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managing feelings of guilt as a “single secondary”

Dear Kitty,

I’m in a relationship with a poly partner. I’m not sure he would agree as he cites how significant I am to him, but I’d class his wife as his primary and myself as a secondary, however his relationship with his wife is not a romantic one so I’m not sure whether I would be his primary and his wife just his ‘lives with’ partner. Besides the point I suppose… They are in an open relationship and that’s the way it has been for years.

I’m unsure whether I am poly or a swinger, as I have only ever explored sex with others (with the consent of my partner) rather than multiple relationships. I’m currently not seeing anyone else. But I’m here as I currently do, and in the future will, find myself in poly dynamics.

In a lot of ways we have a wonderful relationship. I feel more open, loved and understood than I’ve ever felt before. This is my first experience of poly and it’s not without its challenges. I have been working on managing my time, and emotions around that, to stay busy and distracted when we’re unable to spend time together as when I am feeling sensitive this can be an issue. When I am feeling fragile I find it hard to not just hide away and wallow so any tips to find the motivation to use my time alone productively would be much appreciated.

The main reason for my thread is to explore guilt. I am currently really struggling with the feeling that I am keeping him from his family. I feel that him spending time with me takes away precious time with his children and the worry is crippling. I’m not sure how to manage these feelings? He is aware and reassures me that no one is suffering and I’m not taking anything from his family, that in fact he is a better person and dad because I bring a new level of love and happiness to his life. I still can’t shake the guilt I feel. It’s the only thing that makes me consider jumping ship, and there are too many positive to want to follow through with that.

How do you all manage feelings of guilt?

Yours truly,

Guilty(?) Party

Dear Guilty Party,

Your plight caught my eye, because I, too, was a “single secondary” dating someone with an existing relationship. More specifically someone in a primary relationship. This is not to say that secondary/non primary relationships are not valid, however, there are additional complications that arise when you date someone who has that level of entanglement with another human being. How could it be otherwise? Do you really think that wife whose mother-in-law hates her isn’t affected by it? Do you think her marriage is just the same as if she were married to someone whose in-laws loved and cherished her? Please.

I felt guilty, too, like I wasn’t wanted or needed. Know that the way you feel is completely understandable. Yet- at least for myself- things changed as time passed. While I can’t say I never feel guilt or unpleasant feelings today, I definitely feel constant waves of positive feelings crash against the negative. Like you, I feel- and felt- loved in a way I never did in any other relationship. Perhaps, one day, you can feel secure and loved in this relationship, as you ought!

First, let’s assess the situation.

I hope I can help you, but I can’t do that without understanding a little about you. So let me try to make sure I’ve got your situation straight. There’s no rush to coming to an answer, as I don’t have a stock of magical solutions and answers, anyway.

I’m not sure he would agree as he cites how significant I am to him, but I’d class his wife as his primary and myself as a secondary, however his relationship with his wife is not a romantic one so I’m not sure whether I would be his primary and his wife just his ‘lives with’ partner.

It’s funny that you- and I!- called ourselves “single,” despite the fact that we were both dating someone at the time. But I totally get it, because my metamour saw me that way. Unattached, threatening. And yet I was, in fact, very involved with a complicated network of people. Still, my metamour made me feel like I needed to get a boyfriend in order to be a “safer” option for her partner to date.

I wonder if you feel similar pressure to date someone else, otherwise why call yourself single? Why bring attention to that fact when you clearly are not single? If you were, none of this would be an issue. But you do see yourself as a “single” secondary, and that is okay. It’s just worth thinking about.

As far as the primary and secondary nature of your relationships? To the world, yes, she would probably be viewed as A, if not, THE, primary partner of his (many people don’t believe you can have more than one primary relationship, which is obviously not true as there exist plenty of triads/quads, in addition to people who have multiple, non interacting primary relationships (say Alice dates Mike and Bob, and both are her primaries, but Mike and Bob do not date each other. You might say she has two secondaries, but at that point, this is just semantics.) But she also might be a secondary relationship for him. It’s possible for you, the girlfriend, to be his only primary, and his wife to be his secondary. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you’re all okay with it. But it can be tricky if you aren’t all on board, especially if the wife disagrees with that arrangement.

I’m curious how you feel about the primary/secondary nature of your relationships. Because this can affect how you feel about the relationship. And strengthen the feelings of guilt (“Am I replacing the wife as his primary? Does she resent this?”)

But this doesn’t seem to be your main concern….

