Raw

S and I cancelled our date on Tuesday.  It’s a combination of her house having the vomits yesterday and things going on with her boyfriend, who, at least I think, needs her to be there for him 100% this week.  I’ve been riding the high of realizing how much I’ve grown and healed and changed in the last year. Last weekend, I had a good talk with my boss who failed me last weekend, we hashed it out, and then I sent an email to the entire management team.  It’s a well-written narrative that asks them to be better at responding to the needs of their staff. I’ve had a few responses and they are positive. My real responsibilities with my full-time job finished apart from a few details and summer is looming large.  I’m dealing with the heaviness of the responsibility of everything being on my shoulders in my home and with my kids. I’m raw as fuck. I’m happy with my new-found ability to share my hurt when it’s going on, or at least doing it that one time. The fact is, it just sort of happened.  I realized I had two people in my life who needed to know what was going on in my world at that moment. I needed to tell them, because I want to share my life, the good and the bad, with them. There’s a level of trust, respect, and acceptance in what I have with A and S that I’ve never had in my life.  It didn’t happen by accident, we built it together, but it didn’t happen purposefully either.

Over the last couple years, I’ve unpacked so much that was unhealthy in my life.  I unpacked years of passive aggressive communication and blame and manipulation. That was how my childhood was with my dad, so I grew up thinking it was normal.  I dated a series of men and even attracted friends who communicated in the same manner, not to mention my sister. Despite how amazing my mom is, I was completely broken in the way I responded to others and communicated myself.  Changing myself began when I went on depression meds. I asked for help, because in that moment, I was desperate for anything to help me cope, because the alternative was unthinkable to me. It let me cope, antidepressants made me…well…me…again.  I think it was hard on F that I was OK again. For at least six years, I had been depressed. High functioning, low level depression, that turned into acute depression of the emergent sort after #4 was born. My low-level depression was gradual and was accompanied by the arrival of baby #1, #2, and #3, plus my pregnancy with #4.  It was wrapped up in an acute period of depression between baby #1 and #2 when I had two miscarriages and secondary infertility caused by an ovarian cyst. What this meant is that my early years of motherhood were coloured by the constant anger and defeatism that overcame me in ways I didn’t understand at the time. It was made worse by a very manipulative husband who didn’t take an active role in our life without me asking or demanding that he did.  I became the caretaker of our life together. Organizing the kids, the house, the meals, the activities, the childcare, the yard maintenance, all the logistics of life. There is a post on Facebook that goes around about the emotional workload of being the wife and mother that seems to drive it home every time I see it. The workload that we take on as the managers of our lives, on top of our full-time jobs (or full-time and casual job), is enormous. All of this put together meant I didn’t communicate well.  I just did. I did all the things and didn’t ask for help and when things were hard, I just got angry and huffed and continued to do all the things. I did the things because I had to, because I didn’t have a partner to do it with me. I had a partner who attacked me for my feelings and didn’t engage in our life without pressure from me. I was easy to manipulate and control because I wasn’t capable of communicating effectively and I was depressed and just trying to keep afloat. Add to that pregnancies and newborns and toddlers and moving internationally and new jobs and more new jobs and the fact that we both worked in emergency services and new houses and more newborns and more toddlers and three kids under three and I finally couldn’t handle it and I had to ask for help because for so long no one had been giving it to me and I needed a way to keep being strong.  

Then I was strong again.  I was me again. I started making good decisions for myself. I went through the six weeks it took to adjust to meds and went through the crazy time that was having a newborn, a one year old, a three year old, and a five year old and a husband who turned my illness into a reason to be a victim. Slowly, inch-by-inch, I began to establish boundaries.  I became strong, advocated for what I needed, stood up for my children, and then, a huge coincidence happened. I ran into an old friend from my grad school days who told me a job in my field was being posted. One that I would be perfect for. I applied for it, I got it. I took it. I took it despite F not wanting me to. He wanted me to stay home with the kids.  Even though he knew that wasn’t something that made me happy. Even though he knew my career was important to me. Basically, my happiness wasn’t important to him. Then I excelled at my job, but even more, I love it. It’s my dream job, with amazing coworkers, a fabulous work-life balance and so much support. Then polyamory came into my life. I was forced to communicate with my partners and learn about the things I needed and the things they needed and everything in between.  Something even more amazing happened at the same time. I had A and D and they cared so much about how I felt and what I wanted and needed in our relationships and I learned how much was missing in my marriage. F was dating W and that just caused a world of hurt in our world and as I established boundaries, he would go to greater lengths to violate them and get his way, and since I didn’t back down, it got worse and worse. Then I asked for a divorce.

That’s when the healing began.  When you remove the poison that is slowly leeching the life out of you, one drop at a time, the titration stops, but the damage is still there. It’s not an immediate fix. It takes time, medicine, patience, and rehabilitation to to recover from a lifetime of hurts.  I have no doubt that I’m not done healing. I don’t think we really ever are. I remember talking to my parents about how conditioning from F dictates my response to situations, and my step-dad saying my mom still is triggered sometimes, 31 years later, by things because of the dysfunction that my dad brought to her life.  I expect the healing to continue and the hurt to probably hit unexpectedly as life goes on. Time has worked in my favour to heal my wounds. My medicine has come in the form of the amazing partners who love me and accept me for who I am despite my flaws. For me the patience is always a huge struggle and the rehabilitation is ongoing.  Part of the rehabilitation is opening the wounds, exposing them for what they are, treating the infection inside, and then sewing up those wounds to heal properly. The problem is it takes time to find, open, and expose those wounds.

