Episode 74: Dating Friendly

Reading Time: 10 minutes

In starting out in polyamory, most people want to make rules — like no dating friends or family. It’s worth thinking more about that rule. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What makes a friend different from a partner to you?

Listen here on or on Anchor, our new podcast host. Visit the Anchor website to find where else the podcast is distributed or use this handy RSS link.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My BF and I have been dating for 4 months.  We get along really well and are working on a committed fluid bonded relationship. From the start of our relationship he explained that he desires a non monogamous type relationship. He has been in them in the past in the form of one night stands or FWB type situations. 

I, on the other hand, have only had traditional monogamous relationships but I am exploring non monogamy and think it would be something I’d like to try. Listening to your advice and tips has opened my mind up and given me a lot to think about.

My plan is to present my thoughts to him about it this weekend. To see, among other things, what non-monogamy looks like to him and explain what I think it would look like to me. On that thought, I’ve thought a lot about boundaries and rules. 

With your insight I realised that setting them are not realistic and I do not plan to set any (apart from sexual health rules where we will use protection from now on because I can control that).  That said, I wonder about how to broach the subject of ‘friends and family’ being a potential metamours. 

He has jokingly made sexual type remarks in the past about some friends and family members that make me wonder if he would want that. At the time I told him that he is no longer to do that around me. It made me fearful, jealous and felt disrespectful. 

Thinking on it now though, I wonder if I have any say on whether he pursues that avenue or not? Who am I to say? I’m not saying that I would stick around if he does do that but I can’t stop him if he decides to pursue it. His choice.

So I am wondering, how you would approach this or how others have approached it?

Response:

So first and foremost, I feel like friends and family are two different categories, Putting them together is a little bit different, especially because people have different relationships with their friends and family. And for most people, friendships are a little bit more tolerable than family. Because for a lot of people, and this isn’t even necessarily myself included— But for a lot of people, family is kind of like something that they don’t feel comfortable just getting rid of. 

And I’m not saying that people feel comfortable just getting rid of their friends. But family is a little bit different in that way, in that this is kind of the relationships that they’ve had for their whole life versus a friendship might be very different to them and how they define it. So I don’t think friends and family are kind of in the same category. And I think that you should kind of think about that. 

The second thing that I would think of is that everyone kind of has their own boundaries around how they feel. I mean, there are some people in monogamous situations where you know, they break up with someone, and then maybe like their cousin or something like that. And that can be awkward, but it is— it really just depends on the family. Like it’s so specific and dependent upon the relationships that family members have with each other. I think I would feel weird if my partners dated my family members, not necessarily because I have close relationships with my family, but because I don’t, and it would put me in a really awkward position because I don’t necessarily want to have to interact with them. 

So everyone kind of has their own boundaries around that. I think the interesting thing about polyamory that a lot of people don’t realise is that within monogamy, we’re kind of sold a narrative that your partner chooses you because you’re the best, or they choose you for a very specific, unique kind of snowflake-y type of reason. And I’m not saying that that’s not true. But you know, you kind of assume that your partner has, for lack of a better word, good taste, or— when basically, when you kind of get into a polyamorous or non monogamous situation, you sort of then see the taste of your partner. And sometimes that makes you go, “Wow, I didn’t necessarily know that you would be interested in someone who you know is like this or like that”. 

And because you know your friends, and you know your family members, like when your partner is interested in a random stranger, and you don’t know who they are just yet and then maybe later on down the line, you find out, “oh, that person isn’t, you know, that great”. Maybe they’re kind of, you know, however you wanted to find that. Because, you know your friends and family members, I think sometimes when people are attracted to them and you’re just sort of like, “Oh, I know about that person”. 

And like,  not to say you don’t think negatively of your friends, but you start to wonder what it is about yourself that maybe your partner was into. You start to wonder— it really questions that idea that like, “Oh, yes, my partner is into me, because I’m the best or the I’m, you know, I’m a good catch”. You start to go, Well, what is a good catch? And like, why is my partner interested in me? And if the thing for me, and maybe I’m being a bit of a dickhead, and I fully admit that I could be being a bit of a dickhead. But the thing for me is that I’m going like, “Oh, is my partner just interested in me, because I’m interested in them?” It’s kind of the thing that kind of rocks me a little bit. 

So sometimes that is part of the difficulty. It changes the way that we see our partners, especially if they choose people who are not great for them in some way. Or, it kind of makes you wonder, like, why? Like this person is— especially if they’re not being treated well, and it’s hard for you to just sit back— or at least it’s hard for me to just sit back and go, “Oh, this person is not treating you right. Why are you with them?” That can be a really, really difficult thing. And I’m not saying anything bad of your family members or friends. 

They could be great, and you totally understand what your partner sees in them. But that can be an interesting aspect of polyamory. I think it’s always worth when you have kind of a feeling of “Oh, I don’t know how I feel about this” kind of redefine it as a friendship and see if that changes things. So if your friend was interested in your cousin and obviously this makes family meetings and stuff a little bit more awkward, right? 

Because a lot of families aren’t really understanding of polyamory or get it and that might make that might make things a little bit more strange if you do have family meetups, but if your cousin was interested in this person, then I think you can realise— or if your friend was interested in your cousin, then I think you can realise, is it about the fear that my partners into somebody else? Or is it about who I know that somebody else to be. So if I had a friend who was interested in somebody, and I knew that person, probably, in my judgment of them, maybe I thought, you know, they might not be great, because I’ve seen them in other relationships. 

And I might worry for my friends benefit, right? Then it’s less about, you know, the fact that “oh, this is a bit weird” and more about, “oh, I’m a bit concerned about what this relationship is”. Now all that said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should stop it. I think you do have the right kind of mindset, which is like, can you actually control what he does? If he does decide to date family members or friends, you can’t really control that. However, the thing I would say is, you can’t also promise that you’re going to be cool with everything. And it’s not realistic for him to expect you to just be able to be cool with everything, or be comfortable in every situation. 

The one thing that I say, there are people who have been really crap to me who I don’t want to be around, because they’ve been really crap to me, or I don’t really care for them. And I’m fine— I can have partners who date those people. That’s fine. The thing that I draw boundaries around is like, “Look, you can date this person, I don’t particularly care for them. So I don’t really want to hang out with them. I don’t really want to do group dates. I don’t really want to do any of that. If they’re going to be in our shared living space, I would appreciate some, you know, warning, so that I can vacate the premises”, like, things like that. 

And that’s just because,I don’t want to be around these people. And I have a right to not want to be around those people if that’s something that I don’t want. You don’t have to just smile and be cool with everything if you can’t promise that. So, you can draw those kinds of boundaries. You can say, “Look, you can date whom you like”. And I mean, this is exactly the same thing as if you were in a monogamous relationship, and you disliked your partner’s friends. And that happens, sometimes. You’re not obligated to like your partner’s friends. And you can say, like, “Look, if you want to be friends with these people, I don’t particularly care for them, they get on my nerves, whatever it is. So if they come around, let me know so I can go out. And don’t invite me to like group stuff, because I don’t want to do that kind of thing”. 

And maybe that makes things awkward but it also makes it awkward for you to have to deal with that. So my approach to that wouldn’t necessarily be “don’t date my family members, or don’t date, my friends”/ I would just be honest about how I felt like, yeah, if you if you date my mom, that’s gonna be weird, you know. That’s gonna be weird. I’m going to feel weirded out by that. And I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be— nobody wants to necessarily break up over something like that. But I’m going to feel weird about that. And just try and take it on a case by case basis, rather than making a big leap to everything. 

And also be willing to question your initial kind of feelings of like, “Oh, that’s weird” . Because, you know, if if I did have a partner who dated a cousin, for example, instead of like, my mom or something like that, I think it would be weird. It would definitely be weird at first. But I think that, for their happiness, as long as I wasn’t like— we weren’t all going to big family functions all the time together and it was weird, I think I could deal with it. So you never know. And it might be that you might initially have some feelings, but you don’t necessarily always have to listen to your initial feelings about stuff. You can kind of go “Okay, I feel this way”. Think about it a little bit, give yourself a little bit of time and don’t make rushed decisions about things and see how you feel about it. 

If you still feel uncomfortable after a while, then that’s fine. You’re allowed to be uncomfortable about stuff and you’re allowed to go, “I don’t think so I think I’m gonna nope out of the situation” or change your partnership in such a way where you don’t live together, or however that may be. And that may seem really scary. But the thing that is important to remember is that you have no idea what the future holds. You may think now that putting a boundary around like “Okay, you can’t date my friends or family members because that would be weird”. But you have no idea what will happen and who he’s necessarily going to date. 

Later on down the line, he may date someone that makes you feel way weirder than any friend or family member could ever make you feel and you can’t really control that. You may foresee some discomfort and maybe like, “Oh, I want to stop this”. Instead of doing that just go “Okay”. And don’t make promises about— that’s one thing that a lot of people do is that they, especially in polyamory, like you— if you are the partner that is scared of making your partner feel uncomfortable— you are going to want to be like, “Are you okay? Are you okay? Please tell me that you’re okay”.

You can’t promise all the time to be okay. And even if your partner does kind of put pressure on you to do that for the sake of feeling comfortable themselves, don’t give in to that. Don’t promise to be okay in every situation. You can’t predict how you’re necessarily going to feel in every situation. But you can promise that you’ll take a case by case approach to stuff, that you will try to be respectful of their feelings, and that they and you both will be respectful of each other’s boundaries around the situation. That is probably the approach that I would take to that. 

So again, to kind of wrap up, friends and family or, you know, for most people, are very different categories. And so it’s it’s important not to just lump those together, because they are very different categories to a lot of people. Figure out amongst each other how you define those categories, and what you think about that. Talk about it. 

The second thing is that it is interesting that within polyamory, the fact that you can see who else your partner chooses, can sometimes affect your relationship, and sometimes for the better sometimes, for the worse, sometimes it’s just interesting to see the choices that your partner chooses to make. And it does kind of call into question, the narrative that monogamy gives you, which is that your partner has chosen you because you are the best, and you have won the race and yada, yada. 

And that is really a really interesting thing to experience. The third thing is if you want to sit with your discomfort and kind of examine it, and think about why it is you feel the way that you do, it’s always good to ask how would you feel if your friend did this instead of your partner. Just because sometimes that takes a little bit of the fear of loss and the fear of sexual competition, a lot of the different things that people experience in polyamory, away from that and makes you kind of a little bit calmer about it and makes you rethink it. 

And then last but not least, you can’t promise that you’re going to be happy about every choice. So don’t promise that. He shouldn’t be promising that either. Just try and take it case by case. Try to be willing to step back. Think about your feelings a bit not making a quick harsh judgments. And also, don’t be afraid to set boundaries around what you’re willing to be around because that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Again, think about it as if you have a partner— you’re monogamous and you have a partner who has friends that you really don’t like. Similar boundaries around that. Doesn’t mean you have to break up, but it does mean that you kind of have to work around that. So I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 73: Caveat Emptor

Reading Time: 8 minutes

It’s easy to think you might be interest in non-monogamy, but what if you have some conflicting feelings when theory becomes practice? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What “meaning” do you attach to sex, if any? And why?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Been with my partner for 2 years now, and I’ve always been a sexually open person, which they knew about from the beginning.

For a while we lived together and I decided to respect their space and go monogam[ous] for a year, still trying to make them understand I like an open relationship with physical meaningless things.

We live separately now and I got them to let me explore some other people.

Recently my partner started dating another person which I thought I’ll be alright with, but it hurts like nothing I felt before. We had a short chat about it and I suggested a little break to think about us without seeing each other.

My question would be – where could we go from here?

I know I’m emotional monogamist open to sexual pleasure. But how could I tell them after I made them try new things to stop?

Response:

So in short, how can you tell them after you made them try new things to stop? I mean, *should* you tell them to stop is the big question here. I think that your reaction is pretty normal actually. A lot of people even if they think they’re totally “prepared” for Non-Monogamy, when the rubber meets the road or the if it hits the shan however you want to say it — It is a lot more different when it’s practice and not just theory. 

And it’s very scary. Regardless of how open you think you are, you have lived in a society your whole life — I’m guessing unless you’ve lived in a different type of culture, in which case I apologise — but most people who are listening to this who tend to be among the people who write me come from a society where monogamy is presented to them as the only option and the only valid option.

And that is a lifetime of messages, a lifetime of … programming seems really daft to say but it’s a lifetime of information that you’ve had to basically, you know, deal with your whole life and along with that, a lot of monogamous people struggle I feel with realistic expectations of monogamy because of that message. A lot of monogamous people struggle with the idea that their partner can be attracted to somebody else and that means something about how much they love them. Like monogamous people struggle with this messaging. 

So of course, you are going to struggle with that. That make sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “emotional monogamist” and I would really challenge yourself on that. It’s not fair, really for you to expect your partner to just dump somebody else. It’s also not fair for that person that your partner is dating, just because you’re uncomfortable. So you can tell your partner to stop. You could make that demand. But if I were your partner or I were advising your partner I would tell your partner to break up with you. Just because for someone to do that is really not cool. And it doesn’t— it’s very selfish with all due respect. 

So— and I understand the feeling of wanting things to stop and even taking breaks and wanting to step away from all of the intense emotions. I get that but you can’t just completely dump someone — and it’s not really fair to do that to the other person — just because you’re uncomfortable. I want to point out something that you said though in your letter. You said I like an open relationship with “physical meaningless things”. There’s two things about this. 

First of all, just because you’re both interested in open relationships— it seems like they are. But you can both be into open relationships and still be very different in terms of how you want to practice them. Just because you’re into that doesn’t mean you’re inherently compatible. Some people are interested in casual sex who are polyamorous. Some people are not interested in casual sex. It doesn’t have to be a relationship ending thing. I don’t think you have to have the exact same outlook or or belief system or needs with regards to sex just to date. 

But I do think you have to accept that your partner isn’t going to have the same outlook on sex as you do. And I think that’s even true in monogamous relationships. I mean, just because two people are monogamous doesn’t mean that they have the same relationship to sex, or the same, you know, value—  value sex in their life in the exact same ways. So it comes down to whether or not this is something you can accept. 

Maybe you feel like *you* want physical meaningless things. Maybe your partner doesn’t and that’s okay. I’ve been in that kind of a relationship where I was with someone who was interested in more casual things, and I’m not. And it was challenging for me because I immediately assumed that all of their casual relationships were like the same as a more serious relationship to me. 

Another thing that I want to point out is that I feel like we get really loosey goosey with the terms like “casual sex” and “meaningless sex”. I mean, it could be that when you say you’re interested in physical, meaningless things that you like, go to a club pick someone out, you know, go to a bathroom together and then never speak to them again. Even so, I would still say that has a meaning. It’s not meaningless completely. You may not want to have a commitment involved in that. That doesn’t make the act meaningless. 

I really want to get people away from assuming that being interested in casual sex means that the people that you have casual sex with, like mean nothing. I feel like that’s a really harsh and horrible way to look at it. And I don’t think that that’s true, just based off of my experience of having a partner who was interested in casual sex. I assumed that casual sex meant that you didn’t care about the other person. But that’s not really true. 

