I wish I could.  So, for J and I, we have agreed that boundaries are negotiations that will help me in my journey to poly and that can provide us with a framework for our interactions with others.

There was one particular boundary of the three that we’d set that J was chafing about which was giving me notice to see her.  I’d asked for a week since one of my issues with him interacting with other women in the past has been him popping it on me hours (or even minutes) before.  Since she has certain days off, we felt like this would work.  But, being the free spirit that she is, she doesn’t plan anything.  Hence, me asking for this boundary of a week’s notice of them meeting up was causing him to NOT be able to see her at all.  Chafe.  Chafe.  Chafe.  So, we renegotiated 24 hours notice or thereabouts.  J seemed pleased by this and thanked me for my willingness to allow more flexibility around him seeing her.

So, I guess she’s still here.  And, so this gives me an opportunity to continue developing my poly relationship skills.

I want to get to the point where I trust myself and J enough that I need no boundaries.  He is already there.   I’m working on it.

 

 

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Accepting responsibility for our bad behavior

A few weeks ago, my partner and I went through a tough time.  It had been a long time since either of us had expressed interest in another.  We’d just been doing the “closed” thing for quite awhile as we work through some emotional issues in our lives and try to move on from the chaos that defined the first three years of our relationship.  However, over the summer, a past love popped back into my partner’s life.

This gal had been mentioned to me several times as the one past girlfriend J would most like to reconnect with.  But, they’d had such a bad break-up that he was certain he’d never hear from her again.  Then, one Sunday evening in late June, I got an email from her.  She’d found me through the website of our workplace after having been unable to track J down by any other means.

When I first saw her email, I was shocked.  For one, she’d been peripherally involved in the explosion in our lives shortly after we met–long story and no need to go into this here.  This had left me feeling pretty bitter towards her, even though I’d never actually met her.  And, second, I felt very threatened by her since J had spoken very fondly of her on numerous occasions.

Bad Behavior pic for blog

I contemplated NOT telling him about the email but I felt compelled by my commitment to honesty in our relationship and I told him about her contact.  They hung out three times in the next ten days.   And, I wasn’t happy.   I thought it was this or that or some other thing– looking for any excuse for why I felt so miserable.  I was ornery, angry, insulting to her and I provoked fights with him over her almost daily.

I realized about midway through that week that I had a ton of emotions about other things wrapped up in my emotions about her.  Granted, given her involvement in some dastardly events in our lives, I probably at some level had the right to hate her.  But, when I talked the situation over with a friend, I realized that even though she’d failed to help us when we needed it, she didn’t know what was going on in our lives and she probably had responded in the only way she could.

J was so frustrated by my behavior that he dropped all communication with her for the entire summer, which was a really busy time for us.  I put it all on my back burner, thinking the entire episode was just that– an episode– and she was out of our lives again.

Then, in late August, the very day after our summer camp schedule ended, he asked me to see her.

Nails came out.  I dug again into my hole and proceeded to vomit every nasty thing I could think of about her out of my mouth.  For five days.

Lucky for me, J is a very emotionally mature and forgiving person.  He has agreed to a closed relationship for quite some time now because he knows I’m really fragile right now as I work through a lot of pain around the events of the past few years of our lives.  He knows I don’t have the emotional depth to deal with  much more than day to day life right now.

I had done him wrong in this situation.  And, I knew it.  He was just talking to her on the phone and wanted to rekindle a friendship with an old love.  That’s all.  Harmless.

So, last week, I went to him and apologized for my atrocious behavior.  I admitted that I was lumping a lot of emotions in the emotional cart of her from other emotional carts in my life.  Not okay.

I think one of the aspects of being in a poly relationship I most like is the 100% honestly factor.  J has been the first person I’ve ever been in a romantic relationship with who has encouraged me to acknowledge and accept responsibility for my bad behavior even as he does the same with his.  I never knew that compromise was possible.  I thought that once you develop a rut in your relationship, you both stay in it– FOREVER!

J has shown me there is a higher path.  If only more people in my life would accept responsibility for their bad behavior, apologize and change!

 

 

 

Memoirs of a family

Older woman:Younger man for blogEvery Wednesday, I teach in the homes of some of my students.  Over the last several months, I’ve had a struggle with being emotionally distraught by the end of each Wednesday with the negative feelings often carrying over into Thursday as well.   Often, on Wednesday evening, I roar at my family and partner with rage and feel horrible afterwards.