Right now, I’m somewhere in the middle of this whole process.  I have open wounds, partially healed wounds, festering wounds, and wounds I haven’t identified.  I have wounds that have healed and helped me form a protective barrier and be strong after being vulnerable.  This here is the whole thing that is getting me right now. For the last year(s), I’ve had so many people comment on how strong I am.  These last few days I realized that strong was not what I was. I was broken and in need of rebuilding. Strong for me has come out this last week as I’ve been vulnerable and shared so much more about who I really am with A and S.  I’ve stood up for myself and asked for what I need and got it. I’ve recognized how positive this was and have been riding the high of it. But I’m not healed, I’m raw. I’m so, so, so, very raw. Like any exposed wound, I am cognizant of the fact that I could re-injure myself at any time, far easier than if I didn’t have those pre-existing wounds.  That’s what makes it really scary.

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Healing a lifetime of hurt

My dad died last weekend.  I found out on Facebook. I was shocked. I didn’t know who to call, so like anyone, I called my mom and then my step-dad.  A few minutes later, my step-dad called me back and I asked him what happened. He was shocked I hadn’t heard. Then he told me that they found out the afternoon before when they called my sister to wish her a Happy Birthday. Turned out she found my dad around 1 p.m.  He had been dead for a couple of days. My mom asked her if she wanted her to call me to tell me and my sister said she would call me. She didn’t call until 9:30 p.m. She had to call from my dad’s phone because I have her blocked. She didn’t leave a message. I was already in bed when she called.  I had noticed earlier that someone had sent me a message request on messenger but ignored it because I was enjoying my time with A. That message came in around 6 p.m. It was a message of condolence from my dad’s boss’ daughter-in-law. She knew my dad was dead a full 16 hours before I found out. I got her message and a message from an aunt and was so confused. I had no idea who died.  I went to my dad’s Facebook page and saw messages of condolence, all posted before my sister called to tell me. In the end, I called my sister and talked to her. She was obviously hurting as she told me the story. She kept saying “When I get the body” and “I have to…” I reminded her that I was there to help. I am still reminding her that I am here to help.

After I got off the phone with her, all I could think was how awful it must have been that she walked into my dad’s house on her birthday and found him dead in bed.  He had been there for several days. It must have been so very traumatizing, especially since she isn’t exactly medical in nature and she was really close to my dad. She hates me, and I can see how in that situation, it must have caused her a lot of anxiety just thinking about calling me.  I’m not sure why she didn’t leave a message. I wish she had. In the end, while I don’t think she dealt with the situation well, I decided that she had been through enough pain and trauma with finding my dad that forgiveness was the way to go about the way she dealt with telling me. I’m still working on forgiving her as I process my dad’s death, but I’ll get there, hopefully without ever mentioning to her how much it hurt that I learned about it after so many other people.

Here’s the thing about my dad: I mourned the loss of my relationship with him years ago.  I realized that I couldn’t go on being disappointed and hurt every time I saw him or talked to him.  I had to be the adult in our dynamic, because he never would be. It meant coming up with realistic expectations of who he was and what he could be in my life.  It also meant coming up with some pretty well defined boundaries about what was acceptable and what wasn’t in our relationship. This means I really restricted the amount of time he spent with me, especially after I had kids, because I couldn’t have him hurting me anymore and I couldn’t have him doing to my children what he had done to me as a kid.  Really, it was just a series of unmet promises and passive aggressive attacks. I don’t want to focus on those negatives, but let’s just say that I married a smart version of my dad in F, and repeated the history anyway. Now F is just doing the same thing my dad did to me to my kids.

What this all means is that I’ve been processing the death of my dad reasonably well.  I didn’t feel guilt or even sadness that I hadn’t talked to him for so long. My sister has enjoyed making quips about how “he felt the same about me as I did about him”, which I think to her means he hated me, but the fact is, I didn’t hate my dad. I loved him.  I just couldn’t give him power in my life and couldn’t let him be a big part of it. I want to get to the funeral and to the estate settlement part more so that I can be done dealing with my sister than anything. I just finally got her out of my life three weeks ago, and now she’s back in it.  The problem is that the details of settling his estate will probably be messy. I’m very actively hoping that he cut me out of his will and left everything to my sister so I can just wash my hands of the whole thing and not deal with her.

