Episode 50: What is Love?

What happens when your partner keeps hinting that they want monogamy but you’re not even sure if you’ve ever felt love at all?

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

Discussion Topic: If you were to get a job offer in another country, how would your relationships change?

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

Episode 50 – What Is Love?

Your partner expects you to commit to monogamy eventually but you’re not sure if you’ve ever been in love. 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 – If you were to get a job offer in another country, how would your relationships change?

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

Letter:

I think I am polyamorous, but it is hard to say due to several complicated factors. I have been dating my boyfriend since college, and I met him when I was at a pretty low point in my life, and I had very low self-esteem. He was my first… almost everything. But I met him on a break, and when I went back to school pretty far away, we decided to keep dating long-distance.

However, pretty soon I started regretting it when my really good friend/crush admitted he had liked me for some time. My boyfriend said I could kiss him if I wanted, but I felt nervous and confused about it, and when we got a little too physical at some parties (holding hands/cuddling), he got really upset and jealous, and we had a big fight.

Since then, we have been opening and closing the relationship at different times. There have been three major phases of non-monogamy. The first was when I studied abroad and dated someone so seriously that I considered him my boyfriend. My first boyfriend was very upset by this, and I was upset at how he was talking to me… We ended up in couples counselling, and it felt better.

The second time was right before I graduated, when I said I wanted to try casual dating/sex, and he said I should. I hooked up with so many people in a short time that he got upset, like I tried to get in as many men as possible as soon as I could. It hurt that he said he wanted me to explore, but got mad at the way I did. It ended up not really being for me, anyway. I came out of it with 1 more person that I felt pretty serious about, and we still talk sometimes, but rarely see each other.

The third is when I moved abroad soon after graduating, and we negotiated a new agreement where I could do whatever I wanted with whoever. He was going to trust me and our relationship more. I met up with a few of my established people a few times, and he was fine with it. But the main problem is when I don’t see him for a long time, I stop being interested in physical stuff with him for a while until I have warmed up to being around him again.

This isn’t really the case with others… more chemistry? Shorter relationship, so it feels more exciting? I am not sure. But it causes my boyfriend to get really paranoid that I am going to leave him for someone else, especially with the distance between us right now. We have had brief stints of living together though, and I enjoyed them and felt happy with the relationship.

Currently I am seeing a new person. It is complicated because he is in my friend group here abroad, and I have to keep lots of secrets from almost everyone I know, as most people know about my boyfriend. And my boyfriend keeps talking about marriage and kids with me, which stresses me out. I want marriage and kids, but I don’t want to lose these other relationships either, and I am very confused about who I want to be that committed to and how it would work.

And I know my boyfriend probably sees it as we are the primary relationship and everyone else is just a temporary thing for fun, but I don’t really like the hierarchy to be so … stiff. These other people are people I want to keep in my life, and they all bring different aspects that I enjoy.

Sometimes my boyfriend gets sad about the distance and tells me things like how he is excited for when we can just be together, the two of us, and it makes me think that he is expecting monogamy, like if we get married and have kids, and it just feels… really scary. That he thinks he can just say the word and expect all this to stop. Or that what I am doing isn’t good in the context of raising children. Or that if I like other people as much as I like him, that I am doing something wrong.

I have encouraged him to date other people as well, because I think he is a person who needs lots of physical comfort and someone to get him out of ruts, but he hasn’t, either because he is not good at finding people (especially since his coworkers know he has a girlfriend) or because he is not actually interested. Of course I wouldn’t force him to be polyamorous, but given my situation I think it would make things a lot better and take off the burden from me to make him feel happy and loved all the time. I have asked him if he even gets anything out of the relationship being the way that it is, or if he just puts up with it for my sake. He has assured me that parts of it excite him, but it is usually hard to predict whether something will excite him or upset him.

Also, sort of related, is I don’t really understand what love is supposed to feel like? My boyfriend says he loves me, and I grew up quite a romantic, so I always thought love meant you only wanted that person and you felt ready to spend the rest of your life with them and have kids. I guess I sort of am looking for that feeling, but have never felt it, so I don’t know if I am doing something wrong.

Something my boyfriend often says when checking in on how my relationships are going is, “sounds great! just don’t fall in love with him” — I always want to say, I don’t know what love even is, and if I did, why would you not want me to feel it? He knows I don’t really feel those lovey feelings the same way he does, so I am not sure what this warning is supposed to mean.

So basically I am just wondering, am I doing something wrong? Should I be doing something differently? Is there a way to keep my long-distance relationship steady and healthy given that it I sometimes feel drained, like I have to prop it up emotionally/sexually? How can I feel better about wanting to get married and have kids in my current situation? ~Is love just a social construct?~ Thanks so much in advance for any advice.

Response:

So, the big thing here is, again, I’m gonna… I said this in Episode 48. I’m gonna say it again. Polyamory is not about finding multiple relationships that are partially suited to you.

I think that a lot of people get into polyamory because they don’t want to break up with somebody and they just sort of collect semi sustaining semi fulfilling relationships with people, until they reach a kind of permissible stasis with people. It just feels like your boyfriend doesn’t actually want polyamory. Like you’re kind of saying, what is— seems like the truth. Like it seems like he thinks this is just a temporary thing. And it’s not a temporary thing for you. Clearly, you have some fundamental disagreements about the way you want to live your lives.

And if it makes you feel any better, this happens all the time with monogamous people. It’s not just a thing with— okay one person’s polyamorous, one person’s monogamous. Two polyamorous people can have this kind of incompatibility as well in terms of just not wanting to live their lives the same way. Monogamous people can have this incompatibility. So for you it’s like, okay, yeah you want to have kids and get married and stuff but you want to be in a polyamorous relationship. You want to have multiple partners. You want to have this freedom.

And there are so many signs that this is not what he wants. He thinks that this is temporary and the whole, like “just don’t fall in love with him”… Eh. I just feel like that’s a very clear sign that someone—  it’s okay— Some people do have an open style relationship where they are primarily in love with one person and that they do have just like flings, and things like that. And if that’s something you both agree on than that’s absolutely fine. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what you want. So you’re stuck in this sort of situation where he has a very different idea of what’s going on than you do. And I think that you’ve been hesitant to get rid of the relationship that you have with him.

Because, you know, it’s kind of a bit what’s called a sunk cost fallacy. I keep saying “sunken cost fallacy” but I think it’s actually just sunk cost fallacy. But it’s basically where because you’ve put so much effort in, you’re really hesitant to actually get rid of it because you’re like “well I put so much in, I have to keep putting into it”. But actually you’re not really doing anything but digging a deeper hole. So, I think that you need to really both sit down and be really clear with each other about what it is that you actually want.

And I honestly like don’t really blame you because if you’ve been dating him… If you’ve been dating him since you were in college, that does mean you are quite young. Everyone’s different. Some people are ready to settle down, more or less like “settle down” when they are 22. Some people are not really ready for that until they’re 32. And if you’re not ready for that, then you’re not ready for that and I just feel like, you know, moving to long distance… it’s funny that we had that discussion question today because it was really apt for this whole entire question you have — but you move to long distance to sort of try and keep the relationship alive.

And understandably you did that because he was your first everything. It’s quite hard to just break up. Sometimes you want to give that a try and that’s okay to give that a try. But that— nothing is going to solve such an inherent incompatibility. Like there are things that can be worked around. There are things that you can negotiate and compromise with and I do think that, you know, especially if you have a relationship where you live together or you plan on living together, there is going to be some compromise.

Because there’s always compromise with any adult that you live with, to a certain extent. But there are some things that you can’t really compromise on and like having kids, for example— If you had no interest in having children, there’s no real way to compromise on that. And trying to have children when you don’t know that you’re sure that you want to… It’s… Yeah. So there’s lots of situations here where, you know… I think there are obviously situations where maybe he felt uncomfortable. Like being uncomfortable with, you know— saying okay “go ahead and sleep with whomever you want” and then be uncomfortable.

He might feel uncomfortable when he tries polyamory. When you’re with other people, sometimes when you’re trying stuff out. You have to be comfortable with your partner being uncomfortable and you have to go “Okay, my partner’s uncomfortable”, and instead of stopping what you’re doing, you have to work with him to address that. And I think sometimes when people try out polyamory they go “okay— oh my partner feels uncomfortable stop stop stop everything stop everything go back”. And that doesn’t actually fix the problem. The problem is that they feel uncomfortable and how do they cope with it?

So, there were some situations where, you know, there could have been a little bit more done to see if he really is interested in polyamory. If it would have just been that situation I would have said, okay, you should let him feel that discomfort and work through that, but the fact that he’s saying stuff like “don’t fall in love with him” … I think that your intuition is right that it’s not— it’s not that he is at all interested in polyamory. It just doesn’t sound like he wants… He doesn’t even—  it sounds like he could potentially do a situation where you did have just flings, but that isn’t what you want.

You do want multiple relationships and you don’t want to abandon that for any kind of situation. So I do think that you’re incompatible. I don’t think that you should worry so much about what love is and whether or not you feel it. Having bigger chemistry with newer people or different people isn’t surprising. It might be what’s called new relationship energy which is where you have kind of like you know someone sparkly and new and that’s exciting and you know you have that when you start off in a relationship.

But then when you have a kind of a longer term relationship, it’s not like the spark completely dulls and if you put effort in the spark doesn’t completely dull, but someone who is new and shiny is different and new and shiny. And so you feel like, “ooh”. So you might have more chemistry and you can be in a situation where you have more chemistry with some partners than with others and that isn’t a terrible thing. But you would be— I think you would be less concerned about it if there wasn’t all this pressure on your shoulders to kind of go back to a monogamous way of being, which is kind of what he wants. All of the signs are kind of pointing to that.

All of the signs are pointing to him basically, expecting you go “okay well I’m done”. And I just think that’s a… I mean you could. I mean, maybe one day just like you did when you mentioned how you, you know, had a lot of sex in a short period of time and then you were like “no, it’s not for me”. Maybe you will one day go “no it’s not for me” but he shouldn’t expect that to happen. And he shouldn’t equally pressure you for that to happen. And I don’t really blame him because I think he cares about you. I think he doesn’t want to break up, and I think he’s trying to adjust to the situation, so that you know he can stay with you because he cares about you.

But sometimes honestly when people— Some people can try polyamory and see if it’s for them and know it’s not for them. I think that sometimes when people are so afraid of breaking up, they end up in a situation that ends up being more painful than the breakup would have been. And I think that this situation is probably going— like he’s clearly not going to break up with you. He’s going to try in the hopes that you’re going to switch back to being monogamous. And I mean you could keep putting— could keep digging this hole, but I just don’t think that it’s it’s a good idea.

You feel burdened in this relationship. He’s kind of giving you all the signs that he’s not into opening it for the long term. So you gotta just sit down and have a real honest discussion about what it is that you both want because I just don’t think that this is actually what he wants, unfortunately. And I think he’s maybe just lying to himself a tiny tiny bit, so that he can stay with you. Because, I mean all people do that. I don’t blame anyone who does that, because that’s a very human thing to not want to break up with somebody. But sometimes two people can care very very very very very much about each other.

