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How To Work Through Difficult Emotions in Open Relationships

A man with a demon
Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash

Exploring open relationships? You’re not alone. More people today are curious about or involved in open relationships. Besides amplifying the amount of love in our lives, these kinds of relationships bring their own set of challenges, especially when it comes to handling emotions. Sometimes, understanding and managing those emotions can be tricky.

I recently discovered a Buddhist practice called “Feeding Your Demons.” It is a meditation that provides a way to deal with difficult emotions. If only I had known this framework during my poly days, I could have avoided quite a bit of drama.

“Feeding Your Demons” is a meditation practice that Lama Tsultrim Allione created, inspired by an old Tibetan ritual called “Chöd.” It is a way to face our difficult feelings and submit to them rather than try to run from, fight, or suppress them. The gist of it is personifying our negative emotions into “demons,” asking them some questions about what they need, then turning ourselves into the feeling they are looking for and feeding it to them until they are satisfied. By practicing this way, we learn to integrate our shadows, which, in turn, makes us feel better.

As I fed my emotional demons using this method, a pattern emerged. When I felt upset or hurt, it was mostly because of something someone else did (or didn’t do). Most often, my loved ones. Maybe they didn’t listen to me, or perhaps they forgot something important. These actions made me feel like I was missing something — usually acceptance, understanding, or support.

Through this practice, I discovered that I didn’t need others to give me anything — I already had everything I needed. I just had to find a way to access it, and Feeding Your Demons showed me the magic door.

In poly relationships, everything is amplified. More people around to trigger us, more traumas to resurface, more boundaries to get crossed. Having a way to process all that is essential. Otherwise, we may burn out or react without thinking, making decisions that we might regret later. Letting go of expectations is the most liberating choice we can make. The less we depend on others for our emotional well-being, the easier it will be to cope with the day-to-day issues that come up in any kind of relationship.

Counter-intuitively, negative emotions can be beneficial. They point us to the pockets of our souls where old patterns and unresolved traumas are hiding. Sensitive situations that we have already worked through don’t trigger us anymore. In a weird way, I welcome the difficult feelings because when they arise, they give me an opportunity to meet and feed the demons of my soul that have been hiding.

When things feel tough, it is likely that your needs are not being met. Listen to yourself carefully, tune in to your feelings, and ask yourself what it is that you need and how you think you would feel if you got it. The answers will come to you, and as they do — find a way to get that feeling on your own, independently of anyone else’s actions. Maybe, like me, you will find that you already have all the resources inside you. And that understanding and practice can make you emotionally self-sufficient and your journey in open relationships smoother and more fulfilling.



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Polyamory (Greek πολύ poly, "many, several", Latin amor, "love") is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved.

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