Emotions are not demands

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Do you have any constructive advice for someone loving with a Meta as a roommate? It’s been uniquely difficult compared to previous relationships.

I am struggling with the amount of time my primary partner now spends with their new partner. My primary and I have been together monogamously for about 5 years and just opened up in July.

We’ve all been friends for about 4 years, and we recently moved into polyamory.

My primary started dating our roommate (this long time friend of ours). As they live together and work together they see each other every single day, all the time. While I am very aware that this isn’t some competition or a reasonable feel, I often feel jealousy in a very new and strange way when I see how much time I am alloted with other partners.

While I know the feelings aren’t logical, they come up a lot when I realize that they get to see each other every single day. I also feel like I’m losing my friend because of how odd and infrequent his communication has become since it began. Like he’s distancing himself from me out of fear or confusion. He’s very new to poly[am] as well and is still pretty unsure about a lot.

I’m mostly just looking for some tools to help work through these feelings without making them my partners problem. When they see I’m struggling with something (like, just a look on my face) it instantly become something like “well now I don’t want to spend time with my new partner because I see you’re struggling with it.” and I would like to remove that from our lives. I dislike that they consistently see my emotions so clearly on my face when I’m trying desperately to process and deal with them without making them their problem.

Firstly, your feelings are logical.

You’ve most likely been raised in a monogamous-centric society which has encouraged you to imagine yourself in a monogamous romantic relationship. Why wouldn’t, when you’re going off that path, you feel a certain amount of fear and trepidation? Why would you expect yourself to be suddenly okay with everything? It would be like expecting yourself to not have any fears about being a parent or moving to a new city. It’s pretty typical for you to feel anxious about this.

It’s very normal when people are entering into another polyamorous relationship to experience what’s called “new relationship energy”. It’s a typical sort of honeymoon phase that I think people in monogamous relationships get when they first start dating someone. Sometimes it does lead people to neglect other relationships, like partnerships and friendships, but that is absolutely solvable and usually not temporary.

I don’t even know if what I would classify what you have here as jealousy. You’re afraid of losing your partner and your friend. Maybe there’s a tiny bit of jealousy there but… most of it seems like a reasonable reaction to a big change. You want to be able to spend time with your partner and you’re sad that you can’t as easily as some others can. That’s absolutely understandable.

Secondly, you should be able to express your feelings.

I don’t know if your partner has literally said that they are unable to spend time with their other partner because of your feelings but if so, that needs to stop. You’re allowed to have emotions about things. Emotions themselves are not demands on your partner. If your partner feels guilty that you are sad, then they can address it or deal with that emotion, but putting that guilt back onto your shoulders, especially if you’re just expressing something on your face and not making any demands, is unfair.

They have to learn that if you feel sad or if they see you feel sad, maybe they need to respond to that by asking you how to work together to address it or actually accepting that is the case as it is with a lot of relationships. If we are to take a business trip, we accept it might make our partner sad. This pandemic has made a lot of people unable to visit and travel to their loved ones and we absolutely understand that this makes people sad, but we accept that this is just part of it.

If you refuse opportunities or ignore public health mandates because someone might be sad… that is a problem. Your partner enmeshing with you to the extent that you cannot express an emotion without them assuming responsibility for it and assuming it is a demand is a problem. And it’s got to stop if you want to have any real communication between any of you. You are not making your feelings your partner’s problem. They are making it their problem on their own. And they really do not have to. You can have them read this or you can call this out directly and ask them to speak with a therapist about it, but do not start to censor yourself because your partner is deciding that your feelings are a mandate. They are not.

Thirdly, a discussion needs to be had between you and your partner about your ideals. What is your ideal situation in terms of polyamory? What kind of set-up do you want? How many partners do you think you want and how do you want to spend time with them? Think about that independently and then come together and compare notes. Unfortunately, two people can be capable of and/or interested in polyamory and still be incompatible, just as two people who want monogamy are not inherently compatible based on that. So, do you have a compromise you can make?

If you, for example, want a partner to spend four nights a week with you, are you willing to accept three? Can you establish specific days and times for each other? That might help you feel like there is something a little bit more devoted to you. One thing I would remind you though is that living together with someone does not mean that you actually spend time with one another. Seeing someone every day definitely does have it’s benefits, but one of the things that anyone in any kind of relationship where they live together needs to remember is that time sharing the same space is not automatically quality or intended time. That has to be done on purpose.

To sum up, I think that if you accept that these feelings are understandable, learn to listen to them, learn to set boundaries around your feelings, and have a discussion about what you’d like from your partner and you can see if they are willing to work with you and give you what you need. I hope this helps and good luck!

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