The problem is, as much as I am OK about dad dying, what happened was that his death took my capacity to deal with everything else away. This hit me hard this morning.  On Monday, after I found out about dad, I got my kids back. F and I had an amazing chat on my front step where we got along really well and I was really hopeful that we had turned a corner in our dealings with each other. Of course, this meant that I let my guard down and on Friday when he deducted money off his child support payment unfairly, I started crying in the middle of work.  Without getting into detail, my second job is in emergency services. Yesterday, I was triggered due to an event that happened that really was a nothing event, but brought back the memory of some really horrible things I’ve experienced in the job. I didn’t understand at the time, but I knew enough to ask my boss if I could have today off work. Now, I’m not exactly a delicate flower. I don’t show my “weaker” emotions often.  Usually, if I cry, it’s alone in my room with no one the wiser. Sometimes I’ll tell people after I’ve processed. It’s just who I am. Add to this that in 5 years working there, I have called in sick twice and I’ve never ever asked for anything from anyone. So when I advocated for myself to my boss, it was a big thing. Like huge. But I wasn’t over the top emotional or anything, I was just advocating for my needs. And he forgot.  At least that was his excuse this morning when our mental health support team lead talked to him about the situation. So, in the end, I came in to work this morning, pissed that we were not actually short staffed, and talked to this team lead and went home. I slept the day away. But as I did, I realized that so many things that have been making me emotional this week are because my capacity to cope is gone.

These things include A’s comment about me being “Temporary”.  Normally I don’t let words get to me like that, and would just talk to him and deal with it instead of let it cause me to really doubt him and our relationship. Normally, I don’t cry when F is being a colossal douchebag (he always is), I just get annoyed and then remind myself how happy I am that I no longer have to live with him and have a life together.  Normally, a couple harder calls in my emergency services job just make me sad for humanity, not cry in my car during my break. Normally, I don’t cry in front of several coworkers as I explain how my boss failed me when I reached out for help. The thing is, this situation isn’t normal. So much about my life isn’t “normal”, but it’s not normal to have your dad die and have your sister not tell you and find out on Facebook. It’s not normal to have to deal with babies dying as part of your job.  It’s not normal to have all this happen and not have time to talk to the person you love about something he said a week ago. Realizing that helped remind me that, as my mom says, I’m “a normal person reacting to an abnormal situation”.

Knowing why I feel the way I do, why I’m not coping well, why it’s OK that I’m hurt and sad is the key to me processing and moving on.  It makes it easier for me to understand and let myself be “weak”. Yes, I know that I’m not actually weak because I’m feeling all the feels, but this is who I am, and having others see me emotional is not comfortable for me.  It’s something I’m working on, but after years of being attacked for my emotional responses to things, hiding my hurt is my go to, and unlearning such an unhealthy protective mechanism isn’t easy.

I’ve been forced to show some pretty raw emotion in many situations this week because the shock of the emotion or the ferocity with which it hit have been too much to hide until I’m alone. This includes the tears I shed on A’s chest after I found out my dad died and today at work when I was talking to my coworkers/team leads about how I wasn’t coping and why I was triggered.  What’s more, I recognized immediately that I needed to explain to S and A what was really going on in my head, so I had to dump the horrible details about what triggered me and why it happened and acknowledge that my lack of coping with everything was affecting me in ways I didn’t understand at the time, but was only now processing. As hard as this has been, the fact that I was able to communicate the hard time I am having to both the people who love me and ask for help from the people I work with is a huge victory for me.  Me from a year ago never would have done that. I would have said that I was having a hard time, but never asked for what I needed and definitely never explained why I was having trouble. The most anyone would have gotten from me was a narrative after I had processed the pain and the emotions that told them what I went through in a casual, unattached, factual way. To me, the fact that I asked for what I needed, even if it wasn’t recognized, and that I communicated, while highly emotional, exactly why I was so upset, is a huge victory.  What it tells me is that I am really working my way towards healing from the dysfunction of my marriage. I’m not fearful of my emotions and how other people will take them any more, I’m owning my emotions and advocating for myself.

As I sit here and think about that fact, I think about my good friend who apologized to me when I told her something she said to me upset me many years ago.  How I was shocked and amazed that someone could apologize for something without blaming me for my response to what she said. She didn’t accuse me of being too sensitive or make excuses. She acknowledged my feelings and apologized.  She was the first person to ever do that. Years later, I’ve only just realized how F always blamed me for my feelings or criticized me for overreacting. Even when he hurt me so badly that I couldn’t stop hurting, he would tell me I should learn to take a joke.  A year after I asked for a divorce, thus removing his ability to minimize my emotions or hurt me for being human, I’m a completely different person. While being vulnerable is still scary as hell for me, I am not incapable of taking the steps to reach out to people around me.  This has a huge amount to do with the fact that I have really chosen the people in my life who lift me up and love me for me. A and S are the main people who figure into this fact. S, for validating my emotions, understanding my motivations, desires, and complexities, and for just being her.  We’ve never had conflict, so I don’t know how that would go, but probably a whole lot of functional conversation and giggles. A and I though, we’ve had our things. I generally write about them here, so it’s not exactly a secret. The thing is, there’s a theme too if you look at them. No matter what happens, when I tell him about how something he did or said hurt me, he apologizes.  Sincerely and without blaming me or attacking me for the way I feel.

