Standard Poly advice: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Nothing is more important to a healthy relationship than communication. If we aren’t keeping our SOs in the loop about how we feel and what is going on with us, then small problems will become big problems until someone comes home from work to find their stuff sitting on the front steps.
Right. A few years ago I wrote about when communication is a bad thing. Here’s one of the key takeaways:
good communication is when you are in control of, and expressing, your feelings. Bad communication is when your feelings are in control of you, and expressing themselves.
See, it’s all well and good for me to tell Michael I feel like shit, depression has taken over my brain, and I’m feeling neglected and needy. But everyone dealing with mental illness has times when we are just being irrational. Sometimes, especially when our illness is well managed, we can recognize that irrationality and discuss our feelings. Other times that irrationality can drive us into “communicating” things that we would never say when we were in control of ourselves. What we “communicate” when our mental illnesses are in control can be hurtful, damaging, false, or just plain misleading. Sometimes communicate is not the fucking answer.
Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: Assess, Plan, Then Communicate
Mental illness loves impulse. Acting on your first thought is great for your mental illness, because it is much easier for the monster to control you when you don’t stop and check yourself.
Before you communicate, stop and assess yourself. Are you in control? Is your mental illness? Engage your logic circuits if possible. Maybe just take fifteen minutes to let yourself get past your immediate thought/reaction/idea.
For most part, DON’T try to be your you emotions. That’s an invitation for your mental illness to take over. Instead either A) think about what you want to say and why or B) do something to distract yourself for a few minutes and come back to what you wanted to communicate a bit later and see if you changed your mind.
If you find that what you wanted to say seems to be coming more from your mental illness than from anything else, you may still want to tell your poly partners, but make sure you tell them as an “this is how my mental illness is affecting me.”
Plan what you are going to say and how. Write out talking points, go over it in your head, whatever works for you. When you have a plan it is harder for mental illnesses to impulse-drive you into saying you’ll regret later.
When you’ve accessed and planned, then it’s time to communicate.
This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness Blog Series.
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