Feeling Loved When Apart

Jun 10, 2021


Hi, my name is Martha Kauppi. I’m an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor. Welcome to my vlog. I am in the middle of a short series about working with jealousy feelings in polyamorous relationships. You can watch the two previous vlogs to hear what I’ve talked about so far.

I’m going to keep going today and talk about a developmental task, which is to learn how to feel love when you’re apart from somebody. What I mean by developmental task is something that would’ve been great if we all learned it as children, but it’s possible that we didn’t. If that describes you, you experience lots of jealous feelings, and it’s hard for you to feel your partner loving, appreciating, and being connected to you when they’re out on a date with somebody else, I want you to know that it is absolutely possible to build that capacity.

I also want to acknowledge that it’s a fairly sophisticated task. It’s not like “Attachment 101” to do that. The first step would be to ask yourself if you can feel your partner’s positive regard when you’re with them. If you’re in a relationship where you’re not feeling connected, emotionally together, safe, honored, lifted up, even when you’re together, then this isn’t going to work. That’s the kind of thing you might want to get a therapist to help you to build in your relationship because it’s a very important, foundational aspect to an open relationship. Nobody’s open relationship ever worked if the partner’s didn’t both feel mostly secure, chosen, important, and not threatened. If you’re feeling threatened, there’s some work to be done.

Let’s talk about this idea of feeling positive regard when you’re feeling separated from one another. Some people experience this feeling of disconnect when their partner goes on a vacation without them, when the partner’s out of town, you’re out of town, you’re having dinner alone, sleeping alone, or something like that. It’s very next-level to develop that capacity when your partner is actually on a date with somebody else, but I just want to put it out there that that is actually a little magic trick that’s possible. It’s possible to still feel your partner’s regard for you even when your partner is with somebody else.

Now, be sure to watch the previous vlog about narrative and the stories that we tell ourselves because when an emotion arises, it’s very close with a story. Either the story came first or the story came second. We could argue over that all day. It doesn’t matter. Knowing what that story is that is interacting with that emotion is really important, so watch that video for sure.

Then, start challenging yourself to feel your partner’s positive regard frequently. Feel it when they’re there, feel it when they’re not there, feel it when they’re at work, feel it when you’re thinking, “Oh, I might want to text my partner.” See if you can bring up their positive regard when you miss them a little bit, under possibly easier to tackle circumstances, like work, the grocery store, separate vacation, or what have you, tea with a friend. See if you can feel their positive regard.

If you have difficulty with that, like I said, maybe get some assistance with that. Then begin, if you’re able to do it, doing it under more challenging circumstances, whatever those might be for you. See if you can feel your partner’s positive regard.

Now, there is a way to ask your partner to help you with this and it’s great if your partner’s up for the task. I would call this co-regulation. The difference between self-regulation and co-regulation is when I soothe my own emotions, that’s self-regulation, When I ask my partner to help me soothe my own emotions, that’s co-regulation.

There are ways to co-regulate when you are apart. You don’t actually have to be together and able to hold hands, hold one another, eye-gaze, or any of those things. You could actually be in separate places. You could actually be quite separate and not even thinking about one another in the moment.

One way that my clients have loved doing that is to make a playlist of songs that cause you to think happy thoughts about your partner. Then, give your partner access to that playlist. When you’re feeling jealous and lonely for your partner and your partner's out on a date with somebody else, you can actually play the playlist for yourself of mood-uplifting music that you know that your partner chose because it makes them think of you and think of you in a positive way. That’s one way to do it.

Another way to do it is to have your partner write you a little note that outlines what’s unique about their relationship with you that is irreplaceable. “No other relationship is like this one because this, this, and this thing that I love. It’s not a competition. These are special aspects that I love about my relationship with you. Then, carry that note with you and refer to it when you’re feeling a little wobbly.

Those are two suggestions for how you might experiment with co-regulation to help manage uncomfortable feelings when you and your partner are separate and you’re experiencing something like jealousy. All right. I hope it helps. Give it a try. Leave a comment if you’d like. Thank you for watching my vlog and stay tuned for the last episode in this little series, which is going to be about compersion. Stay tuned.

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