Two people can be almost compatible in tons of other ways. They can improve each other’s lives and be really really great for each other but they’re just not compatible past that and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s not your fault for being you. It’s not his fault for being him. It’s just, yeah, sometimes it’s just inherently not compatible. You just want different things out of life. It happens. Like if you think about it, it can happen to a monogamous couple if say one of the people in the couple is a doctor or a lawyer or has a very time intensive career and the other person just can’t handle that. That could happen if one person is, you know, has a type of career that pulls them away and makes them travel all the time you know. Maybe one person can’t handle that.

So, that can happen in a lot of different situations. But it’s not really anybody’s fault in this situation. I think probably what’s best to do… I mean you could just kind of break up but I do think, like— I think that it’ll it’ll make more sense to come to that agreement mutually if you actually sit down and talk about what it is that you want out of life, what it is that you— what your ideal situation looks like.

And then you can say, you know— he’ll maybe sit there and say “I want us to be together and be monogamous and wife and kids picket fence”.  And then you say “well I would like to have kids but I want to have multiple partners” and then there’s not many places you can go once you have that discussion. So it’s worth having that discussion and actually getting that out, rather than just prolonging it because dragging it on is… I think it’ll just make it painful for you both. I wish that I had something better to say. I really hate— I hate it when my advice is, you’re not compatible.

If he had said something else, if he had given some indication that he saw polyamory as a little bit beneficial to him— He doesn’t have to date tons of people. Like it’s fine if he doesn’t want to date. I don’t date a lot. I hate dating. So, it’s fine if he doesn’t want to date. That doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t do polyamory. But it’s all the other stuff around that like saying, “don’t fall in love” and “I can’t wait to work together alone”. Like all that other stuff is just a really massive indication that he’s probably not in it for the polyamory long haul, unfortunately.

So have that discussion and it might take you to— Unfortunately, where you might need to be which is not together. Yeah, I’m sorry. I wish I had something better to advise but I do think that that is the best in the long term for you both. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 49: Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. What do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What is one behaviour that you never tolerate?

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

Episode 49 – Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. What do you do? 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

Letter:

When I met my current primary partner, they weren’t available for an emotional relationship as they had a primary partner (and that was a boundary of the relationship). A month or two into us starting to date, the relationship with their primary partner ended. And as that relationship ended ours became more connected and intense.

From the start we had irresistible chemistry, they would text me daily (almost excessively), the sex was amazing, and the energy was there. Once their other relationship came to an end, there was no longer a boundary to stop us from spending more time together, becoming more emotionally attached, and ultimately becoming primary partners.

During this time, there were red flags. I was concerned that they were not doing the work to let go of their ex, release the anger, and trauma they had from the end of the relationship. We started to spend almost every night together. I didn’t understand how they could have the (literal) time to process the end of a huge relationship while spending all their time with me, working, and keeping 2-3 other relationships going (while love can be infinite time is finite). I was not shy about bringing my concerns up to them, they continued to reassure me, and I trusted them.

We had big conversations about how our relationship was changing, what the future could bring and how excited we were. My partner brought up monogamy as a possible desire of theirs, and at first, I was concerned about this (was this a trauma response due their most recent brake up/ was this something I wanted). My past few relationships had been poly[am] or open, and while this relationship was so exciting and intense it was also very new. After thinking about it I expressed interest in exploring monogamy with them but asked that we come back to this further down the line.

Months passed and my partner brought up monogamy a few more times (more casually) and I took these as confirmation that their mind was still on monogamy. I started to watch and analyse my relationships with monogamy in mind and concluded that this is something I’d want to try with my primary partner. This is when things got complicated.

I wanted to let my partner know how I was feeling about monogamy and brought this up to them (this was about 6-9 months after our initial conversation about it). I let them know how I was feeling and asked for them to do the same. What I heard from them was a huge surprise and I’m struggling to adjust to it. They basically let me know that they could never identify as monogamous and weren’t interested in practicing it either. While they did have some conflict about it, and we’ve talked plenty about it I still feel a bit shocked.

I now understand that when they mentioned monogamy, they were not thinking about what they wanted or what kind of relationship they wanted with me. They were thinking about their ex. While I’m available to help my partners hash out what they want, work with them so all of us can get past relationship trauma, I feel as though my partner (maybe not deliberately) gave me a false representation of what this relationship was, could be, and is.

This is what I was concerned about in the beginning and I trusted their response and now I feel as though I shouldn’t have. I feel as though they came to me with a desire (that had to do with me and our relationship) and then changed their mind without telling me about it while I carried on with only the information I knew.

Now I feel lost. I feel like trust has been broken with my partner and I’m not sure how to get it back.

I now have this desire to explore consensual monogamy and my partner doesn’t want that. This brings on a whole other onslaught of questions for myself; will I want consensual monogamy with other people? Could I even find someone that is interested in monogamy (almost every queer I know isn’t)? Why do I feel shame about wanting consensual monogamy? Why am I now feeling extra sensitive to my primary’s other partner? Would this relationship have become so serious if they never brought it up or told me when they were no longer interested? Would I still be wanting this if they never brought it up?

I know [your column] is all about non-monogamy and as I’m in a non-monogamous relationship I think this can belong here. But I’m hoping you could also help be shed some light on the desire to be monogamous, and not in a that’s just what society expects kind of way. But consensual monogamous, in the “I’ve thought about this and want this” kind of way?

Response:

So, the first thing here is that like your sense of kind of like feeling that your trust has been violated is really understandable. I mean, you don’t say that your partner came to just with the general subject of monogamy and wanting to discuss it. You literally say— and maybe you didn’t mean it so literal or maybe you didn’t realise what you typed — but you literally say that your partner came to you with a want or desire to become monogamous and mentioned it enough that you actually literally said to them, “I’ll think about it. Maybe in a few months”. Like they came to you with the thought that this was their desire. Like it wasn’t just

a random discussion topic, it was something they put forth as something they wanted.

And now they’re saying they don’t want it at all and that is incredibly confusing. And, like, I don’t know if they’ve really addressed that with you. Have they really talked about that with you? Because I’ve at least found with myself like when the subject kind of starts with monogamy or the thought of monogamy comes up, I will start to see it as a competition in a way, and that is really— it triggers all sorts of horrible anxieties within me.

And, you know, I don’t like the idea that there’s like this one space for this, you know, there’s one spot and you have to basically compete with others to get to that spot and it’s… Yeah, it’s just it doesn’t bring up very good feelings for me. So I can imagine that it makes a lot of sense that you would all of a sudden now start to have problems with, you know, and start to have feelings about their other partners because basically they brought up this idea that they may want monogamy or they may want to try monogamy, and they’ve chosen you for that.

And then now all of a sudden they’re saying that they’re not but then you always have this fear in the back of your head. You’re like well, maybe it’s because I’ve done something wrong and now they don’t want to try it with me but they’re talking to other people and saying the same thing they said to me, which is that they want to try monogamy, and maybe they’re just not going to choose me. So, yeah, of course, you’re gonna feel anxious and scared and all of these feelings. Like that makes 100% total sense. So, yeah, of course you’re going to feel that.

I think that what you need to have are more conversations with your partner about how you discuss things because you kind of hit it right on the nose where you’re like I’m okay to like help people hash out stuff but you need to be told that that’s what the conversation is. And it may not be that they did it intentionally but to present this as like this is what I want when that is not the case is just is lying. It’s dishonesty.

And your partner really needs to figure out why they did that and why it is that they didn’t communicate, if they did feel that way why didn’t they communicate? That’s a really big change. You know, I mean it’s sort of in a way to kind of comparison that I always make is that like people wanting kids. Like wanting kids is a very big life changing… If you suddenly decide that you want kids it’s kind of really important and you’ve always agreed with your partner that you’re not going to have kids — if you suddenly decide that you want them. That’s kind of something you should discuss with your partner and not just wait one day to spring it on them.

Or equally if you decided you don’t want them. That’s also something that you need to discuss and you can’t just avoid that, because you don’t want to have that conversation so you need to, like, maybe work with a couple polyamory friendly therapist

to work through like— pick apart kind of why that happened and how you can prevent something like that from happening in the future. Maybe some boundaries around conversations?

I think if your partner had said and acknowledged like “Hey yeah I said that back then, but I don’t really feel that way and I changed”. You know if they had given you a little bit more explanation maybe you wouldn’t feel so anxious about it? I just feel like there’s more conversations to have. I think that all of these conversations about you wanting monogamy like… I mean I can’t tell you that if this conversation never came up that you would feel differently. Like no one’s ever going to be able to tell you that, and then it doesn’t really matter anyways because it’s happened you know. It’s happened. It’s there.

You can’t magically make it unhappen so you shouldn’t sit and sort of ponder on “well what if this was never introduced?”. It has been so it is what it is. When it comes to you yourself wondering about monogamy I think that, you know… I always say in my columns and my podcasts like no one can tell someone else if polyamory or monogamy are more right for them. Like that’s something that you kind of have to glean for yourself, but I do think there are some basic things to— like thought exercises to go through in deciding whether or not polyamory is even or non-monogamy is even an option for you to consider.

The first thing that I usually say to people is, you know, agreeing to a non-monogamous or polyamorous situation means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time focused on you. And there are some monogamous situations where that does happen, where someone has a time intensive career. Then they may— or a partner who has like a really intensive hobby. Just anything like that where there aren’t going to be situations where monogamous people agree to a relationship with somebody who can’t devote their time 100% to them. And there are another plenty of people who can’t do that sort of thing.

Like there are people who can’t do long distance. There are people who maybe could not date a lawyer or doctor anyone with like a really intense long hours style career. And that’s legit. So I think that’s the first thing to think about like… are you actually fine with a partner who doesn’t spend their time with you? I think that you sound like you are, because you have had other open and  polyam relationships but it’s kind of up to you to really think about.

Because the other thing that I’ve said and I actually I think I just said this in the discussion question but I can’t remember. My memories terrible, but polyamory is about, and I say this a lot — polyamory should be about finding multiple fulfilling relationships, not about finding a bunch of halfway fulfilling relationships that kind of makes you okay. I think that’s easier said than done because like, when we’re with somebody we don’t want to just break it off. You don’t want to just throw away a partnership that you’ve just put together so it makes a lot of sense to not want to throw that away.

But if a, I don’t think— like we say “Relationship broke, add people” doesn’t work. Opening up your relationship to solve problems in your first relationship, adding another person to that equation isn’t necessarily going to fix anything so that is something for you to think about. Is this relationship fulfilling? That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do polyamory. It just means that relationship isn’t fulfilling. So anyway, yeah. The first thing is about time. I think the second thing is about, is there a benefit to polyamory that you see, just for yourself?

