Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Pissed Off at a Metamour ... and Learning from the Experience

Okay, so, everybody gets angry. That's normal.

Crap happens. You deal with it.

In a monogamous relationship, there's this traditional dance, right?

You'd sneer at your wife and she'd make some incensed comment on how you never listen; tensions and voices rise; everyone's hands fly into the air and both of you separate to spend time in opposite sides of the house. Eventually, the cooler head between you prevails. One approaches the other. Conversation, dialog, and empathy allows you to work through the issue, and (hopefully) everyone goes to bed happy.

Um, say - when's the last time the wife ended up on the couch?

Anyway. That's the way it happens in monogamy. But in poly, it gets a little more complicated.

You may end up getting frustrated or worked up about somebody's actions outside of your immediate contact, like a metamour: a partner of one of your partners. The opportunity to talk and work through it just isn't available - you can't get resolution on the problem immediately and you aren't going to bed happy. So you stew, you bottle it up, you try to work through it on your own. And you probably don't get anywhere. It sticks in your craw and it just doesn't go away. That can create a lot of contention.

In my circle, something happened a few weeks ago. My partner rolled her ankle at work and sprained it pretty bad, inhibiting her mobility. It was a pretty bad tumble. She couldn't walk at all let alone drive. She was stuck at home and couldn't go to work for nearly a week.

I tried everything that I could to be around and to be there for my her. Makes sense, right? I mean, this is how I operate: if you love somebody, you want to try to help them in any way you can. Hell, she'd do the same for me. But in poly, you can't surround your lover like you can when you're monogamous. My wife still needed me at home. I needed to work. I couldn't just go camp-out at my partner's place and ignore my family and work obligations. I couldn't be there for her 24x7 and that really ticked me off.

What disappointed me more, though, were the actions of her other partner. I expected him to rise to the occasion and step-up: to arrive early for their time together, look after her, care for her, and spend a little more time than usual making sure she was okay. I expected him to go an extra mile.

When I learned that kind of stuff didn't happen, I was really angry. Now, it was patently unfair to have this expectation: I expected him to do something that I would do. I placed this expectation on him and I never communicated those expectations - it was something that I thought would just "happen". I couldn't speak with him and I never contacted him in the first place. So I sucked it in and didn't say anything about it, and stewed for a couple of days.

I was moody, irritable, and grumpy. Inevitably, it all came out in an emotional burst with her and my wife. It'd be eating me for days. I was unable to help and I didn't know why this guy didn't fill-in to help out when I couldn't. It just made no sense to me. Conversation eventually lead to some explanation: my partner very, very rarely asks for help, even when her chips are down, and this guy was doing exactly what he'd always done for sixteen years - he let her deal with it.  I guess I made too many assumptions.

What came out of this for me is an awareness of how I didn't have this guy's contact information at hand, and if I had, I could have asked for his help. A day later, my partner wisely circulated emergency contact info for all of our pods so that we could all get a hold of each other for emergencies. That was cool.

I also considered that I shouldn't be placing my expectations on the head of unsuspecting victims. That's not fair. I should cut that shit out.

I should try to respect the dynamics that already existed between them which are different from the dynamics between her and I.

Finally, bottling it up wasn't the best thing to do. I should have started by asking questions of my partner and what she needed/wanted, instead of making assumptions.

So crap happens and you deal with it. Today, I feel better prepared for when it happens again to our pod. I guess I learned what not to do.