Hi, I am/was currently in a polyamorous relationship. The person I was seeing is Polyamorous and I was notified of it after we became a little more intimate but not sexually active. I was upset for the somewhat late notice of it but still early enough in a way to make me turn away or stay in the relationship.
I decided to stay and try to work it through. I was emotionally attached already and very much enjoyed the time we spent together on an emotional, psychological and physical level. We did not have a lot of time in our lives to see each other frequently so the time we spent together was focused and devoted to one another. We looked forward to seeing each other very much mutually.
The problem that arose was a past trauma I had experienced 13 years ago flared up. Being in a love triangle triggered it for me. I did not realize that this trauma was still hurting me. Being in a polyamorous relationship was a trigger for this trauma and a catalyst to get help.
In my anxiety I told him I had to break up because of the emotional and mental anguish it caused me. When he realized the amount of pain it was causing me he agreed it was a good idea to part. However, once hearing these words from him I realized that is not what I want at all. I realized I was projecting this pain from my trauma on him and his other lover. I have been doing a lot of soul searching and have actively looked for help and was very fortunate to find someone to take me on as their case study.
The person I was involved with is away for the time being on tour and we will see each other when he returns. I want to make it clear to him I am OK with him being polyamorous. I have hurt his feelings by initiating the break-up because he was very much into me. How do I regain his trust? Is what I for-see being the main issue to us getting back together. I want him in my life and I am ready to be in a Polyamorous relationship.
I find he has been placing a barrier between us before leaving because he too was hurting too much and he did tell me “i am hurting too much and seeing you adds more pain to a lot of hurt right now”, we were able to see one another afterwards but he is miles away. I do see him holding back, so I do feel there may be a chance of us getting back together.
It’s hard for me to really understand whether or not polyamory just isn’t for you or if it has been something that flared up from your past — but it really could be both.
Recognising that a past trauma or experience is the source of your emotions doesn’t mean that you’ve dealt with those emotions, and it doesn’t mean that they won’t come popping up again. I understand completely why my anxiety comes, but that doesn’t keep me from having panic attacks every now and then.
The thing that worries me is that you’re taking on all of the blame completely in this situation. Sometimes past trauma can be triggered by just being in an open relationship, but it can also be triggered by a partner doing something similar to previous partners. It’s hard to say if the person you were with was devoting enough time to you or did something that didn’t help your emotions because you’re assuming all of the responsibility here. It could be possible that your partner did something that they could either avoid or be conscientious of, but it’s hard to make that assessment if you assume the only problem in this equation is you.
Why should you be polyamorous?
Within the polyamorous community, there’s a lot of paranoia and discussion about whether you can or can’t “do polyamory”. Some people believe being polyamorous is somewhat of an orientation, something you can’t control while others feel it’s a choice. I don’t necessarily feel like it matters whether polyamory is a choice or it isn’t a choice. And I feel like worrying about whether or not it’s inherent into you creates a lot of pressure that’s unnecessary.
When you’re deciding whether or not to try polyamory, I really worry if your main motivation to do so is to keep someone in your life. Just like that’s not a good reason to have children, to move, to make any major life decision — choosing to do polyamory or try it just to save a relationship has the potential to work out… but also the potential to make things a lot worse.
The important thing to consider is what specifically you get out of polyamory. Why do you want to do it, other than to save this relationship? Can you picture clearly what you get out of it? You don’t talk at all about wanting to find partners other than this person. And while polyamorous people can date people who are monogamous… I feel like beginning this situation with you not only trying to salvage a relationship as your main motivation doesn’t really bode well, especially given you’ve already struggled with it.
If I had this experience with a person, they would have to clearly explain to me what they get out of being polyamorous and why they wanted to do it — other than keeping me in their life. I think if you want to rebuild trust with this person, you need to do more thinking about why you want to be polyamorous outside of this relationship and what you specifically get out of it.
You’ve already mentioned that this person has put up a barrier between both of you, and it makes a lot of sense. While I would have encouraged this person to be honest with you from the beginning about being polyamorous, sometimes it’s a difficult subject to broach and maybe at the time he thought he might just be going on a single date with you and things grew.
If you consider this from his point of view, while you’ve had time to regroup and think about things, there isn’t the same type of resolution for him within this exchange. He’s invested in a relationship with you and took a chance even though you weren’t interested in polyamory and the result was that he got dumped. It’s a very painful experience for him.
He’s told you at this point that even interacting with you is painful for him and he’s put up some pretty clear boundaries that you should respect. If you want to earn his trust, you’ll need to respect those boundaries and give him the time and the space to recover. You might be ready to welcome him into your life, but this is a two way street and he may not want to have you in his life again. Especially if he was already taking a chance in the first place.
Re-initiating a relationship
What’s the best thing for you to do? Honestly, if you are ready to be polyamorous, then you should start dating people other than this individual. Give him time and space and find another partner. If you really and truly do want to be polyamorous for a reason other than trying to get this person back in your life, then you should see the value in finding other partners.
Not to mention, demonstrating that you have other polyamorous partners is a great indication to him that you are interested. The best thing you can do is find other partners, date around, respect his boundaries, and give him time. Get involving in local polyamorous groups and read more about polyamory. Check in maybe in a year and see if he’s open to re-initiating a relationship. And if he’s not, then it’s going to be sad for you, but you may already have a new partner or partners who can help you cope.
I hope this helps! Good luck!
Note: I wrote this column in 2017 so it’s possible I have shifted my perspective. Please feel free to ask a similar question if you have it.
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