It isn’t easy apologizing to me.  I don’t just take an apology and accept it.  In the beginning, I would have to force myself to just believe he was actually sorry.  I was always waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop as he blamed me for being too sensitive or attacked me or minimized my feelings, but that shoe has never dropped.  Sometimes, I was just so happy he apologized, I eagerly moved on without properly talking through what had happened. In those cases, the issue always reared its ugly head again and forced us to talk.  But all this time later, I’m no longer fearful of talking to him about an issue. OK, this isn’t entirely true. I still get all twisty and scared that my feelings will be attacked or he’ll be upset by my emotions and choose to leave me, but that’s years of indoctrination of fear, and I can logic my way out of that spiral pretty quickly.  I know I will always be listened to with respect and patience. I know he hears me and I know he cares about how I feel. I wasn’t scared to post my post about being called ‘Temporary’ yesterday because I know he loves knowing how I feel no matter how intense the hurt or emotion. I also knew he would read it and feel horrible about how his words affected me. (In this case, I offered him a chance to read the post in advance, but he wanted it published first). So when I received his messages apologizing to me and his comments on my post, he confirmed, yet again, what I already knew – he owns his shit.  He owns his shit without blame, pretense, drama, or hyperbole. What I didn’t realize until today was how much his ownership of his actions has meant to my healing. As I came to him with issues and we worked through them together, I gained the strength and ability to ask for what I needed from him and everyone else in my life. Slowly, one validation at a time, he helped me fix something in myself that neither of us knew I was fixing. How amazing is that?

 

Passive aggression

Passive aggression is when your husband blames all financial issues on you because he hasn’t participated in any bill payments, household shopping, or budgeting in the 14 years you’ve been together.

Passive aggression is when you get in an accident with your boyfriend and you husband tells you to do whatever you need to recover and then when you go out that evening with your other boyfriend, he feels disregarded because you didn’t choose him.  Even though he didn’t once say that he wanted or needed you home with him.

Passive aggression is him saying he’ll get back to me when I ask about a parenting switch or scheduling detail to do with the children, and he just never responds.  When I remind him, if it’s too soon, he says “Sorry, I don’t know the plans yet”, or “Sorry, it’s too late, I have plans now.”

Passive aggression is him complaining in advance that I won’t want to give him “anything from our shared possessions”, and then complaining when I drop them off at his house. To the point where he said that me returning his possessions was harrassment and that he would call the police.  Then he told me I was a terrible person.

Passive aggression is using guilt and shame to pressure me for sex.  Expecting sexual favours but only reciprocating based on satisfaction.  Linking his expression of love to how often he came due to my actions. Then guilting me when I wasn’t attracted to him anymore because our sex life was a very unsexy power struggle that involved manipulation and degradation.

Passive aggression is refusing to direct message the nanny I employ for childcare during my parenting time, despite the fact that she is there for 90% of the transitions.

Passive aggression is never once seeing the work that needs to be done around the house, and then calling me controlling when I ask him to do things like mow the lawn.

Passive aggression is complaining to the kids about the fact that they are with a nanny during my parenting time, not acknowledging that our parenting arrangement is set up the way it is to accommodate his work schedule, so he wasn’t responsible for astronomical childcare costs himself, and that the kids would have much more one-on-one time with me if we had an alternate schedule that accommodated my Monday to Friday job.

Passive aggression is complaining to the kids that they are too much work or he doesn’t get enough down time because he only has them on his days off.  Ignoring the fact that everyone else has to parent on their days off too.

Passive aggression is kids being kids and him telling them that they are responsible for him yelling or being angry, “because they shouldn’t be behaving this way when he just got off a night shift/hasn’t had a day to himself/just had a bad day at work/has to deal with so many kids all the time/wants to spend time with other adults.”

Passive aggression is refusing to pay the child support he owes me on the first of the month, despite the fact that he signed a document stating he would do so, simply because I originally provided him a verbal agreement that allowed him to pay on the 15th, even though I provided him written notice of revoking that agreement three months ago.

Passive aggression is him spending our entire relationship criticizing me for having feelings.  For attacking me when something upset me. For minimizing my hurt, joy, or otherwise. For making my life changes about him.  Like when I went on antidepressants for postpartum depression and the whole three weeks of adjusting were a constant barrage of complaints about how hard it was on him.  Or how me taking my dream job made it harder for him because he had to solo parent on his days off. Or how getting the nanny was a bad idea because the benefit was mine.  Or how I was a bad mom because I chose my career instead of being a stay at home mom (something that made me miserable).

Passive aggression is never respecting a boundary.  Be it me asking for time alone and him breaking down a door to the bathroom to make me listen or turning on the light minutes after I went to sleep to force me to listen to him because he’d “been home with kids all day and I owed it to him to listen to him” and then him being upset when I responded strongly and negatively to those behaviours and making himself out to be the victim; or when he repeatedly and often insulted me, destroyed my things, or tried to destroy me verbally and excused his behaviour because he didn’t feel like he was getting what he needed from our relationship.  

Passive aggression is strategically undermining my reputation and instilling hate in the poly population in our community because he can’t have a conversation with me where he admits that both he and his girlfriend are at fault for some things and that their cooperation and compromise are required to move forward.  In his mind, it is all my fault.

Passive aggression is abuse.

