When I read my Facebook feed, it makes me feel like I’m taking a lot longer to recover from the upheaval that is this entire pandemic than my fellow colleagues in the life coaching sphere. It seems like many, if not all of them, are posting super positive posts every day and doing all these virtual events and I’m just sitting here like “How can I even help people right now when we are all wondering how we’re going to make rent next month?”
I even tried to record an uplifting video to share on social media like they do and ended up bursting into tears halfway through it.
Like many of you, I am a person who takes time to adjust to new circumstances. I thrive when I am able to manage my expectations and make well-informed choices based on data and experience. I envy those are able jump straight into opportunity-seeking mode at the start of a crisis. It takes me a few weeks or even months to recover from sudden, unwanted changes. It’s one of the reasons that my road to embracing the reality of having a polyamorous partner took me a few years of gradual emotional adaptation even though I understood it on an intellectual level all along.
It’s during times like these that I remember that I have emerged from every crisis I’ve ever experienced – from the death of my husband to gut-wrenching heartbreak to toxic work environments – stronger than before.
I know in my heart that this resilience is one that we all have the capacity to harness right now.
As we enter week three of the new normal in my part of the world, I’m starting to see the outlines of where the opportunities are – and while I’m not certain yet what it means for the future of my business; I do know that I feel at my best when I’m helping others.
This is what my clients get from me. Authenticity. I don’t have all the answers (and never did). I’m not positive and optimistic all the time, and I can’t pretend that I’m not as uncertain as all of you about what tomorrow will bring. This is uncharted territory for all of us. I have no prior experience in navigating polyamorous relationships during a global pandemic.
Neither does anybody else.
What I do have experience in is helping people understand and express their feelings. I have experience in helping people find it within themselves to have empathy for others even if they don’t really want to like them. I have experience with helping people cope with a tragic and unexpected loss – and we are, as a global population, going through a period of mourning right now.
I have always felt a calling to help the mono + poly community become a more thoughtful and inclusive branch of the overall ethical nonmonogamy tree. I endeavor to create spaces where both representations of love are accepted as valid. These are spaces where I continually work to dispel both the idea that polyamory is more “evolved” as well as the notion that monogamy is the de facto default for everyone.
That was already a big challenge to take on, but now I feel like it’s even more important to reinforce that message than ever before in the face of new social guidelines (however temporary) that uphold couples’ privilege while solo-folk are left to isolate and cope on their own. We need to have compassion for one another regardless of our individual circumstances. Comparing hardships is about as helpful as comparing partners – it’s not.
I’ve heard from various polyfolk who are nested with their partners that they are hesitant to express how much it hurts them to be away from their other partners right now. They worry that it will hurt their nested partner’s feelings or make them feel inadequate.
Others are concerned that expressing this hardship while having the benefit of a live-in partner would be seen as whining and out of touch from those who are living alone and unable to spend time with anyone.
And the story that the silence tells is one that I know in my heart is not true: it tells a story that in the end, nested couples have a stronger relationship that is more highly prioritized and valued, regardless of their opinion on hierarchy and couples privilege. That the feelings of the partner in front of you takes priority over the feelings of the one who is out of sight.
I want to move away from the idea that we are in a competition to see who has it hardest and only those under the worst circumstances are allowed to complain. This. Sucks. For. Everyone. I have not seen a single person share that their life has been significantly improved by coronavirus.
I challenge everyone to take a moment to reflect on the messages you’re sending when you say things like, “Just don’t see your partner for a few weeks, it’s not that hard…” Imagine spending 48 hours not interacting with your live-in partner at all except through text or video chat even if it’s from different rooms of the same house. Imagine eating every meal alone. It is that hard. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t obey the quarantine guidelines, but don’t dismiss the emotional hardship or the sacrifice they’re being asked to take on to keep their communities safer.
I challenge those who are living alone to reflect on the messages you’re sending when you say things like, “People who live with their partners shouldn’t complain,” knowing that there are countless people trapped in abusive households as we speak. That there are two-income households trying to navigate working from home and childcare with limited resources who are unable to claim any privacy whatsoever under the current circumstances. Think about how difficult it is to have so many heightened emotions running so close to the surface in close quarters, and then add screaming children, financial instability, and boomer parents who won’t stay home to the equation.
I challenge those who are thinking this quarantine is a blessing in disguise because you don’t have to “share” your partner with your metamours right now to consider how your partner might be feeling about not being able to see the people they love. What would your response be if they shared with you that they were feeling depressed by the very same thing that brings you joy? Would your “blessing” taste as sweet knowing how much it hurts the person you love? How equipped are you to validate their experience even if you don’t like the way it makes you feel?
And to those who are feeling anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, or abandonment during this crisis – I challenge you to get in touch with where those feelings come from. It won’t be true for everyone, but for many of us – those feelings are the manifestation of our fear and uncertainty in isolation, and not reflective of how our partners really feel about us. What is the truth of our relationships? How can we harness our creativity to create connection and feelings of closeness when we are physically apart? How can we best express our needs in ways that don’t seem insurmountable to achieve?
We all have the ability to create more authentic and intimate relationships with our partners and metamours through honest and vulnerable communication. For many this is a skill that does not come naturally. This is where I can help. I can help you come up with the words to express your emotions, wants, and needs to your partner(s). I can help you come up with a plan to prioritize self-care and boundary setting when the line between work and home is non-existent. I can help you become a pro at validating your partner(s)’ truth – one of the most valuable skills we can strengthen right now. I can help just by being there to listen and validate your grief and longing.
I know that right now, every dollar you spend has to be absolutely worth it. In light of this, I have adjusted my rates so that all clients have access to the reduced rates I was previously offering to pre-paid package clients. And, as always, I offer a 20-minute complimentary session for first time clients.
I see and applaud those who continue to support their local businesses, including restaurants and artisan crafters. I do what I can through my blog and the groups that I manage to offer free support wherever possible; but if you do feel like you’re in need of some one-on-one support during this crisis, I hope that you will consider reaching out and scheduling a call.
Wishing you all well during this crisis. I’m wishing you all the gift of kindness, compassion, and authenticity, because I honestly think that it’s humanity’s best chance of creating a better future for ourselves and each other.