Fear in poly relationships
The question of how to deal with fear in poly relationships was presented to me the other day by a client who is in an open marriage. He shared that his desire to be with other women was rooted more in connecting with them emotionally rather than sexually. His wife was aware of this and was totally on board with him following his desires.
His perceived struggle was coming from a fear of being judged for wanting to be poly. He went on to say that if he often wonders how to be a polyamorous man in a not so polyamorous world.
I asked him to go a little deeper. When he did, he discovered the following: “I fear that what I am doing is wrong; and therefore, I am wrong.”
There is always a moment during a coaching session when something appears that just begs to be validated. This was one of those moments.
From here, the session went into a deep dive into my client’s personal programming and cultural upbringing around his relationship to relationship. He’s in an arranged marriage. He loves his wife. She has been his only lover. He knows there is a part of him that wants to connect with other women. And yet, he continues to edit himself because his mind is telling him that his desires are wrong.
Can you relate?
The content of this story may be different. However, I think those of us who are actively engaged in the polyamorous lifestyle can identify with this gentleman’s story. It can be challenging to meet people who will be accepting of who you are and your preferences. It’s not easy to be poly in a not so polyamorous world.
What do you do?
I find it incredibly helpful to increase my awareness around my own programming. By becoming more mindful of my own experience, I am able to step out of story-mode and into observation-mode. By observing the stories about who I’m “supposed” to be without taking them on, I have more power to choose to identify with the story or identify with something else.
When I experience a fear of being judged, it’s hard for me to rise above the fear and recognize that I’m okay. In the face of fear, I may edit myself and shut down in service to avoiding conflict with another.
There’s another way. Differences of opinion do not have to be in conflict with each other. Opposing thoughts can and do co-exist. Accepting this opens the door to a more spacious experience for everyone.
What does this look like?
Let’s go back to the conversation I had with my client. He felt stuck. Yet deep down, he knew himself to be an incredibly open and socially confident person.
I shared with him that when I get triggered, it’s helpful for me to stop what I am doing and get curious about my experience. Something like, “I’m aware that I feel some tension in my stomach. I wonder what that is?” Or, “I’m aware that I’m feeling nervous about going to this social event tonight. I think I’m feeling some fear about what might happen if I meet someone I am attracted to and she finds out I am poly.”
In sharing my experience with my client, he was able to connect the dots with his own experiences. He was able to get in touch with his thoughts and feelings. In doing so, he was able to create a new plan of action that would allow him to feel his feelings and consider his thoughts without feeling overpowered by them.
Leaving the session, he had a deeper understanding of how his past programming had influenced his life. He was now in a place to shift that programming, and he had specific activities to support him.
I’m curious, what do you do in the face of a fear or a story that wants to take you down? I’d love to hear your story.