Say Yes To The Stress

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

In relationships, you can have identical actions that generate vastly different consequences. Kind of like watching “Say Yes To The Dress.”
Which is to say that my wife adores watching fluffy wedding shows where the bride tries on a zillion froofy outfits, parading this latest dress in front of her family, before finally settling tearfully on the perfect dress.
The bride flutters her hands in front of her face. Tears mean that this is the perfect dress. Gini tears up, too.
And sometimes, when Gini is having a bad day, she needs to curl up and watch a “Say Yes To The Dress” marathon.
We have one big television, so if she watches it, then I can’t spend my Saturday ferociously trying to beat the new Dragon Age game on the Xbox. And me, I need my videogames to blow off steam. Not destroying the Darkspawn will leave me stressed and unhappy.
Yet I recognize watching silly wedding shows makes Gini happy, and as such it’s a worthy thing to do. And so I’ll find something else to do on my laptop while Gini watches her dress shows.
Yet if I gritted my teeth the whole time, going, “I fucking hate this show, one day she’ll stop needing these stupid gown-parades, and until then she fucking owes me for putting me through this,” well, we’d have the exact same situation – me, watching “Say Yes To The Dress” with her – but the consequences and fallout would be profoundly different.
Which is to say that I occasionally get emails like, “Hey, I’m polyamorous, but I want my monogamous partner to be happy. Will this work?”
And the answer is that yes, they can – as long as they approach your polyamory as though it’s a choice they actively make in order to make you happy, and not some grudging sacrifice they make where there are secretly bills piling up, underlaid with the unstated assumption that this is a phase you’ll grow out of.
The two situations can look very similar – the monogamous partner staying at home, nervously passing time while you go out on a date – but one situation is going to implode eventually, whereas the other won’t.
And it’s okay that sometimes, you’re going to be uncomfortable in this relationship. Because the truth is, almost every partnership involves you stretching in some uncomfortable ways to accommodate your other partner’s needs. When our goddaughter Rebecca died, Gini dealt with her grief by withdrawing and silence, I dealt with it by needing hugs and attention. We both sacrificed our needs temporarily, switching off between me leaving Gini alone when my body screamed for hugs, and Gini cuddling me when her body screamed for isolation.
But we never resented. Because during those moments, we actively said, “Yes, this is outside our comfort zone, yet I love them enough to stretch beyond what I’m comfortable with.”
It’s possible that I could have left Gini alone for a day, yet silently seethed with frustration that she was being so unreasonable, wondering why the hell she couldn’t just get over this. The result would have looked the same, but eventually the resentments would have exploded into arguments.
But I chose willingly. Not because it would enable us to stay together, but because it would make her happy.
The root motivation makes all the difference.
So if you’re trying to decide how to make something work out, whether it’s a new partner or a switch to poly or a downshift from heavy BDSM adventures to more “vanilla” sex or any of the thousands of differences that can divide two people, a common mistake is to just get them to do the actions. Too many negotiations hinge upon Doing The Thing – but it’s not enough for them to just sit there passively, resenting the compromise, quietly blaming you for this fault.
They need to say yes to the dress.

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