I’ve been feeling like mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes. While I’m not the world’s largest fan of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, mashed potatoes go a long way toward making the day something to look forward to. When you get the consistency just right, and you cover it with gravy. Mmm. You know how it’s easy to stuff yourself and still want to go back for seconds? Mashed potatoes always make the list of things that go back on my plate for over-indulgent seconds.
I don’t know anybody, though, who has only mashed potatoes as the meal. They always seem to be a side dish. They’re wonderful, but they’re always a side dish. I’ve been feeling a lot like mashed potatoes recently. Wonderful. But only a side dish.
This is a feeling I’ve been trying to shake for several months now. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while but have never been able to find the words. I feel bad about it, too. I want to be open and honest on this blog, being sure to include the bad along with the good, but I just didn’t know how to write about these feelings.
Part of the problem is that I’m convinced that polyamory is a more sane approach to life than monogamy. The idea that you make a promise to love someone forever and then try to stay true to that promise even when your feelings have changed just doesn’t appeal to me. Sure, keeping promises is great. But whose idea was it to promise something that could only guarantee that you’d grow old and miserable together with the same person you used to love?
How much better to approach life by saying that people love and change and grow, and then to allow the people into your life who want to be there, but not keep them against their will?
At the same time that I have an intellectual appreciation for the approach of polyamory, I think I still have the emotional approach of monogamy. I don’t know whether that’s because I’m naturally more of a monogamous person or because I’ve been socialized to think of intimate relationships only within the bounds of monogamy. In either case, though, I find that I am emotionally attracted to the idea of loving one person more than anyone else. Of having a favorite. And being someone’s favorite.
I’ve been really hesitant to admit that, even to myself. I’ve converted to polyamory, after all. Anything short of the ideal is weakness in myself. I can’t allow jealousy to rule me. You know? I hate being weak. I hate not being able to follow my convictions.
And I am afraid of the idea that polyamory may not be right for me. If it’s not, then what am I doing with my life? What will I lose when I change course? It’s almost too scary even to contemplate, which now that I say it out loud, I find very interesting. It’s actually very similar to how I felt when I first began to question my religion. There is a huge incentive not to even begin the process, because of what I might lose when I get to the end. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before.
And is it really that polyamory isn’t right for me? Or is it that I’ve bought into the social conventions? Am I just jealous? And is jealousy only triggered because the unspoken assumptions about how life works that still exist in the subconscious of my brain are yelling at me that something’s not right here? Do I see polyamory and subconsciously rebel? If so, then that’s something I can work through.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of polyamory on this blog recently. I still believe in those benefits. But in the interests of honesty, I have to admit that there are some parts of it I struggle with.
I sometimes feel like a puppy. I feel like I’m fawning at Girlfriend’s heels. I’d follow her anywhere, wagging my tail as I go. I don’t mind being a puppy. I think it’s sweet and romantic and it feels good.
Except when the puppy is annoying.
I don’t want to be the annoying puppy, the one who doesn’t understand the commands of “sit!” and “stay!” but just continues to traipse along behind, oblivious to the desires of the little girl he’s following.
And sometimes with polyamory, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing all the cues of an annoyed little girl. That there is an imbalance of desire. That I want her more than she wants me. That I’d put her first in my life, but that I’m just an interesting hobby for her. Unrequited love is terrible. Thankfully I don’t have that. But an imbalance of love isn’t much fun, either.
And when I feel that imbalance, I want to pull back. I want to not intrude on her space. I want to be reserved. I want to be sure that I’m not the ingratiating, fawning, obsequious puppy. I don’t know for sure if that’s just my pride–not wanting to be seen wanting something I can’t have–or if I’m more concerned about not having her feel I’m pushing myself on her.
Then there’s the jealousy. Knowing that she is building intimate relationships with other guys. I’m sure that much of this comes from the prevalence of monogamy: they feel like competitors if she has to choose just one. And even though I know that she doesn’t have to choose, I think I still feel a little competition. Insecurity that I might not be the one she chooses. Yes, it’s a bit irrational in the framework of polyamory, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling it.
Jealousy is something that is talked about a lot in polyamory, and I’m sure that I could conquer it eventually. But here’s what frightens me. As I have struggled with jealousy, I have had very difficult times and also times where I was comfortable. But to get to that comfortable place, I had to withdraw. I had to change the way I felt about her in that moment of insecurity. I had to accept the idea that she and I were just two separate people who sometimes enjoyed hanging out together. Instead of my lover, she became my friend, at least for those moments when jealousy loomed. And then I was okay with jealousy.
When I allow myself to love her completely and fully and without reservation, though, when I love her the way I want to, then I feel pain that she doesn’t love me back with that same completeness, the kind that excludes others from her thoughts and incites her to desire only me. Yeah. I know. Silly and romantic and unrealistic. But there it is.
Love or friendship. Love and jealousy. Or friendship and oh, she likes another guy; isn’t that sweet?
Friendship frightens me. What if the only way I can have her is if I can figure out a way not to love her? If she is a friend, just like any other friend, I have no problems with her loving whom she will. But then what is the point of loving her? I feel like the only way I can have what I want is not to want it. And then if I don’t want it, what’s the point?
In fact, I recognize that same pattern in my divorce. I had to withdraw emotionally from my wife in order to survive some of the pain of our relationship. And because I withdrew, I arrived at a point where it was okay for me to leave. Sometimes that happens in relationships, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. But if the only way to love is to withdraw, that sounds to me like just another Catch 22.
I don’t want to withdraw from Girlfriend. I want to love her fully. I just don’t know how to do that without being hurt by her other love interests. That scares me, because unless there is another way through it, I don’t like either option. I don’t want to be constantly hurt because I love her too much. And I don’t want to stop loving her in an attempt to find peace. Is there a third way?
These emotions have been bubbling around in me for a while now, but have come to a head recently as I have considered new career options. She and her husband live out in the country a ways. Most of the local job opportunities in my field are at least an hour drive away from them. Maybe 90 minutes during rush hour. But even the big city doesn’t have that many opportunities. Really, if I wanted to pursue my career, I would be looking for a job out of state.
I’m not looking out of state. I’m too much in love to consider taking a job that would prevent me from being with her.
And that brings me to a rather painful realization. If I got a job out of state, she and I would bid each other tearful goodbyes and promise to keep in touch as much as possible.
On the other hand, if her husband got a job out of state, she and I would bid each other tearful goodbyes and promise to keep in touch as much as possible.
Even though we believe in polyamory, we still live in a society where monogamy is the standard. Everything revolves around couples. And being the secondary partner is like being the side dish.
I may be the most delicious side dish on the menu. But I’ll never be more than a side dish.
And yeah. Who wants to feel like mashed potatoes?