It’s Okay for People to Stick with Things That Are Occasionally Difficult for Them

muffins topped with powdered sugar and strawberries
Image by Prayitno / CC BY

“You know, I love my diet,” she says. “I’m down 30 pounds. Never felt healthier. But you know, sometimes I have the hardest time getting myself to the gym. And I’ll be walking around town and hit a block where there’s a bunch of restaurants and I’ll get a whiff of that fry oil and ohhhhhh.”

I nod. “You smell every yummy dinner in the world blended into a single scent.”

“Exactly,” she says. “And it’s everything I can do to resist temptation. My stomach will be growling. I’ll be in physical pain. Like I’m fine until that happens. Or something like that, something that triggers my appetite. That makes me feel like I’m missing out.” She pauses. “Know what I mean?”

“I do,” I say.

“Have any ideas? Any ways that can make it easier?” she asks me.

“Sure do,” I say. And I open my mouth and start to give her tips. Things that worked for me. Made it easier when I wanted to stick to a certain plan but felt like my environment was working to derail me.

But you know what I never say? I never say, “Why are you trying to eat a different way? Why are you on a diet? Clearly, you want to eat that food. You should just do it. Whenever and whatever you want. Screw that dieting stuff. And working out is a total waste of time. I say eff it. Clearly, none of this is for you. Your body is giving you clear messages.”

Nope, I trust she knows what she wants to do. What’s best for her. That she’s taken some time to sort out what matters to her and find an approach that suits her. Maybe she isn’t naturally a person with the metabolism to just eat whatever and lounge like she’s on a lido deck. Maybe she has to do some intentional work to get to what she wants, which in this case is to feel good in her body and have more energy — side effects that she’s identified as worth delaying gratification and trying to retrain herself to have different habits.

And unless someone has poor boundaries, people are generally pretty decent at respecting that different diets work for different people. Generally. I’ve of course encountered pushy relatives or coworkers that insist you need to eat XYZ because they made it. Or people who figure out that you’re eating a certain way (for example, low-carb, Weight Watchers, gluten-free, IF, Volumetrics, whatever) and proactively get defensive about their own food choices, assuming that you’re judging them for taking a different approach (again, likely culprit is poor boundaries).

I used to be really bothered by people like that — but now I more experience it as a warning sign that they might have other permeable boundary problems. Like the canary in the coal mine.

But while most people are pretty decent at respecting other people’s dietary choices, I’ve found it’s far more common that people feel like they can do that with polyamory. Especially when I feature letters from advice seekers. Inevitably, I’ll get a few people who chime in with some variant of the following: Well, if they’re having any problems in polyamorous relationships, why are they doing polyamory in the first place?

It’s tough to understand from the outside looking in how someone can encounter difficulty in a particular poly situation and not automatically blame the poly-ness of it.

But it’s much like a dieter who struggles with cravings when passing a strip of restaurants. Her thought isn’t, “Well, I’m feeling stress here, so clearly this diet isn’t something I want to do anymore.” No, she’s asking herself how she can make it work. Even though it’s temporarily difficult.

So while it may sometimes be tough for monogamous people to understand why a poly person who hits a snag just wouldn’t yell “eff polyamory” and run away from whatever’s going on, rest assured that asking for pointers from another polyamorous person is a reasonable response to difficulty when you do well most of the time and otherwise love the benefits of polyamory.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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