Marc and I recently had a party. Included among the guests was Marc’s current lover, Svetlana (not her real name).
The bedroom door was closed, which is unusual at one of our parties, mostly so guests feel comfortable using that bathroom, but also because the doggies need access to their beds when they grow weary from dancing and harassing humans for a Manchou chicken wing. My friend hesitated at the closed door and looked at me. I gave him a nod to let him know it would be okay if he went in.
As he started to open the door, someone on the other side, in my and Marc’s bedroom, slammed the door shut in his face. Startled, he looked at me. I heard the slam and was headed over to see what was up.
“Someone just slammed the door in my face.” He was mostly shocked, but also a bit taken aback.
I tried myself, only to find that someone was holding the door closed. “What the hell?” I knocked with emphasis (read: pounded my fist).
My guest was now dancing a little “gotta pee” jig and looked at me with an expression somewhere between pity and fear—probably fear for whoever was on the other side of that door. He slipped by me and toward the bathroom at the other end of the house and politely said, “It’s okay. I’ll just find another bathroom.”
I pounded again and Marc opened the door. “What the fuck?”
“Me and Svetlana were in here. Sorry.”
I felt my blood pressure rise as Marc slipped into the crowd. I followed him into his office.
Again, I asked, “What the fuck?”
“Nothing was going on. I was counting money for the DJ and Svetlana was by the door. I have no idea why she held it closed.”
“Not cool. I don’t want to talk about it now, but totally not cool.”
I walked away and rejoined the party. As I was mixing drinks at our counter, Svetlana slipped out of our bedroom and joined a group of her friends.
The next day, I asked Marc what happened in the bedroom and why he or Svetlana held the door closed. He said that he didn’t really remember but that they probably kissed a little bit. I asked him if it would be okay if I sent a message to Svetlana to ask her what happened. He said, “Sure.”
I sent Svetlana a message, and she responded with an apology and an explanation. I told her in no uncertain terms that blocking me from entering my and Marc’s bedroom while he and she are in there is unacceptable. I also requested that they don’t sneak off to be alone while I’m in the house. She agreed, apologized, said she totally understood, and that it would never happen again. Later that day, she sent a message to Marc apologizing to him. And that was that.
So, what was that like? What went wrong, and how might all of us do things differently?
What’s it like when Marc and/or his partner(s) do something that you perceive as a “mistake”? (We’ll flip this one too and write a future blog about Mimi and her lover(s) doing something that Marc perceives as a mistake.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about rules lately. Setting down rules, I think, can sometimes be a quick and easy way to mask or avoid insecurities rather than deal with and express them.
Looking back, I did think of what might go wrong with Svetlana at our party. To be specific, I thought about how terrifying it would be to me if Marc and Svetlana were arm in arm the whole night, giggling with each other and our guests, and wandering off to be “alone” (read: not with me). I’m the sort of person who tends to play out the worst-case scenario in my mind so, if it happens, I feel like I have some semblance of control and a plan. This works great for mountaineering or triathlon. When doing an open relationship and polyamory? Not so much.
The reason it doesn’t work is because I tend to put outlandish, completely unrealistic visions in my head when it comes to Marc’s relationships with others (remember how I picture erotic savants and sexual super heroes before I meet Marc’s lovers?) Perhaps these outrageously unrealistic expectations are a way to make it all “that wasn’t so bad,” but more likely, my visions reveal my own insecurities.
In this case, I was terrified Svetlana would become “the hostess”. My vision included her taking over my house, my guests, and most important, my partnership with Marc.
My fears were real, but they really weren’t valid. By being real, I mean I was really scared and those feelings are important. By not being valid, I mean that the fears are not based on something that, in any likelihood, would ever happen. So, for example, if I’m climbing a mountain and I’m really scared that guy Yeti is around every turn, that fear is real and must be addressed. However, it would be a huge mistake to make my climbing team adjust our plan or climbing strategy because of my fear of Yeti. Fear of Yeti is real, but not valid. When fears are real, but not valid, the best thing to do is try to deal with the fear rather than make everybody else adjust to accommodate your fear.