I was a victim of passive aggression for the first 40 years of my life.  My dad is a perfect model of the passive aggressive manipulator who is always the victim.  He’s never taken responsibility for anything in his life. I married a smarter version of my dad, thinking that he wasn’t like him, but later realizing that he was exactly like him, just smarter and more manipulative.  I spent years thinking I was a bad person, because I asked my husband to contribute to household responsibilities. Scheduling wasn’t a thing we could do, because it was me “taking away his freedom”. Splitting responsibilities wasn’t something we could do, because I “would hold it over his head if he didn’t get something done”.  Trying to schedule a talk to tackle some of the challenges in our relationship wasn’t possible because he felt attacked when I asked him to look at his behaviour. Convincing him to see a marriage counsellor was so hard and he spent weeks complaining and picking fights trying to get out of it, because he felt he would be unfairly portrayed.  Just getting him out to social engagements was an exercise in futility, because he often made it so miserable to go out together, just leading up to the engagement, that I felt it wasn’t worth taking him with me.

I’ve spent the last year unpacking these things.  Realizing that I am not, in fact, a bad mother because I have a career and have hired a nanny who lovingly takes care of my children when I can’t.  Realizing that I am not a bad person or a control freak because I expected my husband to participate in our life and the household we built. Realizing that I was not the root of all financial issues just because I was the only one responsible for organizing child care, shopping for the household, and managing all the children’s activities, education, and needs.  Realizing that it’s OK to ask for help and expect it to be given because my partners actually want to support me and that I don’t have to be a solitary island of strength, but someone who can show weaknesses and accept support without being an inconvenience or them making me feel like I’m inconveniencing them. Realizing that sex is not a weapon or an expectation but something that you give freely and readily, and is mind-blowingly amazing to the point that you would rather do nothing else when you have a partner that returns all the communication, advances, love, and touch with enthusiasm and acceptance.  

More than that, realizing what I did that was wrong.  I enabled his behaviour and rose to the occasion. Every. Single. Time.  When it became harder for him to push my boundaries, he pushed harder, and every time I responded.  I responded and escalated and when I did, even when justified, he had a reason to play the victim. I reacted inappropriately and in ways I am not proud of.  I have very specifically and thoroughly apologized for these things, although an apology doesn’t ever undo an action. I chose to step off the emotional roller coaster that was the breakdown of our marriage about 8 months too late.   I should have left when he told me I was less useful that an HIV infected sharps container.

I did, and often still do, communicate like I would with someone who can be direct and honest and work with others, and I find myself surprised, every time, that he is incapable of communicating without trying to control the situation, me, or add conflict that doesn’t need to be there.  I’m working on trying to figure out how to communicate minimally and effectively so that I can accomplish what I need to for my children’s happiness and still maintain my own. This goal is very challenging, because every hill is the one to die on in his world and I have to walk a line between being a doormat and demanding my boundaries be respected when they should be.  

Right now, my eldest daughter is heartbroken as she tries to navigate dealing with her dad’s less than stellar communication style.  She is a child who needs calm time and reflection to come around to a place where she can discuss her behaviour. He is a man who needs to demand and power struggle everyone into submission.  They are butting heads, he is blaming her for his reactions, and she just wants to avoid him all together. This isn’t an option. My heart breaks for her. I feel guilty as hell because I was the one who chose him to procreate with.  I am free of him, as much as I can be, but she never will be. I am powerless to help her deal with this at present, other than to hold her, tell her it’s not her fault, and remind her that I am proud of her and she is not the person that he makes her feel like she is.  

Every time polyamory comes up, communication is at the forefront of the conversation.  This is as it should be. Communication is everything in polyamory. I’ve become a much better communicator because of polyamory.  I am direct, strong, unapologetic, and very loving and accepting. I have become a complete and total stickler for my boundaries, to the point where some people feel I’m a bitch because I don’t let them push me.  I have no regrets for this. No one should ever violate a well-expressed boundary. When they do, there needs to be consequences. Those consequences usually, in my experience, involve a whole lot of self respect, self-reflection, and accountability.  It’s not easy to stand up for yourself and demand to be treated appropriately, and, in my experience, you lose friends when you do. It’s worth it. Completely and totally worth it.

Solo poly

With a quick reconnection with some of the world’s greatest people, I’m back in a super positive mood. Last weekend was filled with connection of the most important kind – A day with my kids full of cuddles, love and laughter, and then an evening spent with two of my oldest friends and then a day where I had drinks and then dinner with two friends.  I’m feeling uplifted and loved again. As per usual, I started this post several days ago, and I’ve since managed to see A an astounding 3 times and have a date with him tonight, and had the most amazing, fun, and sexy date with S the other day. Life is pretty good.

I’m strong and independent, a lone wolf, a strong brick, a rock!  No, truthfully, I need people so much, despite all my independence.  In the last weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to think about being solo poly and what it means in the greater context of my life.  I’ve actively dated married people because I admittedly feel comfort with the limit to escalation with dating those who are otherwise attached.  I like the idea of the self-limiting nature and safety that it provides. I’m not interested or even willing to entertain a relationship with someone who can escalate, because, truthfully, I fear that type of relationship entanglement at this moment.  I understand the positives to my choice. I love my independence combined with the intense connection of the time I spend with my loves. This isn’t a post complaining about my choice, I know it’s the right one for me. There are just some downsides that hit me square in the forehead in recent weeks.