So when I kind of talk to people and usually like nine times out of 10, people don’t arrive at polyamory when they’re not with somebody. Usually they’re with somebody. Usually someone suggested it. Most of the time I’m answering questions for people who aren’t the ones that suggested it. And all of a sudden they have to like decide if this what they want to do. And so that’s pretty normal. Generally speaking in those situations I always kind of tell people to think about if they can see a benefit to non-monogamy that is purely selfish, because so many people I think try non-monogamy because they don’t want to break up with their partner and the problem with that is that basically they’re trying to save a relationship that doesn’t really exist anymore.

They’re trying to save the monogamous relationship they had with their partner, when they don’t have that anymore. Like that, that ship has sailed. So they can’t really save that because they have to realise that their partner isn’t gonna spend the same amount of time with them, isn’t going to remain focused on them all sorts of things. So like, can you find what I call an anchor, which is something where you see a benefit to it that is completely your benefit and isn’t just keeping this relationship? And I think that it sounds to me quite honestly that you have been kind of pushed into really considering monogamy because this relationship has been so intense and has been really great and you don’t want to lose that.

And so you’ve been faced with this real threat that you may have to, you know, consider the benefits of monogamy in order to save this relationship so naturally you’re considering the benefits of it. Almost in the opposite way that people— you’re kind of like doing the opposite and the way that people will consider and try polyamory so that they can keep their partner. And there isn’t really a benefit in it for them but that’s their benefit. I think that in a way that you’re doing a little bit with monogamy.

Like you’re sort of seeing the benefit of monogamy as it applies to this relationship. And I think that maybe you should just think a little bit more about that, like, what are the only selfish benefits that, not keeping any relationship— You know, if you were single what would you choose? I think that will help you get to a realisation of what it is that you want to choose. But essentially it’s something that you know it’s honestly something that you have to tell yourself. I won’t be able to tell you that. I won’t be able to tell you what works best for you. I think that there are totally people who can do both monogamy and polyamory. I certainly felt like I could do both for a long time.

I feel less and less like I could do both, as time has gone on, but for a short time I didn’t feel like — you know there are some people who feel like polyamory is their orientation in terms of how they want to do relationships or is unchangeable. I don’t personally feel like it’s always unchangeable for everyone. I think that for some people they can do both. So you could be one of those people who do both. And you just have to decide what it is that you want to do. I would really really really really hesitate to do any kind of relationship with someone who presents to you like a want that they have and then changes their mind about it.

Like I just feel like that’s really— or even, like, the thing is is that, no matter which way you cut the situation that’s bad. Like, whether they— whether it was never something that they wanted and they just told you they did — not great, or if it was something that they wanted, and then they changed their mind and are now going “I never wanted that” — that’s also not great. So you kind of, no matter which way you cut that, it’s kind of not great. So you kind of just have to think about, okay, you know, is that— that really needs to be worked through.

Because I just think that there needs to be— there’s more to that story, and you need to find out what more there is to that story and why they decided to— if they didn’t lie intentionally like what’s going on there? Because that is definitely a red flag for any kind of relationship, monogamous or polyamorous. Somebody who communicates in that way… it’s not great. So, yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Episode 48: Too Much NRE

Is 18 months long enough to wait for someone to decide if polyamory is for them?

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

Discussion Topic: What is your love language?

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

Episode 48 – Too Much NRE

Is 18 months enough time to give someone to decide if they want polyamory?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What’s your love language?

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

Letter:

I have been in a relationship with my husband A for about 12 years.  Initially we started off in an open, polyamorous relationship (back when we didn’t know the term).  At the time, he was polyamorous and seeing two other women in addition to myself.  Even though I was allowed to see others, I felt myself only wanting him, and therefore assumed I was monogamous.

At one point, I told him kindly that I would likely need to leave the relationship because it was hurting me too much that we were not exclusive (not blaming him at all, because he was completely honest about who he was).  At that point, he told me he didn’t want to lose me, and that he would try monogamy.

We were then monogamous together for a few more years, after which time I developed an intense crush on someone (B) at work, who I almost ended my relationship over.  Now I know that was NRE.  My crush on (B) was mostly an emotional relationship, with some physical involvement with (As) subsequent permission.  Too many details, but A and I briefly decided to open up our relationship, at which point A immediately found a part-time girlfriend.

At the time, I convinced myself I had a crush on B because A wasn’t ready to marry me, and I therefore didn’t “feel loved enough.”  A gave me a choice to either stay in the relationship or leave to be with (B).  I chose to stay with (A) and work on distancing myself from (B) to try and get over my feelings.

Also (B), though also having intense feelings for me, was not looking to settle into anything serious in that moment.  And was also confused about what he wanted.  B also had a lot of other emotional issues he was going through at the time, and it would have been a very unstable relationship.  And I knew I still loved (A).

After deciding to stay together with A, things went well.  We remained in a good relationship together, decided to get married, at least on my end felt generally happy.

We had some issues.  One that kept on repeating itself is that my love language is through words.  And for as long as we’ve been together, it’s hard for me to feel emotionally reassured or supported by A when I’m dealing with something stressful or upsetting..  Although I find he is really trying, it is difficult for A to comfort me without getting defensive, or telling me he feels “attacked,” because my voice sounds angry or upset, even though I’m upset about something that has nothing to do with him.

After a lot of thinking, I realized though B was not an emotionally stable man, that comforting me when I felt upset was something he had kind of been able to do.

Moving forward about 3 years after A and I got married, we settled down for another traveling gig in a new town.  And several months into my new job, I found myself developing a crush on my coworker (C).  This time it was different.  I was shocked with myself.  I couldn’t understand it.  This time there was no excuse.  A had given me everything I had asked for.  He was committed, monogamous, he had married me, he was so good to my family.  I still loved him.  I knew that.

And yet, I found myself falling deeply in love with C.  He returned my feelings.  He was married.  We both worked very hard on trying to remain just friends, no matter what our feelings were.  I even tried to coordinate couples dates with me and A and C and his wife.  A was very agreeable, but C’s wife kept on giving excuses for why they couldn’t hang out with us.  So it never happened.

After a year and a half of holding back, I felt I didn’t want to hold back anymore.  I was so in love with C, and I didn’t want to lose the chance.  I kissed him at work (and some physical involvement as well).  So yes, I cheated. I was planning on eventually telling A.  A few months into the affair, A asks me and I tell him the truth.

In all fairness, I should’ve spoken to A.  And I do take full responsibility for the cheating.  It was wrong.  And at the time, I was so scared he’d tell me I’d have to choose, like what happened the last time.  And my NRE was so strong, I felt I wouldn’t be able to bear it and would have to leave A.

Well, A was understandably hurt.  But, literally about less than 48 hours later, he tells me he has a realisation that we should go back to being polyamorous.  After all, he was polyamorous already, had known that about himself for years, and I was obviously not doing well with monogamy.  I still feel A should’ve yelled at me, punished me.  Been upset with me for longer.  I deserved it.  I admit I am still having a hard time forgiving myself for my affair, even as I write this.

Well, A restructured into polyamory quite quickly.  Within several months, he had a few new girlfriends (these were serious relationships with women he deeply cared for – not casual encounters).  This is who he is.  (Later A explained to me he had been very unhappy for the last few years, and had felt himself becoming more emotionally distant as a result;

A does admit he believes some of what drew me to C is that C was a strong emotionally supportive friend who was there for me for over a year, when A had been emotionally distant. A is still so thankful I met C and that C was there for me during that time).

So after A found out about the affair, I spoke to C, who was adamantly opposed to polyamory, not because he judges it, but because he doesn’t believe it’s for him.  Initially he attempted to leave his wife, telling her he wanted to be with me, but later went back to her when he found out I had no intention of leaving my husband.

He tried to bring up polyamory with his wife, who declined it, and gave him an ultimatum that he had to choose between her or me.  (C admitted to me later that he had initially left his wife because he was hoping I might choose him and leave my husband).

To be clear, C didn’t want to pull me away from A, but was hoping that maybe I’d realise he was a better choice for me, and that maybe A and I were growing apart.  C never gave me an ultimatum.  He has a kind heart, and told me he would’ve worked on being happy for me if I chose A and was happy with A.  But he had difficulty with the concept of polyamory.

After discussing the option of polyamory, C asked me to wait, because he wanted to try and learn more and consider whether he could open himself up to this idea.  Initially he dived in, began reading books, going on poly[am] blogs, and talking of a potential poly[am] future with me.  But a few months in, he stopped, not really explaining why, other than to say he was busy with all this other stuff in his life, and didn’t have the time, and that he still was processing things.

During this time, we have been seeing each other secretly (his wife doesn’t know, although I have repeatedly told him he should tell her).  My husband A knows everything.  Actually, A and C have met and like each other.  Though they aren’t friends, they get along.  A is comfortable.  C has never quite felt comfortable, and always worries he’s in the way of my marriage with A.

It has been about 18 months total of me waiting (basically putting my life on hold) for C to process what he wants.  It’s not that C told me I couldn’t date anyone else.  But he did say that if I began seeing someone new, he would have an emotionally difficult time starting a new relationship with me, and may have to really leave.  He’s obviously ok with me continuing to see A.

So I’ve been seeing A.  And I’m seeing C in secret (because he hasn’t told his wife).  And because of this dynamic, I barely get to see him.  Just briefly for a few hours once or twice a week when his wife is at work.  And it’s so hard, that I’ve given myself a deadline that I’ve told him about where I will eventually need to leave.  Because it hurts too much, coming second to his wife all the time.  Not getting to really even date, no overnights, limited phone time, mostly texting.

I won’t go into this part in detail, but C’s wife (per C’s description) is controlling in many ways, does not treat him respectfully, and keeps him away from his kids from his previous marriage, forcing him to choose.

During this time, my husband A has developed several significant relationships with 3 other women, and also developing some relationships with a few others that are yet undetermined status.  Our relationship has shifted.  We are no longer a couple in a primary relationship, with secondary relationships.

He considers himself egalitarian poly[am], and solo poly[am], and I am now one of several partners he loves.  I only see him about 1-2 days a week (so we have maybe a day date together, and one evening).  Occasionally we have a bit more time when one of his girlfriends is out of town.  He even had his own apartment he is subletting, where he goes occasionally.  And he has moved into the spare room in our apartment, so that our relationship is no longer like a couple, and more suited to dating.  Though we are dating about once a week, our situation at  home in our apartment is more like roommates.

This has been very difficult for me, because I was used to seeing A all the time, every day.  I know I still love him, and that he still loves me.  Even though I’ve been having the affair with C, the concepts of polyamory are still very new to me, and I struggle a lot with insecurity, and things I’m working on with myself.

I do have emotional outbursts intermittently, and am still processing through multiple monogamous concepts I am trying to restructure in my mind.  I am learning as I go, and do believe I am slowly making progress, identifying where my insecurities lie.  I do believe seeing an individual poly[am]-friendly therapist would be good for me.

