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Dealing with insecurity in the BDSM/poly life
October 22, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

BDSMfilter: Newbie male bottom + experienced poly top = insecurity vortex! Help!

I'm a newcomer to the BDSM community in my city, and recently I met a woman who is very experienced in the local scene. We've gone to some events together and played in the bedroom a couple of times. This is the closest I've ever come to having a real "play partner", after many years of being alone with my kink.

I'm now starting to have strong feelings for her, complicated by the fact that she's polyamorous, something which is a totally new thing for me. I don't have a philosophical problem with the poly life, but experiencing it first-hand is making me aware of some of the emotional pitfalls that can come with it. I'm pretty insecure about dating at the best of times, and this takes it to a whole new level. She seems to enjoy my company enough to make time for me once a week or so, but she's not terribly demonstrative verbally — I truly don't know what, if anything, she thinks of me. We've never discussed the details of how she structures her relationships, and I have no idea how many partners she has. But just knowing that she has other, more experienced people to play with leaves me wondering what I could possibly have to offer her that she's not already getting elsewhere. I want to be able to relate to her as equals, but I feel like that's not possible when I'm in the dark as to what her expectations are, and whether playing with me is even meeting any of her needs.

I know that this is not a healthy dynamic, and I really, really want to communicate with her about this. I care a lot about her, and I'm excited about exploring this world together. But I'm wondering whether maybe the excitement is all on my end. It would be so great to know where we both stand, but I don't know how to broach the subject without sounding needy and insecure — or presumptuous, for that matter. Is there a good way to bring this up?
posted by RockPuppet to Human Relations (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Presumptuous? You're having a sexual (or at least an erotic) relationship with her, I don't think it's even slightly presumptuous to ask about her other partners.

I'd sit down with her (outside of the bedroom I can't stress that part enough), tell her you've been enjoying your time together and would like to discuss some questions you have ('and', not 'but'), and bring all this up:

what she thinks of me
the details of how she structures her relationships
how many partners she has
what I offer her that she's not already getting elsewhere
what her expectations are
whether playing with me is meeting her needs


But probably not in that order- I'd start with "am I meeting your needs/am I offering you something you enjoy" and then move on to the rest of it. If you include the fact that you are concerned about meeting her needs, I can't imagine she'll be affronted. And if she's playing a mentoring role for you, she is probably EXPECTING these sorts of questions.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:26 AM on October 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate X10. Outside of sexyfuntime. If you do go forward after a long talk, be darn sure her poly is something you can live with. Maybe search mefi for some other poly questions, theres lots of books and such about it.

And as for what you can offer her- honesty, and yourself. you are unique, and nobody else will be quite the same. There is all kinds of things she could be looking for, and guess what? communicate!

In a sense, I kinda see the talk here being buisnesslike. You care, you are interested, but youre new and need to know the ropes, so to speak. Have yall even discussed limits and safewords and such? I know some people think that sort of thing can be unromantic, but I say it needs to be done.

Oh, and especially if shes the punishy type, always ask nicely :P
posted by Jacen at 10:32 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's all about communication.
There is a metafilter group on Fetlife
Could be worth popping over there with your questions as well.
posted by adamvasco at 10:35 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh- also, your question reminds me of this one. Allow me to quote one of the answers:

[Her] being the mentor, experienced and in control is the kink. You being receptive, obedient and pliable is the reward.

You may think you're not able to offer her much because you're inexperienced. But, to her, that means she GETS to be the one to give you all these new experiences for the very first time. "What [you] could possibly have to offer her that she's not already getting elsewhere" may be the very inexperience that you fear makes you less desirable!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:40 AM on October 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think for some people who are new to polyamory, it's really tempting to try to act cool and secure and confident even when you're feeling upset or confused or just puzzled or curious or something. Like, "Oh, yeah, I totally get this poly thing, I'm completely with the program here, I don't need to know anything about your other partners, I don't have any questions or requests or complaints or anything about our relationship, I'm just totally going with the flow like a good modern open-minded guy."

And my main piece of advice to you would be, don't do that.

It is really important to ask questions, even when you've got a nagging voice in the back of your head saying "You shouldn't have to ask" or "You should know the answer already" or "You shouldn't care about the answer" or whatever. It's really important to be honest about your feelings, even when the nagging voice is saying "These are stupid feelings" or "A Real Polyamorist wouldn't feel this way." It's really important to speak up about what you'd ideally want, even when the nagging voice is saying "You shouldn't want that" or "That's a really uncool thing to want" or "You'll never get that because this isn't That Kind Of Relationship." (And then, I mean, even after lots of talk and negotiation, the answer may still be that it really isn't That Kind Of Relationship, and isn't ever going to be. But it's still important to have said what your 100% ideal situation would be, rather than trying to pretend that the current compromise is totally perfect in every way.)

When you enter into a poly relationship you're not swearing off feelings of jealousy or curiosity or doubt or frustration. You're not promising never to have those feelings. (You can't promise never to have those feelings! You'd be lying if you tried!) You're just promising to be open and honest about those feelings when they come up, and to avoid throwing tantrums over them.