Setting up rules to deal with real, but invalid fears is like making the climbing team adjust to something that isn’t real. There is no way Marc (or Svetlana) would ever shut me out like I feared, and at the risk of some conceit, there’s no one who could ever take my place or overshadow me as host of one of my and Marc’s party (except, of course, Marc, who is the hostess with the mostest!).
In the end, none of what I had envisioned happened. However, if I were being honest with myself and with Marc and with Svetlana, I would have said something to each of them before the party. “Hey, listen, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about this situation, and I know that you two “coupling up” at the party would be hard for me.” Ideally, the three of us would talk about it and the bedroom incident wouldn’t have happened.
Alas, I didn’t say anything and the bedroom incident happened. I was surprised and angered by being blocked from my own bedroom by Svetlana, and those feelings were real and valid. As much as I should have expressed any discomforts I was feeling, they should have done the same and, I believe, asked me how I would feel if they had a moment alone together.
Marc did this once before. A woman he was dating, but not sleeping with, came to one of our parties a long time ago. When she was leaving he asked if it would be okay if he walked her to her car so they could have some time alone. I said that I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, and so, he hugged her at the door. This was a long time ago, and my discomfort was 100% insecurity on my part. I’d like to think that if Marc and Svetlana came to me to ask how I’d feel if they had some time alone together, I would have said, “I’m a little uncomfortable, but that’s just my own insecurities. Go ahead, but don’t be gone all night and not in our bedroom.” At least that’s how I would like to respond.
Next time Svetlana comes over when I’m there, I’m going to have to make sure I say to both of them, “There are no rules about having some alone time together because my fears about what that means or what might happen are invalid. My only request is that you consider my feelings and ask first rather than ‘sneak off’ behind my back. Oh, and if the bedroom incident happens again, I’m gonna go all medieval on both your asses! Just kidding……..kind of.”
What’s it like when you and your partner(s) do something that Mimi perceives as a “mistake”?
It was my birthday. We had a great DJ at the party, which relieved me from my usual DJ’ing duties, and it also allowed me time to dance and enjoy myself. At most of our parties, I feel the need to be the host with the most and I don’t necessarily really enjoy myself, but this time was different. That also meant that I could imbibe a bit more than usual, and I guess I did that night, so I have a fuzzy recollection of what actually went on in those brief moments described above.
Svetlana later told me that she had come into the room and taken advantage of the short “alone time” to show me a bit of leg (which, by the way, if you’re wondering, is always appreciated). I really don’t remember.
When Mimi brought it up the next day, I was honest. I told her I’m not really sure what happened, but that we didn’t do anything terribly inappropriate together during the party. That’s really not my style. We have had guests turn on the water and hop into our Jacuzzi bath during a party in the past, and I always thought it to be a bit gauche to hide away and make out. A little flirting is great, but save the gettin’ down for a. when the guests have gone if it’s with Mimi and I , or b. when you and your date get home. At least, that’s my usual M.O. Apparently, probably due to having one too many cocktails, my consciousness about the “right thing to do” went out the window, and I wasn’t really concerned for Mimi’s feelings. As soon as she came in, I realized this was not a good thing to be doing.
Beyond being honest, being open to the concerns of your partner is so important. It’s easy to get defensive, as I sometimes do, or overly stressed by a complaint, but once you’re able to just accept, “yeah, I fucked up”, it’s easier to move forward. Sometimes it seems that that is really all Mimi wants to hear, but sometimes, it’s difficult for me to just go there without there being some explanation, etc. I’ll continue to work on getting the “I fucked up” part with less explanation.
I thought Svetlana did a good job of addressing it with Mimi and I and I know she felt a bit embarrassed by it, as well. She also told me she had been nervous coming to the party and had a few beverages to drink, and her inhibitions were a bit less present than usual.
Neither of us are perfect, both in what we do, and how we handle being confronted by what we do when it bothers the other person. Feeling like you have a solid relationship that you WANT to be in really helps. Arguments, discomfort, conflicts, etc. will all arise, especially within the context of an open relationship….there’s a lot of negotiation to be done. As I’ve said many times in past blogs, how you DEAL with those conflicts is what makes or breaks this type of relationship.