What to do when you feel like a third wheel

The truth is, monogamy doesn’t come naturally to most humans. Oh, of course we try; we try hard. But all of human history is littered with the failures of enforced monogamy. We cheat, sneak behind our partner’s back, have one night stands, go on business trips, and operate under a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, all the while struggling with the fetters of socially enforced monogamy.

Not you and your partner! You are brave and bold and ready to try new things. You will not be held back by old, outdated relationship constructs. You can hang with polyamory, swinging, and open relationships. That sort of thing is a breeze for your advanced self.

And then you try it. And to your surprise, you feel the stirring of the old green eyed monster–jealousy. A beast you thought you had conquered. Your partner is out with their other partner and as opposed to feeling effortlessly okay, you are anxious, fretful and unsettled. What if they like their other partner more? What if they don’t want to spend as much time with you anymore? What if this whole open relationship concept destroys your relationship??! This is way harder than you first thought it was going to be.

Two of the most common situations people encounter in the poly lifestyle is the feeling of being alone, not knowing what to do with yourself while your partner is away, and feeling like your partner’s other relationship is detracting from your own. Whatever the circumstances, feeling like a third wheel is a horrible feeling. However, there are a few things you can do to get on top of the situation.

First off, relax and take a few deep breaths. Secondly, you need to focus on you and identify why you feel so unsettled. Why is your partner being with someone else triggering feelings of inadequacy in yourself? You are not going to be able to address and resolve the issue until you identify the trigger behind your feelings.

Do these feelings tend to manifest out of boredom because you are used to having someone else around to occupy your time and attention? As opposed to feeling left out while your partner is off having fun with someone other than you, why not look at the extra time in your schedule as a blessing? Relationships take up a lot of time and energy, and often important things get neglected and fall by the wayside.

Take some time for self-care. Reconnect with old friends that you lost touch with when you entered Relationshipland. Use your partner’s date night to go get your nails done, run errands, go to the gym, catch up on some TV shows, reorganize your closet, do that home improvement project that you have been putting off, pick up a new hobby…the list is endless. Change your narrative and instead of viewing your extra time as a burden, view it as a blessing.

If your partner is in a new relationship, it is very common for them to become dazzled with NRE (new relationship energy) and less focused on you and the older pre-existing relationship. Naturally this can feel like abandonment. All new relationships carry a “love buzz” that feels so good, some people hop from one new relationship to another seeking it out. During a period of NRE, the excited flush is so strong that pre-existing partners often feel like yesterday’s news. Or maybe your partner and their partner have been together for a while now, but it is only recently that you are feeling left out and excluded.

If you are being triggered because you genuinely feel neglected and your partner is not putting in the requisite time and attention to nurture your relationship , the next step is to talk to your partner about your feelings. Even if doing so seems scary and challenging. Keeping your feelings to yourself and stewing and fretting into a toxic mindset accomplishes nothing. Your partner needs to be aware of your feelings and address them in a respectful manner. Everyone has a responsibility in the current situation to take steps to resolve it.

Without proper communication, nothing can be resolved. And “proper communication” means no anger, no blame and no resentment. You need to sit down like adults and calmly discuss the situation at hand without bringing in any hurtful baggage. Yes, this might be far easier said than done, but it is possible. If it takes multiple conversations to bring everything out into the open, then it takes multiple conversations. There is no guarantee that a single conversation will get everything cleared up.

If you and your partner are unable to resolve your feelings of neglect in a manner that makes you comfortable, then your relationship has to be reevaluated, and that is a completely separate conversation. But with the right care and effort made on both sides, no relationship need be threatened by the occasional bout of the green eyed monster. It is completely natural to feel jealousy. What matters in the end is how you choose to deal with those feelings. Good communication and self reflection are the tools that slay the annoying beast of jealousy.

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