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I found your blog and I’ve never been so happy to see anything in my whole life. I have a poly[am] boyfriend. For the past 6 months we’ve been monogamous(I was under the impression we were not). My bf decided he wants to have a more hierarchical relationship style with me as his primary. (I however am very monogamous but I’m open minded and I love him to bits so I decided to give a poly-mono relationship a go).

The conversations we had about it were nebulous as he’s always trying to leave all his options open. He always wants to eat his cake and have it. Ultimately, he said to me his secondary relationships would be casual relationships. After that conversation I had somewhat of a mental breakdown because my mind was telling me not to agree to it cuz historically, I had never been prioritized by him so what would change now? But my heart was saying well now he wants you to be his only girlfriend so why break up before even giving this new relationship style a chance?

I spoke to him about it and after him getting defensive and me ugly crying at him he realized that what I was saying is true and he said that he’ll do better. Regarding doing better he tries for like 2 days then reverts right back to his old self. On his free time he plans outings without me, he falls asleep on phone calls, he never texts me, never tries to make conversation with me. And I can’t be telling him every 2 days that he’s slacking off. The times that I talk to him about it he gets defensive and says things like he doesn’t know what I want him to do. I once said that it’s not fair that he asks me for whatever and I try my best to accommodate him but he hardly does the same for me. His response was that he knows it’s not fair but I’m the one that chose to be in a relationship with him.

He says that he’s like that because he’s always been self-reliant and none of his past relationships were as serious as we are so he had never felt the need to be communicative or expressive with feelings. What I’d like help with is I’m the most serious relationship he’s had and I’m not sure he knows how to be more committed than he’s used to. He’s explained that his past relationships didn’t work out because he didn’t know how hard it was to maintain relationships. However based on what I know he never tried to learn. My concern is that he was barely being a good partner when it was just me. How on earth will he keep up with more than me?

I’d also like some advice on how a monogamous person can have a fulfilling relationship with a polyamorous person. A mono-poly[am] relationship is far from my ideal but I’m still trying to see if this is something I can be happy with for the long term.

I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through with this, but your problem here absolutely is not whether you’re polyamorous or monogamous — it’s a fundamental lack of communication.

One of my favourite quotes is by Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”. I wholeheartedly believe that if someone ever says to you in an argument or at any point in a relationship that it is your fault that they are behaving the way they are behaving because you chose to be in a relationship with them, you take that statement exactly as it is.

This may be a simple mismatch of compatibility. It might be that your partner is more suited to other people he might describe as “self reliant”, but if he were truly “self reliant” in the full and proper sense of the word, he would not continue to drag this on and on. He would recognise that he is incapable of meeting your needs, be honest with you about that, and allow you to go about your ways and find someone who is capable. He isn’t self reliant. He is selfish. Big difference.

You are forcing yourself into a relationship style you do not want for someone who has repeatedly demonstrated to you that you are not a priority in their life. Ask yourself if you constantly want to have to do this for the rest of your life. You’ve only been with this guy for six months and already you’re having to remind him to communicate with you… it’s just not a good sign, whether someone is monogamous or not.

Honestly, you really need to stop investing so much of your emotional labour into someone who is so unwilling to even meet you 1/4th of the way, let alone half. You deserve so much better in this world and you will not have any kind of fulfilling relationship with someone who treats you so poorly. I dislike telling people what to do in terms of breaking off relationships, but this is very clearly a case of where you absolutely and fundamentally deserve better. I would go your separate way and find someone who deserves you.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

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