A and I frequently talk about going to various social engagements and it almost always ends in a decision to not give up the time we have alone together to socialize with others.  S and I just don’t have the time and she is much less inclined to social engagements than I am. What this means in each of my relationships is that to most of the outside world, we are not a couple.  There’s no expectation of us showing up at an event together, there are no family dinners or social obligations. Those who know about our relationship know about it more than observe it. Their friends and partners hear about me, my friends and partners hear about them.  We don’t have a public face. We don’t socialize as a couple. That’s not a part of who we are.

In that vein, we don’t have that comfort of many nights together, the idea that we can do *that thing* tomorrow, or there will be time.  We only have right now. We have the upcoming 3-6 hours together. We don’t have days that we can waste in the same place but not together.  We have to make the most of every moment. The comfort is there, but there is never complacency.

There is always something that is more important.  Often it’s kids, whether they are married or not. Often it’s family gatherings or marriage/home/work responsibilities.  Holidays are something I’m never considered in, no one would consider asking me over for Easter dinner or be concerned about where I was going for Christmas.  Truthfully, it doesn’t bother me *that* much. I understand who I am to my partners and what they have and the choices I’ve made and the choices they made and I support them wholeheartedly.  I have a life with my kids and my parents that usually takes priority for me during holidays anyway. It’s not like I’m at home feeling sorry for myself. The reality is that I would love to have a poly arrangement where we could have a huge polycule Christmas with kids and partners and partners of partners.  I would love to have my kids be part of the amazing committed relationships I have. Executing that is less easy. I don’t want to give up my time with my partners, even for my kids. It’s weird having lives that are so intertwined and yet so separate.

I’m unlikely to have a partner I take to my parents for dinner, a partner I purchase a property with, a partner I sleep next to every night for a month any time soon.  I’m unlikely to have someone schedule their vacation around my availability first. I’m unlikely to have a partner to drag to my kids’ Christmas concerts or come to my kids’ birthday parties.  I’m unlikely to have a partner to rope into helping me fix my fence or paint my basement. I am unlikely to have a partner to grow old with. Solo-poly is exactly that – solo. My life is mine.  I don’t share my life with anyone. I share parts of my life with many, but don’t share my whole life with anyone.

Part of what I like about polyamory is that we’ve made our own rules; we have our own path forward.  With both A and S, I have committed relationships. There’s no predestined path to our relationship development.  I love that we have to actively choose each other every day. That society doesn’t participate in dictating where our relationships end up.  Society’s indoctrination is exactly why, after nearly 41 years, I’m having trouble with my new, functional relationship structure. I will happily suffer as I navigate this learning curve because I know this is the right thing for me.  Making the right choices doesn’t come without challenges and learning curves and in this case, a bit of loneliness and alone-ness. Right now, as my separation seems to finally be settled and the divorce should be complete with far less trouble, I think I’ve figured out who I am right now and I’m determining where I want to end up.  This is a fluid and ongoing process as I continue to grow and evolve and date and parent my children and build my career. I want to end this with some kind of complete sentence wrapping up the message, but the fact is, there isn’t one. Sometimes, life teaches us lessons at the most inopportune times. I’m glad I’m past the initial realization stage of this.

Obvious

A couple weeks ago, F and I finally signed our separation papers  It seems that this fact isn’t going to speed things up for us as now I’m getting excuses as to why he can’t find time to sign the land transfer forms from the real estate lawyer.  This is pretty standard fare for him and while he’s away with W on a mini-vacation, I’m working at my second job instead of being home with my kids in the middle of this 13 day stretch. The fact that I picked up my kids early the other day so that he could go away with her notwithstanding, I have been thinking a lot about them and the breakdown of my marriage.  This was all triggered by the fact that my kids let it slip that F and W are looking at buying a house together and a rather annoying thread about hierarchy on a local poly group where W was her awful self. This and a couple other things had me thinking about the dysfunction in the way she interacted with F during our marriage and the way things appear to be going now.

I realized long ago that her insane need for privacy drove a wedge between F and I. I’m not talking personal privacy, things that are understandably none of my business, I wasn’t even allowed to know what they did on their dates, where they went, or who they were with.  I never had a chance at compersion, because I didn’t know what was going on, ever. I remember F talking about her insecurity and how she is such a private person. How it was exhausting to him to have to reassure her and take steps to prevent her upset. I remember him questioning me and my motivations because he had heard something from her.  He talked a lot about how she was so ethical and forceful in making sure people understood her perspective. I realized the other day, that what W did in those early months is classic abuser behaviour. She isolated F from his support system, she ensured the only messages he heard were hers, and insisted that none of what she communicated was shared with others.  She manipulated him almost expertly and he fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

I’m not saying that F was innocent, because he certainly wasn’t.  We were headed to divorce either way, and his choice to believe her so blindly helped accelerate that.  His passive aggressive manipulation as a way of communication was ever present in our marriage and truthfully, we had each stopped being present in our relationship years before.  By “we”, I mean me too. I know that I wasn’t that great of a wife and that my apathy and sometimes outright contempt for him was years in the making. I realize now how much I want to do things for and work with my partners now, just because I love them, and that isn’t something I’ve felt since before F and I were married.  You see, years of dysfunctional communication happens from both sides, and I certainly am to blame as well.

