I have been thinking about my own disclosure needs off and on for quite a while now. When J and I first started having separate romantic/sexual relationships, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know about all communication that happened- who, when, how, what, etc. I wanted to know all about the encounter itself- what was said, who said it, what happened next and what happened next, what sex positions, etc, etc. I wanted day-by-day, moment-by-moment blow-by-blows of how the relationships was deepening emotionally: how are you feeling about her? How do you feel now? And now? And now??
Okay, let’s be honest: I still like to know quite a lot. But I feel like my intensity has gone down quite a bit. I don’t feel as frantic or anxious asking questions, as I usually have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Staying in the loop with what J’s relationships look like is really helpful to me in my own personal growth work, and also really helpful in staying connected to J. I get to know, from another perspective (through the lens of this other relationship), what J wants, needs, desires, and how those things are getting met, overall, in his life.
So, I still like to know quite a lot. But I feel like my need for the details has gone down.
I have also been wondering about my own emotional response to hearing about J’s relationships and dates and other interactions with partners. Would I feel more relaxed and at peace if I didn’t know as much as I ask for? I tried, for instance, to not ask as much after a recent encounter, and I found myself asking anyway as the day went one. It was harder to not know, but it was positive to experiment with the timeline of disclosure.
I think the amount of disclosure is also somewhat dependent on the context: do I know the other person well or not? Is the relationship well-defined or is it in flux (or just starting)? Have similar dates happened before? I have noticed that I ask for a lot of disclosure at the beginning of a new relationship when it still feels very “unknown” and as time goes on, I ask for less.
I also wonder about the boundaries of disclosure. For example, J is, for the most part, happy to share any details that would fill me in, help me feel reconnected to him, and help me feel less anxious. From reading forums and articles online, it is clear to me that not all poly people would be as accommodating. Different people need different degrees of privacy and different people need different degrees of disclosure. I think it takes pretty good communication around needs to reach a place of peace around privacy versus disclosure. I am thankful, that so far, J and I haven’t had to struggle quite as much around this issue. (Which is not to say that we haven’t struggled around it, because we have, haha)
Bouncing around online, I came across this post from a poly person (I’m not hyperlinking it for anonymity reasons), and it resonated with me and my own journey of discovering what level of disclosure is best for me. I thought I would share the most salient parts here; I bolded my favorite parts:
“I completely empathise with being unsure of what to ask, what to know. In the early days, it helped me to know everything. These days, I don’t want to know anything at all. What you choose is definitely down to you.
I have noticed one thing. When something has just happened, like a date, knowing feels like a truck has hit me. But, a few weeks or months later, knowing something isn’t as bad.
I don’t believe in ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ – the option of an open book is good, in my opinion. But what you have to ask yourself is: “how does my mind work?” If you hear those words “yes, we had sex”, are you going to imagine all kinds of things? Often, you hear something unexpected. He could say “we didn’t go all the way”. What are you going to imagine then? …
Poly was something that I believed in, but was quite painful for me, when I knew details. Now that I don’t ask, it’s easier. I know my GF is dating; I know who she’s dating; I know when. I know if she meets someone new, if she’s getting to know them. The rest is up to her. If it doesn’t effect me, I needn’t be bothered. And you know…. knowing doesn’t stop anything bad from happening. I have felt neglected or insecure in my relationship at times, even when I’ve known what’s going on. But reminding myself that it’s her body, her heart, her mind… being more autonomous… has truly helped me.”