Advice – I suddenly feel so insecure about my RA metamour.

My (32F) and my husband (31M) have been married for 6 years, poly for 5. We didn’t purposefully pursue polyamory, but kind of fell into it. Like many, we have our ups and downs, but overall things are extremely good – our marriage and how polyamory sits with us.

Anyway, my husband has been seeing his girlfriend for quite a bit over about a year and a half. She is really nice and they suit each other well. My meta has been in the poly community for a decade, give or take, and considers herself to be a relationship anarchist. My husband and I have a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, for clarity. She and I have even spoken about this whole thing and she very much accepts and supports our hierarchical relationship. All in all, she’s an amazing meta.

I am a very logical person, always have been, and it’s also how I process difficult emotions. I don’t tend to “feel things out”, but think them out. I like having a logical purpose or being able to look into my emotions and figure out the “why” as best as possible to help me process things. As an aside.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had near zero issues with polyamory over the years. Minimal jealousy, and when I did experience it, I was quick to analyze, communicate, and address it. However now I am feeling this overwhelming illogical sense of jealousy and insecurity in my marriage, for which I could use this community’s thoughts on to help me process through everything. Since I’ve been long winded already, I’ll try to make this more brief.

My meta is in the process of moving out of her nesting partner’s home and into her own place. I think I have identified this as my illogical turning point.

I feel extremely and illogically insecure/jealous of their relationship, and find myself wanting to do things very outside the norm to distance myself from my meta. For instance, I catch myself trying to keep my life and her life as separate as possible now, and her relationship with my husband separate from mine with hers in illogical ways. This is very new for me, and I’m really struggling to process this overwhelming wave of extremely unwanted and unfounded emotions.

Anonymous, /r/polyamory.
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Dear Anonymous,

One of the most difficult aspects of developing polyamorous connections is that you are not only dating the person but also their circumstance. When your husband started dating your current metamour, she had to implicitly accept and embrace your role in her husband’s life as well as you hers. In the past year and a half, you’ve understood your metamour’s role as a devout relationship anarchist whose current living happenstance (with an existing nesting partner) put an artificial ceiling on the relationship that your husband could have with your metamour. It could be that that artificial ceiling helped you manage an underlying anxiety or insecurity that you always felt toward this particular partner. And now that your metamour is moving out on her own, you can read her new living happenstance as a particular absence that your husband can now fill, which is subsequently triggering that same underlying insecurity.

The way you can dissect and analyze tells me that you are generally committed to relying on logic to resolve issues. It has been such a reliable problem solving method for you, even when it came to addressing complex feelings like jealousy. But in the same way that aluminum baseball bats make terrible baby pacifiers, approaching a wholly emotionally driven problem with a purely logical perspective might be the wrong way to resolve the new feelings you are feeling now. The new feelings perhaps need a new approach.

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Let’s entertain your logical thought process to develop a new resolution by explicitly mapping out your current emotional landscape.

I too am incredibly driven by reason. So I personally like to write my own feelings down in order to engage in a dialogue with my inner monologue, when I can’t just rely on my inner monologue to drive my feeling resolution process. Seeing my words out on page allows me to think my feelings out loud. You may already have your own process of engaging with your ego. Externally processing new information by thinking out loud with your partner or a therapist could be one valid way to converse with yourself. Another way could be to incorporate a meditation process for yourself. What’s more important is to draw the feelings out into the light, no matter how uncomfortable and amorphous they seem.

Once you have those feelings out in the open, it is important that you allow those feelings some room to breathe. Some of those feelings are going to be difficult to actualize and feel urgent. But you need to draw those feelings out so that you may dive deeper into the source of those feelings. Like learning any new skill, it is going to be very difficult to let those difficult feelings stand for an extended amount of time. But since you already have previously had success in acknowledging and managing jealousy, think of it as if you’re using some new pots and pans to cook your favorite dish. You just need some practice is all.

Remember that feelings by default are illogical. There need be no rhyme or reason to the feelings you feel. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves can explain why we feel a certain way. However, most of the time, those narratives are just retroactive rationalizations on our part to explain why we feel and not at all reflective of the true cause of those feelings.

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There are three more things to consider.

First is your own dating happenstance. You mentioned in the comments that you haven’t been able to forge any new connections in the past couple months. It could be that putting so much focus on developing and maintaining a kitchen table poly-type connection with your metamour has taken up a lot of your emotional capital without you even realizing so. And in spending so much emotional energy in connecting with your metamour, you’ve isolated yourself in your current polycule. That could be why you are gravitating toward a more compartmentalized, parallel approach to your metamourship.

Second is to consider that we are living through a pandemic where a lot of our emotional resources are used up in order to deal with the ongoing emotional trauma. Completing mundane and simple tasks are a lot harder to do when you have fewer tools to work with. So be kinder to yourself and only commit to the type of emotional labor that really feels rewarding and reciprocal for you.