I don’t doubt that there are people who have casual sex who are basically using another human person’s body to masturbate. I’m pretty sure that does happen. However, that isn’t the case for every single person who has casual sex. So I would challenge yourself a little bit on — is this actually meaningless? You may feel a little bit scared and attach meaning to the person that your partner is dating because you’re scared and threatened by it. 

You may be attaching a meaning that isn’t there. The only way you’re going to figure out that is by really getting a better idea of what “meaning” means to you. And that’s a little bit harder in Non-Monogamy. Whenever we’re monogamous we have the thing that’s called “the relationship escalator,” which you might want to Google and it’s this idea that like, you know, this is how your life is supposed to be: you meet someone you get attached you begin an exclusive relationship. You may be move in with each other you maybe decide to marry you have babies, you know, that whole sort of step by step signal that a relationship has meaning.

And when you are non monogamous and you don’t have that relationship escalator, it is hard to understand what “meaning” means, especially since you live in a culture where exclusivity is the meaning. Exclusivity creates that meaning. So how do you create that meaning? And I think people make the mistake of assuming meaning, and not really knowing how to make meaning themselves, and feeling really lost about it. So I think that you might want to sit down with yourself a little bit and figure out why it is that you’re interested in Non-Monogamy? 

What do you hope to get out of it? What is your ideal within that? Because I feel like you just assuming that you’re an emotional monogamist perhaps because of this experience? I mean, you may be. But what is it that you specifically want out of this? And then when you try Non-Monogamy Again, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. Because like I said, just because you are non-monogamous doesn’t mean everyone who is not-monogamous is going to be completely compatible with you. 

You may want a relationship that is more swinger like to be honest. That sounds more like swingers where you have one marriage and one kind of emotional relationship but you have sexual experiences with other people. I still wouldn’t call that meaningless, but it is the primary relationship which is prioritised and sort of seen as more important, and that may be fine within the context of a swinger community. 

But for people who feel like they’re more polyamorous who want what’s called “Kitchen Table polyamory” or something like that, where not only do you want multiple deep romantic relationships, but you want those people to get along and you want to have a big kind of family. That may not be compatible with you even if you feel you are non-monogamous. So, figure out what you want from non-monogamy. In my beginner 101 non monogamous article which you can find a NonMonogamyHelp.com I talked about it in the terms of an anchor and that is your personal reason for wanting non monogamy. 

And when you have that better idea, you’ll know what it is that you’re trying to ask for from a partner and you’ll be able to navigate some of these anxieties a little bit more. Because if you know, like, “Okay, I want to be non monogamous, but this is a specific thing that I want”, then you can approach other partners and see if that’s what they’re actually interested in. And then you won’t have such a major reaction to things. I think you’ll still have fears. 

I think you’ll still have anxieties and that’s fine. I don’t think you should set yourself up for failure by thinking that just because you’re super into what you call “physical meaningless things” doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings. You’re going to have feelings because it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to live in a monogamous society and just absolutely have no emotions when your partner is with someone else. I think that that’s just not realistic for most people. 

So yeah, to recap, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to force your partner to break up with somebody else. However, I do think that it’s important for you to figure out what it is that you want and your partner as well as — for you both to figure out what your ideal is, and to see if you actually are compatible within that. I think you should question your assumptions that you are an emotional monogamist and that the things that you do are meaningless to you. Because I feel like that may not be completely true, but it’s all about finding what non-monogamy actually means to you so that you have something to compare it to when it comes to meaning. 

I do think that you might want to look into swinger communities just because what you’ve already described — if this is exactly what you want — seems more akin to the swinger vibe necessarily, then the polyamorous vibe. And yeah, in general, I just think that you need to give yourself a little bit of a break. You will have fears. You will be hurt and nervous and scared with your partner dating another person. I think even if you find someone who is interested in the same style of relationship, you will still be scared if your partner is doing something physical with somebody else that is supposed to be “meaningless”. It’s expected and understandable that you might feel scared. Some people don’t and that’s fine, but it’s very very understandable. So don’t beat yourself up too badly for that. And lastly, I hope this helps and good luck. 

Episode 72: Problematic Pedestal

Reading Time: 12 minutes

When you put one partner on a pedestal, it can cause a lot of constant anxiety. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

How do you deal with expressions of emotion? Sadness? Anger

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My partner and I have been together for 2 and a half years. It is my first queer passion and relationship.

I am a cis woman and I’ve had 2 long relationships with cis men, one of them lasted 9 years. (At one point of this relationship I brought up the idea of non-monogamy and he freaked out, later I left for 6 months abroad and he cheated on me which landed to us breaking up and then coming back together gain after a succession of little drama an [STI]).

My actual partner came out pretty early, dated and had sex with a lot of people during their life. They were assigned female at birth, they’re non binary, and they only date women.

When we met each other it was very intense and we fall in love quickly. It was new for me but it was special for both of us. I was a very independent person but they weren’t and I adapted myself and we had a very fusional first year.

We decided to open up our relationship a bit more than a year after we met. It was something we both wanted. 

For me it meant freedom and mostly the possibility to explore my lesbian sexuality. I was also drawn by the idea that it would make us closer in a way. For them, at first it wasn’t clear, they were curious to explore new stuff, supportive of me and kinda aroused by the idea of me having other stuff. But the reality was very different. 

We both signed up on tinder and to sum up, they started dating people right away and I freaked out about it. I was really sad, crying all the time, every little thing was hurting me and it kind of took away my own desire to pursue anything on my own. I was feeling insecure, jealous, not enough etc etc. 

Eventually I had some experiences (3) but it wasn’t completely satisfying for me.  For them, it was great. They’re so hot and very experienced in dating so it was just so easy. I couldn’t help compare our experience and it had a bad impact on my ego. During this time, it was always very clear that our relationship was the priority and that the other relationships were secondary and not serious. We’re leaving together and we’re very committed to each other and want this to stay like this.

We stoped it because of winter, pandemic and also because it didn’t really end well with 2 of the people my partner saw because they wanted more and not them. It was a hard winter because of the pandemic and because my partner was very depressed. I got a bit cold and distant because I wasn’t receiving any really attention. At the end of the winter I was even considering breaking up because I was feeling really unsatisfied but I still loved them so didn’t.

In June, I had to travel and left for 6 weeks. Before that we decided to open things again. I wanted to be free during my travel and also wanted them to be able to meet people and have nice time while I was away. They were saying they didn’t want anything too regular and we kinda agreed on that. I was clear about the fact that I was not comfortable (or ready) with them having an other girlfriend. 

During this 6 weeks, they started dating a younger girl and it was hard from me again right away. I thought they didn’t want anything regular but they said they changed their mind and really like this person. They were transparent with me about all this but I got very upset and so it put a distance between us (in addition to the actual distance). 

Again as I was 100% of time thinking about what they were doing, paranoid, fearing, being stressed out, feeling betrayed, humiliated etc. it drained me from pursuing anything on my own. Again it had a bad impact on my confidence.

When I got back home a week ago, we had some big deep beautiful discussions about the situation. They were very transparent about the fact that they really enjoy the non monogamy, that they like this girl, that they still love me very deeply and that our relationship is so important and precious to them. We are feeling closer than before, we’re very affectionate and kind with each other. 

I am feeling very much in love and I have butterflies again, which might be caused by the fear of losing them. They say their feelings are more deep and stable but they’re passed the honeymoon phase. I understand that but it is hard for me to accept it. Specially if they are experiencing this phase with someone else.

I am so scared of them falling in love with this girl and losing my “status”. I think part of it is that our narrative has always been very romantic and they tell me things like I am the best relationship they ever had and I am the love of their life etc. Which makes me feel so good but I realise that I am completely terrified about loosing this special place. 

I overthink everything, I feel obsessed with this situation, I am always comparing everything and it’s driving me bananas. I don’t really have people to talk to about it because my friends are all monogamous and I feel judged. I am gonna start seeing a therapist next week who is specialized in this topic but I don’t have a lot of money so I don’t know how many sessions I’ll be able to do.

This girl my partner is seeing is the 4th person they dated in a year and I thought that by now I will feel better but I really don’t. I can’t help but feeling humiliated and sad. Is it normal that it takes so much time to adjust ? It feels hopeless and I am questioning if it’s really something for me. What do you think ?

The other thing is that I am a very emotional person and I cry A LOT. I struggle finding a good balance between good communication and overwhelming sharing. I have a tendency to share everything and burst into tears very easily but it has a bad impact on us because it creates a distance and they fear to hurt me so we share less. I feel really stuck because I don’t know when I should just shut the fuck up and work alone on my shit and when it’s important to share. 

I am afraid my emotions are gonna sabotage our connexion. And I always read stuff like it’s important to express your emotions and cry but I am like : yes ok but what if it’s 5x times a day every day? I don’t think it’s constructive either ! What do you think ?

Response:

I feel like you kind of nailed it on the head a little bit. And a lot of people do this in Non-Monogamy when they start out and I get why they do it. But it is something that I feel like ends up causing a lot more panic and anxiety than it’s worth. It’s okay if you really want a situation where you have a primary or prioritised relationship, right? 

That’s okay if that’s really the way you want to operate. And I feel like there are some people who do operate that way and that’s fine. There are some people who want a kind of non-monogamy where their primary interest is in having sexual experiences with other people, but they kind of want to have the romance and stuff and lifelong commitment and everything with another person. 

And I think if that is what works for you, that is fine. The problem is that I feel like that’s kind of what people end up going for by default. Because monogamy is kind of presented to you as the only option. You kind of go for a similar kind of monogamy within non-monogamy if that makes sense. You opt for a solution that feels a little bit more safe in some ways. And I feel like if you don’t actually operate that way, it’s not really going to work and I also feel like exactly what you said. You’re afraid of losing your status. 

And when you put people on a pedestal, when you create a hierarchy, understand that that will create anxiety, because if you are ‘the special person’, exactly like you said, you’re going to be worried about basically being ousted from your throne. You’re going to be worried about being taken off of your pedestal. There is a way to reassure and compliment and, you know express your love for people that doesn’t involve a kind of exclusivity or putting people on a pedestal. 

It’s very hard for people to do that. Because that is kind of the thing that we are surrounded by in most cultures, right? Like all of the love songs, all of the things that you know, we’re encouraged to consider romantic all have to do with exclusivity. All have to do with like “You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met” and you know. And this creates a lot of problems in monogamy. This creates a lot of problems for people who feel like even in monogamy, that their partner should be perfect and they should always feel enamoured by that. 

It creates a lot of problems for monogamous people. So I feel like carrying this over — unless you are the kind of person where this is kind of how you operate. So you’re not really trying to put anyone on a pedestal it’s just that this is how you prefer to do things because this is how you operate or this is what your interest is in non-monogamy. If you’re not that type of person then that pedestal is going to create a lot of issues. 

So I think that what would be helpful is if you both made some attempt to figure out what your ideal is. So just because two people are polyamorous doesn’t mean they are compatible. You can be incompatible. Some polyamorous people want this kind of setup where there’s one person that they feel romantic towards one person they have a life with. And then they’re kind of being sexually adventurous and for the record  — I also dislike when a hierarchy is set up the way that people seem to act like people that their partner sleep with or have experiments with don’t matter. 

They do matter. It’s not as if — I feel like it’s a little cruel sometimes. And I’m not saying you’re doing this, but I do feel like it’s a little cool sometimes. The way we talk about it’s just like Oh, I’m the most important and everyone else is just trash basically and I know you didn’t say that. But I think that it would also help if we just kind of accepted that, you know, casual relationships are still relationships, like. The connections that people have with people. It doesn’t have to be so freakin cold.

Okay, yes, you may not want to establish a life with this person. Or spend the rest of your life with this person. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. You know, people can have huge impacts on your life, even if they only spend a little bit of time with you. So that’s that’s the first thing. But I think that what you need to do is you both need to think about why — what it is about polyamory that you are excited by, what is it that you get out of it? What is the personal benefit that you get out of this? I talk a lot about this. If you go to NonMonogamyhelp.com. I have a 101 and a 102 article. And in the one on one article, I talk about finding your anchor. And I think the finding your anchor is really, really helpful. 

So what your anchor is basically as the personal reason, which isn’t sustaining another relationship but your personal interest in Non-Monogamy and you could be a monogamous person to a polyamorous person and still have an anchor and your anchor may be that you like to have some time alone and so you don’t mind that your partner is with someone else because you like having more alone time than you typically might get within monogamy with another person who is monogamous. So you need to find out what your ideal is. 

What is it that you would like around that? Around that is about physicalities right? I think the bare minimum of non-monogamy is accepting a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. As I’ve said, in a lot of the columns and podcasts, a lot of monogamous relationships are also like this. If you have a partner with a time intensive career, where they may not be spending all their time with you. 

You also kind of have to be okay with that or not date someone who has that kind of a career. So that is kind of the first step. Like okay, this is this situation, my partner may not spend all of their time with me. It doesn’t sound like you have that problem. It doesn’t sound like that’s an issue for you. But you also need to think about what it is that you actually want. 

So stop trying to reassure each other by saying “Oh, you’re the most amazing person”. We do love our partners and they are amazing in their own way. But you don’t have to make it into a competition and that isn’t helping anyone. So instead of doing that, think about the physicalities like, are you going to have two set nights together? Are you going to schedule time together? I think that especially when people live together, it’s very, very easy and honestly even this is true for monogamous people. 

It’s very, very easy to forget to spend intentional time with one another and intentional time with one another is really, really important. So agree on some physicalities like is your partner going to spend three nights a week with you that kind of thing?

That will help you feel a little more grounded, you won’t feel so out of whack. If you know what your future is with each other. If you know you have the same kind of picture, the same kind of ideal with each other, then it won’t be so difficult for you to calm yourself when you’re in that kind of a state. I think also it’s important for you to put together kind of an emotional self care routine, something that helps you figure out where to go for help.

Like you obviously don’t have you know, and then and it’s worth — you know, I don’t know if you feel judged or if your monogamous friends have made you feel judged. You know, I think the monogamous people if they’re your friends, they should be able to support you. And it’s worth having those conversations with them. It’s worth reaching out to them and saying like, “Hey, can you give me some emotional support here without telling me that my lifestyle is wrong?”. I feel like they should if they’re your friends be able to do this. But other than that you can kind of figure out how you handle your emotions.

Exactly what I was speaking about earlier in the podcast about your nervous system like how you calm your nervous system. Seeing that therapist. When you go to see that therapist, ask that therapist for techniques on how to deal with your emotions. And then when it comes to how much you share. I feel like that’s really dependent on the person, right? Because some people will be able to sit there and listen to stuff and also put down some boundaries and say “I think that you’re going a little bit too far. I think that you’re oversharing” and you have the ability to trust your partner to lay down those boundaries. 

So maybe you need to have some honest conversations with each other. Maybe you need to ask your partner like instead of keeping things from me, can we establish almost like a safe word where you can say okay, things are getting a little intense. I need a break. Take a break, step away from each other, have those emotional processing things that you can do to kind of get that out and then come back. You know, you don’t have to process everything right away. You don’t have to spend five hours sitting and talking with each other. 

You can just go okay. All right. I’m feeling a little bit high emotion right now. I need to step away. Step away. Have a talk with a friend or you know, whatever you can do that kind of gets you a little bit less in the kind of reactive feeling, and then come back to the discussion but don’t beat yourself up as well. Like my last piece of advice. Don’t beat yourself up for having feelings like— people tell you to kind of like express your emotions and and sometimes you know it’s not like you constantly express— you’re not an open bottle or I don’t know what the phrase is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you just express everything all at once all the time. 

