Handling Change in Relationships or Playing Well With Others, Poly-Style

I’ve started reading Playing Well With Others, by Mollena Williams and Lee Harrington, for myself and for review.  It’s about kinky play but the idea of ‘playing well with others’ certainly extends beyond kink.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we always need be conscious of playing well with others in relationships.  In my opinion, ‘playing well’ is about respect, communication, being present, taking responsibility for self-care and accepting that your assumptions about ‘what works’ may not hold true for other people in your relationship web.  In addition, playing well with others includes recognizing that jealousy, guilt and fear are valid emotions that need to be addressed periodically.  If we validate them, we allow for a more respectful dialog about them and a safer space within which to communicate and work through them.

Playing well means accepting the possibility of change within the relationship, and when that change occurs, being as graceful as possible, being clear about your needs and respectful about the needs of others.  I call it ‘playing well’ but it’s hard work — emotional, mental and physical work.  Change involves rewiring expectations and sometimes undoing habits.  It leaves us exhausted and vulnerable.  We need to recognize that it’s hard to be our highest, best selves when we’re feeling drained and give ourselves and others some grace during a period of change.

If you’ve been following along from home, it shouldn’t be a mystery why I’m thinking so much about changes.  My relationship with Roxy is going through a lot of them, and both of us are feeling uncomfortable and stretched going through this process.  She’s facing the very real possibility that poly might not work for her, and has asked me for some time to consider this possibility.  And that means more changes for us, on top of a very rough and stressful year that brought a lot of change with it.  I’m carefully examining my habits and routines as they relate to her, so that I can be mindful and give her the gentle, loving space she’s asked for.  I’ve had some slip-ups, but I’m learning and she’s very generous and patient.

Playing well with others sometimes means recognizing that what works for you isn’t working for them.  Or maybe it did once, but doesn’t now.  That stuff changes, and it’s not anyone’s fault.  Sometimes you can make adjustments to realign the relationship, sometimes you’d have to make huge life changes, and sometimes those aren’t possible.  We’re in a hard place right now, not because we don’t love each other, not because we don’t care a whole helluva lot.  It’s because we do love each other that we’re working very hard to figure out how to go forward together, in some way, rather than tossing dynamite on the whole thing.  I’m trying to visualize a future that may or may not include us having an intimate physical relationship.  That may or may not include a D/s relationship.  I’m trying hard not to cry a lot about that uncertainty.  I wake up each day wanting to be positive, to focus on our friendship, our deep love for each other, for the support and inspiration that we give each other.  And some days that’s a little easier than others.  Some days I don’t do that well.  I’m reaching out to friends, ones I trust to be non-judgmental, who respect and love both of us, because I don’t want to deal with criticism right now, just love and support.  And a safe place to cry and rant as needed.

I am also trying, every day, to remember that this is not all about me.  That any pain and fear and panic I’m feeling is being felt by her as well.  This is not being done to me.  What is happening is not a punishment or a criticism.  What is happening is difficult and wrenching and real, and it’s happening to both of us.  Further, this is also not about either of us doing something wrong, or either of us being to blame.  That viewpoint is a little challenging given that our society doesn’t offer a lot of models for changing a relationship without destroying it.  ‘Scorched earth’ seems to be the more common approach.  Neither Roxy nor I want to destroy what we have, what we have had and what we can have.  We are just stumbling along, day to day, trying to figure it out.  I know some of you are probably in mourning as well, and you don’t know how this is going to go, and you may have ideas of how you want it to go.  If you’d like to support us, what I ask of you is this:  if you have a specific wish for how this will turn out, with all due respect, please keep it to yourself.  Not because I don’t think you mean well, just that I ask you to trust us to find a way that will work for us.  Support us by hoping that we find that way, whatever it is.  And if you know us more directly, I know I welcome messages of support.  I can’t speak for Roxy but she may welcome them as well.

I wish you all the best in your relationships.  I hope you have patience and grace in working through change.  Change is not easy, even if it’s change you want to have happen, it takes a lot out of you emotionally, mentally and physically.  Love yourself, be patient and kind to yourself and those involved in the change with you.  Play well with others by communicating, assuming best intentions, staying up on your self-care and respecting each other.  Change happens and sometimes it sucks, and it’s easier to manage if you can work through it with those you love.

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