It was shortly after our NVC (non-violent communication) meeting last night that I felt the rage welling up inside me. Brad and Ben and I had been sitting on the couch discussing the event that led to my last blog post – “The Hard Part.”
Until yesterday morning, all Brad had expressed was anger, rage and hatred for me. But at some point while Ben was away at work, Brad was able to peel back the layers of the onion and start to feel the pain and grief and sorrow. He cried in a way I haven’t seen him cry before. He tried to explain the way he felt when he got out of the shower hoping to have his two best friends to hang out with and finding himself alone. Not only was he alone – the two people he wanted to be with were with each other, on the other side of the door, in pure ecstasy.
By the time of our evening meeting with Ben, Brad seemed angry again. I had asked him to sort of rehash his feelings in front of Ben. Ben’s usually pretty good at acting as our NVC moderator, but this time he seemed to want to kind of skim over the “feeling the feelings and identifying the unmet needs” part and get straight to the solution part. I’m guessing the conversation made him uneasy.
To me, it felt like he and Brad were oversimplifying things, like “Ok, we’ve identified the problem – Brad feels hurt and angry when Sara has sex with Ben without giving him notice. Solution? Sara, give Brad a heads up, maybe an hour in advance, when you plan to disappear into Ben’s room. Problem solved.”
But I didn’t feel like the problem was solved. I’d already agreed to honor Brad’s request to give him “notice” when I planned to spend time with Ben behind closed doors, but I didn’t feel good about the agreement. I didn’t feel like it got to the heart of the matter.
“I’m just curious Brad… the night Erin spent the night… did you have any intention of telling me that you planned to have sex with her and sleep with her all night?” I asked.
“I didn’t need to,” he said. “You already knew.”
Of course I knew. I’m a woman. We always know. Erin had already asked if she could crash on the couch and I knew what that meant.
But my point was, had I not texted him toward the end of his date, telling him the spare room was clean and available for them if they needed it, would he not have brought her home and used it anyway? And would he have messaged me asking permission or “notifying me” that he intended to do so?
If so, at what point of the evening would he have done it? While they were eating dinner? While they were having drinks and in the middle of conversation? On the drive home, during which she was “revving up his engine” the whole way? After they burst through the kitchen door, before they rushed down the hallway straight into bed, where they immediately got to business?
Maybe as she was unzipping his pants, he could’ve said – “wait, Erin, hold on… I have to check in with Sara and make sure she’s feeling ok about this.” That would’ve been great for the mood.
It frustrated Brad and Ben that I brought it up. They thought I was playing the “whose more right and whose more wrong game.” I explained that I wasn’t trying to “win” the argument, and that I in no way expected Brad to message me that night, nor do I hold it against him. We’ve had an agreement from the beginning that each of us can do whatever we’d like with our own bodies. Of course, it’d be nice to have some idea of where your partner is, who they might be with, that they still love you, and a general idea of when they’ll be back, but other than that, we’ve both agreed that the ideal is freedom.
My point in bringing it up was to remind him that it is hard to predict where a night will go sometimes. He didn’t know for sure going into the date with Erin that he’d end up having sex with her and spending the entire night with her. And if he hoped that was what was going to happen, he certainly didn’t tell me. Why?
Maybe because it felt presumptuous to say “Erin and I might have sex tonight.” Maybe because it would kill the mystery, the spontaneity. Maybe because we’re still programmed to feel embarrassed and ashamed of admitting our sexual intentions to each other. That’s why I don’t tell him when I feel like going to sleep with Ben.
By this time, I could tell Ben and Brad had had enough of the conversation, so I went to my room. That’s when I felt the anger set in. I was trying to figure out why I had such a hard time agreeing to notify Brad before going to have sex with Ben (which is on average every two or three days now). All the commenters on the Polyamory Facebook page seemed to think it was the least I could do. Many of them seemed to think I am a calloused, heartless jerk for not “checking in” with him before disappearing to do “whatever the hell I want” (with my own body).
That was it, I thought, “it’s my body… I’m not his possession… he doesn’t own me… he doesn’t have any right to get angry because of something I do with my body.” It wasn’t actually that he felt anger that made me angry, it was that he often blamed me for his anger, yelled, insulted me, called me names and made threats (like he’s breaking up with me or moving out) as a result of it. As I sat and thought about how he’s reacted toward me every time I’ve had sex with another man since we’ve opened our relationship, I realized “no wonder I don’t want to ‘notify’ him beforehand.”
I notified him with Clark and Matthew, but with Ben being our roommate and Brad’s friend, it’s a more awkward situation. And because I don’t want his anger to ruin the mood, I guess I’ve taken the approach of “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.”
But begging forgiveness has been getting harder and harder, as Brad has been becoming more and more afraid of abandonment and transforming that emotion into anger toward me.
After thinking it all through, I became tear-filled and enraged, and ran into the kitchen screaming until I was red in the face. “How dare you blame me for ‘sneaking around,’ when you’ve made me afraid to talk to you! How dare you rage at me and make me feel afraid and threatened and then expect me to come to you and “check in” about how you’re feeling! How dare you expect me to ask you permission to have sex with someone else!”
“It’s my body!” I screamed. “It’s my fucking body.”
I ran back to my room and cried some more before calming down enough for Round Two. I explained how infuriating it was to me that after five years of feeling starved for physical (and emotional) affection, touch, and sex, after feeling unwanted, unattractive and undesirable, I was finally getting those needs met… and like a toy that’s been long forgotten by a small child, I am suddenly Brad’s favorite person, that he just has to have, the very moment I’m wanted by someone else.
I could tell by his expression and his tone that he finally understood. I’d finally been heard. And then I was better able to hear him.
He apologized for taking his anger out on me, and tried to explain how he felt when he got out of the shower to find himself alone. He said the only feeling he could compare it to was the feeling he had when he found out his mom died – loss and loneliness, abandonment.
He had empathy for my pain, and I for his. And we all went to bed exhausted, but relieved.