Episode 72: Problematic Pedestal

Reading Time: 12 minutes

When you put one partner on a pedestal, it can cause a lot of constant anxiety. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

How do you deal with expressions of emotion? Sadness? Anger

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My partner and I have been together for 2 and a half years. It is my first queer passion and relationship.

I am a cis woman and I’ve had 2 long relationships with cis men, one of them lasted 9 years. (At one point of this relationship I brought up the idea of non-monogamy and he freaked out, later I left for 6 months abroad and he cheated on me which landed to us breaking up and then coming back together gain after a succession of little drama an [STI]).

My actual partner came out pretty early, dated and had sex with a lot of people during their life. They were assigned female at birth, they’re non binary, and they only date women.

When we met each other it was very intense and we fall in love quickly. It was new for me but it was special for both of us. I was a very independent person but they weren’t and I adapted myself and we had a very fusional first year.

We decided to open up our relationship a bit more than a year after we met. It was something we both wanted. 

For me it meant freedom and mostly the possibility to explore my lesbian sexuality. I was also drawn by the idea that it would make us closer in a way. For them, at first it wasn’t clear, they were curious to explore new stuff, supportive of me and kinda aroused by the idea of me having other stuff. But the reality was very different. 

We both signed up on tinder and to sum up, they started dating people right away and I freaked out about it. I was really sad, crying all the time, every little thing was hurting me and it kind of took away my own desire to pursue anything on my own. I was feeling insecure, jealous, not enough etc etc. 

Eventually I had some experiences (3) but it wasn’t completely satisfying for me.  For them, it was great. They’re so hot and very experienced in dating so it was just so easy. I couldn’t help compare our experience and it had a bad impact on my ego. During this time, it was always very clear that our relationship was the priority and that the other relationships were secondary and not serious. We’re leaving together and we’re very committed to each other and want this to stay like this.

We stoped it because of winter, pandemic and also because it didn’t really end well with 2 of the people my partner saw because they wanted more and not them. It was a hard winter because of the pandemic and because my partner was very depressed. I got a bit cold and distant because I wasn’t receiving any really attention. At the end of the winter I was even considering breaking up because I was feeling really unsatisfied but I still loved them so didn’t.

In June, I had to travel and left for 6 weeks. Before that we decided to open things again. I wanted to be free during my travel and also wanted them to be able to meet people and have nice time while I was away. They were saying they didn’t want anything too regular and we kinda agreed on that. I was clear about the fact that I was not comfortable (or ready) with them having an other girlfriend. 

During this 6 weeks, they started dating a younger girl and it was hard from me again right away. I thought they didn’t want anything regular but they said they changed their mind and really like this person. They were transparent with me about all this but I got very upset and so it put a distance between us (in addition to the actual distance). 

Again as I was 100% of time thinking about what they were doing, paranoid, fearing, being stressed out, feeling betrayed, humiliated etc. it drained me from pursuing anything on my own. Again it had a bad impact on my confidence.

When I got back home a week ago, we had some big deep beautiful discussions about the situation. They were very transparent about the fact that they really enjoy the non monogamy, that they like this girl, that they still love me very deeply and that our relationship is so important and precious to them. We are feeling closer than before, we’re very affectionate and kind with each other. 

I am feeling very much in love and I have butterflies again, which might be caused by the fear of losing them. They say their feelings are more deep and stable but they’re passed the honeymoon phase. I understand that but it is hard for me to accept it. Specially if they are experiencing this phase with someone else.

I am so scared of them falling in love with this girl and losing my “status”. I think part of it is that our narrative has always been very romantic and they tell me things like I am the best relationship they ever had and I am the love of their life etc. Which makes me feel so good but I realise that I am completely terrified about loosing this special place. 

I overthink everything, I feel obsessed with this situation, I am always comparing everything and it’s driving me bananas. I don’t really have people to talk to about it because my friends are all monogamous and I feel judged. I am gonna start seeing a therapist next week who is specialized in this topic but I don’t have a lot of money so I don’t know how many sessions I’ll be able to do.

This girl my partner is seeing is the 4th person they dated in a year and I thought that by now I will feel better but I really don’t. I can’t help but feeling humiliated and sad. Is it normal that it takes so much time to adjust ? It feels hopeless and I am questioning if it’s really something for me. What do you think ?

The other thing is that I am a very emotional person and I cry A LOT. I struggle finding a good balance between good communication and overwhelming sharing. I have a tendency to share everything and burst into tears very easily but it has a bad impact on us because it creates a distance and they fear to hurt me so we share less. I feel really stuck because I don’t know when I should just shut the fuck up and work alone on my shit and when it’s important to share. 

