But I’m the Only One

Sheila* came to me devastated about her husband, Jake. She had happened to have looked at his text messages to find a hot and steamy text thread between Jake and his gym partner, Lisa. Not only that, it was a recent reply to a conversation going on during a family weekend wherein all of Sheila’s family was in attendance. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Sheila was hurt and devastated, but that’s not the whole story. She and Jake had been married almost 20 years. They had shared their lives in an independent manner. Sheila, an entrepreneur and Jake, aspiring off-grid van-lifer had chosen not to have children and enjoyed the freedom of their social lives and hobbies. 

For the past two years prior, however, Jake had been discussing his preference for polyamorous relationship style. Analytically, it just made sense to him, coupled with the fact neither one of them were very experienced with others beyond themselves as they had married while young adults. 

Sheila confronted Jake at the event and he confessed to having feelings for Lisa. Lots of conversations later, though still dealing with bitter feelings, they had come up with a strict timeline and quite a few rules to manage Jake’s relationship with Lisa while accommodating the feelings of Sheila.

She was unprepared to not be the only one Jake loved – in our society this is incredibly common. 

Polyamorous thought goes so far as to recognize that there is a tremendous amount of pressure, expectation, and resentment that comes from the idea that there is only one person in the entire world that is supposed to give and be everything to you. Polyamory rejects that ideal, allowing the freedom for authentic connection and love between a variety of people that enhance our lives, our relationships, and our own self-growth. Not being prepared for this type of ideal, polyamory can seem like an uphill battle – which, having to unlearn things that are so deeply ingrained in our culture, it can certainly be a painful undertaking. 

Sheila was referred to me by a former client and was desperate for help. Common among long-time married couples, this type of emotional challenge is not unusual in a society that values strict monogamy. Sheila could barely talk about it. Recently having been in a car accident which was still under litigation, she was unable to seek therapy for this issue in order to not influence the court. 

Over several months, she and I worked through the process of grief. Grieving the life that was, the life she had envisioned, we worked through these feelings and set goals of learning non-violent communication, boundary setting and learning how to determine one’s own responsibilities, and working through jealousy. Sheila realized that creating a specific timeline for someone else’s relationship progress was only setting them up for disappointment, anxiety, and hurt.

One of the most important lessons in situations such as this is learning how to let go while facing a variety of unpleasant feelings.

Several months later, Sheila and Jake are still married. Sheila and Lisa are friends. Sheila has been able to experience her own connections with others. She still texts me from time to time, but these days, it’s her other relationship and how she is managing it that she chats with me about. She is doing great and having gained new skills in managing relationships and her feelings, she has come such a long way. Her business that was once on the back burner while dealing with her world crashing down, is thriving. The once difficult sessions we had that were fraught with sobbing and desperation now involve laughing conversations with a glowing, resilient woman who is comfortable in her own skin and knows her worth. The best part is that her marriage is doing really well and this experience has brought both Sheila and Jake so much closer, in friendship and intimacy.

*Names and certain situations have been changed for privacy. 

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