Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Polywobbles”.
Polywobbles is a term to describe the feelings we get when we’re struggling with poly – whether it’s that anxiety you’re feeling about a new connection, or that insecurity you feel when you meet your new, ‘insert more attractive feature here’, metamour and feel utterly inadequate – from time to time we all feel uncertain, and question whether this is all worth the emotional investment. Polywobbles are an immensely personal thing, and everyone has their own triggers and causes. I’m going to talk about mine, and how I try and deal with them.
My polywobbles boil down to one thing: insecurity, and can be triggered by a bunch of different things. It might surprise some people to see me write that, as I generally come across as very secure – but it’s absolutely true. The difference is that I try my hardest to not let those feelings rule me, and to deal with them on my own whenever possible. There are a bunch of amazing resources on Polyamorous Misanthrope, such as being your own primary which I recommend to anyone feeling polywobbles.
The peak of polywobbles for me are in the early stages of a new relationship, when I’m not entirely sure how the other person feels about me, and our relationship (and hence, my place in their life and heart) isn’t established. The early stages of dating are an excruciating mix of stomach-fluttering excitement and soul-crushing anxiety, as my mood rapidly fluctuates between the two states. Whilst many folks love the excitement, uncertainty and anticipation of NRE, I utterly despise it. Forming new connections and falling in love is wonderful, but the period of becoming established and secure is one of high anxiety for me.
I’m not someone who plays stupid dating games, and for the sake of my own mental health, I will not date people who do. I tend to lay my cards out as soon as I know what they are, telling people who I feel about them and how I feel about the connection. On those occasions where people have needed more time to form their feelings into coherency, I have been walking a tightrope of hopefulness and unhappiness, waiting for someone to decide whether they want to date me. In these circumstances I often find myself making a concerted effort to step back; both in terms of contact to allow someone space, but also emotionally in myself, as a pre-emptive form of insurance. It’s a coping mechanism to stop me getting hurt, and although not perfect, has helped thus far.
I try my hardest not to form preconceived ideas of what form a connection will take, and to not prematurely affix labels to people or connections that can become restrictive or limiting. But ultimately, the OCD in me finds labels, order, routines and plans reassuring and anxiety reducing, and when a connection reaches a point where we agree that this is ‘a thing’, I instantly feel the knot of uncertainty in my stomach unravel. My polywobble reduction directly correlates with the more established a connection becomes, the more a partner demonstrates their feelings for me, the more routine and regular things are. As such I find adding my relationships on the appropriate social media and having regular date nights helps me feel ‘secure’, and I can relax a lot more.
If when I begin dating someone, they are simultaneously newly dating multiple other people, my polywobble level is instantly ratched up a million fold. It shouldn’t be the case, but it feels like a competition – unless the person has one hell of a lot of room in their life logistically, and can manage multiple NRE simultaneously (which I think is extremely difficult), then I worry I won’t even get a look in. If the person I’m dating says they want to have steady relationships but then goes and plays with lots of random people, I will be anxious. If they are going on so many dates with other people I don’t get to spend time with them, I worry. Essentially my worries are that I am becoming attached to someone who doesn’t reciprocate – but isn’t telling me so. Someone keeping me dangling, or using me as a plan B. It sucks, and I deserve better. If someone’s actions repeatedly don’t correlate with their words, I will stop trusting them, and walk away. Make your own dating rules about what you can and can’t deal with, and be a hardass about it. Be prepared to walk away if you know something is only going to make you anxious and unhappy. If you knowingly go into a relationship that makes you unhappy from the start, don’t come to me crying about how ‘poly isn’t for you’ when it all goes pear-shaped. Because it will be your own fault, not a failure of polyamory.
Another time I get polywobbles, is in an established relationship if the partner has lots of casual sex or starts dating a new partner. The latter is fairly standard – we all compare ourselves to the new partner and find ourselves lacking, and we all fear the loss of the new and shiny stage, or being replaced and discarded entirely. Some people are better at managing NRE than others, and that can mean the difference between a happy adding to the family feeling and feeling utterly insignificant and forgotten. These polywobbles are generally short lived, and decrease dramatically once you meet the new and shiny person, and realise they are also just a human being, and as their NRE fades into something resembling a normal level of intensity. It’s really useful in these situations to do three things – first is to check your own trains of thought and try and stop yourself going down a negative line of thinking or reading too much into the small things. The second is get to know your new metamour. I’ve written before about relationships with metamours, and although you don’t need to be BFF with the new person, being on good terms with them will make them seem way less scary/perfect/threatening. Finally, ensure you keep the connection alive with your partner; talk to them, tell them you’re feeling a little insecure, and make sure that even in the throes of NRE, they make quality time for you. A good partner will take the time to reassure you (within reason, don’t be crazy needy) and to make you feel as valued as you were before the appearance of the new and shiny.
The final time I get polywobbles is in the midst of a breakup, or when there seems to be multiple relationship issues going off at once. Sometimes I ask myself why I do this to myself, and if it’s even worth all this hassle? Things can become so overwhelming at times that I question whether I even really polyamorous? Ultimately that questioning is a simple defence mechanism, and the answer, when the fog of emotions clears, is yes. Even with all the wobbles, the insecurity, the need for strict self-control, the dealing with negative trains of thought and being a hardass, I know that I couldn’t live any other way. I wouldn’t want to, really. Polywobbles are part of the price of polyamory and that’s something you have to accept, if you want to experience the exhilaration of loving more than one, and bask in the rose-tinted glow of NRE. Even when you feel like you’re drowning in sorrow, and your heart will never, ever heal – remind yourself that this is the system balancing itself out. You can’t have all the highs without lows – and if you’re sensible about your choices, and stay true to yourself, I think that it’s worth it.
So how do you deal with the polywobbles? Comment below!