Your Partner May Be A Different Person With Someone Else, And That’s Okay

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 0.603% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

My wife largely busies herself around the house in her hobbies; she quilts. She gardens. She watches a little TV, drinks some wine.

She does not ski. She does not go hiking. She does not go camping.

Which is weird, because she used to do a lot of that.

When she was married to her ex-husband, she spent pretty much all her free time out in the wilderness, doing these great expeditions. She tells grand stories of stumbling across bear spoor, of almost drowning in canoes, grand adventures that seem pretty pale compared to who she is today.

The reason she was that person, of course, was because her husband was an inveterate outdoorsman, a relentless athlete who got anxious when he couldn’t run. And she loved going outdoors, and his enthusiasm kindled hers, and when you have an eager partner who loves doing what you do, well, then you do it.

We don’t go skiing because I’m not into it. There have been no fights about this; we tried it a couple of times, I fell over a lot, and she didn’t want to go alone even though I was perfectly okay with her doing so.

She just… cruised to a stop.

Yet her ex would probably be shocked to see her going out to cocktail bars as much as we do, savoring exotic foods, because he wasn’t nearly the foodie that I was and she loves that too. We geek out on Star Wars, Steven Universe, and The Good Place in ways that he never would have understood. And our annual Oscar trip to see all the Best Picture nominees was Gini’s idea, but her ex wouldn’t have been into it.

She’s got fundamental portions of her personality that don’t change, of course. But if I died, and she found a partner who loved dancing – something neither her ex nor I were into – I suspect she’d become an avid dancer.

And that’s not just her. My Mom used to watch a lot of reality television because my stepdad liked Ice Road Truckers; since he passed on, now she doesn’t. If I dated someone who loved Magic: the Gathering – which my wife does not – I’d probably become someone who went on the PTQ circuit and made weekend trips to Grand Prixs in other states.

We’re all mutable. And it’s not anything we’re suppressing; it’s that some partners bring out aspects of our lives that are just more fun when we have someone to share them with. I suppose my Mom could watch Ice Road Truckers alone, but what fun would that be without my stepdad there to provide ascerbic commentary?

Which frequently weirds people out when they dip their toe into polyamory.

In a lot of cases, your partner will date someone who is unlike you – which is a good sign! They’ve got all the you they want! Why would they want more you when they’re full up?

But it does mean that sometimes, you’re watching your partner become someone you didn’t know they *could* be. Maybe they’re a lot snarkier because you don’t like sarcasm but this new partner loves zingers. Maybe their long-buried love of videogames rises up now that they have someone to Twitch-stream with. Maybe they’re getting new experiences in bed that you didn’t display an interest in; maybe they’re drug-friendlier.

That can be terrifying, especially if you’ve known them for years and you thought you had them down. But you didn’t.

You just knew who they were when they were with you.

And sometimes, those changes are the sign of impending trouble or a partner lost in New Relationship Energy – if they’re kinder to your new partner than they ever were to you, or more attentive, then that’s probably something that needs to be dealt with. You don’t want to tolerate someone treating you as less worthy of respect.

Yet mostly, it’s often just kind of a weird shock, watching a different dynamic at play. They see different bands than you do. They develop their own secret shorthands of language. And that can feel alienating at times.

The trick is not to panic, though. If they’re still the same person they are with you, and the changes your partner is having don’t permeate your relationship, that’s probably just another facet of their personality revolving into glintspace. Part of stable polyamorous relationships is understanding that yeah, maybe they’ll get more kink from their new partner, but what do they get from you?

You don’t necessarily have to compete by trying to be the kinkiest, or to drag yourself out dancing every night, or otherwise entering into a competition that you’re likely to lose anyway. You just have to focus on what you bring to the table. Because it’s easy to forget that they do the hard kinky shit with the other partner, but it’s you they go back home to express their cuddlier, gentler side – and that is also valuable.

And sometimes, you discover things you can press yourself a little on. If you see how jazzed they get by having someone to play board games with, maybe pushing yourself to haul out the Kill Doctor Lucky set from the closet once in a while isn’t a bad thing for your relationship.

Point is, allowing your partner to have healthy relationship with other people – friends or lovers or family – will often allow other portions of their personalities to flourish. It’s okay. You also nurture parts of who they are, and as long as the things you’re encouraging are positive parts of them, then there’s no need to ensure you’re being EVERYTHING for them that EVERYONE could provide all the time.

You’re special. Trust in that. Even when you feel bad that you suck – I mean, really suck – at skiing.

3 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Nov 28, 2018

    I know this is tangential to your point, but it’s worth noting that your primary examples are of women fully engaging with their male partners’ interests. In my experience that is far more likely to happen than men taking anything more than a supportive role in women’s interests. Suggestion to men: when you see women becoming enthusiastic about your pursuits, you didn’t open their eyes to something fundamental about themselves; they are actively participating to be with and to support you. How about picking out some of her interests to do the same with?

    • Christina Hughes
      Nov 28, 2018

      Exactly!

    • Aimee
      Nov 29, 2018

      YES! This. Thank you Sarah!👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

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