Abondonment Issues + Polyamory = Disaster
As you may (or may not, if you haven’t been keeping up) remember, my primary partner and I moved in together the last day of 2013. We were faced with many challenges, and I believe were both internally freaking out about how poorly things were going. We didn’t talk about it at that time, though. And then we took a great vacation together. I am glad we went on it, very glad, and– it was a temporary fix. Soon after we returned to the day to day stress of our lives and relationship, we got right back into the sh*t again.
I was realizing more and more that the strife I was experiencing over the other partners my primary partner had was only sometimes created by his breaking of agreements and being inconsiderate. The majority of the time, I had to finally admit, I was freaking out because I had abandonment issues. And yes, there were some insecurities I was dealing with too. In the end, though, when I boiled it all down, the abandonment issues- or, fear of losing my partner- were the biggest thing causing emotional upset before and after my partner’s dates with others.
To keep it really simple: abandonment issues + polyamory = disaster.
This was not the entire reason our relationship was in trouble, and it was surely part of it.
You see, when I was a little girl my father had to go away for a period of months, unexpectedly and suddenly. I didn’t know he was leaving, and I didn’t know when he was coming back. This was nothing purposeful or malicious on his part; the situation was out of his control (and to protect his privacy, I will not say more about it). Nevertheless, I was traumatized by the separation.
One might think (and I’m pretty sure my partner expressed that he did) that my abandonment issues would be less triggered once we moved in together. After all, he was showing me how much he was committed to the relationship by moving in with me, right? Alas, the effect was kind of the opposite.
I was privy to a lot more that was going on that would trigger me. For example, I was often present when my boyfriend was texting or chatting online with his other partners, whereas before I wouldn’t even have known he was on his phone at all at any particular time. I soon became like Pavlov’s dogs. Those dogs used to salivate when they heard the bell, because after the bell came the food. I would hear the “ding” of my partner’s cell phone and see the flashing blue light, which indicated he had a message, and immediately I’d get anxiety. It could have been his dentist sending him a text about his upcoming appointment for all I knew, and the fact was I didn’t know. It was like I was constantly being triggered, all day and all night, when I was in his presence. And I was in his presence a lot all of a sudden.
It was not unusual for me to go on crying and doing a lot of journal writing and asking my partner to “talk” (not his favorite thing) for two or three days after a big trigger. I honestly don’t know how he hung in there with me so long. And although I was careful not to do any blaming of him for my issues, he expressed that he kept feeling like he had done something wrong. It was really hard for both of us, not just me.
The last straw- when I realized I needed help- had to do with (you’ll never guess who) “Jane”. That was an interesting story in itself. He’d asked me to stop “talking bad about her”. I used to say negative things about the way she treated him. So I stopped. The next thing that happened was he started talking bad about her. And I found myself sticking up for her. Little role reversal there. And shortly after that he informed me he’d cut things off with her. I have to admit I was relieved. I thought to myself: Phew. I survived him having a 22 year old partner…well, actually, by this time they’d been dating so long she must have been 23 ;).
And then one night my boyfriend and I were watching a hockey playoff game together. And he paused it because I wanted to go upstairs and whip up a batch of brownies. When I came back down, he informed me that he had taken a call from Jane while I’d been upstairs. And that she’d apologized for the way she’d treated him. I immediately got scared that they were going to get back together. Just when I thought I was safe.
There was something about the suddenness of it that really threw me, probably a little too much like real life with my father. One minute, we were having a great time, the next minute, I was afraid he would leave me, just like my father did. Of course, that’s not rational. The thing to understand about these kinds of fears that come from having been traumatized is this: they’re just NOT rational. Logically, I know. And intuitively, I know. He’s not going to leave me for Jane. Yet the little girl inside of me didn’t know. For the next hour I was in a lot of emotional pain as I tried to watch the game, but was re-experiencing the feelings of the original abandonment as a child. That’s how trauma is. The event may have happened a long time ago, but when something triggers the memory, consciously or unconsciously, it feels like it’s happening right now.
Later that night, as we were talking in bed and I had a tear running down my cheek, I vowed that I would figure this thing out, and that if not, I would “let him go”. He didn’t like me saying that at all. “Tune in” next week to see just how I did that (major miracle) and how you can do the same thing if you happen to be one of the many, many people walking around with abandonment issues, poly or not.