I am afraid my emotions are gonna sabotage our connexion. And I always read stuff like it’s important to express your emotions and cry but I am like : yes ok but what if it’s 5x times a day every day? I don’t think it’s constructive either ! What do you think ?

Response:

I feel like you kind of nailed it on the head a little bit. And a lot of people do this in Non-Monogamy when they start out and I get why they do it. But it is something that I feel like ends up causing a lot more panic and anxiety than it’s worth. It’s okay if you really want a situation where you have a primary or prioritised relationship, right? 

That’s okay if that’s really the way you want to operate. And I feel like there are some people who do operate that way and that’s fine. There are some people who want a kind of non-monogamy where their primary interest is in having sexual experiences with other people, but they kind of want to have the romance and stuff and lifelong commitment and everything with another person. 

And I think if that is what works for you, that is fine. The problem is that I feel like that’s kind of what people end up going for by default. Because monogamy is kind of presented to you as the only option. You kind of go for a similar kind of monogamy within non-monogamy if that makes sense. You opt for a solution that feels a little bit more safe in some ways. And I feel like if you don’t actually operate that way, it’s not really going to work and I also feel like exactly what you said. You’re afraid of losing your status. 

And when you put people on a pedestal, when you create a hierarchy, understand that that will create anxiety, because if you are ‘the special person’, exactly like you said, you’re going to be worried about basically being ousted from your throne. You’re going to be worried about being taken off of your pedestal. There is a way to reassure and compliment and, you know express your love for people that doesn’t involve a kind of exclusivity or putting people on a pedestal. 

It’s very hard for people to do that. Because that is kind of the thing that we are surrounded by in most cultures, right? Like all of the love songs, all of the things that you know, we’re encouraged to consider romantic all have to do with exclusivity. All have to do with like “You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met” and you know. And this creates a lot of problems in monogamy. This creates a lot of problems for people who feel like even in monogamy, that their partner should be perfect and they should always feel enamoured by that. 

It creates a lot of problems for monogamous people. So I feel like carrying this over — unless you are the kind of person where this is kind of how you operate. So you’re not really trying to put anyone on a pedestal it’s just that this is how you prefer to do things because this is how you operate or this is what your interest is in non-monogamy. If you’re not that type of person then that pedestal is going to create a lot of issues. 

So I think that what would be helpful is if you both made some attempt to figure out what your ideal is. So just because two people are polyamorous doesn’t mean they are compatible. You can be incompatible. Some polyamorous people want this kind of setup where there’s one person that they feel romantic towards one person they have a life with. And then they’re kind of being sexually adventurous and for the record  — I also dislike when a hierarchy is set up the way that people seem to act like people that their partner sleep with or have experiments with don’t matter. 

They do matter. It’s not as if — I feel like it’s a little cruel sometimes. And I’m not saying you’re doing this, but I do feel like it’s a little cool sometimes. The way we talk about it’s just like Oh, I’m the most important and everyone else is just trash basically and I know you didn’t say that. But I think that it would also help if we just kind of accepted that, you know, casual relationships are still relationships, like. The connections that people have with people. It doesn’t have to be so freakin cold.

Okay, yes, you may not want to establish a life with this person. Or spend the rest of your life with this person. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. You know, people can have huge impacts on your life, even if they only spend a little bit of time with you. So that’s that’s the first thing. But I think that what you need to do is you both need to think about why — what it is about polyamory that you are excited by, what is it that you get out of it? What is the personal benefit that you get out of this? I talk a lot about this. If you go to NonMonogamyhelp.com. I have a 101 and a 102 article. And in the one on one article, I talk about finding your anchor. And I think the finding your anchor is really, really helpful. 

So what your anchor is basically as the personal reason, which isn’t sustaining another relationship but your personal interest in Non-Monogamy and you could be a monogamous person to a polyamorous person and still have an anchor and your anchor may be that you like to have some time alone and so you don’t mind that your partner is with someone else because you like having more alone time than you typically might get within monogamy with another person who is monogamous. So you need to find out what your ideal is. 

What is it that you would like around that? Around that is about physicalities right? I think the bare minimum of non-monogamy is accepting a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. As I’ve said, in a lot of the columns and podcasts, a lot of monogamous relationships are also like this. If you have a partner with a time intensive career, where they may not be spending all their time with you. 

You also kind of have to be okay with that or not date someone who has that kind of a career. So that is kind of the first step. Like okay, this is this situation, my partner may not spend all of their time with me. It doesn’t sound like you have that problem. It doesn’t sound like that’s an issue for you. But you also need to think about what it is that you actually want. 

