Like many, Angel stumbled into polyamory quite by accident. She and her husband have been happily married for four years, and recently opened their marriage and their hearts to the possibility of poly relationships. She shares the ups and downs of being new to the lifestyle and navigating the emotional and practical issues that come along with it.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Social Insecurity

I think that humans in general put way too much importance on their appeal to other people. I mean, wouldn't it be ideal if we could all just KNOW that we are special, unique, and worthwhile without having to get it from other people. More than a few poly problems center around insecurity on the part of one or more people involved. When we start feeling insecure, we grasp for any ounce of control we can get in order to feel better. Usually that control is over one or more of our partners.

The problem is that most people do not like to be controlled. The kicker is that one can only be controlled if we allow it. Unless there is a gun to your head, you pretty much have free will. There is a very fine line between being considerate of another person's feelings, and allowing them to control and manipulate you. We all have to establish our own boundaries and stick to them. Allowing yourself to be bullied and pushed around in terms of your personal boundaries will only lead to feelings of helplessness, resentment, and the overall perception that the controlling partner has trapped you.

So why does one allow it? Well, in my opinion, when we don't stand up for ourselves, it's usually because we are afraid of the consequences of standing our ground. For example, you might be afraid that your partner(s) will leave you if you do not comply with their 'requests'. You might fear causing strain on the relationship; people who are reluctant to 'rock the boat' are particularly susceptible to control, and often they don't even know it is happening.

Now, I'm not saying that people who use manipulation to control the actions of others are bad people. Often they aren't aware that they are doing anything destructive. In most cases the manipulation is not intended maliciously, but rather a result of intense insecurity felt by the controller. The entire mess can start out with one person compromising themselves for the sake of their partners insecure feelings, and it tends to snowball from there.

How do you manage to keep the balance of power (more or less) equal? I suggest you start by drawing up a list of relationship expectations with your partner(s). Things will flow more smoothly if you go into poly relationships with similar or at least compatible goals and ideas of how your relationship(s) will function. Are you looking for a(nother) life partner? Something more casual? Do you want many new partners or just one or two? We did not do this at the beginning, and we have been paying for it with arguments sparked by mismatched ideas on poly. Making sure that everyone is on the same page will likely save you a lot of stress later on.
Secondly, set forth your personal boundaries as an individual. We are so quick to compromise our own happiness for the sake of all others, and it often leaves us feeling empty and taken advantage of. Make your boundaries known, so that there are no questions as to where you stand. A good example of a boundary is refusal to own your partners feelings, or to feed into their counter-productive emotions. You can support and encourage them to deal with their issues in a constructive manner, but do not allow their inability to do so wreak havoc with your relationship(s). These boundaries can often be compiled into a set of guidelines for your relationships (insisting on proper birth control and protection from STD's are very common guidelines).

On the other hand, you must also retain consideration for the feelings of others. It is acceptable to expect people to respect your boundaries, but make sure that you do not trample theirs in the process. This is where compromise comes in. Each individual must give some, or you fall right back into one person holding all the power and the other(s) making all the sacrifices.

Boundaries and guidelines will evolve with your relationships and your experiences. It is encouraged to review, re-evaluate, and renegotiate boundaries throughout your relationship(s). This is especially important when adding a new person to existing relationships, as you will want to ensure their vision of the relationship is on par with yours. You should never totally self-sacrifice, or put your needs second to others. You should also not expect your needs to always come first. Other people are just as entitled to their needs and desires, as you are to yours. I'm going to say it again, just make sure you hear it. Other people are just as entitled to their needs and desires, as you are to yours. There is very little room for selfishness in poly relationships. That said, you are also just as entitled to having your needs met as anyone else. What this means in terms of your relationship(s) is really to be determined between yourself and your partner(s).

Balance is essential, and very possible, as long as everyone is honest about what they want and need, and are willing to work towards compromise to make everyone happy.

Nobody's Angel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Nobody's Angel; May 01, 2006


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