Last thing for you to consider is that you did point out two very distinct polyamorous relationship types between what you and your husband practice and what your metamour practices. It could be that witnessing your metamour commit deeper into her relationship anarchy is unearthing some deep personal insecurities about this specific mismatch in style. Even if your metamour completely understands and accepts your hierarchical polyamorous relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t open to change. And your mind could be tricking you to believe that this change in her living happenstance could lead to a change in your husband’s perspective about hierarchical polyamory, which is manifesting in the insecurity you feel toward your metamour as an agent of change.

It could be that you are just becoming more comfortable with more distance from your metamour. It could be temporary or it could be permanent. Both are reasonable and valid ways to do polyamory. What’s more important is to be grounded in your own reality by not just acknowledging but accepting your feelings at its face value.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – How much can you love a friend?

“I recently have come to realize that all of my close friends are a little bit in love with me. I am pretty open about being bisexual and polyamorous and I tend to show a lot of love and affection for my friends. Lately I’ve been finding it difficult to keep everyone at the distance of only being platonic. I want more and they want more, and I don’t know how long I can go fighting myself from acting authentic about just how much I do love them.

I’m not exactly sure if I want to end up in a romantic relationship with everyone but I feel at least wanting to express affection outside of the realm of socially accepted platonic behavior. (Aka, hand holding, kissing, cuddles, and openly saying ‘I love you’s.)

That’s what my heart says, but my head keeps telling me that you keep friends longer by keeping things as they are, as strictly platonic. Is there any advice out there for my situation?”

– /u/King_C_21, /r/polyamory.

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Dear King C 21,

Let me introduce you to the world of relationship anarchy.

“A relationship anarchist begins from a place of assuming total freedom and flexibility as the one in charge of their personal relationships and decides on a case by case basis what they want each relationship to look like.”

“Relationship Anarchy Basics.” The Thinking Aro, May 7, 2013.

It is impossible to define relationship anarchy (RA) in one sentence. But I would like to start from a place that RA throws all the rules out and starts from the very basic nature of human relationships: a connection. And instead of assigning expectations or preconceived ideas about what platonic or romantic even means, RA folks blur those lines and state that even those lines are a spectrum. Instead of pigeonholing each connection into a box, RA folks build the fluidly moving boxes fit for each of those connections as appropriate so that they may decide for themselves what each of those connections may look like. The core facets of RA are inherently independent and autonomous.

Relationship anarchy asks for us to challenge all of our ideas about what is a romantic relationship as opposed to a platonic friendship. Instead of the society telling us what is proper and improper behavior embedded in the hierarchy of connections, RA folks each own their own personal ideas and guidelines on what they feel are appropriate and inappropriate with each of their connections. One person’s practice of relationship anarchy might look completely different from another’s RA.

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I myself am not a relationship anarchist, but I am very close to a few.

My first encounter with relationship anarchy was on a sushi date that I didn’t know was a date. Let’s call them R. R was from a local polyamory meetup group we both frequented and matched each other on OkCupid. Over dinner, R told me about their very personal journey to accept and embrace relationship anarchy. They revealed to me how closely it aligns with their solo poly practice and how they could never go back to how structured and regimented their relationships felt prior to RA. R had two long distance connections in which there were some form of romantic and sexual entanglement with and held that they were open to exploring as many (and as deep) connections as necessary.

The second relationship anarchist I have ever met is my current partner of six months. Let’s call her L. She found that the completely lack of restraint of RA most closely represented the way she wanted to live her life. L once described being introduced to RA with the same kind of closeness as coming home. She has many very close connections with countless people with whom she would identify as her soul humans, and never value one connection over another regardless of existence of romantic or sexual component to that specific connection. Instead of obsessing over the fit of the predetermined roles, L decides at the level of each relationship what she is and isn’t comfortable with. L is openly affectionate with each of her soul humans, many of whom she kisses and cuddles.

With both relationship anarchists, I’ve learned how radically but differently they both approached boundary setting. R was very clear about the boundaries they set early on. They were very intentional and direct about everything that was said and done. L was much more flexible and agreeable. She approaches each of her relationships with nuance and generosity that welcomed many to sit by her hearth. Like I said, no two people’s practices of RA look alike.

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One of the patterns I am committed to breaking this year is to live more true to myself regardless of what others think. In that, I recognize I need to be more brave. Brave in the authentic self I believe in. Brave in face of external critiques and judgments. Brave in faith that this will be good for me long-term even if I have to burn some bridges.

You say that you struggle to fight against the authentic parts of yourself who want to realize all these feelings and express all these affections around the people you care for. Then I ask you, why is your head telling you all these ideas about what it takes for longevity of different connections? How much of it is monogamous programming you’ve not yet unshed?

How brave are you willing to be so that you may be more true to yourself?

Should you decide to heed my advice and venture into relationship anarchy, your own secular practice of relationship anarchy could be very different from how R or L or any other relationship anarchists do relationships. What’s more important is whether or not you are being more true to yourself. You are the master of your own domain and who am I to tell you otherwise?

What is socially acceptable is only socially acceptable in your own headspace and the community you surround yourself with. You are already out as bi and poly to your folks. So you already broke two walls. What’s a third?

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!