One of the most challenging things about my poly life right now is feeling as though I'm in a perpetual state of defense. After a breakup, everyone naturally questions your actions and your intentions, no matter who you are. After breaking up out of a relationship like mine was ... no one fucking trusts you at first.
For lack of a better word, I'm about 40% broken right now. I'm getting better. Two weeks ago I would have pegged that number closer to 85%. Getting better is hard work, it's learning to be alone again and learning that it's okay to be sad as long as I find ways to work through it. Most importantly, it's believing that I'm perfectly fine just the way that I am, that breaking up doesn't mean some parts of me are bad and undesirable and unlovable. Getting better also involves telling people your story, and letting them get close to you again.
The problem is... when you let people in, you let their partners into your life, too. Their partners need to hear the story, and understand why you are the way you are. Those partners need to make their own judgment regarding your trustworthiness and your intentions. It's exhausting. And awful. And painful. And infuriating.
I have been triggered so many times in the past week or so by things that the man in question probably thought were totally innocuous. A current girlfriend mentioning me to another potential girlfriend. A wife being worried about how stable I am. Being regaled with stories of how gorgeous another potentials bruises are. Being told "she's concerned, but doesn't think you're a bad person." Getting canceled on a couple times because life gets in the way of things.
In every single one of these situations, the problem is ME, not the man or the partner or the weird situation. I am the one who doesn't remember how to emotionally adjust to new metamours entering the picture, or feeling as though I'm being judged, or feeling as though someone is purposely fading out so that they don't have to deliver the news that I'm just too crazy right now. I am the one who is overly sensitive.
I give myself a lot of credit for reacting to being triggered in the ways that I have. In every single case, I put down my phone (or got up from the computer), and just went and did something else while I processed what I was feeling. Why was I upset? What was I upset about? What could I do to make myself feel better?
The answers vary, but it really boils down to: I'm a little bit broken. It's hard to feel valued and appreciated when you feel like you have to defend an entire year of your life over and over and over and over. It's hard to build relationships when you're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it's imperative that I not blame my responses on my partners, nor should I expect them to make me feel better. What I do need to do is talk to them rationally after I've processed the damage, and explain to them why I felt the way I did. Otherwise I just look crazy.
In one relationship, the worst is past, things are looking great, and I'm eager to see where things go. In the other, more tenuous relationship, I don't even know if things will get off the ground. I know that the next few months have the potential to be both joyous and painful. I know that I still have a lot more work to do. But putting myself back together means getting back out there, and letting people in again. There's no getting around it.