How do we navigate this frontier of non-exclusive fornication with compassion and grace? How do we resolve relationship conflicts in a way de-centered from heteronormativity?
For these questions and more, polyamory pundit Andre Shakti is here for you.
I have a partner who is new to poly and (by total coincidence, surely) also very insecure. I've gotten passive aggressive texts when I mention my other partners on social media. In one case, she messaged a woman whose selfie I commented on (a work acquaintance) to tell her I was off-limits. It's not "not worth it" to me yet, but I'm curious if you think blocking my partner on twitter until they learn some boundaries is too harsh or maybe even abusive.
I wish I could say that I dislike these types of questions—the ones in which it is so painfully obvious that a major incompatibility (and denial of that incompatibility) is in effect—but honestly, I welcome the opportunity to get good, upstanding poly folks out of unfulfilling relationships. You’ll thank me later.
Although your partner’s insecurities may have manifested way before she consented to non-monogamy, they shouldn’t be disregarded as inconsequential to her attempted navigation of this strange new relationship configuration. Non-monogamy is hard enough as is, and even the most confident among us stumble into the trenches of insecurity every now and again. But I would never recommend pursuing poly for the first time to someone suffering from significant self esteem issues. They will only exacerbate the most insignificant quandaries (her partner complimenting another person’s social media photo, for example), and the relationship will implode practically before it’s begun.
I’d love to ask you more questions about your partner’s insecurities: how long they’ve been present, what kinds of triggers bring them to the surface, how she communicates to you when she’s feeling particularly insecure, how you hold space for her feelings, whether or not she’s currently seeing a therapist, etc. I’d also want to know what your initial negotiations looked like when you two agreed to start dating. For example, both of my current partners were also new to poly when we started dating a few years ago, and one of the things we spent a lot of time walking through was how communication would look between us should a problem arise.
Was your partner forthcoming with her present insecurities from the beginning? Did she provide you with a list of possible triggers? Did you both agree on how you would handle potential episodes? Your partner reacting to an insecure episode by sending you “passive aggressive texts” or messaging a woman whose selfie you commented on directly “to tell her I was off-limits” indicates that these crucial negotiations were either lacking, or that your partner was disillusioned to if and how she could handle such situations.
Personally, I feel as though you should gracefully end the relationship and go your separate ways. Perhaps this woman isn’t cut out for non-monogamy, either at this point in her life or altogether. However, if you truly feel a connection with this woman and can see a future together ahead of you, I would sit her down and give her a “shit sandwich” talk. Compliments are the bread, and the shit is the meat (or tofu; to each their own). Start off telling her how much you care for her, and how you want to see this relationship succeed. Then gently explain how seeing her struggle with your social media interactions concerns you, both for her personal mental and emotional health as well as for the sustainability of your relationship.
Don’t shame her for having insecurities in the first place; simply address, with compassion, how you’re more than willing to be patient and hold space for them, and how you wish she’d let you try before having a knee-jerk (and oftentimes inappropriate) reaction to them. If she’s not already doing independent work on herself around these issues, I’d also encourage her to pursue some therapeutic avenues to increase knowledge about her own self and gain perspective. Finally, end with another reinforcement of how much she means to you, and how much you want to see the relationship succeed. Know that if you do decide to move forward with things, that they’re not going to be easy, and that you’re going to have to exercise a lot of flexibility, understanding, and personal sacrifice to help facilitate her growth.
Regarding the “blocking on social media” piece, I don’t think that it has to be an aggressive, last-ditch, or purely defensive maneuver. As a porn performer who utilizes social media to both promote my explicit content as well as flirt with other performers in order to garner new work, I had agreements set up with my partners from the get-go around their interactions with my profiles. None of my partners have access to my Twitter account, for example, and I always shoot them text messages before putting racier content up on my Facebook page to caution them so they can avoid it if desired. We decided on these boundaries mutually, because they recognized that they sometimes may be feeling too vulnerable to view my life through a social media lense with a level head. It’s a perfectly normal negotiation point in non-monogamous relationships.
What you don’t want to do, however, is to block your partner on social media without first discussing it with her and giving her an opportunity to weigh in and share her feelings around it.
Have a question you want to ask Andre? Email us at dirtiestwellknownsecret at gmail.