How to stop protecting other people’s feelings*

CakeWed 18th April 2018

In pondering polyamory and my journey so far, it occurred to me that almost all the problems I have encountered in this, the second year of being poly, have been due to trying to protect the feelings of a partner(s).

This has taken the form of downplaying excitement about a new relationship, not mentioning an extra date or plans until the last minute or even after the event or worrying about telling my (male) partner that I am making plans to see other men (as this seems to trigger more discomfort than my seeing women). I have also avoided discussing difficult things or mentioning my needs for fear of being seen as too demanding or because it is not what I perceive to be a “good time”. All of these actions were because I was trying to protect the feelings of another.

It is an example of counter-intuition but sparing feelings in the short term ALWAYS causes more harm in the long run.

There is no way to make sharing your feelings, needs and fears easier than just getting used to doing it as well as taking responsibility for them yourself as much as possible before discussing them. And there is never a more perfect moment than now to let your partner know about something that affects, or may affect, them.

The desire to protect the feelings of others is an instinctive one as well as a learnt one, but, when it clashes it with the core radical relationship value of utter honesty with self and others, then it needs to be looked at and seen for what it is: avoidance and fear.

The key to remember here is that it is not up to you to make someone else feel good or happy: only they can feel these things for themselves. However, it IS up to you to be completely and utterly honest about what is happening, and when, with your own feelings and circumstances. I am not talking about sharing every single fleeting emotion but about really seeing and owning the truth about your own feelings. It is about processing and then sharing them as respectfully as possible regardless of the (often only imagined) impact. If you are concerned that something might cause distress then you can of course say: “I am feeling concerned that this will upset you / I am aware that I felt reluctant to share this with you… but it is important to me that we are honest with each other about what is happening and so…”

By not sharing how we truly feel with our partner(s), whether that is excitement about a new connection or anxiety about an aspect of the relationship itself, we erode the foundation of trust that conscious relationships are reliant upon. By overcoming our own fears and concerns, we give our best to ourselves and our partner(s). By communicating all feelings with truth and timeliness we show our respect and trust in the relationship(s). And that is all any conscious relater can ask for.

*Without being a dick

First published on in Autumn 2017