Love is Accepting your Partner, flaws and all

They say attitude is everything and from school, to business, to relationships “they” might be on to something.

When I read about other polyamorous relationships and the ideas behind polyamory a lot of the time the biggest lesson is accepting everything about your partner without wishing they would change.

I have been lucky to always be in relationship where I felt accepted and have been reassured about the acceptance if ever it seemed to be in question. Today I want to share a few ideas about what this kind of acceptance looks like.

Forgiving Our Partners their Flaws

Everyone is flawed, in some way. We’re only human, after all. We have a natural urge to help and fix. We imagine that we can make our partner happy by making them be more perfect in our eyes. In reality we cause a lot of stress, doubt and damage this way.

Instead, remember that your partner is human and if you chose them their flaws can’t be so serious or worth picking a fight over.

Seeing and Accepting our own Flaws

A lot of the time the “flaws” we see in others are extensions of our own insecurities. We start to nit-pick and get frustrated when we want our partners to somehow puzzle piece in to our lives in a way that corrects everything we wish we could change about ourselves.

When we practice acknowledging and forgiving ourselves for the things we don’t favour in ourselves it becomes easier to do this for other people.

Don’t take it Personally 

It’s hard to believe, maybe, that not every thought in your partners head is related to you. This comes up with the idea of attraction to someone else, for example.

Thinking someone else is attractive can be just that. Your partner sees another human and thinks they’re attractive. It’s just a reaction to that person. It’s not a statement about you, your attractiveness or your participation in the relationship.

I struggle – as many of us do -with always wondering if every action or thought is somehow related to me and if I’m being a good enough partner. Hint: Nope. It’s not all related to me and that’s okay.

You’re probably tired of hearing this but it all comes down to
communication

Very few parts of a relationship happen in total isolation or silence. If there’s something you’re working on – like being more accepting or embracing different parts of yourself and your partner – talk about it!

A lot of confusion and misunderstanding is avoided by just mentioning the things you’re thi8nking about and working on, even if you’re not asking anything of your partner.

Does Attraction to Someone Else mean Doom for your Relationship?

We set a lot of relationship boundaries based on policing our own and our partners’ attraction to others. Regardless of our relationship structure – polyamorous, monogamous, swingers – both in terms of limiting and encouraging it, we have rules about attraction outside the relationship.

It’s a difficult topic and I think the boundaries we ask our partners to agree to and how those conversations go tell us a lot about ourselves and what attraction means to us.

The reason I say it’s difficult is that I believe attraction is a natural feeling that we can’t really promise we will or won’t feel for someone other than our partner.  For me, the more important discussion is how attraction should be handled when you’re in a relationship.  I don’t believe we can ask our partners to deny ever feeling attracted to another person but we can set up rules, guidelines, and boundaries for what to do with those feelings.

From the beginning of my relationship with Ben onward the rule, I suppose, was to just ignore any attraction we felt for others.  Come to think of it, it really wasn’t a big discussion. In trying to think of what the rules and boundaries were in order to guide how I write this I realize they were implied more than spoken.  Perhaps the key was that we never denied the possibility of attraction to another person.  We accepted attraction itself as a normal part of the human experience and, if it ever came to it, emphasized our trust in each others loyalty and commitment.

The rule was that we were exclusive. Period.  Whatever feelings you might feel were normal and we weren’t policing each other.  Instead, we were placing importance on actions and trusting each other to maintain those boundaries.

The attraction was normalized at a very casual level like commenting on the attractiveness of tv or movie characters. It wasn’t a secret endeavor when I went to watch “Magic Mike” in theatres, and of course, it couldn’t be a secret what the selling point of the movie was. Even less so when I went off to watch “Magic Mike: XXL”. Ben never got upset or offended that I’d be interested in these movies.

Likewise, as we came to the time when friends were getting married and bachelor parties are happening I always supported the idea that one party or another may see him and friends going to a strip club or at least a Hooters where the selling point of the trip is no more a secret than the point of a movie called “Magic Mike”.

Was it unreasonable to expect, when we were so open about attraction in an abstract way, that it could also apply closer to home with the people we see on a regular basis?

Actually at about this point in writing this piece curiosity got the better of me and I messaged Ben (because we’re the kind of people that text when we’re in the same house) to ask if he had random crushes or felt attracted to anyone when we were supposed to be entirely consumed with loving each other in the tradition of monogamy.  He admits that there were people he found attractive and, being a man, he wouldn’t call it a crush but none the less.

I realize that feeling anything crush like when you’re in a relationship with someone is this big taboo. We’re supposed to deny that we can be so in love with one person and also kind of hoping some other person thinks we’re cute.  But it’s our nature and there’s nothing really wrong with it.

The trick is knowing what you can or should do with those feelings. For us the answer was to do nothing. Random attractions or crushes always faded but our love never has. Clearly, our love for and commitment too each other wasn’t damaged by knowing there were other attractive people out there.