I am currently really struggling with the feeling that I am keeping him from his family. I feel that him spending time with me takes away precious time with his children and the worry is crippling

Kids. Now there’s a whole other issue. I’ll admit I felt this way, too, in the beginning of my relationship. As my then casual partner had kids, as well. A couple of things:

First, every person deserves their “me” time. Regardless if they are a parent or not. If he wants to spend it with you, why not? His kids do not need him every second of every day. They do have another parent, not that they have to be with their parents all the time. Is this, maybe, your ego getting in the way of your enjoying your relationship with him?

Second, if you truly are desiring for this to go further and perhaps even be a primary relationship, I am curious why wouldn’t you be spending time with him and the kids? If this is gonna go anywhere, you and they have got to figure out some kind of healthy relationship with each other (or maybe you discover you can’t stand each other, which is also okay, but, again, means thinkig through the relationship with him.)

Maybe it will happen, maybe not.

I’m guessing you probably need to be able to share an evening together- ALL of you-, even if that means nothing more than you, him, the wife, and kids sitting in the same room and watching a movie.

Please trust me that if you have a non existent/poor relationship with the kids or her, it will only make you all miserable. So maybe it’s time you talk about how you add to his family’s lives, rather than just take away? You know, that life/work balance they talk about? Your life and his BOTH need to balance (and his happens to include a wife and family).

Also, consider being friends with her, too.

Have you tried extending a friendly hand to his wife? Does she see you as cooperation, not competition? He is evidently important to both of you, and he sees something in both of you, so why not try to integrate yourself further into his life by at least trying to be friends? Because if you and she can’t get along, maybe that’s something you should know.

Would you seriously date/commit yourself to a man whose parents, best friend, or close social circle outright hated you or treated you badly? Who didn’t encourage you to share your lives with each other, but kept you compartmentalized on the side? Whatever your answer, I would suggest you may think twice about dating a man whose wife can’t manage to be friendly with you (and who is okay with her treating you as less than even a casual friend).

In short, if you want to eliminate those feelings of guilt, feeling like a welcomed, contributing member of his family is a great way to fight those feelings.

Because you’ll see how much good you truly offer to the kids, instead of feeling like you’re merely intruding and taking their dad away from them. Again, this does not mean losing yourself in his life, but rather bringing your life and his together and making it more than the sum of the two parts.

If that is not desirable or possible, it is still feasible to have a relationship with him– but you are going to have to learn to trust that he is managing his relationship with his kids and just…let the feelings go (or, if it’s shown that he’s neglecting them, consider if you want to stay with a guy who has shown you what happens to his relationships after the novelty’s worn off).

But, really, this all starts with a conversation with him. And them. As silly and trite as it sounds, talking with him and her (and even the kids, in an age appropriate manner) might do wonders to ease your conscious. Please think about what I’ve said here and try to work that into the conversation. It’s okay, too, if it means more than one afternoon of talking (although they do eventually need to tell you what to expect and not leave you hanging for years!)

If none of that manages to get rid of those feelings, you may need to seek a professional therapist who is trained in how to manage feelings like guilt. No shame, if that is needed!

I hope that helps you,

Love,

Kitty

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open letter to the married man i haven’t yet rejected, an

To the married man to whom I will one day say “no,”

Thinking on the wonderful love between the Professor, Wonder Woman, and the Wife, I thought about how troublesome it can be for couples to find their magical unicorn. Alas, dear married man, that I am about to reject, it isn’t so easy for you. And a lot more women will likely reject you, too. Why don’t we all save ourselves some time and effort, and I’ll just write a nice rejection letter than anyone can use?

A few of you deserve custom breakup notes, yes, but for the majority, frankly, my reasons for rejecting you can more or less be covered with the following:

I did not reject you, because
  • You referred to me as “female.”  I am female.
  • I need to be the FIRST primary. I already have that, not that it means that much to me, but I do. I am not so self absorbed that I need to be your very first love, too. Not just first love, no, but the first woman with whom you made a commitment to share a life together.
  • I have no chance of being a primary of yours, whether or not I was your “first.” I have plenty of non primary relationships in my life that are very fulfilling and loving. I don’t believe a relationship must be primary in order to be valuable.
  • And, NO, I did not reject you because I felt threatened by your wife.  I have no reason to be scared of her.   Your telling me this makes me curious if YOU think she’s terrifying- but, don’t worry, I’ll just assume this was simply a miscommunication on your part. I am sure she is warm and lovely.

