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