Ugh. So this post is less fun for me to write than the more recent ones have been.
Remember Kathy Labriola's intimacy and autonomy scale? The one about identifying yourself on a scale of 1-10, and talking with your partner(s) about where you all fall and making sure to get what you need and respecting what your partner(s) want and need, too.
Well I am definitely a little bit higher on that scale than J. Which really doesn't cause us a ton of issues. But being in an open relationship really brings personal weaknesses to the forefront, and forces us to work on them.
And mine right now is this: I have for as long as I can remember been dependent on those closest to me. Dependent in the sense that I tend to forgo my own wishes, desires, and happiness to make those closest to me happy. I tend to not do things I want to do if it means I might cause someone else discomfort. Or that I tend to be upset by someone close to me asserting their autonomy or independence because it shows me how other people seem to do their own thing so easily, when it feels so difficult to me. This, especially in the context of our open relationship, manifests to J as control over him and his relationships. So you can see how this creates some major issues for us.
Soooo... I have now found myself a new counselor to work with me on creating a more solid sense of self and independence in my personal life and within the context of my relationships. But that was an interesting process, because it was extremely important to me to find a counselor that was supportive of open relationships. The first three I called, though, sounded just fine and very supportive of my relationship. I made initial consultations with all of them, and met with all of them for 30 minutes. The first one had actually worked with people in open relationships before, individuals and couples, and was totally fine with my relationship status. The second simply didn't care one way or the other- she just wanted me to be comfortable sharing who I am and was extremely clear in her support for me. The third, however, was a piece of work. She was clearly uncomfortable with me and both my sexual orientation and relationship orientation. One crappy quote from her once we started talking about my open relationship: "Well, I have worked with gay people before, soo...." Oh yeah? Whoopdy do.
It was crucial for me to find a counselor supportive of and open to my relationship orientation, because it will make my sessions so much more useful and relevant to me. The dependency/autonomy issues are some that I have struggled with my whole life, but our open relationship definitely brings them to light. I love our relationship, and even though it's really difficult at times, I am so grateful for the chance I have to critically self-reflect and engage in continual growth.