“I Could Never Do That”

a wire fence
Image by Helen Chang / CC BY

“Wow, you’re poly?” she said. “I’d love to have an open relationship, but I’m too jealous. I could never do that.”

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While I respect everyone’s decision to have whatever type of relationship they see fit (whether poly, mono, what have you), I’m always skeptical of people’s pronouncements that they couldn’t do poly.

I’m not saying it would be an easy or comfortable transition. I’m not saying it’s something they should do or that the effort would be worth it for them (although in my case, it definitely was).

I’m saying that until you try it, with an open mind and full effort (communicating, fostering personal security, exercising judicious judgement and self-control), you have no idea.

More trouble for you than it’s worth? Okay. Completely unable to do it? I have my doubts.

You never know what you can do until you give it a shot.

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As Richard Carlson writes:

Many people spend a great deal of energy arguing for their own limitations; “I can’t do that,” “I can’t help it, I’ve always been that way,” “I’ll never have a loving relationship,” and thousands of other negative and self-defeating statements.

Our minds are powerful instruments. When we decide that something is true or beyond our reach, it’s very difficult to pierce through this self-created hurdle. When we argue for our position, it’s nearly impossible. Suppose, for example, you tell yourself, “I can’t write.” You’ll look for examples to prove your position. You’ll remember your poor essays in high school or recall how awkward you felt the last time you sat down to write a letter. You’ll fill your head with limitations that will frighten you from trying. In order to become a writer of anything else, the first step is to silence your greatest critic — you.

I had a client who told me, “I’ll never have a good relationship. I always screw them up.” Sure enough, she was right. Whenever she met someone, she would, without even knowing it, look for reasons for her new partner to leave her. If she were late for a date, she would tell him, “I’m always late.” If they had a disagreement, she would say, “I’m always getting into arguments.” Sooner or later, she would convince him that she wasn’t worthy of his love. Then she would say to herself, “See, it happens every time. I’ll never have a good relationship.”

She had to learn to stop expecting things to go wrong. She needed to “catch herself” in the act of arguing for her own limitations. When she started to say, “I always do that,” she needed instead to say, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t ALWAYS do anything.” She had to see that arguing for her limitations was just a negative habit that could easily be replaced with a more positive habit. Today, she’s doing much better. When she reverts to her old habit, she usually laughs at herself.

I have learned that when I argue for my own limitations, very seldom do I disappoint myself. I suspect the same is true for you.

 

 

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