redrawing relationships

I mentioned that Jon and I had been seeing a bit more of Rachel and Rob since Lora moved out. A few days ago, we got together and had dinner with nearly the whole old polycule – me, Jon, Rob, Rachel, Jessica and George. I’d had mixed feelings about doing it. I wanted to see Rob and Rachel; I want to see them more often, in general. I didn’t particularly want to see Jessica and George. Well, I didn’t particularly want to see Jessica. George I feel kind of “meh” on. Mainly, when I see George, I remember how easily he buckles to whatever Jessica wants and I feel a combination of sympathy and dislike. Sympathy because I’d rather not be around Jessica at all than constantly be on the look-out for her controlling behaviors, so I can understand how being with her is hard. Dislike because I think it gives Jessica more “proof” of the rightness of her ways when she has a partner that goes along with nearly whatever she says.

One vibe that I got off of Jessica – actually, scratch that. Before I go on, I should mention something that I hadn’t mentioned before. Jessica and I were getting closer and dating around the winter holiday season of 2013. That was around the time that Jon, Lora, and I had our first big blow-out clusterfuck of a fight over Lora’s controlling and abusive behavior.

Jessica didn’t like Lora from the beginning. I wish I could say it was because Jessica could read what an abusive and controlling person Lora is, and disliked her accordingly. I think that may be a little bit true. But I think a lot of it is that Lora can be controlling in the same way that Jessica is controlling – I’ve seen them both exhibit a lot of the same expectations in terms of expecting their partners to change to cater to them. Both Lora and Jessica will say that they’re being abused/treated shittily when other people resist Lora/Jessica’s attempts to control them.

Both of them also have a mean girl’s streak a mile wide in them.

And both of them also have also maliciously made fun of someone who I liked/was friends with in my presence.

In addition to all that, during the first big fight between me, Jon, and Lora, Jessica counseled me that Lora had to go, and that I should act as though there was no way of getting her out of Jon’s life that was too dirty to contemplate. But this had to be done on the sly, of course. She made suggestions to me like if I knew Lora was really sensitive to a certain thing, I should bring it up as much as possible, but in a way that made it appear that I was totally unaware of her sensitivity. Basically, I should “inadvertently” provoke her as much as possible, in hopes of goading her into larger and larger emotional explosions until Jon broke up with her.

Just typing that all out gives me a case of the icks.

I told Jessica that – much as I agreed that Lora was behaving in shitty ways – I was NOT going to try to secretly engineer a break-up by provoking Lora to explode. That’s unethical, shitty, and unacceptably manipulative. Jessica felt like her suggestion fell under that idiotic idiom “All’s fair in love and war”. If we’re talking idioms, then I felt like her advice fell under the “win the battle, loose the war” idiom. Or maybe “the ends doesn’t justify the means”.

In the end, I used two things to end this disagreement on how to handle things (because she did bring it up repeatedly). The first was that I told her her that I felt that behavior reflected far more on me than it did on Lora, and that I wasn’t willing to do things like that because I felt like those behaviors were wrong. The other thing I did was distance myself from her. I don’t want to have close relationships with people who think it’s acceptable to act, to manipulate like that. I don’t want to have close relationships with people who believe it’s OK to try to sabotage a relationship between two people in the name of “protecting” one of those people.

Ick, ick, ick.

All that said, where was I?

Ah, yes. One vibe I got off of Jessica that night was a sort of “Now that Lora’s out of the way, we can all be a happily family like we were meant to be” vibe. As you can probably guess, no way in hell is that going to happen.

The other thing I noticed about my own behavior was how often I went along with Jessica when she was being snarky. That was part of what caused me to distance myself from her in the first place. It’s like my psyche can stand up to the first half a dozen snarks, but eventually, I get tired of putting out cool silences and disagreeing with her. And much of the time (especially when I’m tired) she delivers her zingers with such a sincerely amused voice that I’m laughing along in response to her tone before I even parse  what obnoxious thing came out of her mouth.

You see, I made this decision years ago that I’d rather have less friends than try to be friends with someone who seems out to regularly control me and/or finds enjoyment in belittling other people.

So. I’m sitting here wondering what is going to happen with all this. I do know that if there are any “let’s all talk about living together again” overtures, those are going to be turned down. I know I want to limit the time I spend with Jessica. But for the time when I am around Jessica, I think I need to treat her like a new person in my life, carefully listening to everything she says before committing myself to a response. And pushing back when she’s nasty. It will probably be helpful to memorize things like “Look, that’s just not funny to me; if you want to joke about it, do it with someone else” and “I’d rather not talk about that”.

I have a feeling that she’s going to be pretty unhappy about those things. Because I did start going along (or at least not speaking up) during certain parts of her shittiness; it felt too exhausting to keep pushing against. There will probably be a lot of “but that didn’t bother you before!”. Yes, it actually did. I just didn’t say anything. But now I am and this is the new reality of who I am. If it’s not something she likes, she can definitely find someone else to snark at. The important thing is pushing back and redrawing the lines around whatever relationship she and I have, so that it is a relationship that doesn’t leave me feeling dirty for going along with her maliciousness.

And that relationship is limited in time, thankfully. At the moment, Jon and I live in the same neighborhood as Rachel, Rob, Jessica, and George. Sometimes seeing Rachel means definitely seeing Jessica too. But once Jon and I move to another area next year, it’ll be much easier to only really see Jessica at parties and make momentary small talk. That would definite the extent of the relationship that I’d like to have with Jessica: small talk over general subjects before moving on to people that I feel more kinship with.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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