So stop trying to reassure each other by saying “Oh, you’re the most amazing person”. We do love our partners and they are amazing in their own way. But you don’t have to make it into a competition and that isn’t helping anyone. So instead of doing that, think about the physicalities like, are you going to have two set nights together? Are you going to schedule time together? I think that especially when people live together, it’s very, very easy and honestly even this is true for monogamous people. 

It’s very, very easy to forget to spend intentional time with one another and intentional time with one another is really, really important. So agree on some physicalities like is your partner going to spend three nights a week with you that kind of thing?

That will help you feel a little more grounded, you won’t feel so out of whack. If you know what your future is with each other. If you know you have the same kind of picture, the same kind of ideal with each other, then it won’t be so difficult for you to calm yourself when you’re in that kind of a state. I think also it’s important for you to put together kind of an emotional self care routine, something that helps you figure out where to go for help.

Like you obviously don’t have you know, and then and it’s worth — you know, I don’t know if you feel judged or if your monogamous friends have made you feel judged. You know, I think the monogamous people if they’re your friends, they should be able to support you. And it’s worth having those conversations with them. It’s worth reaching out to them and saying like, “Hey, can you give me some emotional support here without telling me that my lifestyle is wrong?”. I feel like they should if they’re your friends be able to do this. But other than that you can kind of figure out how you handle your emotions.

Exactly what I was speaking about earlier in the podcast about your nervous system like how you calm your nervous system. Seeing that therapist. When you go to see that therapist, ask that therapist for techniques on how to deal with your emotions. And then when it comes to how much you share. I feel like that’s really dependent on the person, right? Because some people will be able to sit there and listen to stuff and also put down some boundaries and say “I think that you’re going a little bit too far. I think that you’re oversharing” and you have the ability to trust your partner to lay down those boundaries. 

So maybe you need to have some honest conversations with each other. Maybe you need to ask your partner like instead of keeping things from me, can we establish almost like a safe word where you can say okay, things are getting a little intense. I need a break. Take a break, step away from each other, have those emotional processing things that you can do to kind of get that out and then come back. You know, you don’t have to process everything right away. You don’t have to spend five hours sitting and talking with each other. 

You can just go okay. All right. I’m feeling a little bit high emotion right now. I need to step away. Step away. Have a talk with a friend or you know, whatever you can do that kind of gets you a little bit less in the kind of reactive feeling, and then come back to the discussion but don’t beat yourself up as well. Like my last piece of advice. Don’t beat yourself up for having feelings like— people tell you to kind of like express your emotions and and sometimes you know it’s not like you constantly express— you’re not an open bottle or I don’t know what the phrase is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you just express everything all at once all the time. 

But you allow yourself to feel things. You allow yourself to go through that. And you will get to a point especially when you learn how to balance your nervous system and you learn how to calm yourself, you will get to a point where you see yourself having that anxiety spike. And you’re able to kind of experience yourself seeing that instead of being in the middle of it. And then you can express it in a way that you need to and it gets a little bit easier to navigate that, but you don’t reach that point by beating yourself up. So don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction. To feel scared to feel all of these things. 

Nothing that you’ve described is out of the norm. When it comes to emotions, I think that you will get to a point where you feel a little bit better but this isn’t all just you shutting the fuck up and working on your shit as you said. This is also you working with your partner to establish some shared idea of what it is your ideal is and then you know that you’re both working together on that and you will still have panics. You’ll still have freak outs you’ll still be scared. 

But at least you’ll be able to come back to that and say okay, but we have this idea. We have this thing that we both believe in we have this thing that we both want to work on. And you’ll be able to come back to that. I think people already have that in monogamy because it’s so culturally scripted.  You have the relationship escalator you have signs that kind of ground you in knowing that things are serious that your partner is committed, etc and so forth. So when you don’t have that, you just need to find out how to create that within your relationship. 

And I think a great way to start is by talking to each other about what your ideals are, figuring out if you have a shared idea of a life that is compatible, if there are compromises you can make or they can make and just figure out how you both work together. I think that would be a huge help. 

So to summarise, the pedestal is the problem here. That is why you’re so anxious. You both need to make an attempt to figure out what your ideal is because two polyamorous people can be incompatible. So figure out if you’re compatible in that way. Schedule some physical actual days out, nights out, or nights in just some time. That’s intentional, that you know for sure you always have this time with them which can help a lot with anxiety. 

And then, as I said put together an emotional self care routine. Something that helps you figure out where you can go for help. Reach out to some of your friends and see if they— they should provide you with that support even if they don’t get polyamory. And last but not least, don’t be so mean and hard on yourself about it. And there isn’t anything bad about having a lot of feelings. It’s just about how you navigate that if that makes sense. So I hope this helps and good luck.

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