As a matter of fact, I adore how you speak of your wife.  I hate when someone dumps about their spouse to me, as if I will feel flattered or sympathetic.  I love that you love her. But– there is a difference about freely gushing about your awesome partnership with her and making it clear that she is the only one of any importance to you, now and forever. That’s just not how I operate. I don’t only have one important love, and I don’t want that. I don’t mind being one of many, but I don’t want to be in your true love’s shadow, either.

It makes me wonder what you are even doing with me.

This is why I am telling you no.

You have made it clear, in your words, or your actions, that you do not put any value on time with anyone but your spouse. Oh, you might not callously use and discard me, like some unicorn hunters. You might treat me like a human being worthy of basic courtesy.

You might even not cancel our dates at the last minute, because, “your wife had a hard day at work and she doesn’t want me to go out.” You might not tell me that’s just what to expect from a married man, as some might do.

You gush about how polyamorous you are– and I’ve heard all this before. I also know what comes next. You say to your friends- where I can hear you- that She is the only one for you. You aren’t talking about me, nor do I particularly want to be the woman for whom you left your wife.

I don’t really know what to make of it. What you’re saying. How you feel. You’re happy, though, and I’m happy for you.

But I’m not going to prioritize starting something casual without some chance of a future. 

I’ll do it, if it’s convenient. But I’m not going to go out of my way.  And you are rather out of my way.

I wish you the best of luck.  But I’m tired of playing games. Stop pretending you are something you are not to get a few hours of my time and a few nights in my bed. We, awesomely proud slutty women, are dying to say yes to a night of fun, just be honest! Or if you want a relationship, say so. But that means more than just being nice to me and valuing my time.

Just tell me what you want, and I might want it, too.

Sincerely,

Kitty

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one twue way of cake baking, the

I’ve said before I don’t believe in one twue ways.  It’s more accurate to say I believe in many twue ways. 

The perfect Twue Way for You.

I like to bake.

One day, you ask me to bake you a cake.  Just “a cake.”  Oooookay.  I mean, I’ll do it quite happily.  But forgive me for thinking that’s a bit of an open ended request.

I arrive at your birthday party with an ice cream cake, or a lemon cake, or even a stack of brownies in a cake-like shape.  Depends on what I’m feeling.  Chocolate, strawberry, white, yellow, confetti…it’s all good.  I’m a lover of any cake, though I do have my favorites for my own consumption.

But I think we can all agree I failed if I show up on your doorstep with an organic vegetable loaf.  

But maybe you are more particular about what cake means to you. 

Which is absolutely acceptable.  Just because you are more limited in what kinds of cake work for you, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  Red velvet cake is delicous to many of us, but not if you have an allergy to red food dye.

You can like any sort of cake you like, in any fashion you like. I promise you that it’s okay. There is no wrong kind of cake to like. There may be more “impossible” cakes that you are unlikely to get quite right in a thousand years; but if you have the patience? No need to eat a cake that isn’t satisfying, when, after all, cakes are a luxury and an excess. Wonderful, but not necessary to live.

But sometime problems arise when you want a certain kind of cake– but you put in all the “wrong” ingredients.

You see, cakes are rather dependent on the ingredients you put in them. You may not notice if someone substitutes maple syrup for vanilla extract (depending on the recipe). But you are less likely to be fooled if they put in cocoa powder and you wanted lemon cake. Recipes exist for a reason, though they may be toyed around with, of course. Most recipes are something of a guideline.

Within reason. You see, if you want chocolate cake, you don’t make it with lemons. And you certainly don’t do so– and then scream HOW YOUR CAKE ISN’T RIGHT AT ALL AND WHY IS LIFE SO UNFAIR.  Maybe try using cocoa instead of citrus?

Same with Relationships.  

If you want a Relationship to be a certain kind of Relationship, you do have to do Some Things Right. Or else you run into a series of struggles, disappointments, and heartbreaks (which are inevitable, to some degree, but that isn’t what you want your whole life to be, is it?)

Want that perfect submissive girlfriend? Mass messaging women on Fetlife is not really the best way to go about it. I mean, sure, if you bake a cake at 10 degrees F, it’ll probably eventually bake into a cake….and if you message ten thousand women, maybe one will get back to you and turn into your ideal girlfriend. It could happen.

If you think you’re just guaranteed for the recipe to turn out right, with no concern with what you throw into the batter, well, good luck with that.

The possibilities are endless—

–but the paths that will lead you to YOUR perfect cake might not be.

Of course there are slight variations that won’t make much of a difference.  Add a spice or bake it a few minutes more or less.  Substitute a couple of ingredients.  Cake baking is an art, not a science. Art doesn’t have only way to be art.