As I explained before, A has always had a difficult time emotionally supporting me when I’m upset – so this has caused a large strain on our relationship over the last 6 months, especially if I’m upset because of something he is doing.  And I am still working on creating a poly[am]-friendly support group.  For a while, A was one of my only emotional supports, and that’s a large burden to place on A.

It got so bad that we separated for a couple of weeks, and I was almost ready to leave him.  But then I realized I still love A so much, and don’t want to give up on our relationship yet.  But 1-2 days a week is not enough for me.  I enjoy being in a couple.  It’s what I would want.  I think I’m polyamorous (still not quite sure), but not a solo poly[am].  It’s important for me to have quality time in my relationship to develop the intimacy I need.  I need more time in a relationship than 1-2 days a week.  But this is all A can give me at this point.

And I do have to add that with everything that’s going on with C, he is able (more than any man I’ve been with) to emotionally comfort me and reassure me when I’m upset.  It is a need I never really had met until I met C.  And it’s a need that is very important to me. .

So my dilemma is this:

I love A and C.  They both love me.  Ideally, I’d love to be with both of them.  C has similar values and life goals to mine/  Ideally I’d love for him to be a primary partner with me – in terms of living together, time spent together, etc – and for A to be my secondary partner.  A is cool with that.  C is not.  After 18 months of processing, C is still not sure he can handle polyamory.  The idea of me possibly meeting future men upsets him.  He is still not even sure he can share me with A.

Though A and I have gone in very different directions since we became poly[am], I still love him, and don’t want to leave him right now.  I feel I may regret it, and possibly end up resenting C for it later on.

Ideally I’d want a fully polyamorous relationship that is non-exclusive, but I am willing to compromise on a closed triad (well, A will be fully polyamorous, but I will be exclusive with A and C only, and C will be exclusive with me; and his wife if she wants to continue seeing him – I have never asked C to choose between me and his wife).

Part of me still wonders whether I’m truly polyamorous, or whether my need for emotional support and comfort/reassurance was just not met in my relationship with A.  Would I be happy with C alone?  Or am I poly[am]?

At this point, I’m planning on ending my affair with C, because I can’t go on barely getting to be with someone I deeply care about, and I don’t feel good that his wife doesn’t know.  I feel both she and I deserve more respect in our relationships.  Not that he is intentionally disrespecting us.  He just knows if he tells her he’ll have to lose her; and he loves us both.  Though he says he’s pretty unhappy with her.  And prefers to be with me.

At the same time, I am not sure if I should just give C what he wants – monogamy.  24/7 exclusive relationship.  I don’t want to lose him.  And he is willing to offer me things that A is not.

If I stay with A, and lose C, I end up with a relationship where I only get to date A only 1-2 days a week.  Is that kind of relationship worth giving C up over?  And at this point I’m still really high on NRE with C.  I feel so in love with him, and the idea of letting him go overwhelms me.  I know I can do it, but it will hurt so much.

But I love A, and I don’t want to leave him.  He’s been such a good man to me over the past 12 years, and I still think we have potential.

Any advice on what I should do?

Response:

The first thing that I would say with this is that— one thing that I’ve kind of repeated a lot in the columns and in the podcasts occasionally, is that polyamory isn’t about having multiple unfulfilling relationships. It’s supposed to be about having multiple fulfilling relationships, and I sometimes feel like people choose polyamory, not because they’re actually interested in polyamory but because they don’t want to break up with someone, and I don’t really think that that’s the same thing.

Like, you shouldn’t use polyamory as an excuse to stay with people who aren’t really meeting your needs. And that’s kind of what I feel like you’ve done with A for a very, very long time. A clearly is not really capable of giving you the emotional support you need. And I think you can deal with that if you don’t have to rely on A. But I still think that the fact that A reacts so badly to you being emotional about things that do involve him

is a little worrying.

Because even if you only have a “secondary” relationship, you still may have issues and you still may have things that you need to discuss, and it’s going to be really hard for you to actually discuss them if, you know, A reacts or has this kind of reaction to you being emotional. And that might be worth working on with each other. I don’t know, like, far be it for me to say when someone else has too many partners, but the fact that he has like so many people that he has to focus on. It just makes me wonder like what the deal is with that.

And people can have multiple partners and lots of different partners and that doesn’t reflect anything, but sometimes I do think that sometimes people choose polyamory because it means that they don’t have to emotionally support anybody. Do you know what I mean? Like if they’re just a “secondary”  to everybody and they don’t have to live with anyone, and they don’t have to be a primary or any kind of an emotional support to anyone then they can get away with not being able to emotionally support anyone. And I think that that’s okay but I do think that that merits some kind of communication and I just, I worry that there hasn’t really been a situation where A has sat you down and said “Look, you need this, and I can’t provide this”.

And that’s a little worrying, because even if you are to date A as a secondary he still… you can’t even tell him right now that one to two days is not enough for you because he reacts so poorly and feels attacked every time you bring something up. So it’s like you have to be, regardless of how often you see somebody, you have to be able to tell them if they’re not meeting your needs. You have to be able to have difficult discussions. It’s really really funny because I actually spoke to my therapist, about, you know, with the— If you’re listening to this right now. Right now I’m recording this, we’re in a pandemic so we’re in lockdown. And with my partners— like my with my domestic partner that I live with— obviously we are around each other 24/7, and that causes a lot of friction in a lot of ways.

And because we’ve been bickering so much that has sort of signalled in my head a panic kind of thing and has made me go, “Oh my god we’re bickering we’re gonna—“. You know because I’m used to big family arguments ending up in something huge and dramatic happening. I’m used to a family argument ending with someone getting kicked out. So, for us to bicker, I’m not really used to that and it really really throws me off. And so— but my therapist actually said like, “Look, if you go in a whole relationship without ever arguing— You know, sometimes arguing get your feelings out and it helps you work through things and you become stronger together because you argue. It doesn’t weaken things”. And it makes me wonder like if you can’t argue with A, if you can’t bring things up, if you can’t have a disagreement because every time you bring something up, he’s like, “Oh you’re attacking me”.

That doesn’t bode well for any kind of relationship with him, and that’s that’s kind of a worry and I do kind of wonder if this is what you’re actually, you know— this is what’s happening to you. You are basically you know in this relationship— and keeping it open because and seeking other partners because you feel lonely and because you’re not getting the things that you need, emotionally . So that is something that you really need to think about, because, I mean, you are incompatible in a lot of ways.

A second thing though is that you’re making C out to be a lot nicer than he is. You say he’s not intentionally doing this. He is intentionally doing this. Like he is intentionally choosing to cheat on his wife with you. He is. And he doesn’t have the sort of ability to state his needs with his wife, either. He is not able to accept the fact that two people, even if they’re married and even if they love each other and care for each other can be incompatible, and is totally is like— I’m almost annoyed— heavily annoyed with C because he’s such a massive hypocrite.

He doesn’t want you to be polyamorous. Basically he is dictating to you, you know whether or not— you say “well he doesn’t—“. People don’t have to specifically say you’re not allowed to date other people. If they create a situation where you feel unsafe or you feel like you can’t like that. That’s the thing like he is basically making a situation where you can’t pursue anybody else. He’s fine to cheat on his wife, but he has a problem with consensual ethical open relationships, and like, I’m not saying he has to be polyamorous and I’m not saying he has to be okay with it, but it is very hypocritical for him to be in a situation where basically he’s allowed to cheat but you can’t have another ethical relationship because he will have a problem with that.

It’s… yeah, he’s not as great as you’re making him out to be like he may be great at emotionally comforting you. And to be honest, like that’s— that isn’t… that’s not a high bar. Like all due respect to you. All due respect to A. All due respect to the situation. Someone being able to comfort you when you are upset is not like a… There’s another podcast that I recorded earlier about gold medals. Go listen to that. It’s not like— so many people are in situations, and I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s usually women who are in situations with men or in relationships with men where the man does something very very basic, that should be expected in a romantic relationship, and the woman is like, “Oh my god, he’s just so amazing he does such a—“. No.

He’s doing what he fucking should when he’s in a relationship which is being there for his partner. That’s not a gold star. That is the lowest frickin bar in the world. So, yeah. Stop. It’s probably your new relationship energy, even though you’ve been in this situation for 18 months. It is definitely— You’ve got some rose tinted glasses on when it comes to C. Probably because he comforts you so well. But he’s not all you think he is because if he was really an emotionally responsible person, he would go, “Huh”.

And this whole— this whole bullshit about like his wife is really mean to him or whatever. Anytime a man slags off his ex think about that situation. Okay. I’m not denying that maybe his wife isn’t that great and that may be the situation. Then why is he there? So, no, like, like come on. Think about this for a minute, like. You cannot have someone who is emotionally responsible and is going to be there for you and you’re giving him all these excuses and saying, “oh he’s— but he’s lovely, he has a kind heart, and he just doesn’t want to leave his wife because he loves her but he, but he does want to be with me, but she’s really bad and he does really want—“ This such a lie.

If it’s not a lie, it’s such a fucking cop out like, come on. If he if their relationship is that bad and if he really doesn’t want to be with his wife, then why is he fucking there? Why is he there? What is his frickin excuse. 18 months?! Come on. No, no, no, no, and like you’re basically— here’s the thing. If you are monogamous and you—  let’s just put aside the polyamory for a situation. If you are  monogamous, and you were dating— and I know that people cheat for a lot of different reasons and it can be complicated and I get it. Generally speaking, though, if you’re monogamous and you are cheating on someone with someone. What that tells you about that person who you are cheating with, even though A knows that you’re that you’re with C and is fine with it. But C’s wife doesn’t know. He is okay with cheating.

He is okay with non-ethical behaviour. He is okay lying to his wife and it stands to reason that if he’s okay lying to his wife, he’s okay lying to you. Like, and it means that if your relationship goes sour, or for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, then he’s fine lying to you. Like you’re not special and he might say that, but you really really really really need to not to believe that because… Yeah, it’s just not a good situation. He’s not as great as you’re making him out to be. He may be great at emotionally validating you but once again that is not an extreme relationship skill. That’s just a basic thing, and he probably knows that and he’s using that a bit to his advantage. So that’s one thing.

The other thing that really concerns me about A that I need to mention is that your relationship changed. He decided he’s ethical solo polyam, and now you only see him one day, two days a week. Where’s the fucking conversation about that? Like, I totally get that people can explore polyamory and come to find out that different situations suit them better. And oh actually I don’t really want to be in a primary relationship. I actually want to have more freedom, and that’s fine. That is absolutely fine. But a discussion needs to be had. And why hasn’t A sat you down and said “Hey look, I’m not feeling this primary situation.”

Like it just seems like all this sort of just slowly happened to you. And there was just no discussion and now you only see A one to two days a week, and it’s just… I mean that’s not to say that like. It’s not to say that you necessarily would then go “well I don’t want this” and A would go “okay let’s stay primary then”, but at least

if he had some kind of discussion with you, then you would be able to go, “Hmm, I’m not cool with that. Like one to two days a week isn’t great for me”. And maybe you could have, like, I don’t know, slowly, you could have gone from six days a week to five days a week to four day— like you could have, it could have been a little easier on you, especially since A doesn’t even emotionally support you very well in general anyway.