And the thing is, if you spend too long trying to suppress messy feelings or questions, they're going to come up eventually — but probably in a way that's unnecessarily messy and upsetting. So it's really, really way better to just mention them now when you're still feeling relatively calm and un-tantrum-y about the whole thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:09 AM on October 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


Ask sooner rather than later. Don't completely flip out, just ask for what you want, or want to know, politely and without demanding. Somewhere with time to discuss, privately, outside a bedroom.

Suppressing your fears and needs isn't cool and doesn't win bonus points. What's cool is being able to do this regular, non-demanding asking and answering about hard stuff, without panicking. Takes practice, so start now.
posted by ead at 11:23 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This podcast might be useful: Polyamory Weekly. It's VERY kink friendly too! :)
posted by luckynerd at 1:09 PM on October 22, 2012


I'm like your partner and I would be happy to answer questions about the other people I was with or my other relationships. That doesn't mean she won't be uncomfortable with it, but that's life. Any time you get naked with someone you have to assume that they might be people with feelings and needs, not sex-dispensing robots. In other words, ask your questions, and if she's bugged that's her problem.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:39 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The people I've known who were poly and kinky have been very open communicators. You will probably find that she'll be happy to talk to you about all these topics. And if she's not, do you really want to be in a relationship with her? Sit down and have a state of the union. I bet you will have a very positive outcome and feel closer to her, which will make you more comfortable (and you'll have even more fun together).
posted by xenophile at 11:04 AM on October 23, 2012


And if she's not, do you really want to be in a relationship with her?

Seconding this. Look, "being poly" and "being good at polyamory" are two different things. (Also, "being poly" and "being good at communicating with you in particular" are two different things.) It's possible that she'll give you a hard time for asking questions. But that's at best a sign that you have incompatible communication styles, and the answer is probably to reconsider the relationship rather than feeling like you did something wrong by asking.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:40 AM on October 23, 2012


Thanks for the responses, everyone!

I think for some people who are new to polyamory, it's really tempting to try to act cool and secure and confident even when you're feeling upset or confused or just puzzled or curious or something. Like, "Oh, yeah, I totally get this poly thing, I'm completely with the program here, I don't need to know anything about your other partners, I don't have any questions or requests or complaints or anything about our relationship, I'm just totally going with the flow like a good modern open-minded guy."

I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but this definitely rings true. I guess I'm hyper-aware that insecurity is considered a big turn-off, which makes me reluctant to express any vulnerability at all. I've also read a little bit about the uphill climb faced by male subs/bottoms in finding a partner, so I'm terrified that I might scare off one of the (seemingly) few women whose desires might actually complement mine. I'm a late bloomer who had pretty much given up on the possibility of ever having a fulfilled sex life, so there's a real danger that I could be idealizing this person as being my last, best shot at happiness — which, of course, is a terribly unfair burden to put on anyone.

Suppressing your fears and needs isn't cool and doesn't win bonus points. What's cool is being able to do this regular, non-demanding asking and answering about hard stuff, without panicking. Takes practice, so start now.

That's a good point, and I do have a tendency to avoid the hard conversations. But this is a communication that definitely needs to happen, so hopefully I can figure out how to do it without laying a whole self-involved navelgazing trip on her, which is something I also have an unfortunate tendency to do.
posted by RockPuppet at 3:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm hyper-aware that insecurity is considered a big turn-off, which makes me reluctant to express any vulnerability at all.

I think the turnoff isn't just "insecurity" — it's more like "dumping your insecurities in the other person's lap, expecting that the other person cope with them for you."

If you say "I'm feeling insecure about X and therefore you're not allowed to do X anymore because I refuse to even consider making any sort of compromise or coping with these feelings myself," then yeah, that's shitty. If you say "I'm feeling insecure about X, and therefore you have to let me win this unrelated argument" or "...and therefore you have to drop everything and comfort me" or "...and therefore you're in deep trouble and you need to make it up to me," then that's shitty.

If you just say "I'm feeling insecure about X" — well, okay, then it's tricky. Some people have been burned in the past, by relationships where "I'm feeling insecure" secretly meant "you have to watch your step" or "you lose," and people with that baggage still might react badly. Now, to some extent that's their problem and not yours, their baggage to deal with. But it still sucks.

But okay. If you say "I'm feeling insecure about X," and you make it clear by your behavior that you're willing to have a grownup conversation about it and aren't trying to use it as some sort of underhanded ploy or tactic? Then you're doing the right thing. If your partner's got her head screwed on straight, and isn't holding onto baggage from previous relationships, she'll get that. And clear communication really, really isn't a turnoff at all.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Opening Up" is a good book on the subject. It goes through a ton of empirical stories and the subjects seem to cover nearly everything. It may help you see or discover your role.
posted by Kale Slayer at 10:45 AM on July 30, 2013


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