In my post ‘Compersion, Trust and Brain Niggles’ I spoke about how my sleeping brain was causing me to feel insecure, and how security looks different within an alternative relationship model. I’m far from being an expert on this matter, and I have so much still to learn, there are some things I’ve figured out along the way though and as always I like to share those things with my lovely readers.
When Bakji and I first started playing together I was ridiculously ill equipped to deal with the feelings I would face surrounding how our friendship would change and grow. I was so convinced that I would never be in a position of having a ‘primary partner’ while exploring non-monogamy, that I didn’t seek out the resources I needed to guide me through that soon enough.
When I was growing up and for all my previous relationships, and certainly within my marriage, I followed the conventional path that many relationships do. My security within those relationships was based on doing the things we get told validate us as a partner and show us that our relationship is serious and that others will see it as so
Some examples of these things, which I’m sure most of us are familiar with, would be; the boyfriend/girlfriend chat, meeting parents/family, moving in together, engagement/marriage, children for those who are so inclined, maybe a pet together, shared finances and many more things I am sure to have forgotten.
When it comes to my relationship with Bakji I have none of those things. Not a single one, and it never fails to astound people. Not only people in monogamous, more conventional relationships, but also those who follow their own alternative relationship model. In the early days of figuring this stuff out, this did prove problematic, because quite often the brain niggles I had weren’t my own, they were reflective of other people’s issues with my dynamic.
Essentially though I found that the more I got to know Bakji the more I became comfortable with our combined approach to things. Why am I happy not to use the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ terminology? A common and recurring question from many people. Simply because I know that it has always been something Bakji has strong feelings on, personal ones that aren’t mine to share. Also because what difference would it truly make? None at all I suspect. I was someone’s wife for the longest time, and it was wonderful, but ultimately it didn’t stop our relationship ending. If not being a girlfriend allows our relationship to continue being awesome then I am good with that.
Another common and irritatingly persistent question I get asked is ‘have you met Bakji’s parents yet?’ My answer is always no. Not a no with a tear in my eye and a mournful rant, a fairly cheerful and straight to the point, no. If he wants me to at some point in the future then I’m sure I can go and be my wonderful charming self, but if not I’m still going to enjoy whipping his bum and snuggling him hard. Am I not concerned he is ashamed of me, hiding a secret life or in some other way being deceitful? Not even a little bit. Why? Because once again I know him, as hard as it is for some people to believe, we discuss these things and I trust in his reasoning behind how he likes to conduct himself with regards to this matter.
The other apparently baffling thing about us, is our non-existent desire to live together, like not even a tiny bit. It won’t happen next month, next year or ever. The reasons for this are many and varied. Essentially though neither of us wants that for our relationship, we enjoy our time together immensely and don’t feel that would be improved by increasing it to an everyday scenario. Does that mean we don’t enjoy sharing our personal space with each other, not at all. I love having Bakji in my home, cooking him dinner, having sleepovers and spending whole weekends together. Those things are made more enjoyable for me by virtue of not having to do them all the time.
While some people seem determined that it can’t be true we are happy as we are, yes things have changed along the way, and we’ve evolved together and our connection has deepened, but when it comes to the big things we are still going about things in much the same way as ever. We are well and truly off the relationship escalator and as happy as that makes me, sometimes it can still be scary. Especially when other people are so good at sowing the seed of doubt.
When I realised that my brain niggles weren’t entirely of my own creation, I had to think long and hard about how I gained security and validation without those things society tells me I should want and should be getting. It wasn’t easy because it meant being brutally honest with myself, and sometimes that is harder than being honest with others.
I started by considering all the ‘grumbles’ other people had about how we conducted our relationship and asked myself if they had a point. In the majority of cases I realised they didn’t, that what they cared about, was not important to me. I’m not in anyway judging them for it being important to them, but I decided that going forward I would be firmer about saying ‘that is not a concern of mine’.
There were some sticking points, where I came to understand that I needed to talk them through with Bakji. In discussing the things that were causing me to worry I realised that nearly all of my security and validation within our dynamic comes from the words that leave Bakji’s mouth and the actions he uses to support them. The security that doesn’t come from Bakji comes from myself, from doing the things that make me happy, investing in the things that make me fulfilled whether or not I am in a relationship.
I also found that once I started being honest about where my boundaries where, and what would feel like a bit of a deal breaker for me, that my security levels grew because I knew Bakji wouldn’t suddenly do something that he knew would be hurtful to me. I started to feel like he had my back, regardless of whether or not we were conforming to societal norms. I feel like in our time together we have created safe space for each other, which is far more valuable to me than adhering to other people’s notion of ‘normal’.
I am a huge supporter of doing what is a good fit for you, and if this includes living together, marriage etc then please don’t think I discourage that. I don’t regret for one minute having experienced those things for myself. I do however think that sometimes we become complacent about these actions being our effort and our security within a relationship. When they’re removed I’ve found that I’ve had to think harder about how I make sure that not only do I feel secure and happy within our relationship but also Bakji too.
I didn’t embark on writing this piece because I think I’ve got all the great advice and solutions to potential problems, I wrote it because I know from the people who’ve reached out to me that a lot of people following my blog are currently in similar situations and sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, and you’re not the only person or only couple or only triad or only poly family to be searching for different ways to approach life, love and relationships.