However, dysfunction aside, looking back on it, it feels so strange that F was so obviously manipulated. I suspect he was in love with the attention he was getting and the support she gave him.  I suspect her demand for privacy and secrecy made him feel loved and desired, like it was a bit of a gift she was giving him, trusting him, so that he willingly cut me out more and more. It was strange to me that when I protested that secrecy to that level was unhealthy, he defended her, but I look back now and I see it is part of the abusive partner’s handbook, and she played that well.  

The other day, she was making a point about how hierarchy exists as a function of couple’s privilege.  I don’t disagree with this, but the idea that established relationships should be respected before expectations and demands are made by the newest partner seems like a given to me.  Within a couple weeks of F meeting W, I was receiving complaints that W thought F having to parent our kids while I was on a night shift was hierarchy. As I read her thoughts on the hierarchy thread and as she argued that couple privilege is the basis of hierarchy, all I saw was the whining, insecurity, and need for control that was so pervasive when she was my metamour.  Someone in the thread asked her to give an example of how privilege is hierarchy and she basically refused, at one point, she said that they fact that the person asking about examples of hierarchy was displaying hierarchy and privilege because she didn’t understand what W meant. This circular argument is all about semantics. On top of that, it strongly resembles gaslighting: she was basically saying that the person asking for clarification was wrong to want to have examples and understand, implying that she was stupid for not automatically accepting W’s point, even though W hadn’t actually made it, other than stating her opinion as fact.

Less than a week after we signed our separation papers, I found out that F is looking at houses to buy with W.  The idea of being financially intertwined with anyone in the future makes me throw up a little in my mouth, while the idea of buying a property with someone when the ink isn’t dry on our separation papers is completely unfathomable.  I think this is just another sign of how incredibly far he’s fallen into her clutches. She has three kids, he has four. She’s been a single mom for a long time, with apparently “good” relationships with the fathers of her children. She’s been renting for years.  She has a job that doesn’t require anything more than high school education, so I’m guessing she doesn’t make more than just above the poverty line, plus her child support. Yet, just after F’s separation papers are signed, where he fought for every single penny and played victim through the whole negotiation, where it was obvious her words were coming out of his mouth, they are looking for a house.  He is buying a house with his girlfriend, when he makes at least three times as much as she does a year. Under no circumstance, even without my jade(d)-colour glasses, does this seem like a good idea.

I am sad that F has been manipulated into this situation, but there is little I can or, truthfully, want to do, about it.  He is an adult who gets to make his own decisions, no matter how stupid they are. My life is much better without him in it, despite the ongoing stress that I will have for the next 15 years as we parent these lovely beings that we created into adulthood.  What bothers me is that my children will have this woman as their step-mother. Her kids as their step-siblings. That means that this horrible, manipulative, abusive, and all around nasty person will be a more permanent part of my children’s lives. It’s going to be hard enough helping my kids through dealing with the passive aggressive manipulation that F deals out, but having to do with W’s version too, and the effect it has on F is going to add to that stress.  My heart breaks for my monkeys at the very thought of it.

Strong

I have been surrounded by so much love and understanding in the last month. It’s truly amazing to me that I have so many people who love me, support me, rage for me, feel sad for me, and are just there for me.  My tribe.

The good thing about having this type of family is that I can be feeling any emotion, but I never feel alone.  I know there is always someone there who has my back and better yet, those same someones know and understand when I need time away and alone.  They check in but don’t smother.  They send love but don’t demand it in return. These are my people.

I’ve been getting a lot of messages from friends sending me love.  Among the many amazing things they say, are: “You are so strong.”  “You are the strongest person I know.”  “I can’t believe how strong you are.”  “Your strength amazes me.”

I like being strong.  It was an intricate part of my self-identity for a long time.  Strong, independent, opinionated, resourceful….etc, etc.  But always “strong”.  Here’s the thing.  Much of my strength came from not being able to turn towards others for support.  For doing things alone.  Starting in my teenage years with a highly dysfunctional father and an alcoholic step-mother, until they kicked me out of home and I was living “independently” in my last year of high school.  I had support of my mom, but I was resistant to her helping me.  I got myself in a lot of scrapes.  Then I moved to finish my degree and did my PhD and lived and worked independently.  Then I met and eventually married F.  In our relationship, I was emotional support for him, but he wasn’t support for me.  I looked the other way in many situations and got past (or blatantly ignored) some pretty abusive behaviours.  I was “strong” because I had to be.  It was me dealing with things alone and not asking for the help I needed, probably suffering more than necessary because I didn’t have the support system that everyone needs and couldn’t ask for help.

