Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: A Paradox

a red high-heeled shoe on a tan blanket
Image by Morag Riddell / CC BY

“I don’t know why I get so jealous,” she said. “I’ve been poly for years, and this has never happened to me, with anyone.”

Her face had suddenly grown quite serious. She’d just finished a story of a former partner she had worked so hard for, putting up with his shortcomings, rearranging her life. She had paid a brutal amount of emotional labor, money, and time over the years they were together, only to have him string her along at the very end and discard her with no warning. It had been devastating.

She had since found someone new, someone who really got her, and it was the healthiest relationship she had ever experienced. This girlfriend tried. The sex was fantastic. And it was so much easier, not nearly as much fighting or bullshit. Her partner was giving, loving, and most importantly — consistent. It was a recipe for feeling secure. But paradoxically, she experienced jealousy like she never had before.

“It’s because you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” I said.


“You’re used to being the one to do all the work in your relationships. It should be a good thing, and generally doing work on yourself to be a good partner is, but when they don’t do it back… it sets you up for that pattern, for that expectation, that you’re going to be the one doing most of the work. And when the other person actually does work, it messes with you. It makes you feel like you’re getting away with something you shouldn’t be, that you’ve been given something you don’t deserve and that it will be taken away from you.”

“Emotionally this translates to ‘What’s the catch here?’ The bank error in your favor that will be withdrawn once the mistake is detected. You don’t dare make the leap to spend it because it’s just going to go away.”

She nodded. “I think you’re on to something.”

“The good news is that it gets better, with time.” I told her how I always assumed that Skyspook would be a limited time offer, that he would move on once the NRE faded to something shinier, better, that I was convinced he was settling for me.

Her eyes grew wide. “Why would you ever think THAT?”

“Because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, too.”


My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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    1. You’re so welcome! I may just write some more about it soon, underlying causes, stuff that might help, etc. But yeah, unfortunately, the biggest secret ingredient is time.

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