There hasn’t been much in the way of talking the last day or so. Lora sent me a lovely text this morning asking if we could hold on talking about all our current issues for a few days. She’s feeling shitty, and like a serious emotional talk would be too difficult at the moment. I agreed, and thanked her for asking; I’m feeling the same way, but wasn’t sure if asking for a breather would seem like I didn’t care. So Lora and I decided to pick this back up in a few days. I haven’t talked to Jon yet (though I will, just to make sure that we don’t accidentally commit PPM #1). Before we took this little break, Jon and I had some alone time, and we had a good talk about Lora.
Most important things first: Our talk about Lora and how to handle potential conflicts and serious subjects. I talked to Jon about how I didn’t think it was a good idea to continue with our current process of Jon vetting issues between Lora and I before presenting them to her. I reminded him that he’s repeatedly said in the past few months that he wished we would talk to each other directly, and that he can’t be the go-between anymore; it’s too hard for him. I pointed out that if he can’t be the go-between any more, then it follows that things can’t be vetted by him before presenting them to Lora.
He agreed that those two concepts are fairly mutually exclusive, and that being the go-between is really hard and scary (as he’s constantly worried that something is going to get lost in his translation when he relays information back and forth between me and Lora). But he’s also really worried that if Lora and I talk directly, things could potentially be worse, because Lora’s first instinct is to freak out and say “no” or completely shut down about the conflict. Once she’s had a few hours to days to think about it, she almost always feels a lot more receptive and willing to compromise/handle problems calmly. To break it down, there are two things he’s concerned about:
1) That Lora freaking out at me will be upsetting to me and make me more upset, freaked out, unhappy in response.
2) That Lora saying “no” right off the bat will also be extremely upsetting and push me into getting angry or combative that Lora’s first response is to say no or refuse to change about anything.
I see why he’s concerned about these things. They both sound pretty stressful – I’m concerned about them too! But we don’t actually know that that is how Lora will respond to me. It’s the way she responds to Jon, but it may not be the way she responds to me. I already have plenty of examples of her responding to me differently than she responds to Jon. The only way to know for sure is to try it.
Whether she responds that way to me or not, continuing to communicate through Jon isn’t working for any of us. My feeling on it is that we should remove this Jon-prophylactic from between us and start communicating about conflict directly, because we need to do it sooner or later anyways. Let’s just do it now and start working towards the kind of communication that we ultimately need to have.
Another important thing is that I wonder if “Lora freaking out” is much scarier in my head than it would be in person. Honestly, I really hope that’s the case (because if “Lora freaking out” is much scarier in person…mmm…that will suck extra-large balls). Whether it is or not, I think it’s something that I need to see and experience and start getting used to or figuring out how to improve. If it can be improved.
What will we do if Lora’s reaction to conflict is too much for me to handle? Vodka and Xanax? Valerian and Hops? Therapy and deep breathing exercises? Maybe a dart board with all those possibilities, and we can all throw darts at it to decide which options we’ll use?
In all seriousness, I have no fucking clue. That’s going to have to go in the “we’ll cross that bridge if we have to” category of things.
The second thing that happened is that Lora and Jon talked about Lora going out, and she did go out for a few hours, so that Jon and I could have time alone together. That was simultaneously wonderful and stressful. Wonderful because…we had our alone time, and it was wonderful. Stressful because I was really worried about how stressful going out really was to Lora, and if she was really OK, and if this is something that we really can do regularly until she gets a new job. Those are all things that we need to talk about.
Additionally, when Lora came back home, she was very concerned that she was butting in on our (mine and Jon’s) further alone-time. This is a hard, tricky thing…I don’t want Lora to feel like when Jon & I hang out together, she’s a burden or that I don’t want her around at all. And I want her to join when she wants to join in (last night, she had some final projects to finish up, so she did very much want to be alone working on that, but would occasionally pop her head in to ask Jon or me a question or say ‘hi’). What I hope for is that the three of us have our group time together, and we can also have some concentrated blocks of “Jon and Liz are spending private non-interrupted time together” (of course, the concentrated blocks of “Jon and Lora are spending private non-interrupted time together” are also happening. Those are generally when I’m at work, though on weekends, I’m sure we’ll have some when I’m not at work).
So it’s looking better and less hopeless. Feelings are hard. Other people’s feelings are hard. Finding a path that enables everybody to have good feelings about the way things are is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I haven’t written about it much yet (though I will someday), but I’d had poly situations where it was clear that it wasn’t possible to find a path that enabled everybody to have good feelings. When that happened, I bowed out. Not necessarily with as much grace as I’d have liked, but I tried not to leave a scorched barren crater surrounded by emotional wreckage behind.
The important part is that things are looking up, and we’re diffusing some potentially very stressful things before the holidays. I hope this will make our holiday time together even better, because we’ll all feel that much more comfortable with each other. And we’ll have had the experience of navigating some really tough waters together, and learning that we can do this and that there are compromises that we can make that let us all feel happy, comfortable, and loved. I can’t think of a better holiday gift than that.