But you allow yourself to feel things. You allow yourself to go through that. And you will get to a point especially when you learn how to balance your nervous system and you learn how to calm yourself, you will get to a point where you see yourself having that anxiety spike. And you’re able to kind of experience yourself seeing that instead of being in the middle of it. And then you can express it in a way that you need to and it gets a little bit easier to navigate that, but you don’t reach that point by beating yourself up. So don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction. To feel scared to feel all of these things. 

Nothing that you’ve described is out of the norm. When it comes to emotions, I think that you will get to a point where you feel a little bit better but this isn’t all just you shutting the fuck up and working on your shit as you said. This is also you working with your partner to establish some shared idea of what it is your ideal is and then you know that you’re both working together on that and you will still have panics. You’ll still have freak outs you’ll still be scared. 

But at least you’ll be able to come back to that and say okay, but we have this idea. We have this thing that we both believe in we have this thing that we both want to work on. And you’ll be able to come back to that. I think people already have that in monogamy because it’s so culturally scripted.  You have the relationship escalator you have signs that kind of ground you in knowing that things are serious that your partner is committed, etc and so forth. So when you don’t have that, you just need to find out how to create that within your relationship. 

And I think a great way to start is by talking to each other about what your ideals are, figuring out if you have a shared idea of a life that is compatible, if there are compromises you can make or they can make and just figure out how you both work together. I think that would be a huge help. 

So to summarise, the pedestal is the problem here. That is why you’re so anxious. You both need to make an attempt to figure out what your ideal is because two polyamorous people can be incompatible. So figure out if you’re compatible in that way. Schedule some physical actual days out, nights out, or nights in just some time. That’s intentional, that you know for sure you always have this time with them which can help a lot with anxiety. 

And then, as I said put together an emotional self care routine. Something that helps you figure out where you can go for help. Reach out to some of your friends and see if they— they should provide you with that support even if they don’t get polyamory. And last but not least, don’t be so mean and hard on yourself about it. And there isn’t anything bad about having a lot of feelings. It’s just about how you navigate that if that makes sense. So I hope this helps and good luck.

Episode 71: Feelings and Friends

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We create rules sometimes about what our partners can do because we’re afraid of losing them, but sometimes the rules we make don’t actually change anything.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

How do you introduce the topic of STIs to someone you’re interested in dating or sleeping with?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 71 – Feelings and Friends

We create rules sometimes about what our partners can do because we’re afraid of losing them, but sometimes the rules we make don’t actually change anything. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website.

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My boyfriend (26) and I (21) have been together for 3 years. We are in an “open” relationship, where we have both given permission to sleep with other people. As a couple, we talk about and fantasise about being with other people, both together and separately. 

Neither of us have found the right situation, until now. I used Feeld, the app, and found someone who has consented to the situation and with meeting up with me alone and with both of us together. I was excited and when I presented this to my boyfriend and asked if we could meet for drinks, he told me he didn’t want me talking to and developing relationships with other people.

To me, that’s understandable and not at all unreasonable; however, the issue there is that I’ve never just “hooked up” with anyone. I need some sort of connection before sleeping with someone. I have no intentions of having emotions involved or to fill any sort of role that is currently filled by my boyfriend with anyone else. I just want casual sex, but I feel the need to get to know new partners. He doesn’t seem to understand and isn’t willing to compromise on it. Not that I feel like we should if he’s truly uncomfortable with it.

My question is, does this mean we should just close our relationship and move on? I’m not against that but I would be a little disappointed, as this has been the basis of my fantasies for years.

Response:

The issue here is that friends go out for a drink together. Friends have emotions and feelings towards one another. If he doesn’t want you to develop relationships with other people… I mean, I know that he means “a relationship”, right? But a friendship is also technically “a relationship” in the broadest sense of the term. It’s totally understandable if for him he can meet someone with little to no conversation and get busy, that’s fine. That’s fine. Not everyone else is necessarily like that, and you are not like that and I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to want to just meet and have drinks.

And I’m guessing you’re gonna find a lot of people— I mean, I don’t know maybe in random clubs and stuff like that — maybe you will find more people who are cool with like just randomly hooking up without at least having a little bit of a conversation first. But generally speaking I would say within the polyamory universe, most people want to have like a chat and get to know each other a little bit. I really don’t think that that is developing a relationship, right? 

You chat and have drinks with coworkers and you’re not necessarily developing long term deep partnerships with coworkers. I mean maybe you do. But that’s not a huge ask. So I think you need to have a bigger discussion because, what happens if you do develop feelings for somebody? Because even if you were to follow these very — to me — a little bit odd rules… But okay, it’s his rule. That’s how he wants to do it. 

Just because you don’t have a conversation with somebody doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t develop feelings for them. Sex sometimes creates feelings, and especially if this is something that you’ve been fantasising about a lot. You can develop feelings. And what does that mean? Because I think people say — but what it means to have “have feelings” is a very subjective emotional experience which I don’t think is necessarily the same for every single person on this planet.

Does he just not ever meet up with drinks with somebody unless he definitely wants to have a relationship with him? Because if that’s how he does things fine, but it’s clearly not how you do things. And what this kind of means in a lot of ways, is that there’s kind of a feeling of a lack of trust. That he doesn’t trust you. I don’t think he thinks that logically in his brain. He’s not like “Well I don’t She’s just going to go meet up with somebody and they’re going to be married next week”. I don’t think he thinks that, but this type of rule and this type of fear tends to come from two things. 

One is that he has an anxiety understandably of losing you. He doesn’t want to lose you. So he is going to be afraid of you developing feelings for someone and ditching him. That is a totally understandable feeling. He can’t control that. His making this rule is not going to be able to control that. You could meet someone at the grocery store and reach for the same mango and you both fall desperately in love. Doesn’t happen to me. Could happen to you. I don’t know your life, you know. That could happen. 

You could meet someone at work who you chat with and you fall in love with. Unless he plans on keeping you locked up in a tower and not meeting anyone but you… And if he does, you should leave. He’s not going to be able to prevent you from developing feelings for somebody. That’s not controllable. So he has to understand that as much as he is afraid of that and that’s — I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. That makes total sense. He can’t actually control that. And he certainly can’t control that by making these weird arbitrary rules.

If anything that’s more likely to drive you away than it is, you know… because if this is something that you really want to act on, and this is a thing that you feel like, “Well if I don’t do this… I have only one life and so I need to find someone who will let me do this or who’s interested in doing this”. So yeah it’s just… he can’t really control his fear with that rule and he needs to understand that.

Then you both kind of need to understand what it is that you would like— what it is that “having feelings” means. Because another thing that I think happens a lot when people open the relationship is that there’s so many rules about like… “You need to tell me when you have feelings for somebody” or, you know “I need to know” because people have a really understandable fear and anxiety that their partner will meet someone, be blown away and be like “Well, screw you, I’m gone bye”. That is totally understandable and people are people aren’t afraid of that in monogamy because they don’t think it’s going to happen.

But it can totally happen in monogamy. Polyamory doesn’t magically make that more likely to happen. Okay, understandably, like someone having permission to go out and have dates with somebody is a little bit different but somebody can fall in love with someone that they’ve just met, and ditch you. Either one of you. That is something that can happen. So, that is something that a lot of people fear and so they try to create all these rules of like, “Okay, I need to monitor the situation so that I can have— the first sign that anything is wrong and we can we can handle that”. 

But you need to start from a base level of trust right? It’s sort of like if you started off in monogamy and you decided that you would each show each other all your text messages for the week. That’s kind of the analogous rule. When you start off in monogamy, you start off on a basis of trust, which means that you don’t need to look at each other’s text messages. In the same regard, you need to start off on the basis of trust. He needs to get that you are saying “Hey, I’m prioritising this relationship. We’ve both decided that the type of non-monogamy that we want to have is one where we are a primary type, and then we have other sexual fun experiments with other people, but there is no change from this primary type, and that’s fine”.

And I would also encourage you to communicate that to other people so that they’re aware that this is the hierarchy that you’re working on and they don’t get upset or will understandably know to not expect more from you. But you both agreed on what you want. So now what you need to do is trust that that’s what both of you want, and give yourself a little leeway. Because going out with drinks with someone is not developing feelings, So, yeah. All right. 

To sum up, first things first, friends have drinks together. Having drinks is not developing a relationship with somebody. You need to have a bigger discussion about what that means within the context of your relationships, what you’re going to do if you do develop feelings with for somebody. And then also, you need to remind him that he may have this fear and you may have it too. You just may not have had it crop up just yet. that he might lose you, but he can’t try to control that by making these arbitrary rules. 

Instead of you all making a rule that you won’t fall for anybody else, you need to decide what you will do if that does happen, and that will actually help. Don’t just make a rule. You can’t control your feelings. So it’s important that you don’t try to make rules that act as though you can control your feelings. Try to have trust in one another, and talk about what will happen if the “worst” should happen and you do end up having feelings for somebody else. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 70: Half Ghosting

Reading Time: 10 minutes

What happens when your mutual partner ghosts you, but not your partner? Rejection sucks, but this feels a bit different.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What happens when your partner and your best friend don’t get along?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 70 – Half Ghosting

What happens when your mutual partner ghosts you, but not your partner? Rejection sucks, but this feels a bit different. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What happens when your partner and your best friend don’t get along?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

So, what do you do when a mutual partner ghosts you but not your shared partner?

My long term partner and I were both singularly and severally involved with a partner. The partner just completely ghosted me but kept talking to my long term partner.

They said they had a lot going on in their life and I totally understand that, but I also feel like, if they had enough time to keep talking to my long term partner, they had enough time to say something to me. Even a ‘hey I’ve got stuff going on’ or a ‘I don’t want to see you anymore’ is better than what I got. And what sucks even worse is that they kept talking and I didn’t know. I thought they had ghosted us and not just me.

It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, like I’m not good enough. Rejection sucks but I’ve been through it before. This sucks way worse though I can’t explain why.

Response:

There’s a lot going on with this particular situation. Because the thing that I’m wondering… the long and short of it is that if you were to go with the option of confronting this person, as much as you could possibly confront them… I’m not sure what the logistics are. Does this person live really close to you both? Do you live with your partner, your long term partner? Is this person going to be physically coming over? Is there COVID stuff that’s happening with this? Since when we’re recording this, this is still in the midst of COVID. 

So I don’t know if it’s likely that you’re physically going to run into this person or if you have to go out of your way to run into this person, and generally speaking I think you could confront them, but I’m wondering if confronting will get you the answers that you want. So I think it’s worth thinking about what is the answer that you want from this? Because I do think that, you know it’s… for some people rejecting people outright is a really hard thing to do. And I’m not saying that makes it totally okay to ghost someone, but to say they said they had a lot going on in their life, that sort of reads to me as a little bit of a rejection.

If not a direct one, and it could be possible that to them, they didn’t ghost you. They told you they had a lot going on in their life. And that was the end of it. There’s a variety of different reasons why they might decide to continue talking to your long term partner — and I don’t know if by talking that means that they’re dating or they’re romantically involved — and not to you but it may just be that they get along better with your long term partner than they do with you. 

And considering the fact that I’m assuming that they know that you’re dating your long term partner, perhaps, they feel just as awkward about it as you do. So I don’t know what it is that you would get from a confrontation, because they may just tell you like, you know, the reasons in particular that they feel they’re not compatible with you, or they may tell you something that you don’t necessarily want to hear. And that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful for you. I think that the thing that I’m wondering about this is that, you know… you say rejection sucks. You’ve been through it before, and it sucks way worse — what wonders me about it is it does it bother you…

Is their rejection bothering you or is it actually that your long term partner is continuing to engage with them? Even after knowing I assume that your long term partner knows that they ghosted you. And maybe that’s the issue. It’s not so much that you know that they’ve ghosted you and rejected you or whatever but that your long term partner is now continuing to talk with them, and maybe you feel awkward about that and this opens up a different kind of can of worms. I think that one of the things that’s interesting about non-monogamy and polyamory is that we get to see the choices that our partners make.

And it’s quite easy especially within monogamy and especially within the way that we’re encouraged to practice monogamy to think that our partners have chosen us because we’re really special or we’re really good at something, or, you know, that we stand out, or that we are particularly good. And that’s kind of the narrative that the society that we’re in encourages us to believe. Right? That they’ve chosen us because we’re better in some way. And so, the funny thing about polyamory is that you can see the people that your partner choose and you can be less than impressed about that. 

And in this particular situation it’s less about like— that you don’t like this person but it’s that your partner’s sort of choosing someone that has kind of been rude to you, and you don’t really know what to make of that. Because, you know, on the one hand, some people operate in a very compartmentalised way. And I’ve struggled with this a lot too. Some people are like “This is what has happened in between you two, and we are separate”. And I can see the validity in that and if that is how people can emotionally operate, then that totally makes sense. 

On the other hand, I can also see the problem that you can have if you know someone’s been really… Well not *really* rude — I mean they just ghosted you. That’s not nice. But someone’s been not nice to you and your partner has gone, “Okay”. In a way. So have you talked about it with your long term partner? This is really tricky because it — and I’ve been in situations like this before with friends and not even necessarily with just partners. It’s like, I have had friends who have been nasty to my partner and me go, “You know what?” Even though, yes, this isn’t—  We aren’t a unit, and I don’t really like to be in that kind of a unit. Like I don’t operate as a unit. I operate as me. 

It’s kind of hard for me to be friends with people who are mean to people that I care about. I can’t ignore that or separate that. So it might be that this is less about that person and more about what’s going on in between you and your long term partner, because I assume that you meant you were severely involved with the same person. And the fact that you thought that that this person had ghosted both of you, and then you suddenly found out that wasn’t the case— that is really awkward. And I just think that, you just need to talk it out a little bit more with your long term partner. And it’s really important not to use your — and I’m sure you know this — but it’s really important not to use your long term partner as a way to get answers from this person.

Just say like, “This is how I’m feeling. What do you feel about the situation?” It could be that your partner feels just as awkward about it. I would really hesitate to encourage your partner to make any decisions about the relationship they have with that person purely based off of the way that they’ve treated you. Because here’s the thing about ghosting. I have done this before, in friendships. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but for me personally, I have resorted to what people would call ghosting when I have felt like having a direct confrontation with the person was either not something that I could do at the time, or if I felt like it would not result in anything beneficial.

There was someone who I was friends with for ages and I just… I didn’t have —  my expectations of them we’re not really fair but I didn’t know how to have a confrontation. I’m not generally very good at healthy confrontation. I’m very good at unhealthy confrontation. I’m very good at, you know— I can easily like get mad at somebody. I can easily like— if I have to really put my foot down, I’m very I’m very fine with doing that, but to be vulnerable and to say, “Hey, this hurts, and this is how I feel”. That is really really hard for me, actually. 