But instead he’s just sort of— and I don’t know how fast this happened like if it was just like, one day he was like, “Oh, I’m gonna move into the second room and blah blah blah”. But I mean you gotta have a kind of discussion about it. He’s not had any kind of like… how was that ethical? How is it ethical to just slowly completely pull away from your partner without really addressing it or talking about it? That’s… that’s not great, like for any kind of relationship. So, yeah, I think you are in a bit of a situation but. And I wish that I had some something better to advise because I feel like even if you sit down and have a conversation with A and say, “one or two days a week isn’t cutting it for me”. I don’t think A is wanting to give you anymore. I don’t think that’s going to fix that situation.

You can absolutely leave C, but you know— you’re just going to leave C. He’s not going to dump his wife for you. And even if he does, you are in a situation where he does have a problem with you being with A. Like he does— even though he’s okay with it right now, he does have a problem with it and he’s going to want you to dump A. He is going to want that. And then he’s going to bring up the fact that he dumped his wife for you. So like, don’t pull the frickin wool over your eyes and realise that he is—  that’s what’s gonna happen if he did dump his wife.

He would then immediately expect you to dump A. I doubt— heavily, heavily, heavily, heavily, heavily doubt that he will be okay with you being with A in any context, even if you only saw A one to  two days a week, he’d never be okay with it. So, and you say “oh well, maybe I could go 24/7 do monogamy with C”, but the thing is, you’d be doing monogamy with somebody who cheated. And is that really what you want? Like, I’m not saying that like people— like “once a cheater always a cheater” or anything like that. Like people cheat for all sorts of different reasons. It can be really complicated but at the same time, if he’s not even acknowledging the fact that what he’s doing is wrong…

You know I just, I don’t think that that would be a good situation for you to be in, especially because, if you just happen to fall in love with another co-worker, there ain’t no way C is ever going to hear of it. You know, if you do find out that you are more polyamorous than you think you are, you’re kind of screwed in that regard. So, yeah, I think that the thing that you need to do is be comfortable being alone. Unfortunately I think that you need to dump C immediately, like it’s— Cheating is not polyamory. What you’re doing isn’t polyamory, I’m sorry. Cheating is not polyamory. You’re helping C cheat, which isn’t polyamory. It’s unethical. It’s wrong. You shouldn’t do it, even if you love C so much, I get that. But it’s wrong. So you need to dump him. Like, you need to make him choose.

Sometimes making someone choose isn’t a bad thing. It’s not always controlling and bad. Sometimes when you say, “Actually you need to choose because if you don’t, it’s unethical. And I’m not going to participate in that”. So giving him an ultimatum isn’t a terrible thing. It doesn’t make you a terrible person. It just makes you a person with self respect and dignity. So, do that. Get rid of C. I don’t even think you should continue dating him. I think even if he dumped his wife for you. I mean, ask him say— I guarantee you… I guarantee you anything if you say, “oh, if you dump your wife…”, he’s gonna go “well then you dump A”. Like that’s gonna be— that is going to be what it is. Like, honestly, so I just think you should just get rid of C.

I get that he’s emotionally supportive but you need— what you need out of the situation is to learn how to be alone. Because, especially if you’re going to be polyamorous. You can’t always have, you know, it’s not Pokemon. It’s not Polymon. It’s not picking as many people, and avoiding being alone by having as many partners as possible. Sometimes you are alone. Sometimes you have to be comfortable being by yourself and being alone and being fine with that. You need to be more comfortable being alone.

You need to let go of the expectation that A is going to give you the emotional support that you want. That’s just not going to happen. And I think if you focus more on yourself, maybe see a therapist, if it’s accessible to you for yourself, find ways to gain emotional support through yourself, through therapy, through your friendship network, because that’s the thing. Polyamory is not just about, usually —it’s not just about multiple romantic relationships, it’s also— many people feel like polyamory opens them up to seeing all relationships as equally valid, so your friendships are also important relationships that should also be valued and that should also, you know— romantic relationships don’t necessarily mean so much more than friendships.

So your friends can emotionally validate you. Can you accept and receive emotional validation and help through your friends? Does it always have to be somebody that you’re sleeping with, or that you’re romantic with? So that’s what I think… that’s what you need to focus on. Get rid of C. Get rid of C completely. And you could keep A, but you need to let go of the expectation that A is going to be like C. There are other stuff to work on with A. Like whether or not you keep A around like, I don’t know… I do kind of feel like if you are in a relationship with someone who is unwilling to listen to you or if you can’t actually talk to him about anything— like even a friend should somewhat be able to emotionally validate you and that’s why I feel like if you had better friends, you would actually be like, “Oh, actually. Fuck A.”

Because sometimes and I’ve had that situation before where I have been in a partnership that I thought was fulfilling. And then I had friendships and I was like actually my friends are being more supportive than my partner is. So why am I with this person? And I think that if you, you know you could keep A around for a little bit. But I do think that once you realise that you can provide your emotional validation and you can get that from your friends, your community from people around you like… have more friends. Like it doesn’t always have to be someone you’re dating and I think once you do that you will then look at the relationship with A and you’ll be like, “Actually, you aren’t even that good of a friend. So maybe not. “

That’s kind of like my best advice to sum up really quickly. Get rid of C. No, no, no with C. Seek multiple fulfilling relationships, rather than collecting multiple unfulfilling relationships until you reach some sort of stasis. It’s not what I think, personally, what I think polyamory should be about. Focus on yourself. Be okay with being alone. Be okay with finding emotional support in people that aren’t immediately romantically connected to you. Value your friendships more.

And, yeah, seek polyamory friendly therapy if you have access to that. Be okay with being alone, because I do think that unless you have flexible schedules with five to seven partners on the go or your life is set up in a completely different way, you’re going to have to sometimes be okay with being alone and I think more people— monogamous people even in general, need to be okay with being alone. Because when you’re not okay with being alone then you stay in relationships that you shouldn’t. Yeah. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 47: Harem Boy

If a man says that all men want a harem of submissive, subservient women, should you be concerned?

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

Discussion Topic: If you could create your ideal pornography, what would it feature?

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

Episode 47 – Harem Boy

Should you judge a guy who says that all men want a harem of submissive women? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – If you could create your ideal p*rn, what would it look like?

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

Letter:

I’m new to non-monogamy and kink. I’ve been exploring non-monogamy for about 1.5 years and kink for 6 months. They’re related because I want to explore different things sexually with different partners and different things romantically with different partners.

There’s one person I’ve had an on and off thing for about a year, P. P and I work together. So, I see him everyday and work with him everyday and have lunch with him most days (usually in a group). Every time one of us has a breakup or is in a vulnerable [space], we know that the other person will be there in a crisis, so we end up getting emotionally (and physically, usually) entangled. Last year, in the fall, I finally realized the reason we are on and off is because P wasn’t providing the assurance and support that I needed to know that I was an important person in his life.

I asked for this and he was unable to provide it in a way that felt right to me. P has partners, who he calls partners, and friends, who he calls friends. He always called me a friend, but said our relationship was “messy.” I realized he could never give me what I wanted- saying that he cared about me and that I was important in his life. (Relatedly, I could never get a clear answer on his polyam theory. Is he a relationship anarchist, solo, etc? So, I couldn’t tell if I was not accommodating his relationship style or what.)

So, in the fall, I broke up with P. For me, it felt like a breakup. (He still says “how is it a breakup if we weren’t dating?”) I went through stages of grief and found a therapist and felt totally over it. I reduced the amount of time I saw him, texted him outside of work, and ate lunch with him as much as I could. But then, after trying a monogamous relationship for 6 months – putting my kink and polyam explorations on hold, I broke up with that person.

And I fell hard into P’s arms. And he was there for me. P held me while I cried and reminded me how special I am and told me that even though this other guy was a good person, that I said I needed more and I had the right to ask for more from him and if we couldn’t meet up more or this other guy didn’t allow me to have other sexual partners, then I was allowed to make the decision that was best for me.

The issue I have with P is what I feel is a fundamental incompatibility in our values. I deeply believe that society is structured to privilege some and punish others for things that are out of their control (gender, race, ability). And he agrees that things are unequal but doesn’t agree that we should try to change anything. We are both over-thinkers and a bunch of our conversations end up discussing politics or consciousness or what equality and equity should/shouldn’t look like.

This comes into our personal lives and our relationship to each other. He has, in the past, and continues to seek partnerships where he holds a lot of power. He has dated women who have just moved to the country and don’t speak English so he can show them around. He prefers dating smaller women. To me, this all relates to his beliefs about the binary gender system being unequal for a reason and he tolerates (and seeks) inequality in his relationships because of that belief.

He has joked about wanting a harem and his preferred structure to be submissive/subservient women answering to and providing for him and how he loves girls with “daddy issues.” And the worst part is he repeatedly says that “all men” would want that if they just “thought about it long enough.” I know that isn’t true. And it reminds me of why I shouldn’t want to date this person, because I’m afraid I would end up like the women he does date.

Unfortunately, I’m in love with him. I told him so about a month ago now, but we also agree that we shouldn’t date because we work together and because we have this incompatibility in how we see the world (gender specifically but also other areas of privilege).

I guess I’m wondering if this second incompatibility is one that makes sense to you. I keep hearing in your podcast that I can’t judge or control the other person’s relationships with others, and since our relationship is just “messy” but I’m not in a submissive or subservient role, is it ok to break up with him over his beliefs and subsequently his other relationship‘s power imbalances?

The other part of my question is How do I get over this person who I see every day?

Response:

So. Yeah. I don’t know if I’ve ever said that you can’t judge other people’s relationships with others. I think that you’re more than welcome to have opinions about how people run their relationships, and sometimes it just so happens in polyamory that we witness people treating other people like crap, and that changes how we feel about the person that we fall in love with. And polyamory is really funny thing in that you know you do get to see your partner in other relationships, and even though you shouldn’t necessarily make comparisons with you and other partners, you can kind of look at the way that they’re treating other partners and think about how that plays into the context of your relationships.

And then the other thing that you kind of say is, that I do say you can’t control another person’s relationship with others. I mean you can attempt to. The point that I make with that is that when people attempt to control other people’s relationships, it doesn’t tend to work out well. What they’re trying to do and generally speaking, they’re trying to control others relationships because they feel insecure about the partnership that they have with that person. So they want to end the other partnerships or control those, so that they can feel better about the partnership they have with that person.

My point is that you can’t— you can’t fix what’s broken in your relationship by restraining someone else’s relationships. That’s not how it works. That has absolutely nothing to do with this wider point, which is… You do not have to— and if no one ever gets anything else from any of my columns except this one line. This is a very very important line— wanting to break up with somebody is a good enough reason to break up with them. I see this like all the time and not even in polyamory but also in monogamy.