It wasn’t until the spark between Maggie and I became more than a passing crush that Ben and I had to discuss what taking action might look like instead of quietly ignoring and moving on from a feeling of attraction.

Even in that moment, in those conversations, one truth guided us: Feeling attracted to someone else didn’t really mean anything about the feelings we had for each other.  Admitting that I had feelings for Maggie and an interest in pursuing those feelings never turned in to a statement about my relationship with Ben.

This is the common confusion I think people have for what multiple relationships mean.  People often imagine that developing feelings for and pursuing a relationship with someone outside of your existing relationship means that you’re choosing something instead of that relationship.  There’s a lot of implications that come with it – if my partner wants another relationship have I left them unsatisfied? What are they seeking that I don’t provide? Have I failed them in some way?

These are normal questions but they also reveal a fatal flaw in our thinking about relationships.  They reveal that we expect ourselves to be everything to our partners (and probably expect them to be everything to us in return).  Even with amazing compatibility, this expectation might be a bit much.

Most couples find whatever it is they don’t get in their relationship, whatever it is their partner doesn’t provide, in hobbies and friendships.  Hobbies allow them to connect with others that have similar interests. Their friends can provide different support than their partner. These things alleviate the pressure for our spouses to be all things at all times for us.

Not only that but they alleviate the pressure without anyone having a conversation about it.  You just kind of go off to your hobby or with your friends and don’t identify that what makes them different than your spouse is something you need and that without them there providing it you’d have to seek it.  We kind of act like everything in our lives could be stripped away and if we just had our spouse on a desert island we’d never want anything more.

However, in polyamory we accept the idea that there can be romance just as there can be other satisfying elements to the connections we build beyond our relationship and one romance doesn’t inherently harm or detract from another any more than multiple hobbies or close friends do.

Polyamory has allowed me to explore an interest in cars that Ben doesn’t share, allowed me to build a different network of friends and attend different types of events with Maggie.  It’s given me a lot more dimension and depth to my life without any of my partners being forced to feel inadequate or think of themselves as a failure because they, too, are able to become more whole and explore different sides of what they need outside of the relationship they have with me.

Now I said earlier most people find needs their spouse doesn’t meet by engaging with hobbies, work, friends, and whatnot.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all! We don’t need polyamory but we do need to acknowledge that attraction to someone else or desires outside our monogamous relationships are normal.

 

Focusing on Love

I noticed that I’d written two other “focusing on” titles, one for work and one for fitness.  I thought I might as well round out the unintentional series with a few thoughts on finding focus in love.

One of the major mental shifts in the transition from monogamy to polyamory has been paying attention not only to the amount of time I spend with each partner but exactly how we use that time.

When it was just Ben and I we could spend all weekend getting things done like grocery shopping, Costco trips, little fixes around the house and cleaning.  It might easily become much needed time to get to the things that, for one reason or another weren’t accomplished during the week.  As a monogamous couple, this sort of weekday procrastination and weekend productivity worked.  Now however if we blow through a couple days getting a lot of practical things done it feels like we really haven’t had that time together and before we know it we are out on dates with other partners and having second thoughts about what we did with our time together.

Of course, the housework doesn’t stop needing to get done just because our personal lives got busier.  So we have to be more careful about planning so that everything can get done without sacrificing too much personal time.

Since I work from home I try to get a lot of bigger household tasks like cleaning the floors and big clean-ups done during the day while everyone else is at work.  That way these things don’t become pressing on the weekend when someone else has the time to get to them. Besides, it’s easier to clean when there’s only one person home and that doesn’t happen often outside of work hours.

Getting tasks that require focus and labor like floors, windows, and other washing out of the way while everyone at work leaves the more passive tasks like running the laundry machines for evenings and weekends.  These tasks fit more easily into plans because you can just move the items and then go back to your date while the machines do the work.

It’s about more than chores though.  Sometimes even if we aren’t doing chores together we aren’t paying attention to each other either.  Almost eight years of monogamy meant getting used to having endless time together.  So what if one or two nights were lazy, spent doing our own things like me working on the blog and him playing guitar – there was always tomorrow.

Now that isn’t so true.  If we use our time together in separate endeavors we miss each other and again, rethink how we spent that time.

It takes more focus in each relationship to ensure that the time spent together doesn’t slip away without us actually connecting and appreciating that we’re together.

That doesn’t mean we have to drop everything either. It’s as simple as holding hands while you shop, taking a second in the car between stops to let your partner know you’re enjoying the time with them or grateful for them helping you get these things done and maybe stopping to enjoy a meal together while knocking tasks off the to-do list.

It’s funny how we don’t always think about the logistical side of running a relationship in relation to running a household but the two can either support or impede each other depending on how carefully time is considered and valued by all parties.

What’s your favorite way to slip a little romance into everyday life?

Carmen