And so when people ghost sometimes — I can’t speak for every single person in every single situation. — But sometimes the reason they do that is not because they are trying to hurt you. It might be that they just don’t know how to do rejection. It might be that they don’t how to make it clear. It might be that they thought they made it clear by telling you that they have a lot going on. And that was clear enough, and maybe you’re like, “Oh that’s not too clear.” It’s hard for me to say because I don’t know what — if you’ve sent them a bunch of messages and been like “Hey how are you?” and they’ve just totally ignored it. I mean generally that is what happens with ghosting but if you see that they’ve seen the messages it’s a bit different. But sometimes that’s what people do when they can’t really have a direct confrontation, and I’m not saying that makes it even easier for you, or that it feels nice, but it might be worth thinking about that. 

There are good reasons why they may have— they may want to make time in their life for your long term partner but not necessarily with you. Maybe they’re really intimidated by dating two people who are dating each other, and they feel like or they want to make a decision instead of dating you both. We can sit here and speculate all sorts of reasons. I’m not saying sit here on an endless loop of speculation as to why they did it, but I’m saying that inot to take it personally, that it’s probably not necessarily about you personally.

And even if it is, if they’re not willing to tell you exactly why they’ve done this or exactly why they’re not interested and there’s only so much you can do. But when it comes to how weird you’re feeling, I think it sucks worse just because you know your partner got accepted and you didn’t and that’s really hard and it’s worth talking with your partner about it, or seeing a therapist, if you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist, talking to that and just also allowing yourself to be a little bit, put out by it. 

Rejection does suck in general. It’s always gonna suck. But when somebody you know gets accepted and you get rejected like that sucks and you’re gonna feel a way about it, and that’s okay. Like, it will I think eventually pass, but it might be worth just having a chat with your partner — like no expectation of them to do anything in their relationship but just letting you know that you feel weird about it, and if they plan to bring that person over then you might all have to like acknowledge what’s the big elephant in the room of what’s happened. 

And just, you know, laugh about it. Address it and move on because I don’t necessarily think this is going to be a big deal in the long term. It just feels a little bit weird right now because of the way that it happened, and then the fact that your partner is probably still talking to them and it feels a bit awkward, and that’s okay. So yeah, just to recap, you could confront them depending on your logistical situation but I don’t know if that will be helpful for you I think you do have to kind of just accept that.

It may not have been a very good rejection but it is clearly a some type of rejection, and it is what it is. And, you know, let go of the assumption that having that knowing exactly why they rejected you is going to make you feel better because I don’t think it will. And then the second thing is have a talk with your long term partner about it and try to explore a little a little bit yourself. Like does it bother you that your long term partner is, has, has been accepted or continues to talk with them? Ask what the plans are if this person does come visit your long term partner. How are you going to work this out?

It might be that eventually there is kind of a sit down with all three of you and you just kind of talk about it, and that would probably be really useful to address the situation. But just have a chat with your partner about it but don’t put any pressure on them to make decisions. It’s okay for you to have feelings about being rejected by a person who’s kind of, you know, accepted more or less your partner. But the last thing that you want to do is necessarily make them feel like they have to they have to do something to honour your feelings to this person. That’s not a really fair position to put them in. 

And last but not least, I just think that you have to accept that you feel a little bit shit and be okay with that. You feel a bit shit and rejection sucks but this one sucks a little bit worse and I don’t think it’s going to suck forever. It’s going to suck for a little while. It’s going to be awkward. Embrace that it’s going to suck and be awkward for a while. If you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist consider having a few sessions talking through this, and eventually I think you will feel better. 

But, yeah, I think it sucks, mainly because it’s one thing to get rejected. Like usually when we get rejected, we don’t know who else has been accepted. Now we know who else has been accepted. So it’s easy for your brain to start comparing and contrasting and that’s just your brain trying to like help you out. It doesn’t feel helpful at all. It doesn’t feel in the slightest but helpful at all right now, but that is your brain just trying to, especially if you’ve ever been through any kind of trauma like it’s your brain being a survival brain and going “oh well  if we learn where we made mistakes and then we’ll be able to prevent rejection from happening again!” 

Your brain just doesn’t want you to feel pain again but the thing is that you can’t— And I’ve said this in my columns, I’ve said this in podcast before, and I have a polyamory 101 and 102 articles. And I think specifically I talked about this in my 101 article. Your anxiety is always going to make you feel like if you make different choices then you’ll be able to prevent pain. You’ll be able to prevent the worst from happening, but you can’t accept that and accept the hyper-vigilance without also accepting that everything that has happened to you is somehow your fault. 

And it’s not. The rejections you’ve had before— it’s not because you’ve made some grave error, every single time or, you know, it just happens. And your brain is, in its weirdness, trying to help you figure it out so that it can prevent pain, but, you know, sitting with it and going, “Hey, this happened”, will eventually help your survival brain calm down. But at least if you can see that it’s just your survival brain trying to help you out, then that sometimes makes it a lot easier to deal with it. I hope this helps and good luck.

Episode 69: Self-Sacrificing Too Much

Reading Time: 13 minutes

If you’ve given a partner 10 years in monogamy, but they expect you to be happy and feel compersion after deciding to be polyamorous, you might be self-sacrificing  a little too much.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What’s one major way your values have changed in the last 10 years?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 69 – Self-Sacrificing Too Much

If you’ve given a partner 10 years in monogamy, but they expect you to be happy and feel compersion after deciding to be polyamorous, you might be self-sacrificing  a little too much.  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website.

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My long term partner and I have been together for 10 years. When we started dating I told him I was polyam and he said he was mono. I had been in mono relationships and so I was ok with us being that. I mentioned it again as our relationship progressed and he seemed to be interested but it just really never got off the ground. At that point I committed to being mono for the duration of our relationship and began building on that. 

Then about 7 months ago he decided that he wanted to try polyam. Since then it’s been nothing but heartache. For years I worked on turning off all my poly[am] switches and focused on building our relationship. And now he has decided that I need to turn them all back on immediately so that he can date.

I have ways been polyam, even when I didn’t know what to call it or even realise that I was. 

Believe me, it caused me no small amount of heartache when I was younger and crushing on multiple people at once. My desire to pursue it has not changed because it is who I am. He and I are really struggling right now because I’m not ecstatic for him in every possible way. I am putting in hard work reading and researching and self examination and really trying to break down all the bullshit I’ve built up over 10 years of being in a mono relationship. I can’t even get him to read a book. He says he has it all figured out and he’s totally adjusted to everything on every level.

Compersion is very difficult for me. I feel like he asked me to be his one and only special person for 10 years and now I’m not anymore and he is giving away to other people what was ours. And I hate it. I’m working on it but right now I despise his partners and I am angry and resentful and jealous that they’re getting a part that, for the entirety of our relationship, has been for me because that’s how HE wanted it and now he’s just decided to 180 and pull the rug right out from under me.

When we are intimate now I can’t think of anything else besides them. As you can imagine, it strains our intimacy. I try. I swear I am trying. It hurts that I can’t seem to be happy for him. I feel guilty because he gets mad that I’m not, like I’m doing something wrong.

Response:

First and foremost, if you were with a friend, and you had some boxes to carry, and your friend said, “You know what? I don’t know if I can do this. Would you carry these?” And you carried them and you were like, “Okay fine. I understand you may not be able to do it”. And you carry them. And then, after a long time, your friend is like, “Oh wait, actually I can totally do this. This is fine. Whatever. Cool, I can do it”. You would be annoyed. And you not only would be annoyed because he’d been carrying them for so long, you wouldn’t expect in the scenario for the person who has been carrying the boxes to be happy about the change in situation. 

I mean obviously yes. It’s great that things have changed to make it a little easier, sort of, on you, but it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect that person who had been carrying all those boxes to suddenly be like, “Oh this is awesome. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying carrying your box!” It’s not like a completely comparable situation. I don’t mean to compare relationships to holding boxes, but it’s very very unrealistic for any person to completely change and sacrifice—  because this has been a sacrifice for you — and then be happy, just suddenly be happy and cool and fine with things changing.

Changing is going to cause, even if it’s a change that you would have liked to have had, changing things is going to be a little nerve wracking. And especially in the situation that you’re in, like you said you’ve kind of— I don’t think you can necessarily switch off your inclination towards polyamory if it’s what you feel is an inclination. However, whenever people create a hierarchy — and whether this is in monogamy or polyamory — if you create a hierarchy where there is one person who is more important than everybody else and that person is the romantic person and you can do this within polyamory.

This is kind of what happens when people create “primary partners”. If you create a hierarchy that one person is important, it is naturally going to create a worry, and a little bit of a defence mechanism if you are in that prioritised position to want to stay in that prioritised position. You’re naturally going to worry about that changing. So it makes complete and total sense for you to, after 10 years of being in a monogamous relationship with somebody, for you to be worried that — what if this person isn’t polyamorous? They just want to find someone new to replace me? 

It’s okay to have those worries. This is a massive change. It’s a massive, massive change. It’s like if after 10 years, your partner was like, “Nope I don’t want kids. Hate kids. Don’t want kids. Hate kids. Don’t want kids. Hate kids”, and then suddenly was like, “Let’s have a million babies”. You would be a little bit concerned. And you wouldn’t be wrong for feeling that. So right now, what you’re doing is you’re putting yourself, not only — and I really hate compersion. The thing that I hate about compersion, right— And for people who don’t know what compersion is —Basically it’s supposed to be the “opposite of jealousy” although I’ve seen that be challenged more and more. 

It’s basically when you’re happy that your partner is with somebody else like you’re happy for them. I really hate putting it in a position where compersion is like the ideal or compersion is like the top of the mountain and you’re trying to reach the top of the mountain and sometimes you just have to be okay that you can’t get to the top. No, it’s a cherry on top of the cake. It’s an extra side benefit. And it might just not be something that you experience

It’s the same with friendships. Some people are super interested in their friends romantic lives and really get excited when they’re dating other people, some people couldn’t give a fuck less, and that’s okay. It’s okay if you’re not deeply invested in being happy that you’re partner’s with somebody else. It’s okay to feel that. You’re putting conversion on this like mountain that you need to climb up and you’re forcing yourself to climb up this mountain. 

 Now, you have a little bit of a problem here. This is a problem that I have. I run an advice column because I have an inclination to be helpful. I like being helpful. I want to be helpful and useful to people. That’s just kind of the way my personality is. I have to be very very very careful about how I do that because I’ve been in way too many situations where I have basically busted my ass for someone. It’s difficult because sometimes I busted my ass for people but I haven’t really… They didn’t ask me to do that. And they’ve not recognised or seen what I’ve done and I felt resentment over that. 

You have to be really really careful with the inclination to self-sacrifice, because even though I don’t go out of my way to help people because I want cookies for it, or that I’m trying to necessarily do it to get on the good side. I’m not trying to be manipulative about it. But if I do self sacrifice, if I do work for people if I try to help someone, and then they turn around and they treat me like crap… It feels like it hurts worse. And I have to be really really careful about who I decide to sacrifice for. I’ve been in a lot of situations like not even romantic relationships, friendships.

I can imagine one friendship that I recently had where I—  they said that they couldn’t afford something and I built a Crowdfunder for them and I busted my ass to get it fully funded and they got the money and then they turned around, and they — we had a disagreement about something and they turned around and told everybody behind my back that I hated them and was trying to conspire against them and that really really hurt me. And it hurt me worse because I busted my butt so badly for them. And when that happens— like I’ve come to a conclusion that if I’m going to sacrifice or work hard for somebody, if I’m going to give to somebody, I have to release myself of the expectation and prepare for the reality that that person may not be that great.

 And it’s not my fault. There was a period of time where I wanted to be like, “Well I’m not going to sacrifice anything for anyone else. I’m not going to help anybody anymore”. And that’s just not within my personality, right? But I have to just be careful about this. I don’t think that it was wrong of you to give up on polyamory, but at the same time you do kind of have to realise that when you make that kind of a decision. You have to make that without basically beating yourself up if it doesn’t work out. If you can sacrifice something, and then be okay with whatever the result of that is, then that is the best choice to decide when to sacrifice something. 

It’s really difficult, because it does hurt, and it is incredibly painful when you really, you know, go out of your way to help someone, and you also need to be — if you have a tendency towards this — I think you also need to be wary about who you do this for. And you also need to realise is this person going to see me? Yes, for me, like, I don’t do things to to necessarily get loads of praise, but if I’m doing it for someone and I haven’t made them aware that I’m trying for them or if I haven’t, you know, if I haven’t not necessarily tried to stick it in their face, but if, if they don’t seem to be an appreciative person, right, or they specifically aren’t asking me for help and I’m just going out of my way to do it I have to be really careful about that. 

So that is the thing that I want you to think about in the future. There’s nothing you do about it now. You’ve sacrificed 10 years to this person and you know, that is all gone and I do think you need to allow yourself to be sad about that. You need to allow yourself to mourn the loss of those 10 years, you know, you’ve kind of put yourself on the back shelf of it, and prioritises your partner over yourself. And that has caused you to lose touch with yourself in that way. It’s caused you to miss out on a lot of relationships you could have had during that time, and it’s okay for you to be sad about that. 

And I do think that right now you’re kind of like pushing all of your feelings back, because you’re still self sacrificing. You’re still prioritising his feelings, You’re still prioritising—  you want to have compersion because you want him to be happy. And you’re still doing that and I think that you need to stop doing that. And you need to allow yourself to be a little bit — like more than a little bit sad about what has happened and what you’ve missed out on. 

The big thing here, aside from all of those issues, is your partner’s attitude, which honestly really boils my piss to be frank. Expecting you to just turn around after 10 years of being monogamous, and not only be okay with polyamory, but to have no interest in doing any research after not being polyamorous, and I don’t think anyone needs a degree to be polyamorous, but understandably like you— It seems like you want to work through this with him, and you want to talk about things, and it just seems like he doesn’t want to talk about it. He just wants to do it and he wants you to be happy. That’s kind of bullshit. I’m not surprised that you’re struggling with being intimate with him and struggling in having any intimacy. Why would you? 

Why would you want to be intimate with someone who completely changes the game on you? And not only completely changes the game on you but, isn’t from what you’ve written, isn’t really showing you any compassion for what you’re going through? It’s like this scenario that I just introduced you in: you’re holding this box. If he said, “Do you know what, actually, I can hold that box. I’m really sorry that you’ve had to hold it for so long. I’m so sorry.” You can’t change what has happened and I respect the fact that like, you know, he could have been too self sacrificing. He could have equally tried polyamory when he didn’t want to, and if it hadn’t— I mean I’ve seen that scenario play out so many times where people push themselves into polyamory, and they really don’t want it, and it ends up being a really painful hard thing for them and I’m glad that he didn’t do that.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t show you any compassion for where you are. That doesn’t mean he can’t try to and I understand like reading books and doing all that research isn’t necessarily for everyone, but there’s still things he can work with you through. And it doesn’t sound like he’s even showing you the least bit of compassion for what you have gone through. Even if he wanted to be polyamorous, from the start the fact that you’ve had to kind of completely switch gears and not only that but he is getting mad at you for not being happy for him. That’s bullshit. 

Even if you were both “experienced polyamory people”, even if you both were experienced, and you had a partner who was getting mad at you because you weren’t happy for them, that’s bullshit. It’s okay that like, if he’s dating other people and you’re not feeling great, it’s okay if he struggles with that. A lot of people really struggle with the idea that something they’re doing is making their partner unhappy. A lot of people really struggle to go out on those first dates because they don’t want to upset their partner. A lot of people want to reach some kind of perfect state of readiness and perfection before they go out and date other people, because they really don’t want the partner to be unhappy. 

