Mixed emotions are a particularly human experience yet they always throw me for a loop. Being able to hold multiple feelings simultaneously allows us to compartmentalize enough to get through our days hating our jobs yet enjoying time with our coworkers. It also comes up a lot of the time when we’re angry at our loved ones yet still love them very much and care about their well being.
Since becoming non-monogamous, I’ve dealt even more with the complexities of feeling multiple emotions at the same time. It has come up most often with feeling happy compersion feelings at the same time as uncomfortable jealous or envious feelings. I feel really glad that a partner gets to have a thing that fuels and fulfills them while simultaneously feeling left out that they're choosing to do those things with someone else. Or sometimes it's that I feel incredibly lonely since I don't have anything similar myself.
Keeping those feelings balanced has been incredibly difficult because I tend to focus on trying to be as giving as possible, to prioritize the pleasure and happiness of my partners rather than my own feelings. I haven’t always been good at advocating to have my needs met in these circumstances, which can fuel the painful feelings even more. I assume I can suck it up or work on it at a later date since I consider it to be my issue. It’s a work in progress though I've learned to say “I'm not okay, but I will be” to acknowledge my pain but also that I know I'll get through it.
Most recently, I’ve been experiencing a different cocktail of mixed emotions: simultaneous heartbreak and New Relationship Energy (NRE). In early summer, I started dating an amazing woman who gives me fun, giddy, sexy feelings while at the same time, a long term romantic relationship was coming to an end. I was feeling both devastated by the loss of a person who’d been such an essential piece of my life for years while also feeling squishy warm delight about a new person in my life.
It has been a really complicated headspace though having the new relationship probably helped keep me on this side of complete mental meltdown by giving me some happy, sexy distractions to focus on. On the other hand, being in an intense, grief-filled headspace prevented me from being able to really enjoy and roll around in the blissed-out NRE brain chemicals. The joy I was feeling about having a new, wonderful person in my life who was also really into me was muted by how goddamn sad I was all the time.
Even the (amazing!) sex was fraught because although I could occasionally lose myself in all the delicious physical sensations, I'd be reminded of the delicious times I used to have with my *insert term for complicated situation of still loving someone and wanting them in your life but no longer being romantically involved with them*. For every ‘Holy Shit, is this my life?' moment as I looked at her gorgeous body above me, beneath me, beside me, walking to the bathroom…I was met with a surge of sadness for all the things I'd never get to do again with the other person. And because orgasms often take me right to the edge of mild hysteria and tears, all the pain I'd been holding back would surge to the surface and crygasms would turn into good, old fashioned, ugly cries.
I'd like to say that it's getting better over time, and it is but also it isn't. While I still miss my *see complicated term above*, the intensity of my grief has eased. It's mostly a constant, low-grade sadness but there are new peaks of pain when I get peeks of their life as they move forward with new people and adventures. I am hit again with the dual feelings of being happy for them that they're getting to have pleasurable experiences with people who give them joy while also feeling deep loss that those kinds of encounters with them are over for me.
Those conflicting happy/sad emotions have been my constant companions through this whole non-monogamous journey, and I know they will continue to stay with me as I move forward. I say this as I spend the weekend alone while Flick is visiting one of his loves in another city and I feel the pangs of loneliness and envy that he has those kinds of intense, loving relationships in his life while I don't. I'm thrilled for him. He deserves all the love and joy in the world. And I'm really happy that he gets to have this time with his love but while it isn't exactly hard for me, it's also not not hard for me.
I'm not okay, but I will be.