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Sometimes coming joint second

The last few months haven’t been easy. I have spent it getting over an ex. And it’s not even my own ex, it’s a partner’s ex. In fact, getting over this has proved more problematic than getting over some of my own exes – I have an enviable degree of ease in moving on from my own dead affairs of the heart; I tend to shrug them off with an ‘Ah, that was fun’ and no backwards glance.

To be honest, it wasn’t the break-up that upset me, it was the entire existence of this person in my partner’s life, albeit only for a few months, and so I am not really getting over the break-up, I am getting over the relationship. And with that it has thrown up a whole lot of questions for me about how good a partner I have been. Spoiler: I have been a bit of a shit. Why I am writing this now? As part of my own healing process, really, and to draw a hard red line under a difficult period. And because this week’s WW prompt is tantrums and I have had too many tantrums for any self-respecting 44-year-old in the last six months!

But really, it was this tweet from Nooky Semper, asking about the difference between jealousy and insecurity that really got me processing my thoughts and crafting sentences in the shower. Was it jealousy that made me so unhappy? No I don’t think so. I don’t ever really experience the debilitating grip of the ‘green-eyed monster’ and I never wonder or worry about what partners are doing when they are not with me. The voyeur in me delights in hearing about their sex adventures and I will happily host posts written by partners and by hot-damn-why-don’t-you-live-closer men about their wives.

What I do have is a sometimes debilitating degree of insecurity that can leave me ludicrously anxious. Without information and reassurance I display many of the erratic (and distasteful!) behaviours associated with jealousy. So maybe Nooky is right – maybe it is a fine line between insecurity and jealousy. On reflection, I think what shook me so much last summer was the surprise of it all. I chatter away to my partner about who I am swiping on and who is sliding into my DMs but he’s not quite so loose-lipped as me so when I realised there was someone more significant in his circle it gave me a profound wobble. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t lie. I just didn’t have the information and reassurance I needed to feel secure and when I worked things out for myself the insecurity was already doing its worst. Last summer was a bit of perfect storm for me anyway – I had a huge ‘don’t come home again’ row with my Dad about Brexit, my business was not in a good place and I was already working through in my head the other changes that would occur in our relationship in a few months’ time. I was low on bandwidth to cope with curveballs.

I am also ‘blessed’ with off the scale status anxiety and while I still have no desire to have a primary partner I have realised that the possibility that I might be joint second does not fit at all well with my vision of myself in a hierarchy. My partner has pointed out that while I relish hierarchy it doesn’t mean he does and of course that is fair but I found myself thinking all the not-good-poly thoughts that I might not be good enough, that he’s gone off me. He reasonably and rightly pointed out that I manage to accommodate two or three ‘partner light’ arrangements without it affecting my feelings for him and of course he is right.

For me the hardest part was that I didn’t like her. I am used to thinking the other women in his life are magnificent, talented, hilarious, sensational women but I didn’t feel that about her. I found her opinions challenging and her comments about weight hugely upsetting and some of her attitudes to relationships jarred with my outlook. And I did not cope or behave well in the face of this adversity! In fact, I became a bit of a monster. In public I wrote thoughtful comment pieces but in private I had spiteful WhatsApp tantrums. I am lucky probably that I have a partner who has both patience and a remarkable ability to just ignore you rather than judge you when you’re being a harridan!

It’s at this point I feel the need to give @19syllables a cameo; last week when I was pondering what you call a partner’s partner if metamour seems highly inappropriate to the situation. “Step Fuck” she quipped. Now, being in possession of a lovely stepmum I don’t go in for the ‘evil step…’ trope but we guffawed so loudly at her joke I think we disturbed the sewer rats under the pavement where we were drinking coffee! I think Step Fuck is a perfectly glorious flipside to metamour!

So, here we are months later. I can’t deny that when it ended I was relieved. I am not a total cow – I was also a little sad for him when that happened because I could see he was sad – but my instinctive response was ‘Oh, thank God, we can get back to normal now’. Although of course, that was easier said than done because his new normal meant there was no time for us to re-establish our balance and contentment levels before an entirely welcome and glorious hiatus was upon us.

But now spring has sprung and we are slipping back into routines of writing geeky lists, long evenings at my dining table and cheeky photo adventures. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and my sense of calm returning. And the best thing to come out of it has been acknowledging my desire to dig in and survive the trouble. My default is usually to up sticks at the first sign of properly hard work but I found that I didn’t want to. There is too much wine to be drunk, recipes to road test, long lunches with mutual friends to enjoy and adventures to have. It’s nice to feel that way. Winter has gone!