He’s not only not doing that but he’s getting mad at you for not being happy. Well, no wonder you’re not happy. That’s no reason for you to be happy. You spent 10 years completely changing how you do relationships for one person whose completely switched it up. Seems like they’re refusing to have any discussions with you about this. “I just expect you to be happy about it. Why are you sad?” You’re not a robot. And you know what, there might be people out there in the world who could completely switch and be fine and be like “Yeah and I’m totally stoked for you”. That’s great, that’s not you, and it’s not realistic to be— to have this expectation of you and like demand that you be cool.

If he wants to do polyamory it’s not like polyamory is not monogamy plus. It’s not monogamy but you get to sleep with whoever you want your partner’s cool with it. That’s not what polyamory is. And he has to be willing, just as he would in a monogamous relationship, to support you. If he has it all figured out for him. Brilliant, great. If he doesn’t need to— if he feels like he doesn’t need to read anything for him. Great. That’s great. But he still needs to be there for you and be supportive of what you’re going through. And that’s the issue. He could read 500 books and still be unsupportive. The books aren’t going to make him supportive.

But if he’s just unwilling to do any kind of work with you. I mean, and then he’s getting mad at you for not being happy. Of course you’re not! Even if you had a completely supportive partner, who was totally down with and gave you lots of assurance and lots and was there for you and apologised constantly about changing their mind and all this sorts of stuff — I would still expect you to not be completely and utterly happy because it’s a big shift. It’s a big change. And it’s scary to know if this is, is this person for real or are they just saying polyamory and then I’m going to get replaced? It’s totally an utterly expected for you to have those feelings, and to also mourn what you’ve lost. 

You’ve lost 10 years that you could have had so many relationships during that time. It’s okay for you to be upset about that, but instead of being able to have someone there for you and someone who supports you and understands and is trying to be there for you, you’ve got someone who is like, “No,  I’m cool with being polyamorous, and this is great. Whoo, why aren’t you happy for me?” Like what? It would be like in that same scenario that person just like took the box from you and was like doing cartwheels for it and then was like “Shouldn’t you be happy that I can carry this box?” No, of course you’re not happy. Of course you’re struggling to feel compersion. 

That is totally an utterly expected in this situation. That is kind of the bigger issue for me in this. Yes, you have an issue here with  self sacrifice, and whether or not, you know, that is something you should continue to do. Yes, you have an issue with not allowing yourself to feel your feelings about this because you’re too busy continuing to self-sacrifice. Those are issues you can address, but you can’t fix him not being willing to support you. And if he was supportive I would advise you to like, okay, accept where you are now accept what you’ve lost, mourn than what you’ve lost, try to work through some of this anger, see a polyamory friendly therapist on your own and see how you can reassure each other and work from where you are now to forward because I do see the other side of the situation and that if he did force himself to do polyamory and he couldn’t, that could have also ended just as badly.

There could have also been resentment and also then a lot of emotional pain in that situation, so I can understand — and I think it’s better that he said, “No, I don’t want to do it”, instead of trying to be self sacrificing in the same way you were. I think it’s better. But the fact that he is unwilling to be supportive of you is a big issue. And I do really, really think that regardless of whether you consider polyamory or monogamy is not the biggest issue in this situation. It’s am I with someone who is willing to support me and be with me and hold me through difficult times in my life and help me and, you know, allow me to feel my feelings? 

Someone who is being mad at you because you’re not happy is not someone who is allowing you to feel your feelings. It’s okay if he has feelings about your feelings. Like, that’s fine. But if there is this expectation and you know maybe it’s something you’re more forcing on yourself but it sounds like he’s also forcing this on you. There’s an expectation for you to just be happy. That isn’t going to work in monogamy, let alone polyamory. That doesn’t work in any relationship, if someone just expects you to constantly be happy and doesn’t want to deal with any sad feelings or unhappy feelings, that’s not realistic in monogamy or any— That’s not realistic in a friendship. That’s not realistic in any kind of relationship. 

You have to deal with the fact that sometimes people aren’t happy. And if you want to have a sustainable relationship with them then you have to be able  to work with them through that. If you have the resource talk to a polyamory friendly therapist about all this. But I do really, really think that you need to— you can ask him and put kind of put an ultimatum kind of situation on him, in terms of being more supportive of you, but there’s nothing you can do to make him care more about you. 

And I really, really think that you should consider whether or not it’s worth continuing to self sacrifice and continuing to be with someone who is not willing to sacrifice a little bit for you. Like it has to be mutual. It has to be someone who’s willing to at least consider the fact that you’re not happy, and try and be supportive of you. I think that you should really really consider if that’s the kind of person that you want to be with. Because the problem here is absolutely not that you can’t feel compersion. The problem is that you are being forced into a situation where you have to be happy or else, and that’s not a sustainable or helpful situation. I hope that helps and good luck. 

Episode 68: Mismatched Labels

Reading Time: 12 minutes

If your partner is polyamorous but you are non-monogamous is your relationship doomed?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What is your ideal polyamory or non-monogamy set-up?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 67 – Mismatched Ideals

If your partner is polyamorous but you are non-monogamous is your relationship doomed? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is your ideal polyamory or non-monogamy set-up?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I’m a cisgender straight woman. My partner is a straight cis man and his other partner is a cis bi woman. My partner and I began our relationship four years ago as a casual physical relationship. We lived an hour away from each other. He was recently out of a bad relationship, and made it very clear that he was with many other women. This was fine, but we really clicked and quickly fell in love. He’s done a lot of healing and we’re doing well. I moved across the country a couple years ago and we didn’t know how things would go but we realised that we were still just as in love. 

With the pandemic allowing me to work from home, we have recently moved in together. We knew that we were not monogamous, but we are non-monogamous in very different ways. I prefer to have very casual partnerships and hookups. He needs an emotional connection with other partners. He also needs love and companionship and reassurance in a way that sometimes feels to me like a quantity over quality, but that is not how he sees it. 

When we first started talking about moving in together, I asked him what we needed to talk about as far as other relationships. He said that we didn’t really need to because there weren’t any. I assumed that he meant that he was not interested in other relationships. Since we’ve moved in together, I’m quite happy with him and just not interested in other partners. I thought we were in the same place. He told me a previous partner had ended their romantic relationship. It was very clear to me however that they both still wanted each other. He went over to this person’s house for a game night, I asked if he was coming home, and explained I would be uncomfortable staying at the apartment by myself, and he said he wouldn’t do that to me. 

I understood this to mean he would not be spending the night with other partners. A few weeks later he told me he would be spending the night with her 48 hours later. I was crushed and betrayed. I felt forced into a situation I had not consented to. We have since had many conversations and understood that we both made assumptions based on desires we had not expressed. He is a very direct and frank person who understood the thing about spending the night to apply to that particular night. I don’t resent him for anything except not talking through things more before we moved in together. 

My main issue is dealing with the other partner. I want nothing to do with her, I don’t want to be reminded of her existence, and when he’s with her I’m a mess. I feel like this would feel different had we talked about how things would work first, and now we have, so I don’t expect this to happen again. But what’s done is done. And this person who did nothing to me is someone who is a source of so much pain. I don’t know how to get past this. We are all part of the local activist community so I can’t totally avoid the other partner, and would not want to have to explain to anyone else why I don’t want to be around her. I just feel lost. To provide more context they are both polyamorous, my relationships tend non-monogamous but I’m definitely not polyamorous.

My partner has had death threats due to his activist role in the community and people have showed up at our home looking for him. That has changed how I view our time together, as I worry each day will be his last and it makes me want to hold on tighter, even though I don’t think that’s helpful for our relationship

Response: 

First thing that I would say is that, you kind of have it right in that there wasn’t a lot of discussion before you moved in together about how you would deal with other partners. And I don’t necessarily think that it’s fair for you to resent him for that, because it’s possible… I think he at the time — and this is kind of a problem that a lot of polyamorous people have and this is why, in the article that I mentioned earlier, I really encourage people to think these things out before they become an issue.

Because I think a lot of people think, “Well, there’s not a reason to talk about it now because it’s not happening now”. And to be fair for some people they don’t necessarily know what they’re going to feel or how they want things to happen if they’re not currently happening. So it can sometimes be really difficult to have that discussion. I do think that you both need to have more of a discussion about your shared space, what that means and what is realistic. Even if you were completely monogamous, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s realistic that he can’t spend the night somewhere else.

With family, with friends, people even in monogamous relationships don’t spend every single night at their house with their partner. So it’s not really a realistic expectation. With the added bit that you’ve contributed about how he said death threats, and how people have showed up at the house — that is an absolute concern and I can understand you not feeling comfortable being home alone because of that reason.

There has to be more discussion about that and how you both work that out because it’s not sustainable or really fair even, like I said, even if you were monogamous to expect him to spend every single night at home with you. Because it’s just— He might want to say to my at a friend’s. He might want to stay tonight with family. Even if he didn’t have other partners. It’s not a really realistic expectation so you’re going to have to figure out how you work through that. If he’s had death threats, do you need to move? 

Is that a realistic solution to what you’re facing right now? That is something that you have to kind of work out with each other. Even if he is totally willing to stay every night at home with you, I really don’t see that being sustainable. I would say that’s even too much for, like I said a monogamous relationship so that’s the first thing.

I think that a lot of people in your situation where things haven’t been discussed, and you know sometimes like I said you don’t know that you have a boundary until it’s been crossed. And that is painful and difficult. I find that in a lot of these situations where this happens, it’s very very easy to displace your anger or displace your discomfort or displace everything onto the metamour. And I do think that that’s what’s happening to you. For those who don’t know a metamour is the basically the person, the other person that your partner is dating or the other people that your partner’s dating are your metamours — that you’re not dating. 

You probably are going to find it harder to hold the same anger for your partner that you can easily hold for this metamour because even though you’re all part of the same community and you sort of know of this person, you don’t have any other context. You don’t understand what’s going on with this other person. You don’t understand how they feel so it’s quite easy for you to just take all of those feelings and go, “I’m gonna throw them on to this person, and then I can kind of get my anger and frustration and with a situation out by kind of basically taking it out on her”. 

And I think you do realise that. She’s done nothing to you. And you don’t necessarily want to have to make it awkward for her, or make it awkward for the people around you, but it might help for you to realise that it’s okay for you to be pissed off that this has happened and that you and your partner haven’t really talked about this. And when situations like that happen where you like, “Oh, actually I don’t want you to ever spend the night anywhere else” and he thinks it’s just for that one night… there needs to be more discussion. 

And I do think more discussion about this is going to make that anger, a little less intense. I think that you have some serious incompatibilities with your relationship expectations that really need to be hashed out. You saying that you are definitely not polyamorous and he is. This is a problem. Two people who are non-monogamous aren’t inherently compatible just because they’re both non-monogamous. If you have completely different definitions of how you want to pursue things that will always clash if you cannot actually find some areas of compatibility.

You already kind of said that you kind of see things as casual, and he doesn’t. He seems to have a little bit more of a kind of a relationship anarchist approach or a kind of wanting multiple deep romantic connections. You’re always going to struggle with that because if you see other people as casual and him as serious, you’re creating a hierarchy where you are the most important person and he may not feel that way. And if you think that you are the most important person, you are going to then feel threatened by anybody else, because you are creating this hierarchy that doesn’t necessarily exist for him. 

However you want to judge his expectations of quality over quantity like that —  That for me is a little bit of a worry because you not only have separate concepts of what you want your relationships to be, but you are kind of judging him a little bit in how he goes about it. I think, as a person— I am more like your partner in that I don’t see other relationships with casual. However, I have been with partners who do have a lot of casual relationships, and it’s really ironic because easily, someone could flip that on you. Even though you aren’t necessarily seemingly pursuing other relationships, the idea that you would want something casual instead of something deep someone could equally judge you for that. 

We all have different needs. We all have different wants. We all have different things that we want in our life and just because somebody— a lot of people judge polyamory and non monogamy or even bisexuality for supposedly being greedy or supposedly wanting more and therefore, that being a problem. So I think that you just kind of need to be a little bit careful about how you’re looking at it. You can have differences and how you want to approach things. That’s absolutely fine. It’s okay for you to want one relationship that has this specific meaning and other relationships have a different meaning. 

It’s okay if he wants to have multiple deep romantic relationships. There isn’t necessarily one right or wrong way to approach it. It’s more about how does that work with each other? Because I know for me when I have had partners who have had more casual partnerships or who see me in a different light, or even not even necessarily about casual versus serious but when I’ve had partners— I’m a kind of introverted. A Stay At Home kind of person. I don’t like parties. I’ve had partners who are extremely extroverted and love parties. And I used to feel really scared because I thought, “Well what if they find somebody who’s  “better” than me because they like to go out and like to go to parties?”

And that made me really scared for a long time because I thought that I would be replaced by that. I didn’t understand that my partner was like “Hey, I like to stay home with you. And I like to go out and do other things”. There’s not an either or hierarchy there. You’re kind of creating that. So you have to kind of understand that when, in your mind you’re operating from a basis of one relationship has this meaning and others are casual, he is not operating from that mindset and you’re going to have to kind of remember that when you’re thinking about this. 

Because that’s what’s freaking you out. You are afraid that you are positioned as the “most important” is going to be challenged and that you could be replaced. The thing about it is is that if he’s going to replace you, regardless of  the seriousness of any relationship. If he is going to replace you, that isn’t something you can necessarily control or stop, especially by trying to control whether or not he sleeps over at somebody else’s house or not. 

Your brain is kind of trying to protect you by thinking that this little thing of him sleeping over at somebody else’s house is going to— you know if you can keep him around you somehow. You can prevent— you’re not going to be able to prevent that. You just aren’t. You can’t prevent somebody, you know I mean yeah obviously you can be a decent partner and be a nice person and not treat your partner like crap and that makes it more likely that they’re going to stick around and be with you. 

But outside of that there really isn’t anything that you’re going to be able to prevent. So you need to kind of ask yourself, “what is this kind of rule of him not being able to sleep over at somebody else’s house? What is that actually going to prevent?” Now you have brought up a side situation, which again like I said, the death threats and serious concerns over your safety, that is understandable and you may have to be in a situation where he can’t maybe randomly spend the night away but if he gives you enough warning, then you can stay at a friend’s house or whatever is actually sustainable.

But ask yourself if you can really prevent that and think about the ways that you look at relationships differently, and whether or not you can actually be compatible. Because I do think that it is workable. I don’t think it’s a complete in compatibility, but I don’t think that you can expect him— I don’t think you can expect him to see things the same way you do. And I certainly don’t think this not being able to stay at other people’s houses is really realistic or sustainable. So you have to really think about again like the question I put forth at the beginning of the podcast, what is your ideal situation? What is his ideal situation, and how can you combine those? Can you combine those?

Are they so different that basically you’re always kind of going to be butting heads about what each other wants. More discussion needs to happen because I think that’s been your problem throughout this entire relationship is that — you know and I don’t think that he is doing it maliciously so I do think that you kind of need to let go of a little bit of the resentment towards him about that like yeah it would be great if you all chatted about it, but especially when it comes to non-monogamy or polyamory or whatever you want to call it, there isn’t really a guidebook. There isn’t really a clear ideas about what you should or shouldn’t talk about and a lot of people don’t necessarily know for sure what they want until they start to have experiences. 