I’ve been trying to figure out why Wednesdays have been hard for me.  My students are not more difficult than other days, I enjoy my families on that day, many of whom are long, long time clients.  However, they are also all intact families of mom/dad/kids and that is no longer my life.

It’s hard for me to go to these homes where a mom and dad seem happily married, where they are the same age, where their relationship is clearly socially acceptable.  I see the beautiful family photos, all professionally done in these families where money is no object.  And this makes me realize how few photos I have of my children since going through my nasty divorce almost 4 years ago.  I have less than five photos of my partner and I– it’s traumatizing to even consider visiting a photographer when your partner is so much younger than you and everyone assumes he’s your son.

I see family heirlooms, special furniture used for family gatherings and dinners and it reminds me of the parents and sister I no longer have.

No wonder I’m such a mess on Wednesdays.

I’m very slowly redefining family with the help of my kids, my partner and our housemates.  We live in a communal situation by choice and we consider these people our family for as long as they live with us.  Maybe family doesn’t have to be mom/dad and 1.7 children.  Maybe it can be me, my three beautiful children, my 20-something partner and our wonderful housemates.

I made a Thanksgiving Dinner in August this year for everyone who lives in our home.  There were 9 of us around the table and it felt good to establish a new tradition.  The housemates loved it and raved about my cooking just as my family members used to.  We were all happy and we enjoyed some really great conversation.  There was laughter and sharing of values.

I guess I’m creating new memoirs of a family.

 

 

 

Why is my poly relationship somehow “invalid” to my former family members?

For the first few months I had this blog back in late 2015, I often wrote about the insane legal situations that had arisen from me leaving my monogamous marriage of 18 years and starting a polyamorous relationship with my much younger partner.  I took those posts down in early 2016 after they were made fun of and attacked by a Fetlife group.  I wish I hadn’t deleted them because some of my readers have asked about those posts.  So, I have decided I want to tackle some of these issues again—three lawsuits later!

In 2013, after being separated from my ex-husband for 4 years, I left him and began a relationship with my current partner.   My current partner is 20 years younger than me. It amazes me how throughout the relationship, my ex-husband has dissed this relationship and refuses to give it validity as if it’s somehow not real or invalid.  As recently as last week, when my youngest daughter told him that some of our housemates are moving out now that we’re getting more financially stable and are almost done paying over $40,000 in attorney’s fees, my ex said, “Oh, so J is moving out?  That’s good.” He just had to throw another insult at me that he doesn’t consider my relationship real and that he considers J just a “housemate”.

Would he say such a thing if I were married to another man?  Would he say this if I were in a “real” relationship that wasn’t poly?  Or if my partner were the same age as me?  At one point, he tried to tell me that in “most countries”, my relationship with J would be “illegal”.  Uh…J was 21 when we met.  As far as I know, that’s considered an adult in most countries so I’m not quite sure where my relationship with another consenting adult would be illegal.

I’m in a child support fight with the ex these days.  Even though he’s been making 4-5 times what I make throughout the 4 years we’ve been divorced and he should have paid me $75,000 in child support based on charts published by the state legislature during that time period, I have received nothing.  Why such an obviously unfair arrangement, you ask?

The attorney I had during my divorce proceedings stopped working for me just days after I paid her $6000.  Why?  Mostly because he upset her and made a whole bunch of claims that made me look really bad– that I was a “witch”, that I was “mentally ill”, that my partner was a “sex offender”– all of which are not true.  One claim he made that was true was that I was engaging in a polyamorous relationship.  This freaked her out.  She kept telling me I needed to not be open about my relationship status or she couldn’t help me.  Really??

There is something grossly wrong with this picture.

In recent months, I’ve decided that I want to shift the focus of my time and energy to writing and doing more public speaking about the events that occurred in my life and at my place of business over my relationship with a much younger man– a relationship that was also openly polyamorous at one point.  Gay and lesbian people have made great strides in social acceptability of their relationships and identities.  Even transgender folks have come a long way in the past 5 years.  I used to know NO ONE who was openly transgender and yet now I see transgender folks all the time.  And yet, poly is still “in the closet”.  I hate to use this euphemism but it’s true.

When my poly relationship was exposed by my sister back in 2013 to my professional community and my family, all hell broke lose and I’ve spent 4 years trying to recover from the damage.    My business has lost over $3 million dollars in revenue and I actually no longer even own it.  I had to give up my ownership rights and allow it to become a non-profit in mid-2016 in one last ditch effort to save it.  I am now estranged from all 70+ of my former family members, most of whom are deeply religious and spend their time “praying” for me.