It’s just people thinking that they don’t have a good enough reason to break up with somebody. And I actually tweeted this relatively recently. It’s not going to be recently when this comes out because it’s, you know, going to be in December, but I tweeted through the Non-Monogamy help account that polyamory isn’t about— It’s about finding multiple fulfilling relationships. It’s not about collecting a series of unfulfilling relationships that together form some kind of reasonable stasis for you as a human being,

That’s not what it’s about. But a lot of people just want to use it as a reason to not break up with somebody because it’s like, “oh, we can just sort of downgrade our relationship or we can change it” because they don’t want to break up with somebody. If

you are not feeling it. Then you’re not feeling it and it can be hard to suss that out when you have a lot of emotions in play. You know you like this guy. You care about him. But if it’s not actually serving you, and if you know— there’s a lot of other reasons to not want to be in a relationship with this person so you don’t really have to have a good reason.

You can just be like “you know what actually your politics are kind of shit, and I don’t want to be a subservient submissive woman who’s part of your harem”. And, I mean, just even just like, just think about what he saying. He agrees that society is unequal but doesn’t think we should try to change it. Well of course he fucking doesn’t because he likes it that way. And you have to think about, “okay, do I really want to be with someone who” — it is what you say a fundamental in compatibility, to the point where I don’t even know how you end up in conversations with this person.

Because the second that somebody basically says to me, “yeah I think society is equal but that’s okay”. I would really struggle because that… you have to understand that, you know, people have differences of opinion. You know not liking pineapple on pizza is a difference of opinion. And it’s good I guess that he’s not— I guess it’s good he’s acknowledging that society is unequal, but it comes down to humanity, and people should be treated well and not be taken advantage of and you kind of have to think about that when you’re actually, you know, talking to him about this stuff. Like he fundamentally disagrees. You know he acknowledges that society does privilege some and punish others based on things people can’t control, like gender, like race like ability, and he doesn’t think you should try to change anything.      

I mean, yeah, I just, I mean, sit with that for a little bit, and I know it’s really hard because like you do have all these feelings, but that is— that in and of itself forget like all this other horrible stuff that you said that in and of itself is a good reason not to date him. Other good reasons not to date him he won’t— I, you know— it’s really really funny because you’re sitting here and you’re saying you’re afraid you’re going to end up like the women he does date, and you specifically say that he intentionally or maybe not knowingly, but it seems like he always dates people he has a power over, so like you said he will find somebody who’s new to the country and who doesn’t speak English that well and he’ll show them around.

He’ll date women with “daddy issues” which… Yikes. With a capital Yikes. You are in a less power position and he’s not telling you where you stand in his life to have power over you. And it’s working. So you think you’re not stuck in this but you are. He’s continually holding power over you. He’s gaslighting you. You know you’re saying, “this feels like a breakup” and he’s going “well it’s not a breakup”. Well you feel like it is. So even if he doesn’t feel strongly about you, he knows that you feel strongly about him.

And every time that you have these like situations in your life, you go back to him. So are you not subservient to him in some way? Are you not in some way kind of reliant on him in a way that he probably enjoys? And he knows that the second that he defines this for you, and gives you a clarity, then you can go “okay or nah”. And maybe that’s why he’s not giving you clarity, because the second he gives you clarity, you will go “Yes or no”. So he keeps you in this limbo. Maybe intentionally for a reason.

So, I mean that in and of itself— all of these reasons are fantastic reasons on their own to break up with somebody: someone will not give you a clear idea of where you stand in their life and continuously denies your reality when you are— you try to break up with them and I’m really really confused because you said, “I broke up with him.” And you went through stages of grief you

reduced the amount of talk— the amount of time you saw him. I assume you also reduced how much you texted him or ate lunch with him.

But you know, He’s— you still kind of fall back into him which I’m not blaming you for like that’s totally understandable. But

this is kind of where your power lies and I have no doubt— like I’m not sitting there watching your debates with him on these fundamental societal issues. But, you know, some of these issues are going to be things where you can have a debate because they won’t affect you. I mean i don’t know if gender, race and ability as things that you can’t control affects you on all three accounts. It could. And that’s even worse.

If it does affect you on all accounts and maybe it doesn’t affect him on all accounts, so this is another way that he’s kind of probably playing devil’s advocate, and I just— it makes my skin crawl. Someone who has all the power in society in a lot of ways, and knows it, and is going to sit here and discuss politics and consciousness and equity and equality with you when you in the ways that you’ve experienced marginalisation, you are the one who should be saying, “Yeah, this is what that is”.

This is what, you know, if you experience, you know, discrimination based on these things then you get to say, ah this is sexism. This is heterosexism. This is, you know, transphobia. If you experienced those things you get to talk about things which affect you and you get to define them and he shouldn’t be debating with you about that. He can be asking questions. He can be learning. But where he experiences the privilege and you experience the marginalisation, he should be listening to you but he’s not.

And that’s kind of another way that he’s kind of playing this kind of power game. So, yeah. And then everything else you mentioned in this massive paragraph about how he basically just wants tons of subservient women— like I would barely call this person polyamorous. I don’t know if he defines him— I mean he doesn’t define himself. So, *shrugs*. There isn’t anything great about anything that he mentions here. Like dating women who he knows he has some kind of power over, and to some extent consciously doing this, seeking those relationships, and the ”daddy issue” thing like… That’s so creepy. Triple creepy, like, ugh.

So you know and then thinking that this is the way all men are. So clearly all of your debates in your politicking and your higher consciousness discussions about equity and equality are not doing anything. They’re not convincing him. He’s wasting your time. So yeah, I know that you’re in love with him. And that really sucks, but you need to break up with him again.

This is really hard because like, the best thing that I can recommend for you is like get another job. And I know that that’s like a shitty thing to say because, you know, I don’t know what your life circumstances are. I don’t know what kind of job you have. I don’t know how easy it is. But whatever you can do to distance yourself from him and really, really put that boundary down, you need to do that, you know. You really really really need to do that.

And, ugh, it’s really hard but you need to make— if he’s not going to define the relationship, then you can define it, and you can say, “We are just friends. And we are co-working friends”. And you need to not have one on one lunches with him. If there’s a group lunch, then you know maybe eat lunch by yourself or find someone else each lunch with. I know like office politics and shit are really horrible. So maybe you’ll be like the odd one out but you know what? How feasible is it for you to stay in this job? Like even if you don’t still love him? Even when you do break through all of that, it’s going to be really hard to just stay there with, you know, I mean once all this— I feel like once all the love haze fades and you actually start realising what a horrible person this guy is this, it’s going to be hard for you to want to be around him in general.

So I really would kind of be looking on the horizon for a different career option or somewhere else to work, so that you can stay away from him. Do not answer his phone calls. Do not respond to his text. Basically treat him like— you know, and make that clear to him. Be like “Look, this isn’t going anywhere. I need it to go somewhere. We don’t agree politically on things. We need to shut this down. We’re acquaintances now, and I would appreciate it if you would treat me like an acquaintance.” And he might not. I would bet anything that the second you start trying to put some boundaries down, he’s going to test them and don’t think he’s going to respect them at all.

Because he’s trying to assert power in the way that you know that he wants to. And if you need to get HR involved— well, I would if you have a union, I would get your union involved first, or at least speak to a union. If you’re not a member of the union, look at Industrial Workers of the World is a union you could check out that as global, and as in lots of different places or if you have a specific career type there might be a specific type of union that has a lot of members. Ask, you know— do a google I’m not quite sure what to recommend. IWW is good for all different kinds of work. It doesn’t have to be just industrial work.

So speak to a union and have them work with you to talk to HR, if you need to and say, “We’ve had a bit of a kind of not really but kind of relationship and I want to end it and I want to remain professional”. And if he— you know make that really clear and then when he violates those boundaries, make sure you have documentation of your response saying “please don’t do this” but you know— and document everything. Because you know he’s also given— I hope he never said all this to you in a work environment. Like I really hope it wasn’t— I know that— Ugh, gosh, and even just like thinking about it’s horrible, like all of these things he said like… Ughh. Just ugh. Ugh. Triple yikes, like quadruple— I don’t know any higher multiples of yikes. It’s a big yikes. It’s a very big yikes.

But you know, having that documentation on your side if he does decide to be more assertive in his assumption that he is entitled to more power than you are, then you can have that in your back pocket but— I really hate this advice in terms of telling you to switch jobs because that’s, you know, I’ve been in career situations where that is just not a friggin option for me. And I don’t know what your options are. But yeah, that is probably the best thing I think for you is to physically get yourself away from the situation. If you can’t or if it’s going to take a while then like I said, I’ll reiterate— redefine your relationship clearly. It’s not messy anymore. It’s very clean. It’s an acquaintance relationship. You’re not even close friends. We’re acquaintances. The end.

And treat him as you would any other random co-worker you have no history with. And if you have to get a friend or someone else involved in your life to check you. Every time you feel like texting him. Every time you know— Find some other friends. like distract yourself. If you’re new to a town or you’re new to a place, you probably maybe hopefully have other friends you can send an online chat to and explain to them. You don’t have to talk to them about all of polyamory stuff or anything but you can say like, Look. Or you can just go into on a polyamory community and just be like “I need someone to talk to, to tell me that not text

this person”. That’s what friends are for. They’re supposed to be there for you to say “Don’t. Don’t you dare. Don’t text him. Don’t talk to him”. Pretend that he is a zombie.

And if you go anywhere near him he’ll bite you and you will be a zombie for for the rest of your life. That’s it every time— like do like… This isn’t real advice. I’m just gonna say like you know do some associations where like every time you see him picture a zombie and, you know, hopefully that that message will go through. I know it’s gonna suck because you are feeling the feels for him. And you’ve got probably goo goo eyes that are distracting you from these truly truly horrible things that this man has said, and I’m hoping that by telling you that you are in a submissive role in this situation, that might snap you out of it a little bit.

But it’ll be shitty. It’ll be sucky. It’ll hurt, but you have to just step away from this dude. They’re like, even if you just— Even if all you told me was that he wants a harem and thinks that all men want harems— that was enough. Like I would have said no no no no no no. Stay away from this dude like so… the fact that all of this other background… ai yay yay. Just… that’s my best advice. You know, it’s okay— it’s always okay to break up with someone if you want to break up with them. You know, generally speaking, I think that it’s always worth, if you’re in a long, long term relationship where there are lots of bonds, thinking about the reasons behind them. You know, I don’t always advocate people break up right away but that hasn’t anything to do with judging other relationships.

That has to do with you know how attached you are. You know whether or not the person involved has shown a commitment to recognising where they’ve hurt you, things like that, like, yeah, it’s tricky. But I’m just saying that like, yes, it is okay for you in this situation to break up with him over his horrible, truly disgusting beliefs and the power imbalances that he seeks and has in your relationship with him as well. Yes, that is okay, and in the future if you were just not feeling it, if somebody isn’t meeting your needs, if it’s just not working out, and they have no desire, not only to fix the problems in life, but to fix the problems in your relationships to the point where they deny your reality, then yes, you can absolutely break up with them. Absolutely, yes.