So, you know, it’s not necessarily that he purposely didn’t talk to you about this to spring it on you. You have to kind of assume he’s in good faith in this, but you do need to have more discussions about what you both want, what’s realistic, and not just kind of go with the flow of what’s easy. Because I do think you’ve kind of slid into that a little bit. 

So yeah, just to sum up — again more discussion about your shared space. Really really challenge this rule that he’s not allowed to sleep at somebody else’s house or he has to spend every night with you. That’s not realistic or sustainable even again for a monogamous relationship, it’s just not — It’s just not realistic. If there is a serious problem with your house and the safety of your house that needs to be addressed you both need to address it together in a way that isn’t, “Well you just have to stay here every night”. Because again if he’s realistically if he’s getting death threats, and he you know if somebody is going to show up at your home, it’s not necessarily going to be better if he’s there. 

And obviously calling the police isn’t always a sustainable solution for everyone and they’re not necessarily going to do anything but you have to have that discussion. Realise that you’re displacing a lot of anger onto your metamour. I do think that you’re going to have to sit in a little bit of a discomfort when you’re kind of in community spaces and kind of work through that. If you want to have a discussion with her and just say, “You know, I’m feeling a little bit sensitive right now, and I would appreciate some space”. That’s totally fine. You may not be able to have that discussion in person or — I would not get your partner to do it. I think it’s something that you should do on your own. Maybe if you can chat with her online. 

Realistically, if it’s kind of pandemic times there shouldn’t be big community meet-ups anyways but it’s okay for you to avoid her a little bit but realise— I think it’s fair if she starts asking questions, is kind of confused, it’s okay to say “There’s been an issue between me and my partner and I’m just feeling a little sensitive and I just need a little space”. That’s fine. That’s okay. 

There are some serious incompatibilities with your relationship expectations if he’s polyamorous and you’re definitely not. You really need to talk about your relationship ideals and how you can realistically combine them and also try to bring that up again and again with your emotional experience because you are working within the framework of your own emotions and it’s easy for you to assume that because one relationship for you is more serious and others are casual, that he’s thinking the same thing. 

And so when he goes off and spends time with other people, your brain is going, “Wait a minute, we’re supposed to be the serious one! Are we casual Ahh!” And you’re kind of freaking out a little bit about it because you’re assuming he sees things from your perspective, and I’ve done that too. I’ve definitely done that too. I’ve been really bad at it, especially when it comes personally for me, when it comes to sexual related stuff, feeling really worried that I’m going to be not important or not as good as other people or not as— especially with my disability.

Especially with, you know, being non binary, being worried that I’m not, you know as real as other people is a huge problem that I’ve had before. It’s very easy to forget that other people just have different ways of looking at things, especially if your way of looking at things is so different. I don’t think it’s completely impossible but you will have to kind of continue to remind yourself of that. 

And if you can find a polyamory friendly therapist to kind of chatting through like whenever these feelings start to bubble up. That would be a really good thing to do, but I think overall if you both have a little bit more of a realistic talk about what your expectations are and what you think— you know, I know you can predict the future and I know that sometimes, you know, things are a little bit up in the air, especially with pandemic stuff happening and that really putting a halt on a lot of things. I know it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. But if you can see if you’re both kind of heading in the same general direction, that might give you a little bit more stability that might make these other experiences less intense. I hope that helps and good luck. 

Episode 67: Temporary Monogamy

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Can an aversion to non-monogamy come from relationship anxiety and trauma?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What have you changed your mind about in terms of how you want to live your life?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 67 – Temporary Monogamy

Can an aversion to non-monogamy come from relationship anxiety and trauma?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What have you changed your mind about in terms of how you want to live your life?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I am a queer, AMAB, non-binary person, and most of my adult life I identified as a cis gay man, which I mostly still pass as (at 27 yo). I have never considered or wanted to pursue non-monogamy before in my life.

A bit over a year ago, I met Dean. Dean is queer and has sexual and romantic attraction to people of all genders. I was instantly smitten by him and asked him out after meeting a few times. A month into the relationship, when things were clearly getting serious, we had a discussion about what kind of relationship style we wanted. This was something I was nervous to do because I could tell from our talks that he thinks about sex and relationships very differently than I do.

For him, romantic, sexual, and platonic relationships can all overlap, and our relationship is one that happens to be sexual and romantic and exists in the quilt of his many other friendships, etc. I have deeply emotional and intimate friendships too, but they are all platonic. Sexual and romantic attraction are inseparable for me. Dean is 25 and never has had a long-term or committed relationship like ours before.

In that conversation in the early part of our relationship, he said he had “never been interested in monogamy before,” but agreed to have a monogamous relationship with me. I immediately started seeking therapy from a sex therapist for help understanding my deep aversion to non-monogamy and past sexual and emotional trauma, because I love him, really want our relationship to continue, and quickly realised I have relationship anxiety.

I wanted to prepare to be able to consider a request from him for non-monogamy at some point. I didn’t brush this potential problem under the rug. I’m still working on this though, and in seven months of therapy I have really only gotten better at talking about it and recognizing that my anxieties stem from past relationship traumas. I’m working on managing the anxiety, and Dean has been so supportive and caring through that.

In our sporadic check-in conversations since, Dean has said he hasn’t felt like he’s sacrificing anything to be with me in a monogamous relationship and he feels fulfilled romantically and sexually by our relationship. That is, until this past week. Two friends of his have been dating for three years and one wants to pursue non-monogamy and the other doesn’t. The one says “she doesn’t think monogamy” works.

In our conversations about it, I could tell Dean agreed with her. When I asked him directly, he said that was true, which really hurt me because I feel like our relationship is “working.” We’re still in the “honeymoon phase” but I’m stupidly in love with him and we have a relationship in which I feel really safe, loved, and cared for (despite my anxiety). Now he says ultimately he does want to have a non-monogamous relationship, and I still feel like I can’t give that to him. The idea of him with other people makes me feel really horrible–debilitated even–and wracked with anxiety.

I don’t feel like non-monogamy is wrong or gross. I feel excited that there are people who are happy and thriving in consenting non-monogamous relationships. As a queer person, I understand the liberation of loving who and how you want to. I also reject a lot of the gross power dynamics and toxic possessiveness and jealousy that pervades a lot of (white cis hetero) monogamy.

I just don’t want non-monogamy for me, both for practical reasons (I am introverted and busy and don’t want to dedicate that much of my energy to maintaining multiple romantic/sexual relationships), and because that’s just not how I feel about romance and sex. I can feel within me the ability to love other people like I love Dean at the same time, but I find so much joy, vulnerability, safety, and love in waking up every day and choosing him and being okay with not knowing those other possibilities!

I feel so good about that decision. No FOMO here. I don’t think I will feel good about that anymore if I don’t feel like that is reciprocated. These feelings also make it really hard to understand where desire for non-monogamy is coming from in others and empathise. For people I’m not dating, that’s okay! I don’t have to get it! Now I am struggling and feeling deeply like I am “not enough” for Dean.

Dean says this is part of who he is. I really really want to be able to give that to him and to stay with him, but when I think about opening up our relationship, I immediately feel deeply violated. I can already feel myself turning into the most nasty, toxic, insecure horrorfest when I think about a life where he is seeing other people. I don’t want that for either me or Dean!

He says he doesn’t need non-monogamy to happen now, and he wants to be okay with this being unresolved, enjoy our relationship together, and figure it out as it comes. I feel like it has put an expiration date on our time together, I just don’t know when that date is, and this is going to be an enormous elephant in the room from here on out.

And now it doesn’t feel like therapy is working towards feeling free of trauma and societal expectations so I can have an informed and reasonable conversation over opening up the relationship IF that happens, but that I have no choice but to work to change who I am for WHEN this happens.

Anyway, I guess my question is what can we do? We both want to stay together a lot. I am trying to be open with Dean (who I trust deeply because he is a good communicator and has always been honest with me) and talk about it, but it feels like we are at an impasse, and also feels like fixating on it will wreck any other joy that we have. It also feels cosmically unfair! I don’t know what to do. Thanks for reading this ridiculously long email, and apologies for not keeping it more brief.

Response:

There’s obviously a lot going on here. I super related when you said “cosmically unfair”. Just because I’ve been in a lot of cosmetic unfair situations myself, I think that the first thing that I would do if I was in your situation and what I encourage people who are in this situation to do is ask yourself if you can see yourself being monogamously with someone who has a time intensive career or hobby. And the reason why I asked this is because I think that even if you are monogamous to someone who is polyamorous — and that does happen. You can have someone who is monogamous to a polyamorous person and doesn’t date other people.

The biggest difference between a monogamous relationship and a non-monogamous relationship is that someone who is non-monogamous will not be spending the vast majority of their time with you, and a monogamous relationship can have this. I think when you have someone who is a lawyer or a doctor or someone who works long hours, or who might be away for long periods of time, that is something that even if you are monogamous, you might not be able to deal with. So, dating that person won’t work.

Another kind of thing to think about is like long distance relationships. A lot of people can’t do them monogamously or not. So if you can see yourself being with someone who has a time intensive career or hobby or isn’t around all the time or isn’t fully focused on you, that is the first small step. The feeling of anxiety and being like wracked with all of this kind of tension when you think about your partner being with someone else: I don’t think that that’s necessarily a sign that you can’t do non monogamy, because there’s some people who really— they’re voyeurs and they really like the idea of their partner— and they think about it and it’s hot.

Some people even if they are non-monogamous don’t think about that and they’re not necessarily interested in that. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a don’t ask don’t tell situation, but they don’t sit there and dwell on it. It’s not something that they’re interested in. So I don’t think you should definitely see that as a sign that it’s not meant for you. Especially because you do think that some of those feelings are coming from past relationship traumas. So I don’t think you should see that as a bad sign.

If you decide okay, he doesn’t have to spend all of his time with me, that’s fine, that’s kind of like a first step. I think that the next step is: is there something, anything about that situation, that could be of a benefit to you? And it’s funny that you say that you’re introverted and like busy and that’s like a big reason — that is kind of the reason why I am interested in polyamory, or non-monogamy, actually. Because I am introverted, because I don’t like partying, I don’t like dating. I don’t like. I’m not attracted to many people I don’t have what a lot of polyam people seem to have which is, “I just like so many people”.

And I’m not making fun of them just saying that like I’m not like that. I’m not a free love hippie type of person, I don’t fall in love with everyone that I see. I’m barely ever attracted to anybody, to the point where like, if I get a crush, I’m like “oh my god it’s happened again” because sometimes I think I will never have another one. That’s just me and the reason why I’m interested in polyamory is because, if I am interested in somebody else, then I want the freedom to be able to pursue it.

And I want to also be able to have friendships that are close that could maybe become non-platonic without having to worry about it being too close, or, you know, being a bother like all that toxic shitty stuff you mentioned about not necessarily inherent to monogamy itself. But all of that stuff that brings up. It’s just a lot easier. Also I like being alone, and like my partner going off and being with somebody else… Even if I want to live with another partner and I want to wake up with next to them, you know, sometimes I also like my alone time, so that can actually work quite well.

Just because you’re not like a like social butterfly, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you. When you try and separate this, that feeling of not being enough all that anxiety that is one thing and I do think that is something that you can work through. And that also quite an understandable feeling of not being enough but I’ll get to it in a second. If you can separate yourself from that and think purely as an individual. What is a benefit that you could see for yourself in a non monogamous setup? Even if it’s just having the house to yourself once a week.

There can be some benefit to you because like I said, there are situations where people are monogamous to a polyamorous person, and that does work fine for them, but they just have to be okay with them not spending all the time in the world with them. And also, there has to be some kind of benefit for them. And it can’t and really shouldn’t be a benefit that involves keeping this relationship and that’s going to be really hard for you in this situation because it does kind of seem like that’s the biggest reason that you want to try is to keep Dean in your life.

But there has to be something separate to that, because there’s an issue that I’m seeing — from the get it seems like Dean has made it clear to you that in terms of how he sees relationships, he doesn’t see romantic sexual partners as being better or more important than friends and stuff like that like it’s all kind of mixed. And I feel like you’ve kind of ignored that a little bit in your head. He’s agreed to do monogamy with you but just because he has agreed to be sexually and romantically exclusive with you, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s changed his mind about how relationships work.

And even if he continued to be monogamous with you that is still a big issue, because you’re kind of assuming a hierarchical structure in a way that isn’t even there now. Like you’re kind of allowing this agreement to do monogamy, sexually and romantically, to redefine it in your own head, to give you a kind of a false sense of security of what this relationship means in context with the other relationships that Dean has.

If you kind of remove that web of safety that you’ve kind of put that isn’t really there, you’re already kind of in a relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily going to prioritise you or believe in prioritising a romantic sexual relationship over other relationships. It sounds like that’s the way Dean does things. I could be wrong, but it does sound like that’s the way he does things so you might be kind of pulling the wool over your eyes a little bit right now already.

So thinking about “okay already, I’m kind of doing that”, thinking about that, and trying to understand what benefit you could get out of it might be a little bit helpful. If you can find a benefit for it that’s just for you, that is something that you can hold on to, when you’re dealing with this stuff.

The next big thing is that you not feeling like you’re not enough. It’s a very very understandable thing. Going through the process of trying to figure out what it is that you could— you would want out of Non-Monogamy as an individual might make you empathise a little bit more with the desire for non-Monogamy and maybe that non-Monogamy isn’t for you. But it’s not about not being enough, and it’s really hard to explain that.

The best way that people have been able to explain that to others is using the example of like if I go out to eat. If I want to go out to a restaurant, it doesn’t mean that my partner is a shitty cook, or that I don’t like it when they cook for me. Another way that I always encourage people to think about it because it’s probably the easiest kind of example for a lot of people, if you have one child having another child or wanting to have another child doesn’t mean that that one child is not enough.

And you can even think about it in terms of your friends. You might have very close— and you said you have very close emotional relationships with your friends. Wanting another friend or building a relationship with another friend doesn’t mean that the friends you have are shitty or that there’s anything bad about them. And we are encouraged within the society that we’re in, even if we’re queer, even if we try to break free of it, we are encouraged to think of love as a scarce resource that we have to compete with each other for.

And that if, you know, finding a one partner means that everyone else doesn’t get that and that that scarcity is what you need to find and therefore need to buy all these products for blah blah blah. If you challenge that idea in your head and you try to think okay. There might be situations where in a way you aren’t enough. There’s always going to be somebody out there that’s better at something than you regardless. But it’s not easily about that for most non-monogamous people.

They don’t choose it because one person isn’t enough for them. They may identify that they have a personal need for non-monogamy and variety, and therefore communicate that in a way that is “well one person isn’t enough for me”, but it’s just a little bit more complicated than that. The other thing that might also be helpful for you and understanding your anxiety and understanding whether or not this is for you is that monogamy and the way that it’s encouraged in society gives us a false sense of security.

And you can look this up when it comes to like “the relationship escalator” and everything else, you end even in this relationship that you’re in now you have assumed your safety in this relationship because monogamy itself, as well as all of the signs of “progression” in a relationship a lot of things are kind of built on this cultural script. Going through the script, even as a queer person, going through the script is, in a way, encouraging to us, it shows us that our relationship is “committed” that things are more rooted, that things are grounded, that everything is going by the script. So is fine. It’s safe.

