The Power of a Pod
“I know this is a tough weekend. I’m going to suggest that David come home tonight. I have to get up early also. But mostly I think you need a bed buddy.” My girlfriend, who also dates my husband, is always thinking about how things will affect me. It's one of the reasons the relationship works so well. She was right. It was going to be a tough weekend. My parents have been married 50 years, and my brother has been married just over 25 years. The joint party had been on my calendar for months, and I’d been dreading it. I was diagnosed with PTSD in my 20s because of experiences with my family of origin. Nearly 30 years of therapy has gotten me past the place where I can’t go to the town I grew up in without having panic attacks. But it hasn't made trips there easy or fun. The party was scheduled to be only a few hours long, and it was close enough that I didn’t even have to stay overnight. It was held at the American Legion facility, a building I didn’t think I’d ever even been in, so I didn’t expect any triggers to surprise me in the process. I’d even been successfully back to the places most likely to trigger me fairly recently with no ill effects. All of this left me feeling a little silly for being afraid about the weekend at all. Luckily for me, the people I date were all there for me. One if the benefits if polyamorous, or ethically non-monogamous (ENM) relationships is that they give you a pod of people who can gather around you when you're stressed out. This looks different than you might expect. For instance, of the four people I'm actively dating, only my husband was going with me to the event. But even though they weren't going with me in person, their support was still important. When I told my boyfriend, who was in the car on his way out of town with his wife for a weekend retreat with another couple, that my girlfriend was sending my husband home that night my boyfriend was delighted. "It wasn't my place to say anything," he told me, "but I feel a lot better knowing you won't be alone." It wasn't until I relayed this reaction to my husband that I found out he really didn't see the need to be home that night. My husband grew up largely without traumas, and I was through the worst of dealing with mine long before we met. He wasn't the one in bed next to me when I used to wake to screaming at night, and while I know he believes me about it, he doesn't really grok the ongoing aftermath. He's a tad too quick to believe I'm a badass who can handle anything. My girlfriend, however, did grow up with trauma. She gets it. And while I maintain that I would have been fine alone that night, when my husband asked if my girlfriend was overreacting I showed him how my hands were shaking. That changed everything, and he immediately shifted to embrace her plan. That wouldn't have happened without the pod surrounding me with care and concern. It might be tempting to suggest that my husband should have been more sensitive to this without that assist. But the fact that he sees me as a badass helps me to be a lot more badass in my daily life. It might also be tempting to suggest that I should be quicker to ask for help. But the thing is, I'm bad at that. I'm getting better, but it's a pretty typical side effect of the sorts of trauma in my history. I'm stubborn, too, and like holding on to the idea that I can handle anything. It increases the number of things I can handle. So on balance I'll take things the way they are. And having a pod of people who all care about me and work together to make life better for everyone involved is a pretty cool aspect of some ethically non-monogamous relationships. Not everyone sets things up this way, but the way my life is structured is designed to maximize the opportunities for me loved ones to crowdsource goodness for each other. The weekend, as it turned out, ended up full of crowdsourced goodness. I was able to reach out to people who love me virtually during the event to supplement the support I got from my husband. And the day after the event I got time with all the other people I'm dating to help me decompress from the stress of the weekend without dumping all of it onto anyone's individual head. It doesn't always work out the way it's designed to, but I'm this case it was a wonderful support system that kicked in the perfect way for me.