Usually I'm really good at communicating my needs to my boyfriend, but whenever we have another partner over its really difficult for me to talk about any discomfort I'm feeling or even any emotions at all. I struggle to talk to either of them about how we're all feeling unless it's one on one, and I'm scared it seems like I'm hiding something when I just want to talk to one of them. How do I develop the confidence to communicate with both partners at once?
Without knowing more details, I’m going to have to give a few different answers.
It’s totally okay if you prefer to express your feelings one on one, and you let your partners know that. “It’s not that I’m trying to hide things from Fountayne, and rest assured I’m going to tell him the same things when we talk - but I struggle to have larger conversations.” It’s okay to know your personal communication style and take care of your own needs in that way.
I think that the polyamorous community places so much emphasis on “communication” and “honesty” that we forget to note that it’s not necessary to voice every feeling or every instance of discomfort immediately to everyone in the vicinity. Not everything needs to be brought up when you have other partners over! You can wait until later and say “it really bothered me when you snapped at me like that.” But some things are important to speak up about in the moment, so things don’t go downhill towards festerville - “I really don’t want to play board games, and I thought the plan for tonight was to watch a movie and cuddle together. Can we stick to the original plan?”
So it has a lot to do with the feelings and discomfort that you’re struggling to express. Ask yourself whether it needs to be voiced right then, or whether you can safely indulge your own desire to wait until there are fewer people around. Is there something you need changed or done right away, or is it just that you feel some vague pressure to speak up? I think it’s less about forcing yourself to always voice your feelings regardless of who’s around, but learning to identify what kinds of discomfort ought to be shared immediately, with everyone, and which ones can wait for a one-on-one moment.
Think about why you struggle with this. Do you worry that your partners will “gang up” on you? Do you feel that it’s “unfair” or “inappropriate” to “ruin” other people’s hangout time with your feelings? Are there patterns from your past that might be informing this? Is there something you can ask your partners for help with? Let them know that talking to them together feels vulnerable for you, and see if they can help assuage that anxiety. Consider having tough conversations by email rather than sitting and facing each other, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.