There are people who have been together for 20 plus years, who break up. All relationships have an expiration date. There are no guarantees rather in life that anything will last. Just because you’re monogamous doesn’t mean your relationship will last. And also, if your relationship doesn’t last, it isn’t immediately a sign of failure. For me that has helped my anxiety. If anything. Realising that I have not as much control as I think I have, and that I need to, because my anxiety works on trying to make me think I have control over situations, because I’ve been in a lot of situations where I haven’t had control, and that’s been scary and I’ve been hurt yada yada yada.

But the point is, you can’t control every aspect of everything. And you could break up with Dean, go and find someone who definitely wants to be monogamous for them with them for 50 years and get cheated on. Nothing is guaranteed. So you shouldn’t assume that there is somehow more safety in monogamy than there is in non-monogamy.

To just challenge the person who said “monogamy doesn’t work”. I really hate that. It does work for some people. It depends on your expectations for what you want in monogamy. Like if you want a relationship where the other person never has a sexual thought about another person but you. Yeah, probably that doesn’t work. But monogamy in and of itself as just two people who don’t date other people. That does and can work for a lot of people. It really irritates me when people say that. Monogamy does work and it might be that monogamy is what works for you. And it doesn’t have to be because you’re traumatised.

That’s another thing that I want to say. Yes you might have a lot of traumas connected to the idea that your partner doesn’t want you. Even within the context of a monogamous relationship I would still encourage someone who felt like they weren’t enough to explore those thoughts, question the assumption of the safety that monogamy brings them, to build a relationship with themselves where if they aren’t enough as their partner does leave them. They are still safe within themselves.

But, it doesn’t work for everyone. Choosing monogamy doesn’t mean you’re insecure. Choosing monogamy doesn’t mean that you are traumatised and broken and just need someone to commit only to you because you’re too jealous or anything like that. That’s just not the case. It is a choice that some people want to make just like some people want to be child free. Being child free doesn’t mean that they’re scared to have kids. That could be one reason why people would choose to be child free because they are scared that they will pass their anxious shit on to kids, raising my hand here.

But that isn’t the only reason and that also doesn’t mean that people should have kids anyway. Equally, choosing to have children doesn’t mean that you’re afraid of death, and that you are obsessed with your own ego and want to pass on your legacy. There’s different valid reasons for why people choose different things in their life, and it doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with them as they choose it.

So, it may be that you just want monogamy, and as you’ve kind of explored it a little bit already in your letter. It might just be what you want because that’s the lifestyle that you want. When I’ve asked you if, can you see yourself being with someone who has a time intensive career hobby if you said no, then no. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It’s just not what you want. So if it’s not what you want then you shouldn’t try to shove yourself into a box. And, and do it. If you don’t want to.

As you said like the therapy isn’t going to help you if you feel like it’s not a choice. So, yeah. The other thing is, I am a little bit worried and I understand Dean’s like 25 and hasn’t had a long term relationship before. But the thing that really worries me about the situation is that Dean agreed to monogamy in a way that made it seem like — to you at least — that it was going to be the choice. And only didn’t really bring up until two weeks ago, that “hey actually at some point I may ask for non-monogamy”. And it would be one thing if from the beginning when Dean said “You know what I’d like to try monogamy, but I don’t know if it’s something that I’m going to want to do for for a long time.”

If he had presented that to you from the beginning, then I would have been like okay well he’s been fully honest about that. I don’t know if Dean’s being honest with himself. And I think that this confrontation will not really confrontation but this. Basically, seeing this breakdown in a relationship between your friends and then go “actually do you know what I think I do want Non-Monogamy!” It’s not going to be easy for you to just relax and smell the roses. When stuff is shifted like this, that’s really hard to deal with. You’re being pushed and pulled out of your safety and comfort zones. And that’s hard regardless of whatever lifestyle you decide to choose.

I hate the word lifestyle, hate it, but it is kind of a lifestyle. But the point is, like — I don’t think Dean did it maliciously doesn’t sound like Dean did it maliciously, however, that is still a really big concern. If he wanted to have to try monogamy. I feel like he should have made it obvious to you from the beginning that this was a trial. And it doesn’t seem like it was obvious to you. It seems like you thought “okay we’re doing monogamy, but I’m just preparing myself, to see if I might be able to do non-monogamy, and maybe who asked for it the future”.

But you haven’t had that signed, sealed and delivered. Now you’ve had it signed, sealed and delivered — that’s very different and it’s— to just be like, “well, we don’t know where this is going, just like relax” like I do think that sometimes you can just have a relationship and just because it ends doesn’t mean your failures, and that you don’t have to expect a relationship to last until one of you dies. But it’s like you said, it’s like the elephant in the room now. And it’s put an expiration date that you didn’t really think about. I mean, all relationships have an expiration date, but it put a new dimension into this that you didn’t factor in.

And it is a sudden thing and so it is very difficult for you to feel safe and comfortable with someone who has kind of just shifted their mind a little bit on something that’s quite huge. A good example to compare it to is, is the decision on whether or not to have kids and I think that’s just such a good comparison because if you had agreed “okay we were definitely not going to have kids, because I have all this trauma about children and I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it, but I’m going to go to therapy and see if I can work that out and in case one day you asked me if we can have a family” and then all of a sudden he’s like “yeah definitely I’m going to ask you to have kids one day”.

That’s very, you know, like — it worries me that he doesn’t realise how jarring, that is for you. Because it’s going to be hard enough to kind of cope with attempting this on top of having to also deal with the fact that he’s kind of changed the game on you a little bit. So, to sum up my response to this — ultimately I can’t tell you whether or not you can, or are non-monogamous. Some people feel innately non monogamous. I don’t personally necessarily feel that way, but I do feel like monogamy isn’t something that I would ever want. However, there are things that you can go through, as I’ve said, that can give you an indication of whether or not this type of way of doing things, is something that you can do, even if you were monogamous to a polyamorous person.

And those are the things I said: can you see yourself being with someone with a time intensive career hobby where they don’t spend all of their time with you? Can you find a personal benefit to non-monogamy that only applies to you, that isn’t saving this relationship, even if it’s being home alone every once in a while? Because like I said being introverted can actually work really well with non-monogamy. You don’t have to be a social butterfly, or a free love hippie to be interested in it.

If you can find a benefit and if you can see yourself being with someone who has a time intensive career or hobby and can accept the fact that Dean won’t spend 100% of his time with you, then I think you might want to consider working on this concept of unpicking your assumptions about safety in monogamy, really challenging yourself a bit on the assumptions you’ve made so far in the relationship that because Dean is sexually and romantically monogamous to you that that suddenly means he defines relationships, the same way you do because that isn’t— I don’t think that’s true. And I think there probably needs to be more discussion around that.

Challenging some of the safety assumptions that you have will really help. I wrote a article called “13 mistakes people make when they try polyamory”. I think that’s what it’s called. You can find it on the website. That talks about the beginning steps of finding your anchor, challenging some of your fears, challenging some of the assumptions that you make that can really help cope with the anxiety of it. I don’t think that just because you have anxiety or disgust or fear or worry when you think about your partner being with other people that that means that you can’t do non-monogamy.

Because that can sometimes be just part of what you’ve learned about the scarcity of love from the culture that surrounds you. Another thing is, I do think you should potentially find a polyamory friendly couples therapist for you and Dean, even if Dean is a good communicator as you said, it’s a little bit worrying that Dean— It seems like there was a miscommunication. I’m not saying it’s wholly Dean’s fault. I think that there’s some assumptions made on both sides but it seems like when you agree to monogamy your assumption was that non-monogamy might come up, but that it wasn’t a definite, and now it’s a definite and you need to address that. miscommunication.

Even if it’s that Dean didn’t really realise that it was that important to him until now. It’s something that you have to work out together. Like how important is it actually? And there’s another bit in the article that I mentioned and what I advise people generally when they start out in non-monogamy is thinking about what their ideal situation is, and seeing if there’s compatibility. Because both of you could be non monogamous but still not compatible. Being non-monogamous doesn’t inherently mean that you’re compatible or that you want the same things in life. So working out what the ideal state is can then help you get further down that road.

I think that if you can— If you’re fine with him not spending all this time with you. If you can work on some of these feelings of not enough and challenging some of your assumptions of safety. If you can find a personal benefit out of being polyamorous, or non-monogamous for yourself. And if you can have discussions with Dean about why this miscommunication happened, and figure out how to avoid it happening again. Then, it might work out. You might be able to try being non monogamous.

You might be able to deal with some of these fears and stuff that you’ve been through before and push through that. I wouldn’t say that you’re always going to be happy because anytime you start something new or try something new or change up what you’re doing and you don’t have a cultural script to go by, you’re going to be frickin nervous. It’s going to stoke anxiety. Don’t expect it to be easy. But I don’t think that just because it gives you anxiety that it’s not worth trying. Or that it’s not something that you can do just because you feel anxious.

So yeah, if you can go by the steps, give it a try. If from the out, you’re like, “Nope, I wouldn’t date someone who’s in the army. I wouldn’t date a doctor or a lawyer who was all the time at the office” or whatever then I just don’t think that even the kind of monogamy that you would want with other monogamous people would work for you, let alone this relationship and you might have to— If you can stop and enjoy the roses, if you can

enjoy the aspects of a relationship that you have with Dean, understanding that it might come to an end, then, do that.

But it sounds like that— if this is not of any interest to you whatsoever — it does sound like that would just be a little bit of a waste of your time. Unfortunately, if what you want is to find one person and settle down and do that whole shindig, then there’s no point in wasting your time. You know, maybe you have to kind of what they call de-escalate your relationship. Be friends and define your relationship that way until you find that person that you actually want to do that with. But yeah, I can’t tell you if you can or can’t do, non-monogamy.

It comes down to a couple of things that you have to be real with yourself about. And it’s really hard. And, if there’s one way that you feel strongly, don’t ignore your strong feelings and stay because even if you think, yeah, breakups hurt. It’s not a fun thing. It’s a sucky thing. But it’s always much much worse to sit and let resentment fester or to sit and try and lie to yourself and pull the wool over your eyes and think that you’re safe. When you’re not or think that things are going the way that you want. When you’re not. It’s always much much worse for to do that than it is to break it off, in my experience. So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

Episode 66: Hidden Metamour

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Even if you have confusing boundaries and you’re not “official”, lying by omission can still feel like cheating.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What is a non-monogamous setup that wouldn’t work for you?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 66 – Hidden Metamour

Even if you have confusing boundaries and you’re not “official”, lying by omission can still feel like cheating.  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is a non-monogamous setup that wouldn’t work for you?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I’ve been seeing a guy for over 2 /12 years. We started seeing each other after he got out of a 8 year relationship and it’s been semi casual (neither of us made any serious commitment and we both have been seeing other partners) but since that year mark we have been exchanging “I love you’s”  and confirmed that we were in a relationship. In July I found out that he had been seeing her for the past year (at least once a week).

I spoke with her and she confirmed that she’s been with him and that she knew that I was his primary but that she wanted more from him, possibly a relationship. Since then he’s stated that I am his primary but that he enjoys seeing her sexually and that he needs an open relationship.

It isn’t that he is seeing someone else sexually, I am open to this, but it’s the fact that he’s lied and that she wants more time and affection and that I’m the blame for the lack of that. I feel attacked from both sides and I don’t know how to continue with this. I’ve been scrambling looking for advice since July, I’ve been following your podcast. I appreciate any advice on this situation.

Response:

The first big problem with this situation is the lying. Now even though you said you weren’t “official” and you only after the first year of being together, said that you were in a relationship, I find it a little worrying that he didn’t mention this other partner to you at all. And I don’t really know how you found out about it, whether you found out because you discovered it yourself, or he told you.

Doesn’t sound like he told you. It sounds like you discovered it yourself. And then you have this conversation with her where she seemed to say she knew that that you were his primary and she wants more, and also seems to have told you (I assume that she told you this) that he wants more time and affection— or no she blames you for the time and affection that she’s not got from him, which isn’t great. And then he’d sort of tells you that  you’re definitely his primary and that he’s only interested in her sexually. There’s a lot. There’s a lot about this that’s a problem.

It’s not up to me to tell you what you define as cheating. There’s a reason why I personally prefer not to have things and kind of a weird quasi unsure state. I prefer things to be quite clear in terms of like — Are we in a relationship? Yes or no? And maybe it’s that you didn’t have that and so he kind of felt like he didn’t need to tell you about her, but I would feel cheated in this situation. I would have a hard time not feeling cheated because it’s the lying, and it’s hiding her. And it just feels like she has been hidden from you.

And she knew about you but you didn’t know about her and that’s just really odd and I don’t see why that’s the case. And I just feel like he could have easily just mentioned it in passing. I do know that like a lot of people when they begin trying out non-monogamy sometimes they accidentally cheat because they don’t really know how to tell their partners that they’re seeing someone else. And they’re so used to the idea that they shouldn’t do that because if they do that it’ll end the relationship that they end up cheating kind of by mistake. So maybe that’s where he’s coming from but you got to figure out like why did he not mention this, up until now?

I also feel like. Had I been able to advise you before you had that conversation with her I probably wouldn’t have advised you to have a conversation with her because this is kind of not really about her, but the fact that you did you’ve got like this other information which is that she does want more from him. And she’s mad at you because she’s blaming you that  she hasn’t been able to get more time and affection from him.

Now, it’s kind of… it’s okay that she wants that and I’m not blaming her for that, But I feel a little bit worried about the fact that she is blaming you and has no problem, telling you that, and you go and talk to him and he’s like “yeah you’re my primary and I’m just interested in her sexually”. There’s some communication breakdowns going on in his relationship with her.

Because, while it’s okay for her to want stuff and I’m not saying that’s bad, she’s not going to get that, and that’s not really fair for your partner to like keep stringing her along if what she wants is more time and affection. And it’s also really awkward for her to pull you into that. No wonder you feel attacked from both sides. I would be really hesitant around like a metamour who was just willing to lay all this out on me. Because it’s not really up to me. It’s not my fault and I understand why she’s blaming you. It’s easier for her to blame you because she doesn’t have any feelings for you. She has feelings for this guy.

So her brain is going to want to put all the negative stuff on to the person that she doesn’t have any contact for, but that’s still really really worrying. If you confronted him and he said, “I shouldn’t have hid it from you” or acknowledged that even if he wasn’t trying to hide it, he didn’t tell you about it. I just feel like he should have been… It doesn’t sound like he was apologetic about the situation. He just sort of was like well you’re my primary and I’m only interested in her sexually.

Okay, but clearly there’s an issue here. And you have to address that and if that’s all the way that he’s going to address it, I just don’t know if that’s something that you should continue dealing with. It doesn’t seem like you chose to have an open relationship. It just seems like you kind of fell into it. You don’t really seem like a person who is like “Yes I want an open relationship. This is specifically what I want”.

It just seems like you didn’t want to make a serious commitment either way and you saw other people. And then you have this “I love yous” and confirm you’re in a relationship but it’s not really clear about whether that was supposed to be open or not. I mean, what did he tell you when he was going once a week? Did he lie? I just feel like you need to ask yourself, do you want an open relationship? Is that what you want independent of this person? Is it something you’re actually seeking? And then if it is something you’re actually seeking, do you want it with someone who is being dishonest with you?