Being strong is idolized. My friends mean it as a compliment. It is a compliment. I’m just not sure that my old version of being strong was a good one.  I think I had to be.  But also, what it created was the inability to ask for help when I needed it. Or even recognize when I needed help.  I had this self-reflective epiphany months ago with O’s help.  I realized I was bad at asking for what I needed in favour of filling other’s needs, because when he asked me what I needed, I would deflect with a question or trying to choose what would make him happiest.  It was a huge realization of a major personality flaw.  I wasn’t just strong, I was trying to be my own fortress. The thing is, I can’t do that. No one can.  We need others. I have four kids to think about, and when I’m trying to manage everything on my own, it doesn’t help them.  It means I’m focused inwards when I need to be there for them.  So, going it alone, because I’m strong and don’t *need* help, isn’t the healthy thing to do.

The thing is, I’m in a situation now where I have a plethora of people who want to support me. They want to be there for me. They want me to ask them for help and support.  This is why, when I asked S to first postpone a date and then cancel a date so I could process, she said ‘yes’ without hesitation. This is why I could ask A for what I needed in way of distraction from my emotional state, and he provided it in the most amazing way possible (Seriously, subspace for 2 hours solid and at least 8 orgasms.  Amazing!) This is why I have friends checking on me and asking if they can do anything and just telling me they are thinking of me.  

Vulnerability is hard for me.  Asking for help and support is vulnerable, even with people we know who care.  Being vulnerable has been a thing of weakness for me for so long, since F exploited my vulnerability to make my issues about him.  But in this case, being “weak” is actually being so strong.  The strong realize that they are not stand alone fortresses, and ask for help from the foundation that holds them up.  

My tribe. My people. My support. My loves. My foundation.  

Blocked

In previous posts, I mentioned that I had a couple emotional weeks.  Part of that was the intense discussions with O and the concern I had about everything to do with that situation.  Another part was the feelings of disappointment as my one year anniversary with A came and went without the connection I so needed.  The final, and most emotionally destructive, part was another conflict with my sister.  

I can’t type it all out, because the truth is, I deleted it all, but even if I did still have it, I wouldn’t want to.  I don’t want to hold on to anger and I certainly don’t want her hurtful words to remain for me to reread and repeat that immense pain again.  

She called me many names, including “whore”, “compulsive liar”, “abusive bully”, and more.  She told me I was projecting, that I was mean, that my life is disgusting and repulsive.  She told me that I was pushing my lifestyle on her.  She told me that I’d been a bully all her life. She told me that I was just whoring myself out to cover up some undiagnosed pain.  She said many more awful things. The final thread, in which she included my parents, had me asking her to stop seven or eight times before I started deleting her messages unread.  She kept saying “See, this is how you treat me, how does it feel to have someone treat you as badly as you treat them?”  After the third time she said that, I apologized for every time that I unintentionally caused her pain and pointed out that she was intentionally causing me pain in revenge.  I asked her to stop.  She refused. At that point I completely blocked her.

The thing is, it’s essential for me to be kind to people. It’s important to me, as a strong, independent, intelligent woman, to be a supportive influence in other people’s lives.  I can be mean when angry, I’m human after all, but I’ve never intentionally hurt someone. Ever. But my sister, someone who is supposed to love me and support me and be on my team, is lashing out at me in the worst way possible.  The most hurtful thing she said to me was that my parents don’t actually support me “fucking so many men, they are just too afraid to speak out because they know you would keep the children from them.”   My parents have been my rock, my stability as I go through my separation and navigating my divorce. They have been there to listen, to laugh, to cry, to hug me when it’s too much.  They’ve prioritized my kids so that they get one-on-one time with their grandparents and feel special and have another safe place to talk about the changes in their lives.  They have spontaneously purchased stuff to fix toilets, bought clothes and boots for my kids, and purchased food for my fridge to help me out.  They’ve been nothing but supportive and nonjudgemental, in everything, including polyamory.

When my sister wrote these things, she started me questioning the way I come across to people.  Do people actually see me in the way she does?  Do I come across as mean?  As abusive? As damaged?  As judgemental?  I started doubting myself.  There were a lot of people who read her words. Each one of them assured and reassured me that I am not the person she says I am.  That no one in their right mind would ever say those things about me. It took a lot of processing to get me there. I had an onslaught of insults, criticisms, and judgements for over a week from her, and it was a lot to process.  In the same way that too much negative feedback influences a child’s security, I was feeling rather insecure. I needed some positive feedback to counteract the doubts in my head.  Fortunately, I have amazing people who do that for me.  In the end, I cried.  I was hurt, then angry, then disappointed, then sad.  At the end of all of that, I realized something very critical – it’s not about me.  Her issues are about her and her only.  The things she is saying are just words and it tells me more about her than it does about me.  What my sister is is a very angry, sad, broken person who needs to blame me for her problems and treat me badly to make herself feel better.  

So I blocked her.  I cut her out.  I can’t let anyone treat me that way, even if she is “family”.  I talked to my parents about it all and they are very concerned about her mental health, but support me completely.  Cutting my sister out was a great decision, although a hard one, but I had to take away her ability to hurt me.  The fact is, my life is better and easier without her.  The truth is, I have amazing people who are my real family, even if we don’t share DNA.  I no longer hold hope that reconciliation can happen, and I’m OK with that.