The Boy with No Emotional Immune System

statue of Prometheus, the mythological figure, as he's lying back having his liver eaten out by an eagle
Image by schizoform / CC BY

There are few things scarier than falling in love with someone who lacks an emotional immune system. An internal sense of “this is how I’d like to be treated.” Ways of identifying harmful behaviors. And the ability to ward off those who would mistreat them.

This state of vulnerability is bad enough in monogamy. There are plenty of outside influences even when your relationship is exclusive. Potential abuse can come in via family members, friends, coworkers.

But throw in polyamory? Where such abuses can happen through your partner’s other lovers? Oh boy.

The Boy with No Emotional Immune System

They didn’t come any sweeter than him. And that was half the problem. Because he was really bad at boundaries. He let people walk all over him. Bleed him dry.

He yielded to me almost instantly. I took it as a sign that he trusted me. That I’d earned his respect. He held me in high regard.

But I soon realized that this was his default mode.

And when I did? I regretted falling in love with him. Because he was so vulnerable to people who didn’t deserve him.

But there was nothing, nothing at all to be done. It was too late. I was invested. In over my head.

I did find that I could intervene in any given situation. Prevent harm from befalling him. But when I turned my back, it would happen again.

And so I came to expect that it would happen over and over again. That he’d fall prey to users and abusers. Like the punishment of Prometheus. Chained to the rock. His liver eaten by eagles, only to grow back at night, with the torturing resuming the next day.

And I would be doomed to watch from an uncomfortably close angle. A never-ending cycle of injury by proxy. The hostage situation.

*

And as I watched the cycle perpetuate, I felt lumped in with those who harmed him. I wondered if he would love me even if I were bad to him. Did my kindness matter?

Perhaps unconditional love was his default mode.

*

I did love him though. It was all so regrettable.

*

“Sometimes I worry that you have no emotional immune system,” I say to him.

He laughs. Tells me that I’m teaching him to expect more. Better treatment.

I nod but keep an eye towards the dawn. I’m scanning the horizon for eagles.

*

My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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