My secondary advice I know that it’s… I know— If you can find on the job, please try, because it’s going to be really really hard and I honestly like— if he believes all of this horrible, horrible stuff. I just don’t think he’s going to be respectful of your boundaries. I don’t think he’s going to make this easy for you. And I bet if we continue talking, and you told me more about him and about these situations where you’ve fallen into his arms, I’m betting that there was something he did.

I think there’s more to that story so. So yeah please if you can try to get out of that situation. Find a union, talk to them about the situation. Make boundaries very clear with him and absolutely firm, and then document the hell out of when he doesn’t respect them as much as you can. Always try to get witnesses. Never be alone with him in any situation. And if you need your union to talk to your HR department and say there was a previous situation with him. You have some history, and you don’t feel comfortable being alone with him, then do that.

If you have the union behind you. Don’t trust HR. They’re there to protect the company. They’re not there to protect you. And if he is in a higher position than you, than more likely than not, they’re going to get rid of you than actually trying to fix the situation. So be wary of HR but if you have a union on your side then they will protect you and advise you of what your rights are and what you can ask for and argue for.

So yeah, I’m so sorry you’re in this situation because it really really sucks but I’m just hoping that the clarity that I’ve been able to provide for this situation have helped you realise that you deserve a lot better than this. And you don’t deserve to be this ridiculous push pull tug of war crap for this guy. And as much as he might— I mean, honestly like— such a low bar. P walked into a bar because it was so low. Like telling you have the right to, you know, ask for more sexual partners if that’s what you want, telling you that you are special… Anyone can do that. That’s being a friend, and maybe you haven’t had very good friends in your life and I can relate.

But he’s not doing, you know— there’s another episode I did ages ago about gold medals. Please go look that one up, because you’re giving him gold medals for shit that basic friends should do. Friends should be able to tell you all this stuff, he’s not doing anything amazing by doing that he’s just, you know, doing what he should do as a friend. So yeah, I’m gonna stop— I just feel really bad for your situation. I really really hope that you’re able to do all these things because you definitely definitely don’t deserve to be this weird second fiddle in this guy’s bizarre harem. Okay. I hope that helps. Good luck.

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Episode 46: STI Risk

How worried should you be about STI risk if you are immunocompromised?

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

Discussion Topic: Why do you think your parents are the way they are? What were the pressures and difficulties they were under?

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

Episode 45 – Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you blame your parents for?

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

Letter:

My partner and I have been together and have been mostly monogamous  for over a year – and fluid bonded for the majority of that.  Our deal is that we give a heads up before sleeping with someone else and that we use condoms.  After my partner had a slip up, I realized that despite talking about safer sex practices in the beginning of our relationship… he didn’t really retain much of that information, and we definitely needed to have a deeper conversation about STI risks, safe sex practices, condoms for toys/oral, etc.  I’m also immunocompromised so it’s a little bit of a bigger deal to me than it may be to others.

After bringing up some of my concerns, he told me that he doesn’t think he can do condoms for oral, but he can definitely ask about recent STI panels and condoms on toys. Welll… glad he’s being honest about it.  But… if he has partners who frequently have “oopsie, got drunk and had sex without a condom!” experiences, an STI panel from 3 months ago doesn’t really provide me with a whole lot of reassurance.

So… I feel like my options here are to go back to condoms all the time until he comes back with a clean(sic) STI test (and doesn’t have any other partners at the time) and not do oral… and I guess no kissing either?!?  Orrrr, just deal with the risk and if I end up with something because of his less-than-safe practices, hope that it is something that a quick course of antibiotics will take care of.

Both of us were already seeing other people when we first got together, but we became the only person the other was seeing within a couple of months.  There have only been two occasions when he has hooked up with someone else – the first time was a one-time thing, but this last one (where I didn’t get a heads up and he didn’t use a condom… but he did tell me about it the morning after) he plans to continue to keep seeing. So… that’s another issue I have.

I’m super hurt because I basically feel cheated on.  Our whole agreement was totally “forgotten” in the heat of the moment and now I have to figure out how to deal with him continuing to see a person that, from my emotional perspective, he cheated with.

I don’t feel like I have the right to tell him he can’t continue to see her.  It’s his choice.  I’ve told him how I feel about it.  He doesn’t see things the same way I do.  He just sees it as “got drunk, didn’t plan on having sex, so didn’t give heads up.  Whoops. As long as I give heads up in the future it’s all good.”

I’m really trying not to be too emotional and I’m trying to apply logic and rationality to the whole situation.  What’s your take?

Response:

So I can totally relate to your situation in so many ways. First of all, I’m more or less immunocompromised. I’m not really sure how immunocompromised I am, but I need to be careful about getting sick, and sometimes when I’m sick I can be sick for weeks on end for things that it would take normal people— or people who are not immunocompromised rather. Shouldn’t say “normal”. It takes them less time to get over some things. So I have always always always been very very paranoid about STIs.

And part of that comes from stigma, and I think that that’s something that you kind of have to realise. We are— unless you grew up in a different culture and apologies if you did— but I know that the culture I grew up in has basically terrified me with the idea that STIs are these horrible cursed things. And they do terrible things and they can cause— you know we’re very hyped on all of the horrible things that can happen if we get STIs.

And yes, there are permanent STIs like HPV and like HSV that can be permanent. But even those— and HIV as well— But even those are… First of all it’s different now than it was 20 to 30 years ago, when it comes to HIV, and even in the case of those like such in the case of herpes like a lot of people have it and most people will agree like yes there are drawbacks to it but much of the problem is stigma. So, what helped me kind of cope with this because I also had a partner that was very casual, and we tried to be fluid bonded and we tried to come up with agreements that made me feel better.

I still felt incredibly terrified every time they had a new partner because I was just afraid there was going to be some STI risk, but when you actually learn about— more about STIs and also about the different risks of different acts, and also that there’s some STIs that you won’t know if you have it unless you have a physical visible symptom. Like HPV, for example, a lot of— it’s very very common, but you can have it and it won’t show up on an STI panel unless you have a physical symptom like a wart or you, or HPV, you have a pap smear and it comes back with HPV on it like an abnormal pap, you could otherwise have it.

And it’s really hard not to learn about that kind of stuff and it not freak you out, because I have lifelong disabilities. I am really scared of having another condition to manage. It is a thought, which really stresses me the hell out. I mean even just today. I haven’t had my medication filled that I need to take. I put in my prescription order to the pharmacy 10 days ago. My GP still hasn’t approved it and I’m playing medium between, even in a country where I get free health care, I’m having to call my GP, “Why haven’t you sent me a prescription?”. It’s stressful the life admin of having chronic conditions is exhausting.

If you’re immunocompromised because you have a chronic condition, it’s okay to be like I just don’t want another thing that I have to manage. That is stressful and I get that, but all sex comes with risk. And the thing of it is, even with the rules that you have in place where he always use condoms even for oral. If he’s using condoms and having penis in vagina sex, then you’re still at risk for herpes. You’re still at risk for HPV. You’re still at risk for things that have a skin to skin contact, and sometimes dormant periods, like you say three months but actually some things can be dormant for six months.

Everything just comes with a risk and the thing of it is is, we’d like to think that it’s simple math that the more people you have sex with the higher risk that you have, and even the example that you give of him getting involved with someone who kind of gets drunk and have sex without a condom. The thing is, is— you could have tons of one night stands with someone and never get something you could also have sex for the first time, with someone else, and get something. It just isn’t that simple. STIs don’t care if you’ve had an STI panel or not.

They don’t care if someone’s drunk or not. And some STI that are transferred to skin to skin contact don’t care if you’re using a condom or not. I get that you want to have these barriers to protect yourself. But in my situation, being fluid bonded and having all this like we— We tried to come up with some rules about asking people if they had recent STI test, getting an idea of whether or not they were responsible about their own sexual health, but I still had to come to the conclusion— because originally, what I wanted to do is for my partner, not to sleep with someone the first time they met them or not to have casual sex. I only wanted them to have sex with people that they had known for a few months.

And my partner brought up the the sort of very valid point that whether they’ve known someone or not for a month doesn’t change their STI risk level. Knowing someone doesn’t necessarily change the STI risk level and that was really hard for me to contend with. But it’s really kind of the truth. Either someone takes charge of their sexual health and gets STI checks. And even if they do that doesn’t mean they’re never going to get an STI, or they don’t. People can lie about it. There’s nothing you can do about it/ There’s so much stuff you can’t control.

And in the end, like— you know, my partner didn’t necessarily want to have these overdrawn conversations with every single person. Their level of sexual health risk was different than my level of sexual health risk. And what I ended up doing instead, because fluid bonding doesn’t mean anything emotionally to me and I don’t need to be fluid bonded with anyone. That was just kind of a thing that we wanted to try. I decided, “Okay, how about this? Instead of you using super amount of barriers and protection with everyone else, you just use all the barriers, you can with me”.

And even though maybe that’s less fun, it actually makes me feel loads better. I know that I’m still— like even with all the barriers that I use, I know that I’m still not completely eliminating my risk because there’s just no way. You know, if I don’t want to ever ever get an STI than I just shouldn’t ever have sex, and even then there… I’m not going to go into those situations but there are— there’s still a risk. Like I… you know through sexual violence, I was put at risk of STIs before I had sex willingly so there’s just no way for me to, you know— it’s a risk. Especially if I actually want to engage in with in sexual relationships with people, it’s just a risk that I have to accept.

So I do think that what you might want to consider is thinking about the barriers that you can use on your end that make you feel better, because you’re never going to be able to completely control all the circumstances. People can lie about getting an STI panel. If you want to make sure that you’re as protected as you want to be, then have— use those barriers with your partner, and let them decide what their risk is what other people.

The other thing that’s happened here I can also relate to I’ve been in situations where I assumed that our discussion about sexual health was understood and actually this exact— almost this exact kind of thing happened, except the partner that I was with had oral sex with someone without a condom, and I was like “Uh, I said use condoms” and they were like, “Oh, but I thought that was just for penetrative sex”.

So people do— that’s the problem is that “safe sex” is— Well “safe sex”— completely “safe sex” doesn’t exist, and safer sex is you know— what is safer? It really depends on the person, and what they want to risk. So, you know, your partner doesn’t see condomless oral as a huge risk for that they feel is risky for them. And that’s valid and legit, but you kind of have to you know, you said it yourself. There needs to be a deeper discussion about what specific barriers should be used in specific situations.

