PQ 9.4 — Am I afraid to say no or disagree with my partner?

a sign of a white dog, hunkered over as if it is about to poop, with the word "No!" written on its back
Image by mslavick / CC BY

PQ 9.4 — Am I afraid to say no or disagree with my partner?

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For the first 2 or 3 years of our relationship, my ex-husband Seth and I never argued. Not even when we broke up for a week. When I got disgusted that he spent the rent money on video games. Rage quit him. The apartment. And everything that hung between us.

I didn’t disagree. I just left.

And looking back, this was my pattern in most close relationships. I didn’t know what to do with conflict. And so I avoided it at all costs. I’d swallow my dissent. Even will myself to believe things differently. All for the sake of harmony.

This meant that my partner and I were often in very different relationships. And they had no idea.

But once Seth and I opened up our relationship (after 8 years of monogamy), I found I couldn’t do this anymore. I had to think for myself:

It wasn’t until I experienced multi-commitment as a busy poly hinge and discovered my previous level of self-sacrifice was untenable that I started to figure autonomy out. What it meant to me. To tease apart complete dependence from complete independence and foster a sort of healthy interdependence in relationships.

Because while my normal instinct when monogamous had been to just go along with what my partner wanted, as a busy poly hinge, I couldn’t do that anymore. I ran into situations where I couldn’t say “yes” to everyone.

And rather than self-destruct on the spot like a robot stuck in a logical paradox, I was forced to appeal to a higher court to help break deadlocks: What found reasonable.

And after circumstances forced me to do this enough times, I gradually came to do so instinctively.

Of course, in doing that, I had to make peace with conflict.

And I came to learn that “no” is just as important as “yes.” And that it’s when you tell people no that you learn the most about them.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

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