“Dating People” And “Watching Other People Date” Are Two Separate Skills
“She dates a lot of guys!” they cry. “So why does she freak out whenever I get intimate with someone I like?”
That’s because “dating someone” and “sitting at home while your lover’s out dating” are two entirely separate skillsets, chum.
Both are worth having in any poly relationship. But when you’re dating, you’re the recipient of all the good times. You’re getting romanced, you’re getting smooched, you’re having all the fun new conversations of “Oh, I love Smashing Pumpkins, too!” – and the trick is not to get so carried away with New Guy that you forget to come home when you said you would.
That whole “not getting swept up” is a skill. It’s really tough, remembering that you have existing partners you’ve made commitments to when someone who smells really good is nibbling on your neck. And yet a lot of people have mastered that.
But suppressing the waves of joy is an entirely separate thing from “Sitting at home, watching Netflix, feeling pangs of loneliness as your partner’s off gallivanting.” It is an entirely separate thing from “seeing your partner give his lover that special smile that you thought was only meant for you.”
And some people need to train up to that.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, “compersion” should not be the base value of polyamory. It’s great when you’re all psyched for your partner’s date-times… but for most of us there will inevitably come a day where you’re feeling “bleah” and unattractive, and yet that’s not quite enough reason to say, “Okay, you guys were supposed to go to the U2 concert, but instead you should stay at home.”
So you sit home and suck it up, buttercup. And learn to realize that “I feel jealous” and/or “I feel insecure” is not a valid reason to HULK SMASH all of your partners’ happytimes.
Yet I occasionally see the pattern of “Well, s/he just freaked out when I had a relationship, so I’ll shove them out the door to get their own partner – and that will solve everything!” And what you often get is this rancid stew of “ZOMG now my partner has a new boyfriend and they’re so caught up in NRE that they’re punching all my worst buttons, *and still* they are so possessive of me that I can’t date!”
That’s because, as the header of this little essay says, “dating someone” and “watching your lover date someone happily” are not identical skillsets. If you want to work on your partner’s jealousy issues, then yes, absolutely, do that. But don’t do it by pressuring them to date someone now, now, now, on the assumption that once they get their own they’ll be perfectly okay.
The danger is, sometimes that is what they need. But sometimes, that “get ’em hooked up” puts you into a frantic death-spiral where you’re only good as long as each of you are spinning your own separate relationship-plates, forcing you to pressure the other partner into increasingly bad relationships because fuck it, it doesn’t matter who they’re dating but they have to date *someone* or else I can’t keep sleeping with Luanne.
At some point, most poly folk are going to stay at home to do boring homework while their partners are out watching the fireworks. That’s how life works. And the sooner you can learn to be okay with that, the better.
(Written on FetLife, cross-posted here.)