Delving into this world of nonmonogamy, I find myself with resources that talk of compersion (the opposite of jealously) and open, honest, loving dialog exploring each other’s feelings. Although this is great, for me and my relationship, it’s just not realistic.
My husband and I have agreed on a don’t ask don’t tell situation, where we are free to explore other physical relationships and are aware the other is doing the same but we are not necessarily comfortable swapping details. That being said, I thought I would share what it actually feels like to be in this type of relationship, how I deal with these feelings, and how I use them for personal growth and strength in my marriage.
Like I said, my husband and I don’t communicate our outside relationships to each other. It’s more just something we assume is happening in the background. But there come times when I will come across something that confirms this assumption. Missing condoms, late night text notifications, unknown whereabouts in the middle of the night, or the occasional unintended read message. I’m not going to sit here and say I feel joy for my partner’s outside relationship because what I feel is far from joy. Honestly, its very similar to what I felt when discovering I was being cheated on minus the deception/betrayal which I promise you, is a huge part of the trauma that comes with infidelity.
When I stumble across something that assures me that he is seeing someone else, my heart races and my hands shake. I feel… for a few moments jealously and disappointment, it doesn’t by any means feel good or anywhere close to joy or compersion. But then I stop and think. I also see other people. Does that change how I feel about my husband? Would I consider leaving him for someone else? Absolutely not. Why for some reason do I feel that what I do is totally under control but what he is doing is somehow a potential threat?
I remember once I woke to hearing my husband on the phone with someone else. When I realized what I was hearing I got out of bed and stood at the bedroom door listening to he’s voice coming from the living room. My heart was pounding so hard I struggled to hear him at all. He moved his conversation to the back patio, so I slowly made my way into the kitchen to listen. I don’t know why I did this. It’s not like I was trying to “catch him” or something. I sat down on the steps to our kitchen and listened to him. I could barely make out what he was saying but the tone of his voice pulled at my heart. I hadn’t heard him speak in that tone for years. There was a kindness behind it that I remembered fondly and wondered why aren’t I special enough to still be spoken to like that?
More recently I saw a message where he was calling another woman beautiful. Not sexy but beautiful. I know nothing was really meant by it and men will say anything when they are trying to hook up but beautiful again carried a kindness with it that I missed. Why was he putting all this kindness out there to everyone else and leaving me with what I interpreted as harshness?
I feel like this cultural paradigm of monogamy equating to true love sits in the back of a non-monogamous person’s mind and at times whispers “See he doesn’t really love you”. “If he did, he wouldn’t need her”. “Obviously, you aren’t enough”. My analytical mind knows these things aren’t true but that doesn’t keep the thoughts from creeping in somehow. I am able to quickly dismiss them just by the sheer annoyance of their existence because I know these thoughts are not my own.
Each time one of these situations presents itself, I am grateful because once I think it out and realize what it is that’s bothering me and it’s never my partner having something physical with someone else. Once I dismiss the bullshit I know isn’t real, I can see the truth. In the examples I’ve given here, it’s simply me missing kindness from my partner and has nothing at all to do with sex.
I entered into this type of relationship as a means of protection from the unfaithful world of human sexuality and for the most part it has worked for me. I do not feel betrayed or lied to but that doesn’t mean I feel happy always. Open is vulnerable but I still truly believe it’s stronger than any closed relationship with walls built on half-truths.