The Polyamorous Mantra That Kept My Jealousy In Check While My Husband Traveled With Our Girlfriend

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This Poly Mantra Kept My Jealousy In Check While My Husband Traveled With Our Girlfriend
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This was a hard week. Possibly the hardest I’ve had in quite a while that wasn’t directly related to a depressive episode.

It was a really good week in some ways because it reminded me that I’m resilient and can endure, but it also emphasized that I need people much more than this introvert sometimes thinks she does.

My husband Flick and our girlfriend Iris went on their first holiday together, and it was the first time one of us has traveled with another partner.

I’ve gone away for a few long weekends to visit a man named Will in Chicago and I met up with him once in Portland, but this was a big first in the form of one of us heading off for a week of adventure, pleasure, and relaxation in the sun with someone else.

To be clear, I was invited to join them from the start, so in no way was I being deliberately excluded, though it would have been totally acceptable if they’d simply wanted to go alone. I have a lot of trouble when I don’t have private time and space to myself, so sharing a hotel room with two others is too overwhelming for me.

It would have jacked up the cost too much to get multiple rooms or a suite, and then we would've had to deal with the complicated sleeping arrangements — who sleeps with whom on which nights ...

It just felt like too much and I thought it made more sense for the two of them to go. And I was honestly excited for them.

As I watched Flick pack the afternoon before he left, I started to feel pangs of discomfort as it really hit me that he was going on this adventure without me.

We’ve been together essentially the entirety of our adult lives and have now lived together for more years than we were alive before we met, so almost all our big experiences have been together. It felt really weird that he was going to be having big new experiences on this trip with someone else.

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It was important to me to feel really connected before he left, so we spent close time together the night before his departure snuggling on the couch, watching Netflix, and he gave me a massage so I could anchor to the feel of his hands on my skin. We’d previously planned to go to a play party together that night but a stomach bug meant I felt terrible and wasn’t up for sexytimes. In the morning, I made both of them coffee as they prepped for the airport and figured after they left I’d settle in with the kitties to enjoy a quiet week to myself.

Instead, it was hard. 

I hadn’t made it clear what I needed as far as communication went, so when I had to inquire if they’d arrived and ask for the hotel address, I felt panicked and adrift. It was a small oversight but not knowing where they were staying felt scary and upsetting, even though I knew it was extremely unlikely I’d have any practical need for the information. My autopilot is to send itineraries and addresses to Flick, to announce as soon as I’ve landed and been picked up at the airport, but clearly, it isn’t his and I hadn’t been on the ball enough to think to ask in advance.

It wasn’t until I realized I didn’t have the info and had to track him down to get it that I freaked out a little.

Of course, being sick as well meant I was lacking the resources to be as self-reliant as I normally am and I was much more sensitive and reactive. Though I felt extremely forlorn, I didn’t want to pester him while his focus should be on Iris, the person he was with, instead of listening to the minutia of my day.

I also didn’t know how much data he'd have access to while in the States and I was worried about my contacting him costing a fortune, so I wanted to save it for important things. I knew that if I really needed him, he’d be there without hesitation, and I didn’t feel like what I was going through was important enough to bother him with.

Did he really need to hear about how the bus driver pulled way ahead of the stop so even though I was third in line to board, others rushed forward and I had to stand all the way to work?

I really hadn’t been aware of how much we text random stuff back and forth all day until I felt like I couldn’t. And now I felt unmoored.

Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. captures this feeling beautifully in her book, Come As You Are.

“When your stress response is activated, your attachment mechanism says, 'Soothe your stress by connecting with your attachment object.'”

You can watch her TEDx Talk here:

RELATED: I'm A 'Poly' Wife Who Still Gets Jealous Sometimes — And That's Perfectly OK

Feeling disconnected from my attachment object meant I felt unable to soothe my stress.

She also discusses a feeling of homesickness people in polyamorous relationships and open marriages may have for your partner(s), even when you’re the one at home, since they represent your secure base, your emotional home, and you can experience separation distress when you’re away from that secure base.

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Flick is my home and the homesickness was brutal.

I’d asked them to send me photo updates of their days so I’d feel included, but that ended up being harder and making me feel more jealousy than I had already and I felt even more isolated, despite a healthy helping of compersion at seeing their smiling faces together.

I kept my feelings of isolation to myself since I knew both of them desperately needed the relaxation time away from the extraordinary amounts of stress both of them have been experiencing over the past six months and I wanted them to feel free to have fun.

Thankfully, though my other partners weren’t available due to their own personal reasons, I was able to reach out to non-monogamous connections who were kind listeners and extremely supportive from afar. I even got some naked photos to cheer me up and they did a lot in that regard. As the week wore on, the angst eased, I kicked the illness, and I settled into the groove I’d expected to feel the whole time. I still missed him but it was at a manageable level, so when I got the pics of the two of them at the Grand Canyon, I felt only a slight twinge rather than a wave of despair.

As with so many firsts, I learned a lot from the experience.

I don’t know that I’m eager to repeat it, but at least I know what I could be in for if we do.

He is off to visit a love of his in a couple of months, which feels quite different as he’ll be staying with her in her home with her husband and daughter, but I can still use the lessons from this trip to have the next go more smoothly.

Try. Screw up. Learn. Discuss. Apply new knowledge. Try again.

That's pretty much my open marriage/non-monogamy mantra.

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Kat Stark is a geeky, Canadian, queer, bi/pansexual, feminist who came to ethical non-monogamy 21-years into her relationship with her husband. After a quick toe-dip to test the waters (and hours of obsessive reading and podcast consumption), they dove in and she almost can't imagine they ever lived any other way.

This article was originally published at Life on the Swingset. Reprinted with permission from the author.