It is unacceptable that my former spouse and family refuse to accept my poly relationship as “real”.  It is unacceptable that my divorce attorney who originally handled my case and another who handled a custody situation two years later both told me I could not be openly polyamorous and expect to win in court.

Join me.  Join me in making poly relationships and age-gap relationships more socially acceptable and part of the norm in our culture.  I’m doing research right now for a book I’m writing about this.

The gay community and the transgender community have shown us the cultural narrative about social acceptability of non-normative relationships can change.  I long to see the day when there is no longer a need to even use the term “non-normative relationships”.

 

 

What if I’m not really poly?

I have not written a post that really digs into any brilliant poly topics in quite some time. Part of the reason for that is I’ve been struggling with the question:  What if I’m not really poly?  And so, this has made me feel unworthy to write about polyamory on my polymomblog site.

I have now decided this is ridiculous.  I am struggling with my emotions, with my behaviors, with my fears and with my relationship dynamics probably just like all of you.  So, why not talk about that and other poly struggles?

I’ve never mentioned on this blog that I am a trained Marriage and Family Therapist.  I haven’t practiced in about 18 years, but I use the skills I learned in my training and work as a therapist EVERY DAY in my life– both in my personal life and my professional life as a teacher and small business owner/manager.  I have a professional interest in helping poly folks figure it out!  And, because of what I have experienced in my own life because of my decision of pursue polyamory upon leaving my long marriage, I am on a mission to normalize poly and move it more into the mainstream way of thinking about relationships so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to others.

I feel like that’s a pretty good reason to keep writing.  Even if my partner and I are not actively practicing a poly lifestyle at the moment.

So, lately, I’ve reinstated my profile on OkCupid.  Not for dating purposes, but to meet other poly folks, particularly couples so that I can learn about their relationship dynamics.  I believe from a theoretical standpoint that polyamory is a much healthier form of relationship structure than the monogamous one that dominates our culture.

three hearts for blogFrom an anthropological perspective, I can look at thousands of years of relationship history across almost all world cultures that have embraced some from of open relationships.  This is interesting to me and leaves me wondering why monogamy has been almost the only accepted form of relationship structure in Western culture for the past couple hundred years.  Did we somehow forget what we knew?  What were the factors that led to the demise of open relationships/multiple partner relationship structures in our culture and most other cultures in the modern world?

I know that in my mind and my heart, I’m polyamorous.  I will continue to pursue finding the answers I need to make that also part of my behavior.

 

 

The Aftermath–learning to breathe again

 

A lot of this blog has been about the traumatic experiences my partner and I have endured due to being “outed” as poly at my place of business almost 4 years ago.  I have documented the events at times, the struggles to rebuild our lives, the emotional pain of losing my family.  I wanted to share with my readers about my struggle with panic attacks that have been plaguing me for the past year or so as the stress has at times become unbearable.  I started having these last summer after another huge crisis that was fallout from the initial one hit.  My 12 hours days became 14-16 hour days last summer, then eviction, then another lawsuit as I was sued by my powerful landlord.

There have been moments when I seriously thought I wasn’t going to make it.  I hope that others who have experienced symptoms of PTSD or panic disorder can find promise in my story.  Promise that it will subside.  Promise that it can be overcome.   Chin up, friends.  Chin up.   And, remember, you can control this.  Your body is okay.  It really is.  You must learn to control your mind.

panic attack image for blog

March 15, 2017

It’s a nice, sunny day. Warm for March in Seattle. It’s time for me to make my monthly trek to Redmond to drop off a payment at my attorney’s office. I never dreamed when I made that first payment of $2000 back in November of 2015 that I would still be making these huge payments every month. It seriously never occurred to me that I’d not win the lawsuit. What those people did to me is so horrible I thought there was no way a jury wouldn’t agree with me and award me at least something. Unfortunately, the jury never even got to hear my story.

I’ve just left the office. As usual, there was no parking in the lot so I parked across the street near the bus terminal. As I’m leaving the building, I’m suddenly overcome with anxiety. I start to panic that it’s happening again. I start to feel numb, my heart suddenly starts to race, and I feel like the world is spinning around me. My mind is overflowing with their faces, with memories of events that occurred, with words that were spoken about me that were untrue. I am not sure where I’m going. I can hear sounds around me but they seem very far away.

