Why is seeing someone else making me take a harder look at myself?

Dang, this polyamory thing is a complicated morass. Or at least it’s challenging enough to make me feel like a bumbling moron. The disparate natures of logic and emotion have never felt so distinct and it’s weird to know how to gauge progress verses inertia. I take two steps forward and three steps back, like a realistic analogue of how I’d massacre a foxtrot on the dance floor.

I’ve been seeing someone lately and it’s been going really well. I’m enjoying the time we’re spending together. It’s exciting to be seeing a new person, feeling those electric moments of first touch and connection. Things are developing nicely and for the first time I’m gaining insight into how polyamory could fit into my relationship style heading forward. Everything’s out in the open with our partners. They know that we exist and how our intimacy is developing. We schedule dates together around their needs and make a point of regular check ins. We talk about them with each other and so far it’s been unabashed gushing. As I’ve said before, there’s a rush that comes with being able to share all the things I love about my girlfriend with someone else I’m interested in.

I got to meet this gal’s boyfriend last night and it was nothing I expected. I’d assumed there’d be an edge of tension to the encounter, but there was zero to be found. I’d heard so much about him and instantly took a huge liking to the guy. As soon as we started talking, lightly prodding conversation gave way to excited chatter. I could’ve stayed for hours just hanging out, if not for the fact that it was a) already late and b) a school night. He’s so fucking cool and I just want to be friends now. I left with a grin spanning my face and looked forward to more chances to spend time with this dude.

My girlfriend has been a champ through this whole thing. It goes without saying that she has years more experience than I do, but anything I feel tentative about raising hasn’t been an issue for her. Her boundaries with what she’s happy to hear and know stagger me. Her access to compersion is so far ahead of anything I can conceive of at this point. Every time we talk about how things are going, it makes me love her that little bit more.

It’s important to say here that not everything is 100% rosy. Here she is eagerly hearing about my intimacy with another woman and conversely things so far lower on the scale are enough to leave me emotionally distraught. Even hearing about her kissing another guy or having sexual feelings about him just wrecks me. She shared this the other night and it was enough to push me into a dissociative episode. All emotion drained out of my mind and I found myself incapable of feeling anything. It was like colour disappeared and all I could see were the black lines. It’s not like I was blinded, but any nuance faded from my mind. My brain became a house of circuitous negative self-talk and my fears were all I could hear echoing around in there.

I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t desirable. I was a placeholder for someone else. She wanted him, not me. I’d given myself someone who didn’t feel the same way about me. I was unnecessary and replaceable. I was going be left alone, broken and empty. I’d placed myself on a path of hurt after hurt and it wasn’t worth it. Our future together would only serve to make me feel worse until I failed to find anything left to love about myself.

In moments of calm I know that all of this is flagrantly wrong, but at the time I felt hollow and didn’t want to be touched. I couldn’t connect with her and it took hours to bring me back to earth. We talked it out and made up. Consequently we didn’t sleep much and I still haven’t caught up.

For clarification, I’m sleeping with someone else and she’s happy for me.
She tells me she kissed someone and is interested in them and it’s enough to send me into a dissociative episode.

It’s no wonder that I feel like a piece of shit, right? I don’t feel bad about seeing this new person at all and everyone involved has made it evident that they’re okay with it. I want to be able to frame my girlfriend’s interest in the same way that I see mine, but the two aren’t overlaying amicably. If I’m okay about what I’m doing with this girl, why can’t I handle her doing the same? Hearing and thinking about her with someone else still makes me feel physical pain. The guilt that I feel over not coping well adds to this and I start along a path of self-loathing.

I know the answer is to keep working on it, to keep breaking it down. I know the answer is to keep communicating, sharing and analysing why it hurts so much. I know the answer is that she’s had many more years to acclimatise to this, that it feels more natural to her than to me. I know that the only solution is time, experience and processing, that things will get easier. I know that stumbling is part of the process and I can’t expect to be further just because I want to be.

As always though, there’s a difference between knowing and understanding. God dammit there is.


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