"In this relationship, I may put something on the table, but that doesn't mean you have to accept it. Someone else can put whatever they want on the table, but you don't have to take it. You can just look at it and recognize it, and also reject taking it for yourself."
That was basically what my counselor told me recently regarding some relationship issues I discussed with her. I feel like today was especially helpful in finally verbalizing some things that have been deeply bothering me in how J and I have been relating to each other over some key challenges.
We both have to take responsibility for our actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. I cannot take all of the blame for any one situation that involves someone else (or in some situations, two or three other people). I am only part of that equation.
We both have our own patterns of thought and behavior that can be unhealthy or unhelpful to ourselves and our relationship and other relationships. I cannot take on the burden his and my issues by myself. I can only work on my stuff.
I am not saying that J has intentionally placed this blame on me. My personality is one that wants to please others first and myself second (and in combination with the way I was raised means this has been extremely engrained in me). I have welcomed blame and responsibility because I want to make my primary partner more comfortable and happy. But this attitude and behavior does not help anyone.
If I can make a global statement: open relationships are at once rewarding and exhausting (okay, I recognize that that statement also applies to monogamous relationships). Trying to make other relationships work alongside my primary relationship requires self awareness and a commitment to personal growth. Going to counseling and talking to friends about my challenges takes a lot more work than stuffing them inside and repressing my issues. Something that has resonated a lot with me from my conversations with friends is that each individual is responsible for his or her own relationships. I certainly believe that I can have an impact on the secondary relationships that J chooses to pursue, but they are ultimately his relationships, just as I believe I am ultimately responsible for my own even though I recognize he can have an impact on them.
I have been working through a lot the past couple of weeks, emotionally, as a result of my amazing counselor. Even though the topics don't directly relate to issues of monogamy, polyamory, and my relationship with J, they definitely impact our relationship and the challenges I sometimes face. So my next posts will most likely be on those things :)