Unhappy Holidays: “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas”
I’m the one who wanted the poly relationship I’m in. I have a partner who I love, but I am secretly seething with jealousy under my well-adjusted, open-loving Zen facade.
I’ve never been wired for monogamy and never had the fantasies about finding my prince and fairytale, white-picket-fence thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—it just wasn’t for me. I never had a “normal” relationship. My first serious relationship was a four-year stint with a married man. I never minded, because my time was my own, and I got to go out with all the hot boys I wanted.
When I’m with my other lovers, there’s no issue. Then, I act like it’s fine when he sees his other girlfriend; but the truth is, I’m furious and lost inside and can’t stop picturing him fucking her, and not in a hot way.
This Christmas, he’s going to Florida to spend part of the holidays with her family. I act like it’s fine, but it’s killing me. It’s totally irrational because this is exactly what I wanted—an egalitarian community of poly partners. But I feel like I’m dying from the inside out.
What now? – Liz, 27
Wow, I’m so sorry you’re hurting. But here’s the thing: love and marriage bring up conflicting emotions and struggles. Being poly doesn’t mean we avoid them! It almost sounds to me like you signed up for polyamory because you feared you couldn’t be monogamous—and maybe that no man could be either.
There are polyamorous relationships where one person is “allowed” all the dalliance they want, and the other doesn’t stray. A surprising number of men are up for this arrangement. They may be submissive, masochistic, or more romantic than sexual. They may have a thing for cuckolding. But it exists. There truly is something for everyone.
But I get the feeling that this is not about you wanting it both ways—your freedom on one hand, and not having to share on the other. These feelings took you by surprise, and you don’t have a lot of experience with jealousy. It’s a powerful beast. It’s a myth that poly people don’t feel jealousy. We do! But we are committed to not letting it destroy our relationships.
I want you to sit through it. Don’t suppress it. Let yourself feel its hurt. Emotions come and go and it will go. You can’t avoid hurting this Christmas, so don’t try. Cry and scream. Join a trusted friend for the holiday dinner, but otherwise, really focus on observing and experiencing your emotions.
Then feel how it feels when he comes home to you, his primary to whom he has committed, to whom he has broken no bonds.
After this tide has passed—and it will—you can consider discussing different terms. Some monogamous people turn poly, and some poly people close the doors. What’s best for us can change.
But what’s best doesn’t change because of jealousy or other toxic and painful emotions. I think you’ve been trying to avoid pain for so long that you don’t know what to do with it now.
I know you will feel very differently by the new year. You will have overcome a normal if horrible challenge in poly love. Your marriage will be stronger and deeper, and you will know yourself better.
Trust yourself if polyamory is what you’ve always known is right for you.