And I think we have a new found appreciation of expectations and boundaries. I am certain he is much more aware of what I need to know to stay secure and I most definitely learned how not to react. I trust him to be more open with me next time and I hope he trusts me to be less wedded to a meaningless hierarchy. Because there will be new partners in the future, for both of us, and I must remember what he said: “It was something and now it’s not. It didn’t affect how I felt about you when it was something and it doesn’t now it’s not.”

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

15 Comments

  1. Oh gosh, this is so heartfelt and lovely. A beautiful brave post. Thank you! You are one of the most self-aware people I know and it’s truly an inspiration. Here’s to spring, Lovely!

  2. Thank you so much for this post. There are so many elements you’ve touched on that I also struggle with and think about, especially the desireability of body shape and insecurities around potential partner hierarchy. I so appreciate your transparency and vulnerability. You are beautifully articulate in expressing all these things!

  3. A wonderful post, I love how explore your feelings so matter of factly, yet still with such passion x x

  4. This is such an honest piece, thank you for sharing all of this. Where we are not polyamorous, we are not monogamous either, and I love to read about and learn from the relationships of others 🙂

    Rebel xox

  5. Thank you for talking about these things. I really am always interested in how other people do poly and the things that come up. It helps us all be a better community when each of us takes the time to be vulnerable and share. Thanks for writing and sharing this piece with us! <3

  6. I am still thinking about this post. It has left me with as many questions as answers. Thank you for your vulnerability and your passion. I really admire it

    • exposing

      April 3, 2019 at 9:48 pm

      Well you can always ask!

      • I suppose one main one is where do you think the line between not liking a partner’s partner choice as a person and feeling that they have troubling attitudes and behaviour? And echoing a similar comment below, how do you, if you do, raise this as an issue without it being read as jealousy ?

        • exposing

          April 5, 2019 at 8:25 am

          In this case the reason I didn’t like the person was *because* of her troubling attitudes and behaviours. I think the biggest shock of it all was I already didn’t like her because of these so when they got together it was a double shock. I tend to like most people. Some I bond with on a deeper level, some I just like – I very rarely actively dislike anyone. This was quite a unique situation I guess – I was already vocally anti this person in private so it probably didn’t inspire my partner to be open about their friendship and I was very bitchy/spiteful about it when I found out. I can’t really see anything like this happening again. If I did feel troubled again in the future I’d certainly be more mature about it. And what I need to remind myself is he has *great* taste in women so anyone he’s fond of is probably ok! Xx

  7. A captivating post, thank you for your honesty. I think we should be allowed to tantrum at any age, I’m glad you have a partner who responds maturely and who seems to have such a good head on their shoulders.

    “Step Fuck” is brilliant, but I wonder where the line is for us to discuss any issues we may have with one with our partner? I feel as though it would be necessary to make him aware of the troubling comments this person made, but then would worry about coming across as insecure and jealous.

    Thanks again for writing this. I’m glad it had a happy ending and that you both are able to see your flaws (although, once again, I think it’s OK to tantrum once in a while!) and turn a negative situation into a positive.

    O

  8. Found this post honest and thought provoking. I am glad you have moved on from tough times and I am educated by the ‘thinking out loud’ style of your piece. It seems to me you have found a very sane balance.

  9. I want to say “that was a great read” – it was – read every word. But I also felt for you and even though I have not been in a similar situation I could understand what you were saying. I know that feeling when you just don’t like someone and somebody you admire does like them. It brings up all kinds of questions in your head.
    Also the fact things had “changed” because of her being on the scene. I wanted to be the one to push her off the cliff for u! yes a bit extreme but i so admire how you have showcased what you went through here.

    • exposing

      April 5, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      Hahahaha. I definitely never wanted to push anyone off a cliff. Though I probably deserved to be at times!!! 😉 Glad you enjoyed it. Xx

  10. My adventures in non-monogamy are still new but also ongoing and you have written about the number one thing that I find most daunting about it, and it is something I sort of went through very early on in my current relationship, but their friendship/dynamic fizzled out before I truly had to have the come to Jesus talk about it. The negativity I felt during that time still lingers in my mind and to see someone articulate thoughts about a similar situation and similar thoughts gave me lots of feels, though I can’t quite explain what they are! Thank you for sharing xxx

  11. A brilliant and honest post. I know you don’t like how you acted this time but emotions, especially when there is a combination of someone who you find jarring for valid reasons and someone you love, are hard to contain in reasoned responses.
    I’m glad your equilibrium is reset.

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