I start to cross the street. There’s a crosswalk here, isn’t there? I’m confused when suddenly a hand grabs my arm. “Miss…Miss…” from a stranger. “You’ll walk in front of that bus. Come back.”. I can barely hear him.

A man I don’t know is pulling me back to the sidewalk. “What is wrong?,” he says. I stare at him blankly. “I don’t know,”, I mutter. “I can’t breathe.” As I say this, I bend over, trying to catch my breath. He bends his head near mine, trying to make sense of what is happening. I take a few gulps of air and straighten back up. I have to stop this. I’m going to die. I can’t die. My children. And…they would win if I die.

“I have to get to my car”, I say as I again begin to cross the street. The mans runs after me, “Let me help you there. Where is your car?”. I absently point at my jeep as I take deep breaths, reminding myself that I can breath, that this is just in my mind. We make it to the car and I climb in as I say thank you to the man. I close the door and remind myself again that this isn’t physical. This is my mind doing this to me. It’s from the trauma. I have made it this far. I can make it home.

I turn on the engine, part of me fearful that I am in no condition to drive but I can only picture home in my mind and experience the intense need I have to get there. At least if I die, I don’t want it to be among strangers on the sidewalk in Redmond.

Can We Ever Be Openly Poly?- Contemplating a fresh start

I have to say, I’ve been pretty discouraged lately.

The legal battle that raged for about 18 months regarding the destruction of my former business by my former employees is over.  It’s finish doesn’t make sense to me.  It was not how I thought it would end- I always imagined a jury hearing my story.  Alas, not to be since the biased judge wouldn’t even let it get to neutral ears.

So, now I’m left trying to figure out my next steps.  I’m writing a book about what happened so I’ve been piecing together accounts from others who wouldn’t speak to me or assist us in any way during the court case (“I don’t want to get involved”…).  Now they talk.  And they just keep confirming what I knew.  But, they wouldn’t say it when it mattered to me.

People suck.  They really do.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to move on and focus on the future now. But, I’m in so much pain.  I don’t know how.  I just want to understand.  I want to understand WHY the events that occurred happened?  Why did my employees disempower me so they could steal my business? Why did my own sister help them?  My ex-husband?  Was my relationship with J really that upsetting to them?  Clearly it was.  It caused them to act in ways that were beyond unreasonable.

Why?  What was so disturbing about seeing our other partner at a concert, painting on stage live as the music spun around her?  We auctioned off her painting at the end of the show– no bidders– please someone bid.  My poly mentor had come to the concert.  It was his first time at my music school. Thank God he raised his hand and bid on the artwork.

We’re in year four now.  Year four of the destruction of my life and it’s not getting any easier.  I’m trying to move on.  I went on a journey last week to a new town– just a couple of hours away– but far enough that no one there knows me. I holed up in a hotel room with my doggo.  Just he and I.  Top down in my daughter’s convertible (bought by now wealthy ex-husband, of course) as we drove.  Hair blowing all over in the breeze.  I felt better for a bit.  The town was nice.  It was sunny and warm.  I pondered for three days the possibilities of making a new start.  Just pulling up all my roots.  J could go back to school.  There’s a nice college there.

Ellensburg pic for blog

But, I couldn’t help but think:  Could we be openly poly here?  For Pete’s sake– we live in what is considered the progressive Northwest.  If we got so completely demolished for being in an atypical relationship in our seemingly progressive city, what would life be like for us in a town covered in Trump signs??  I shuddered to think. Nope, if we came here, monogamous we’d be or else we’d probably have to end our relationship. Or keep hiding.

One of the issues I’m facing as a wanna-be poly person is a serious one.   I DON’T FEEL SAFE BEING POLY.  And, worse, I don’t know how to fix this.

My life has been a mess for quite some time now.  The financial devastation.  The emotional devastation.  The physical toll that working 7 days per week for almost 4 years has taken on my body.  I couldn’t save my business.  I no longer own it.  Sure, it’s still there to some extent as a non-profit, but we’ve only about 1/3 of the students we used to have.  I don’t think we can ever recover in our small city.  It’s too small.  Too many people remember what happened, what they were told by those that spread the vicious lies and rumors about us.  There is no escape here.  And no way for us to live the lifestyle that we desire.

J and I have not actively engaged in poly for over 18 months now.  Partly due to the stress we’ve been under. But, it’s also just because the prospect of how much work it would be to hide such a venture from those around us and the dangers we’d face if more trouble stirred are daunting to us.

So, we wait.  For what, I’m not sure.  And we rest.  Since we surely need that.