Because that’s kind of what this is. Sorry but if he has been seeing some other person for the last year, hasn’t mentioned it has been seeing her for at least once a week and she is angry with you because she wants more time with him— So clearly, she doesn’t understand that she isn’t going to get that. It just doesn’t spell very good things. He’s not communicating well in that relationship clearly, or is making a choice of a person who doesn’t want an open relationship when he— it’s just a lot.

I just feel like you need to really ask yourself if open relationships are what you want, and it’s having an open relationship with this person is what you want? Because, you know, it doesn’t seem like you’re happy to find this out. And it doesn’t seem like he was going to tell you. So I just feel like you— This to me would be defined as cheating. Again I’m not going to tell you how to define it to yourself. It would be cheating to me, and I would be out of there personally.

Basically, to sum up, lying by omission is still cheating, in my opinion. Whether or not you want to identify that as cheating is up to you. Because you kind of had nebulous boundaries and definitions from the beginning, so maybe he did get confused and didn’t know when to tell you and I don’t know. I think that you can confront him about the conversation you had.

It doesn’t make it clear whether you actually told him that she said that she wants more time from him and feels you’re the blame for not getting that. So clearly there’s some communication breakdown. It’d be interesting to see what he has to say about that. And if he apologetic for basically hiding this from you for so long? Especially if he’s seen her once a week, like he had to say he was going somewhere or maybe. I don’t know. Maybe you don’t live together.

Or you don’t have a shared calendar so it’s not like you paid that much attention. But sometimes we don’t know that we have a boundary until it’s been crossed and this might be a situation where you go, “Okay. In the future, if you decide to see someone regularly I would just like a heads up”. And you can go from there but I kind of just feel like the combination of the fact that you found it out, which to me seems to illustrate that he didn’t tell you.

You found it out on top of the fact that she is blaming you for not getting more time with him when you didn’t even know about her… It doesn’t spell good things, so you need to ask yourself if you want an open relationship? And if you want an open a relationship with this person? Because even if he needs an open relationship fine, but he could have been honest about it from the beginning. And he wasn’t.

And so that is really the issue that I’m having with. If you need an open relationship that is fine but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to just lie to people and not tell them, whether you’re not intentionally lying or hiding things…

yeah, it just doesn’t spell good things to me. Really, ask yourself, is an open relationship what you want, what you need? And even if it is, is that something that you want with a person who has lied to you for the past year?

And hasn’t, from the looks of it, apologised for that. I wish that I had more like other things, to be able to advise, because if this is his response is just going “Well, you’re my primary and I just want to see her sexually and that’s it”. That’s just not enough to go by, and the fact that you’ve been trying to find advice about this for so long makes me feel like he hasn’t given you any other reassurance or attempted to do so and that doesn’t spell good in any kind of relationship.

I wish that I had better things to advise. I really hate it sometimes when the only thing that I have to advise is “Do you really want to be in that situation?”. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 65: No Longer Primary

Reading Time: 11 minutes

How do you force yourself out of apathy if you feel the partner you want to settle down with is slipping away?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: How has your ideal lifestyle changed over time?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 65 – No Longer Primary

How do you force yourself out of apathy if you feel the partner you want to settle down with is slipping away? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How has your ideal lifestyle changed over time?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

In the past I was married and dealt with an abusive, homo-normative relationship (married to a power lesbian doctor who wanted a submissive doctor’s wife). When I left that abusive relationship and moved to another country, I started my healing process and learned to be my own primary.

I read The Ethical Slut and this helped me define myself as a relationship anarchist. Because I met more people who were into alternative relationships, I felt more open and free. I was also involved in a queer anarchist punk group that I still see as my family.

I became my own primary and was happy to no longer have any other emotional responsibility. I explored my sexuality more and got into more BDSM activities such as spanking, bondage, and humiliation. This led me to move to another country where I started to teach spank therapy.

I loved my life there but also survived two racist/homophobic attacks. As a Black, gender non-conforming individual, I started to feel exoticised and missed seeing a more culturally diverse community. I also missed my family so after 7 years away healing from the past trauma of the marriage and getting to know myself again, I decided I needed to move back to the US.

When I moved back, I had to readjust to the extreme of capitalist life. I started working full time in the nonprofit world again and had to hide my BDSM kink lifestyle. People I dated were either monogamous, or else not familiar with healthy non-monogamy (it just felt quite trendy and not taken seriously). Finally I met someone called K last year that was on the same page as I was about non-monogamy and wanted to develop a healthy relationship. We even started out reading [polyamory books] and doing the exercises together.

About three months into our relationship they let me know that they wanted to date someone who they were attracted to prior. I accepted that and let them know that I supported this, and appreciated that they told me that they felt this way in the beginning. I am attracted to transparency, and I also still had a few lovers that I saw and was able to share that with them without them feeling our connection was threatened. I knew that the lovers I had would not evolve into more emotionally intense relationships (one connection being primarily sexual and the other spiritual). I felt that my relationship with K had the potential to become more well-rounded: emotional, spiritual, and physical.

The sexual connection started off great and continues to feel that way almost two years later. What I didn’t expect was for their other lovership to grow into a partnership that they found to be equally important. I met the metamour a few times at the beginning of their relationship and they were very respectful, even seemed to want to become friends.

I was resistant to this because I felt I had enough friends in my life and didn’t want a forced connection (although K would have liked this). Also-there were times where K broke boundaries that we agreed on (invited them to the DR to meet their family without telling me until last minute, and also fluid sharing when we formed an agreement around us only fluid sharing together).

Somehow we overcame those incidents and reinstated our boundaries. I still loved them and didn’t want to ‘break up’ because they were still affectionate and apologetic. During the pandemic we became closer and even though we were apart for three months we connected by doing a 21-day meditation challenge together. They were still connecting to their other partner long distance as well, but told me that they wanted to find a place together in the US and plan a future together (start a family and buy a house together eventually).

Fast forward, we did reunite, it felt good, and we now live together in the same flat (with our own bedrooms). With this ideal set-up, I thought it would work well since they would invite their other partner to come and stay with them sometimes and vice versa. But 5 months later, it proves to be more stressful than I thought it would be.

They see their other partner once a month and even though it started off as 4-5 days, it is now at 10 days a month. I am also dating another person that they have met and is also attracted to and we started a triad because I like to include them in my exploits, but with them planning to spend more and more time with their other partner, they have less capacity to develop this relationship with me.

There have been times I really needed them (when my Grandma has been sick, or I am feeling down, or want to plan a doctor’s visit together to freeze my eggs) that they just aren’t available based on timing. We have a shared calendar but they don’t seem to look at it prior to making plans with their other partner and I am starting to feel like a fool for being so accommodating. They sense my anger and proposed that we go to counselling to talk about our different ways of being non-monogamous since the timing has been the most consistent point of contention between us.

I am not sure it is worth it and am also triggered from the time I tried counselling in my last abusive relationship. It didn’t help ‘fix’ anything and I felt that I was being called ‘the problem.’ I am willing to get rid of this past trauma to work towards a stable foundation with K, but I also don’t want to waste my time if we can’t reconcile our different philosophies on being non-monogamous. I don’t want to be apathetic (my go to shut down), but I don’t want to try ‘too hard’ either.

Do you think our non-monogamous differences are worth going to therapy for or that I am hanging on to a configuration that just doesn’t work for me and should let it go?

I do know that any relationship can shift and change, but I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the way things are going, and feel like this may mean that I should move on sooner than later as I have the tendency to hang on and try to make things work when they aren’t supposed to. This is my fear.

Response:

The first thing here that I want to say, specifically about therapy — If you go into therapy with someone who is abusive, that doesn’t work. There’s an amazing book I constantly, constantly recommend people read called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, and I recommend this book because it was hugely, hugely helpful for me in understanding the pathology of people who are abusive.

And I do want to illustrate that there’s a difference as well between people who do abusive things that maybe they have learned because of where they grew up or just the society that we grew up in, and people who are pathologically abusive, which means — if you read the book then you do understand the difference between the two. And one thing that Lundy Bancroft, and a lot of therapists say who deal with people who are actually you know pathologically abusive is that going to therapy can sometimes make it worse — especially couples therapy can definitely make it worse.

So just because you’ve had a bad relationship with therapy with your other partner who you say is abusive does not mean that it won’t work in this case, I think that this is a situation where you have a really good concept of what your ideal is, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve had that conversation with K.

Or it may be that K’s ideal is shifting and maybe they don’t really know how to communicate that to you. The thing that I worry about is that K violated some pretty serious boundaries that you had. It’d be one thing if it’s like, “Oh, K was supposed to come to see me this time but didn’t”. But violating the fluid bonded boundary is a pretty big deal. And I worry that maybe you kind of forgave a little bit too quickly.

I’m not saying that you should break up or that you should have broke up. But I do think that you have a clear situation where K is prioritising another relationship in a way over you and you’re not really handling it or talking about it or it doesn’t seem like you really talked about — Forgiving someone for doing something wrong is one thing, but working out why it is that they did that is another thing.

I think that you need to both sit down and figure out if you share the same, as you said, philosophies on being non-monogamous but also ideals. Does K really want to do this, have a family, buy a house together? Is that something that K actually wants? And this is something that K really needs to figure out especially when it comes to this other person that K is also supposed to be in a triad with you? With this other person?

Maybe K has new relationship energy with this new person and is sort of being sucked in but still does want you know the whole marriage and family and settling down with you. But you have to have that specific conversation. Is the mishaps you’ve been having with timing intentional? Because you say, we have a shared calendar, but it doesn’t seem like K is checking that calendar before K makes plans, is that intentional?

Is K actually just so caught up in things that they don’t really think about it for they go ahead and make plans, or is it that K isn’t looking? That involves K being really real with themself, and they have to be really real with themself and what they want, because otherwise this is what eventually happens. Like stuff gets missed. The little things start piling up. Resentment and anger starts building, and then eventually it ends up being horrible.

I think that you could have a basic conversation with each other about whether or not you share that same goal. Does K actually want this or is K envisioning…? What is K’s ideal? Does K envision that this partner that they’re going to see for 10 days out of the month will eventually come and move with you guys? What is the ideal here? Do you have a shared intentional vision of what you want your relationship to look like?

If you don’t have a shared intentional, then what you can do — I don’t necessarily even think you have to break up, but it will allow you to decide, “Okay, K doesn’t want this” and you may need a break up period” It really depends on how you feel personally, but maybe you can shift that expectation, and then K spending so much time with this other person won’t be such a big downer for you. Maybe this other person that you’re dating that you have this like triad with, maybe that can be the person that you have this settling down with who is more interested in that.

So, it just comes down to what your shared vision is. I think that if you can get out of K, that you do have some shared visions, that this timing stuff is not intentional, that they have not, you know, they can see that they’re caught up in new relationship energy which does sound like. I don’t know how new this relationship necessarily is but you can be caught up in new— especially if you’re a long distance, and especially with all this pandemic stuff and like the way that people have been touched starved and how difficult it’s been like, I do think you can be caught up in new relationship energy for a long. long time with a long distance connection because every time you see each other, as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I do think that can be especially true for long distance, even if K is spending 10 days of the month with them. It’s like that absence makes things super dramatic, in a way that can kind of intensify the new relationship energy. So if K is able to say like, “Yeah, I am being a little bit focused on this relationship. But I do want to have this settling down thing with you”. Then I would say go to counselling together.

The fact that K recommended counselling is actually really, really great. That does show an effort to fix things. And again, like I said, just because you’ve had a really bad experience with counselling with an abusive partner in the past, that won’t fix anything. A counsellor is not going to be able to stop someone from being abusive towards you, if that’s what they want to do, and going to couples counselling with an abusive partner can actually make it worse.

Like I said, it’s another thing about— one thing that’s quite popular within the community is Nonviolent Communication, and there’s a lot written about nonviolent communication about how if the person wants to be violent towards you, nonviolent communication does not work with them. And similarly with counselling so I think it’s a positive sign that K has adjusted to go to counselling. K has recognised that you’re frustrated and upset and wants to solve that.

And I think that you also might want to consider counselling on your own, because there’s a bit of a contradiction on what you’re saying You talk about how you’re worried about trying too hard, and hanging on but then you also say you’re apathetic and you shut down. And I think that you might want to work out some of the stuff that you went through with your other partner with a counsellor and figure out how to address some of these situations as and when they come up.

Because I do think that if you’ve had an abusive relationship that and you know depending on what kind of background you come from and surviving so many things that you have survived, it is going to be hard for you to feel comfortable and safe confronting someone about some of the things that they’re doing. That is quite understandable. I definitely think that makes sense.

To sum up. Just because counselling didn’t work in your last abusive relationship doesn’t mean it won’t work now because that partner was abusive. So of course, it didn’t work and it’s okay that you didn’t know that. A lot of people go through that. You should definitely like I said, check out that book. Look up what other people go through online with going to counselling and abusive relationships.  I’m sure there’s tons of things written about it, especially if you had a counsellor that didn’t understand your perspective, and where you’re coming from, and didn’t understand, you know, any kind of marginalisation. That can also compound and add issues to it so you can try and find a therapist who is more understanding of that.

And also, definitely check out online how to interview therapists and ask them questions. They are there to work for you. They are there to help you. And so you can absolutely  ask them if they’re used to polyamory, if they’re used to being with helping people who have been in abusive relationships, if they’re used to queer people. You can ask those questions. If you feel like you’re “the problem”, you can find a second opinion.

It’s not something where you always have to go by what one therapist says. Unfortunately, sometimes even when people aren’t abusive and are trying to find a therapist, it can sometimes not work and that isn’t because of you. So definitely, definitely keep that in mind. It’s a good sign that K has addressed these issues but you can have a sit down conversation and figure out if K is still interested in this shared vision of what you want together.

Is K still interested in settling down? And figure that out with each other. And then, last thing is just give yourself a little bit of a break for having a lot of these feelings and maybe, see if you can get some therapy one on one for what you’ve been through with not only just having that really horrible relationship that sounds like but also, moving so much, and then facing like specific horrible attacks and like dealing with horrible people. Yeah, it’s a lot and that’s a lot to go through. And now you’re also kind of back in the closet now a little bit when it comes to kink stuff, and that’s a lot to go through.

So you need a little bit of support in that regard. And then we all have the pandemic which is a lot of shit for all of us to go through so there’s a lot of stuff you’re going through. And you can be a little bit easy on yourself. You don’t sound like you’re beating yourself up too much, but I always think it’s good to remind people, especially when they’ve gone through a lot of stuff that like, “Hey, you’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and that’s understandable that you would feel anxious and a little bit nervous about the things that are happening around you”.

But overall I would say this doesn’t sound terrible. Again, my final point is that K suggesting that you go to counselling is a really positive sign. And I think that you should definitely consider it and just have a conversation. I feel like if K is already identifying that you’re unhappy and is wanting to fix it then having that conversation about whether or not you have a shared vision won’t be so difficult to have without a counsellor, but equally you can find one together who understands polyamory who’s accepting and understanding of queerness and kink, and also has maybe Black identified themselves, or maybe has worked with Black clients before or has some understanding of that, instead of just being ignorant about it, which unfortunately a lot of therapists are. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.