I’ve been following Polyamory Weekly for years now, pretty much since the podcast first began, more than a decade ago. But just because I love Cunning Minx and the resources that she provides, that doesn’t mean I always agree with her or her co-hosts.
In her 507th episode, How do I get control of my fears? she and co-host Kevin were discussing a letter from listener “Lost and Confused.” Lost and Confused asked how to get control of her fears and insecurities so she can feel more comfortable in poly situations.
From what I recall of the episode1, the letter writer presented a situation where she and her hubby were in the beginning stages of poly. She had asked him to limit his sexual encounters with his new sweetie, to not engage in PiV (penis in vagina) sex. He agreed to those stipulations.
And then he violated that agreement.
Okay, “just a little bit” (what does that even mean?). We’re told that he then stopped what he was doing with his sweetie and went to talk to his wife about it all.
To be fair, I agreed with about 80-85% of what Minx and Kevin suggested. So please, go to the link and you can read those suggestions for yourself. But there is one element of this that Minx got wrong — and consistently gets wrong — that I felt strongly enough about to write my own blog post about it.
Both Minx and Kevin call the letter writer “insecure” and ask rhetorically why she is trying to control her husband’s sexual interactions. “What’s the big deal?”
Holy crap, where to start?
How about the fact that she’s not “insecure.” Her husband has just shown to her that he is not willing to keep to his agreements. She is actually, justifiably, INSECURE because he’s proven to her that she should not feel secure in his promises.
Our letter writer is just getting started in poly. She’s had however-many-years of learning the monogamy rules and how life works on the relationship escalator. She honestly doesn’t know how she is going to feel, how she’s going to react, to a polyamorous situation because it is all new to her. So she asks her husband to take his sexual relationship with another woman slowly. Give them all — but maybe mostly her — time to acclimate to the changed reality. Minx and Kevin both — rightly — call what she’s going through “experience shock.” Yes! And she tried to minimize the experience shock by setting some boundaries.
- A boundary which her husband agreed to
- A boundary which her husband then violated. Twice.
Would it help to call them “expectations” instead of boundaries? No. Not at all. Because in either case: she asked. He agreed. He did what he had agreed not to do.
In the long run, it really isn’t about the sex. People who have been poly a long time may not even think to create the sort of stipulation that would limit what our sweeties do sexually with their sweeties. But in this, an early test of how the two of them will do poly together, she learned that he isn’t willing or able to abide by decisions he’s agreed to. Her feelings of uncertainty, fear, unease are all perfectly justified. Not only that, they are smart feelings to have. Poly relationships rely on trust as much as communication and the husband in this case has proven himself untrustworthy.
Of course, this can be overcome. These are growing pains. But they are NOT her growing pains. He has to learn how important it is to abide by his agreements. Yes, she has to learn how unimportant it is where his dick (consensually) goes. But to dismiss her rightful feelings of unease over his failures does neither of them good service. The husband has to abide his agreements (as does she, of course). The letter writer needs to learn she can trust that he will (and that she, in turn, will keep to her agreements).
The biggest problem is that I hear this dismissive attitude ALL THE TIME. “Oh, you’re just being insecure” is a phrase that is flung about as if it is an irrefutable argument, a taunt to shut down discussion, to shame the person feeling uncertain, leaving the person who is being an unsafe partner free of scrutiny. The reality is, the lack of feeling secure is because they know that they don’t get to ask for what they want and to have that request respected. Minx and Kevin were right to discuss the ways in which feelings of unwarranted insecurity can be overcome. But where they messed up was in dismissing the feelings of this letter writer as unwarranted.
- Minx paraphrased the letter, so it is entirely possible that the letter writer didn’t make explicit her expectations or boundaries. So the specifics may be off. But, alas, I’ve heard enough laments about ”insecurities” from hers and other podcasts that my larger point stands. ↩
2 thoughts on “I’m Not Insecure! S/He’s Not Safe!”
Thanks for taking the time to write this up! This is a challenge that I face when answering listener mail: I force myself to focus on how to help the letter-writer, in this case, Lost and Confused and ONLY the letter-writer.
I have an opinion about her husband, but his actions fall outside of my sphere of influence–and outside of L&C’s sphere of influence as well. She cannot control what her husband thinks, says or does. But she CAN control what SHE thinks, says and does. I believe it’s most empowering for her to work on her own (well-justified) insecurities rather than to waste energy assigning blame or trying to create more rules in an attempt to control her husband’s behavior. As she has already witnessed, rules rarely succeed in controlling other people’s behavior. What IS successful is doing positive work to address her OWN fears and behaviors, which are the only things she can be assured of influencing.
That’s why I focus all my advice on what the letter-writer can do for him/herself, regardless of how schmucky anyone else is being: she can’t control them (and shouldn’t try to), but she can understand and make choices about her own emotions and how to deal with them. Make sense?
Thanks for stopping by! I think that the advice you give in the episode for those dealing with unfounded insecurity is good. And you’re right: no one but the letter writer has asked for advice so it doesn’t make sense to try to correct the husband’s behavior.
But for me, the point is that her feelings of insecurity are NOT unfounded. I wasn’t suggesting that the husband change his behavior (although, he might want to consider his long term options if he’s going to continue making agreements he doesn’t intend on keeping). I was telling the letter writer that her emotions were valid. Well-founded insecurity and I thought it was important to point that out.
I know you have a strong aversion to anyone setting any sort of “rule” but you have always been one who is a strong believer in honoring other people’s boundaries. I think that — as a starting point — her setting an expectation of her husband makes sense and she is now feeling the very valid emotion of being insecure because he didn’t honor her boundaries.