Sunday, December 19, 2010


Someone recently asked me what my fears were around being poly, and it's taking a bit of time to get to the bottom of that barrel. How many of us really enjoy looking into the face of personal fear, right? As a matter of fact, it feels pretty vulnerable to expose the things that I fear to the public, even if it's the virtual public, but still worth doing. I'll pull in some that aren't personal fears as well, just to round it out a bit. ;)

Fear of being left- Check! Done that one, and still working through all the ramifications of those transitions in my life. While it's not exclusive to poly, life is a numbers game, and if you have more partners, chances are good that at some point, someone is going to opt out. Does the world end? No, but it can sure feel that way at times.

Fear of being open- Check! When there is pain from a variety of sources, extreme stresses, it may seem like a better idea to batten down the hatches and keep your cards close to your vest. If I'm closed-off, there is no way for anyone to become close, or stay intimate though. This can be a compounding fear. When no one can get close, it's the same functionally as pushing people away, and they leave. Staying open in the face of fear is one of the biggest drains on personal courage I have experienced.

Fear of not being picked- Check! We're out there reaching for someone, and they don't reach back. Hard. It gets harder when they reach towards someone else instead. Why not me? It brings up all those childhood issues about being picked up for teams, and being the last one standing. This is something regularly dramatized in popular culture: Kids lined up on a playground: the hopeful look fading to desperation, then desolation, and often self-loathing. What it comes down to is that I can't control the desires of others, and need to stay resilient, not putting many eggs into a particular basket until it looks like reciprocation is likely.

Fear of rejection- Check! This is a little different than being left, happening earlier in the course of a relationship. Someone gets to know you, things start to move into the direction of importance, and then, they hit on something that doesn't work for them, and opt out. At this point, it really is me, or at least me bumping up against them. It's a big world out there, and a lot of options to explore. Not everyone is going to like my chips. A few will sample and move on. Others will come back for a steady diet. The chips are still quality, but some aren't fans of salt 'n vinegar. ;)

Fear of being wrong- Check! The adjunct of this one is "fear of making a fool of myself". There are so many opportunities for miscommunication, sometimes leading to poor decision-making, deciding to go farther out on a limb emotionally than there is tree to support, to set down a "rule" and then find it does the opposite of the intent, to have the "stupid pink fuzzies" of NRE so severely that it damages existing relationships, to have baggage from the past cloud future perspective, and a host of other exciting possibilities that are often blundered into without awareness.

For this one, I just flat out accept that I WILL MAKE MISTAKES. I WILL BE WRONG! Some of those mistakes won't be recoverable either. I regularly practice apologizing to others, and try to be clear with my partners that I don't have all the answers, that I mess up, and to encourage them to call me on it when something seems off, preferably before it's a significant problem.

Fear of taking too much on- Check! I strive to give quality to each and every person that is important in my life, and there have been times where I've bitten off more than I could comfortably chew, to the detriment of myself, my family, my business, and/or a partner. Getting to know my bandwidth has been a process of trial and error. There have been times where I've had to back away from a connection that seemed promising because there wasn't anything else that I was willing to take time or energy away from. As life circumstances change, bandwidth adjusts, so this is an on-going project, to be aware of what I have to give.

Fear of being too shiny- Check! There are times where I've entered a relationship with someone, and they are significantly more "into" me than the inverse. This creates an imbalance in power that feels really uncomfortable to me. Assessing how well someone manages relationship expectations is part of my screening process now, as is communicating how deeply emotionally interested I am. If there is pressure to always give more than I have time or desire to invest, it's a big red flag for me.

Well, that's a starting point, but certainly not a comprehensive list! What are some of the fears that you've bumped up against in your exploration of poly?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post - what about the fear of appearing "different" or "not normal"?

I had that fear when I first started out. Appearing in public, holding and kissing on two or more women, and I was concerned what people would be saying behind me at restaurants or movie theaters. That fear would compel me not to go out in public as Poly unless I was surrounded by other PolyPeeps...

Good job here!


lynelle said...

insightful topic and post ~ thank you. i'll be pondering this one for a bit.

initial thoughts...
so much of this is *life*, not poly specific. yet the numbers can make things more likely or more frequent.

i have very little fear of being wrong. in life, i mostly assume that there are soo many unknowns, and different people with different thoughts, experiences, and paradigms, that mostly, i *will* be wrong ~ it's my ongoing assumption. i just hope to choose and attract people that are capable of identifying their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences, and people who are willing to be overt about what works better for them so i can adjust, improve, and become more "right" as needed.

for me, coming out is a significant fear ~ i am afraid of coming out to people whose opinions i care about. for casual around-town-ness and with strangers or acquaintances (who are not our employers) are no problem ~ i often held hands with more than one friend at a time even when i was monogamous. so hand holding and friendly pdas with more than one person at once are easy for me. but for people whose opinions matter... that's scary.

so far, i'm out to my poly friends (they're easy), and to a handful of other friends and just one relative ~ my sister. yet i talk about my other love as part of my life ~ as a close friend that me and my family see often, and who spend a lot of time with. my friends and family know i go on an annual star-gazing trip with him and that he's my dance partner and a life/future part of my family. i haven't shared the romantic aspect, yet it's not like i don't talk about him a lot.

it doesn't feel like i'm lying, yet with being with him almost nine eight years now, it almost seems like i "owe" him more public acknowledgement of who he is to me within my family. he doesn't feel that way or need that, yet it still feels ambivalent to me to share who he is to me and leave out that he's also a romantic love.

perhaps i'll conquer my fear about coming out more... once i get some other more pressing self-improvements out of the way. or am i rationalizing...?