I quite often see people in polyamorous relationships setting boundaries. Now, don’t get me wrong, boundaries are not always a bad thing. But when they are purely designed to help someone through a rough time, or to salve an insecurity, they are designed to fail.
Insecurity is Personal
I do not claim to be perfect, or to be an expert on poly, by any means. But I do recognise that when I feel insecure or upset about something, it generally means that there is an underlying issue. Maybe I’m not getting what I need from the partner I am feeling insecure about, maybe something about my metamour makes me feel deficient, maybe I’m just feeling threatened. Regardless, the issue lies with me. With the way I feel about a particular person, situation, or thing. It is important in these instances to remember that asking my partner(s) to stop doing something, or to not do it in the first place should not be the first solution to a problem. It is not their responsibility to fix the way I feel about something. Sure, if all other methods at my disposal have been exhausted, then maybe it’s time to sit down with my partner(s) and see if we can come to a mutually agreed way of taking steps towards the ultimate goal: Being OK With The Thing.
Being OK With The Thing
This is never going to be an instant gratification type situation. It will almost always take time, effort, support, and maybe even tears. Setting up territorial markers, boundaries, permissions, and restrictions right from the beginning will more often than not put you two steps behind where you started when it comes time to re-evaluate The Thing. Because I guarantee you, if you are stopping your partner from doing something (or someone) they are interested in, they will want to re-evaluate at some point. Especially if it affects other partners or potential partners. It is perfectly valid to ask for boundaries, but not when they involve or restrict other people with a vested interest in your polycule, relationship, dynamic, or The Thing.
It is also incredibly important to be completely open, honest, and transparent about these situations when they arise. If something is making you feel insecure or uncomfortable, tell your partner. Talk to them about it. And similarly, if your partner comes to you and says: “I am feeling insecure about The Thing, could you not do it?” discuss it with all involved parties before you come to an agreement. Open and honest communication is such an important part of being poly, and yet it gets overlooked so often. Those of us who are in the kink scene and the poly community are playing with so many risk factors that we can’t afford to be sloppy with communication.
Not all relationships are the same, and we all want to feel special, but it is unethical to rely on your partners to make you feel special, especially if it is to the detriment of your metamours. It is also, in my mind, a pretty big insult, because if your partner(s) are anything like me, they think that you are so incredibly special. That’s why they are dating/playing with you. And telling them that you don’t feel special is telling them that the relationship you share together is not special to you. In the same way, asking them to make you feel special is minimising the effort they are already putting in to making each date, scene, and time spent with you extraordinarily special. Love is special. Kink is special. So it stands to reason that sharing those things make you, and your relationship, special.
Special at What Cost?
When you start thinking that a Thing makes your relationship special rather than the relationship being special on its own merits are where things go awry. Because one day that thing may not be exclusive to you. When I first joined the poly community I read an article posted on fetlife about someone’s girlfriend and their experience with this exact issue. She felt insecure about anyone but her being called girlfriend, so that became Her Title, and no one else could be referred to as such. Over time that boundary wasn’t enough to keep her insecurities at bay, so she asked for more, and more, until it got to the point that it was almost impossible to conduct a relationship with her, or anyone else, without crossing one of those boundaries inadvertently. The overarching point of his post was that limiting someone so that you feel special will eventually stop feeling special, so you will need to find another way to feel special, until there are no more ways to feel special without sacrificing the relationship excessively.
A friend of mine put it best: “Often the realisation that you are the special thing is what is needed.” That statement to me is so powerful, because we are all special to our partners, the fact that they have other partners does not minimise that. And we should not endeavour to minimise the experiences of partners or metamours by setting boundaries simply so we feel special.
This seems to me to be such a fundamental part of keeping your relationships healthy and free of resentment, but yet it is such a common occurrence. Often I see people employing these strategies to keep others happy, because they are hardwired to put others needs before their own, and it really disheartens me. You are important too. You are special too. And you deserve to feel that way.