But if I dump a bucket of water on a piece of paper, do you think it’ll magically turn into a gorgeous Monet-esque watercolor?  It is no different with cakes or relationships. Certain…choices have a greater or lesser chance of resulting in a desired outcome.

I don’t care about what kind of cake you want.  I don’t care what kind of cake you have. But you probably care…

And so I hope you think about the path you are creating. The recipe you are following. What is it you want? What is it that you are doing to get what you want? Are the two in alignment? Do they -generally- work for those who try that method? Or do they -generally- fail?

For what it’s worth, it’s okay to criticize how I make my cake. In a respectful manner. It’s okay to gently point out, “Hey, maybe you should try doing it a little differently? What about doing this technique?” You’re not screaming, “Don’t eat that cake, it’s disgusting!” You’re merely using your own experience to help me create my own, perfect cake.

Oh, relationships are far from perfect!

Still, I think it would be amazing if we all worked together to improve the recipes and got as close as possible to our vision of perfection in our confections.

Because, sure, sometimes you follow the recipe and you forget something. Or the oven is a little different than the one you used before. Or it just doesn’t work for whatever reason. Especially when you use human emotions, behaviors, and desires for your ingredients. It’s impossible to predict the outcome, every single time.

BUT.

We can stop just relying on hope, thoughts, and prayers to make ourselves happy in our romantic relationships– and, well, if icing hits the fan, that’s just inevitable. Nothing we can do to try better next time, right?

Or maybe not. Maybe we can do something. If we claim that Romance is The Most Important Thing In Life, maybe we should actually do some training towards it. We wouldn’t go to a doctor with no education, or even let a handyman come bust up our kitchen without training. But we’ll let them bust up our hearts with nothing but good intentions and a charming smile?

Relationships may be best that grow organically, so they often say. But even even a seed needs to be watered, or it will stay in the ground as a seed forever.

I just don’t see Doing Nothing But Waiting working out particularly well for more than a handful of us.

Which means we need to try Something.

By the way, I happen to know a lot of cake recipes (and far more than just the Romantic Primary Partner recipe, which, in case you’re curious, I know how to layer…)  

I may never be able to build a computer from scratch; or confidently add to twenty one (despite working as a blackjack dealer); or remember which year we fought the War of 1912.

Baking cakes, though? Kind of my thing.  If you ever want something in particular, please do feel free to reach out to me!  I might know the perfect recipe.

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why I struggle with the solopoly label

Because I like being independent.

I love the idea of being my own person, all the tume, without a care in the world.  Solopoly, the idea of being polyamorous but remaining one’s own primary relationship.  Without any of the burdens (though, yes, without some of the benefits) of a long term, committed, involved on every level relationship.  Still long term, still committed– but ultimately autonomous and in charge of all one’s life decisions.

I don’t want to be someone’s other half. I don’t really have an urge to marry. I like the idea of freedom, total autonomy, walk around my apartment naked, travel on a whim.

But I also like having someone to come to every night, someone with whom I’ve intwined my life.

I fall asleep at night, next to someone who loves me.  Someone for whom I’ve made dinner, or they’ve made dinner for me (though usually I cook and he cleans up).  I want stability. I want to be important to someone.

I want a family.  How can I have a child with someone with whom I don’t share my life?  I mean, I know it happens, but it’s not often sought after.  Bearing some very unusual circumstances, I want my children to be raised by all their parents, in the same home.

And that means I cannot truly be solopoly.

Let me interrupt, briefly, to say something.  I do sometimes say I and my partner are both solopoly living along the same track.  It’s true we’ve kept many of our life aspects separate.  But like I said, I struggle with not only the label but the way of life.  I’m not, strictly speaking, entirely solopoly.

Since I want someone who makes me a priority, their priority, I must invest equally in them.  And it’s not merely that I should, but that I want to spend that time with them.  I want to spend 70, 80% of my time with my life partner(s).

Which means things like living together (critical for me to get enough time with my partner) and sharing our lives and our families and our vacations (because I only have so much vacation time and I want them to travel with me during it.)  Which basically means they are a primary relationship.

I value my other relationships, yes, but I need this relationship, too.

You may not need what I need.

It’s okay if you never want a primary.  Though it comes at a cost.

What do you want?  Do you want to always be your only primary?  Or do you want someone else to see you that way, too?  Do you want to be solopoly, or is that too much for you?  Whatever you want, it’s okay.  But do think over the possibilities…