So, I don’t— I think it’s hard not to feel as though you were— that you were cheated on because you did have these rules when they were broken. But I think that in this situation, you know his reasoning does kind of make sense. Like, he didn’t know he was going to sleep with someone, so he didn’t give you a heads up about it because he didn’t know it was going to happen. He did tell you the next morning, and he misunderstood the safer sex rules. So, as hard as it might be to like not feel betrayed— like you can feel betrayed but his reasoning kind of does check out, and I think that it’s worth…

You know, I think that the the previous suggestion about you know you deciding what barriers you want to use with your husband or, sorry boyfriend, and then you know that helping you address the level of your risk rather than you know kind of trying to control his behaviour as well and then trying to control the behaviour of everyone he sleeps with, which is going to be really really hard for you might actually solve this problem.

Another thing that I want to kind of point out, which isn’t part of your original question, but one of your rules is, is the heads up rule.  And I think that this is a good reason why that doesn’t that rule doesn’t always work out very well and I think what that rule is trying to do and the reason that you’ve put it in place is because what you want to have this discussion maybe about… maybe you want to know that you have more of an STI risk or maybe, I don’t know why is it that you think having a heads up before he sleeps with someone else changes something for you?

Because, I mean, what if it’s like three o’clock in the morning and he wants to sleep with someone  do you want him to text you? Do you want him to call you and wake you up? Like I feel like this heads up thing is… it’s designed to try and help you emotionally deal with a situation. I could be wrong, but when I had a kind of similar rule it was like, “Okay, I have a heads up so I know. So I can like batten down the hatches and prepare”. But actually, I don’t think that that helps always.

I think that, you know— what you want is you want a partner who talks to you about the new situations developing their life, who doesn’t hide things from you. And he didn’t hide things from you. He did tell you the next morning, but the rule is trying to prevent someone from being dishonest to you but a person who is dishonest to you, isn’t going to care about a rule. So I think you should kind of rethink this heads up rule, and think about okay what am I actually trying to prevent?

Because you could have a bad reaction, regardless of whether or not he gives you a heads up, like… And the thing about this is, as well as that the heads up thing kind of. It’s not an overt rule that says, “I have to give you permission to sleep with someone”, but it does kind of imply that. Because, basically, if he calls you and say “Oh I’m going to sleep with someone”, you can only kind of say yes or no to that situation or you can kind of have a reaction, which he would then interpret as a no.

So, in a way, it is kind of you giving him permission. And the thing about permission is that when you’re forced— when you’re in a position to give someone permission or not in a polyamorous type of setup, you’re going to want to say yes, even when you don’t feel that great about it because you don’t want to tell your part— I mean you don’t even feel like you have the right to tell him not to see a person who you don’t feel great about now. So, you’re always going to be— if you’re going to be given permission, you’re always going to feel pressured to say yes.

And then if you say no, it’s like, okay, then maybe he’ll have resentment? Like it just puts you in a weird situation. It puts him in a weird situation. It’s also, if it is an actual permission situation it’s not really fair for that other person as well. So like, yeah, kind of think about this rule, because if you want a partner who communicates to you and keeps you up to date with what’s going on with them and cares about your feelings, that’s legit and I understand that, but this rule in and of itself isn’t going to create that.  And actually what this rule has done is create more problems for you than it’s actually helped.

Because now you’re in a situation where like well he didn’t give me a heads up but for him it’s like well I didn’t plan on having sex with someone. So now is he supposed to like text you in the middle of the night, if he wants to have sex with someone new? Do you really want to be woken up at three o’clock in the morning? I don’t know I’m saying three o’clock, but it could not be three— but you know what I mean like do you want to be woken up? Or maybe you’re having a really terrible night. Like, one time my partner, wanted to tell me about something, but it was just after the Orlando thing had happened.

And I was so upset and I was so not in a good place. And even though we have a rule of not hiding things from one another, my partner waited until, at least a day after that to tell me something, not because they wanted to hide something from me, but because I wasn’t in the right state at the time, and that would have just been more shit on top of the already shit sandwich, and I was already really upset. So stuff like this, like…

He absolutely should tell you about new developments especially where your STI risk is now more, but now that you’ve created this kind of immediate thing of “you have to tell me before”, it does create this kind of problem, and it doesn’t have to be kind of a problem. And because you’ve kind of set this expectation up, it’s now made you feel like shit because that expectation hasn’t been met when you don’t have to do that. One time my partner made a rule about something that I didn’t ask for. It was just like “I’m not going to do this” and then my partner ended up doing it.

And then I was actually upset, even though I didn’t care about it, and didn’t ask for the rule, but because they set that rule up and because they set up this expectation with me when they didn’t meet that expectation it freaked me out and I was like, “Well, if you’re not going to keep a promise that you set, are you’re not going to keep any promise?” Like, it made me freak out a lot so sometimes when you make these kind of really specific things, they can hurt you more than they help.

It’s not really helping the situation, because you know he didn’t hide it from you and that’s kind of what’s the important thing here you don’t want someone who hides things from you. So really kind of look at that. And then the last bit is in terms of this metamour, or person, I think that it’s understandable to have the feelings you have. Like, obviously this person was introduced to you in a not so great situation.

So obviously you’re going to still have some feelings about that and you may need to have a little bit of time and space away from this person for a little bit until you kind of rebuild that bond of trust with your partner and that’s totally legit and that’s fine, but also remember like you don’t necessarily know how much this person knew, and you don’t necessarily know if— I mean, I hope that he at least told this person that he was polyamorous.

But like, unless he specifically said to this new person like, “Hey, my partner says that I can’t use condoms for— or that I’m supposed to use condoms for oral but fuck it,” like… Unless that specifically happened I don’t think that it’s necessarily this other person’s fault and I think you know that, but it is okay for you feel a little bit of a way about it and you probably will until you kind of rebuild that trust with your partner, but, you know, try to remember that she can’t necessarily— she only goes by the information she knows.

Unfortunately, and, you know, she’s not going to know that that was a violation of your boundary. You know, and that’s not really her fault, in a way. I think sometimes when people that we care about and that we love do things that violate our boundaries or hurt us, and that involves another person that’s sometimes easier for our brain to say “okay we don’t want to be mad at the person that we love, so we’re going to redirect all of our anger at this person because it’s easier because we don’t know them”.

So you might want to be aware that like some of your feelings are kind of bleeding out of it, because you feel understandably frustrated, but you’re also kind of sympathetic to what your partner is saying to you and you don’t want to be mad at him but you’re still upset. So it’s a bit of a redirection in this case, but I do think you’ll feel better later on.

And it’s okay to be emotional is last thing that I want to say to you. Emotions are logical. I really hate— I can’t remember… there’s some philosopher, some terrible person who came up with the idea that emotions are one thing and logic is another and that they are two separate oil and water concepts and ne’er the twain shall meet. It’s not true. Emotions can be a very very logical and rational response to a situation. You had an expectation that something would happen. It didn’t happen the way you expected it to happen.

And now you’re feeling confused and upset and that is rational. That is logical. It is logical and rational to feel things. So give yourself a little bit of a break here. Allow yourself to be emotional, maybe see a therapist. If you have access to therapy, you can get all that emotion out in a safer place. And not kind of use your partner to vent the situation. Talk about it with your friends if you have friends you can talk to us about, But don’t stop yourself from feeling emotional. It’s okay to feel emotional, it doesn’t make you a bad person doesn’t make you unable to do polyamory.

It doesn’t make you… you know. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a character flaw. It’s just you being a human being. You have emotions. You’re not a Vulcan. It’s okay. Sorry for the siren in the background. So to sum up, first and foremost, learn a bit more about a STIs because it’s really really really hard to reduce your risk, completely. It just is. Like it’s just a hazard of the trade. There are lots, there’s— if you’re in America, there’s something called. I think it’s. Jesus. No, it’s not Jesus.

It’s San Francisco Sex Information. That’s what it is. And there’s a lot of information there. There’s Planned Parenthood. There’s a website for teenagers which is called Scarleteen, but it’s still quite good. And they’ll actually tell you kind of like what risks of what STIs you have with different sexual acts depending on what the genitalia configuration is. So you can learn more about like which acts are inherently more risky for which STIs, and there’s skin to skin contact sex with you, even with a condom doing penetrative sex, you’re still somewhat at risk for.

So understanding that might help you— I mean— it’s gonna freak you out. And it freaked me out, but it will help you realise just like that it’s just part of the risk. It’s just part of it. But we have overhype STI so just kind of remember that you’re working in an environment where you were likely terrified about this kind of stuff.  And that doesn’t really help you especially when you’re immunocompromised.

Also, maybe work on itself trying to control everything that your partner does with other people, control what you do with your partner in terms of boundaries. Maybe don’t be fluid bonded. That’s okay. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Like, I think actually being fluid bonded stressed me out more because I put too much emphasis on it. It had this meaning and then once the meaning was removed it honestly felt made me feel so much better.

So like use barriers with your partners. Have oral sex with condoms with your partners. You can have like penis in vagina sex, you can have through like boxer shorts, to lower your risk of skin to skin contact, like there’s other stuff. You can use, you know condoms with toys. Use as much barriers as possible with your partner. And then they can— he can do kind of whatever he wants to, assume his own risk with other people. And that way, you’re protected a little bit more than you know and he’s a little bit more freer to do what he wants in those situations and then you don’t have to worry as much. I think that— that’s honestly helped me loads and I’m in your position, and I feel so much better now.

Now that I— instead of trying to control what my partner does, I control what my risk with my partner is, and that is, it’s so much better, at least from my experience. Another thing to think about is this inform informing rule, and whether or not this actually suiting you or it’s creating more problems in your relationship than it needs to be. If your partner didn’t hide anything from you. And you know his explanation checks out, then maybe you need to think about changing that role up, because it seems like he’s willing to have conversations with you about stuff. It seems like he’s willing to keep you involved. It seems like he’s willing to— he’s not hiding anything from you.

So, just think about whether or not that rules, actually helping you and and what it actually means is a text at 3am “Hey, I’m going to shag this person”… A phone call at 2am, like… is that something you really want to want to do? Is that really going to help you? I think having a better understanding of, yes, you need to disclose find a good time to disclose this to me, you know, and especially like now that I have that rule in terms of, you know, I decide what protection I use with my partner and then that they don’t have to worry so much about what they do with other people, they can assume their own risk.

Now I’m not that worried about disclosure because it used to be that our rule was that if my STI risk changes because you slept with someone new, then you need to tell me right away. But now that we’re using like a lot of barriers between us I’m like okay, it’d be nice to know if there’s a change in STI risk in general but I’m good. I’m as protected as I can be and I still want them to get regular STI checkups and they do anyway.

But if they were the kind of person that didn’t care about their sexual health, me forcing them to do it isn’t going to change anything so like if your partner didn’t care about talking to you about stuff, then this rule isn’t gonna force them to. So, yeah, think about that rule. And then last but not least thing, again, like, oh yeah, there was two things. One thing. It’s not the metamour’s fault that that she didn’t know that that was your barrier and you’re kind of misdirecting the anger. It’s okay to be uncomfortable for a while.

Give yourself permission to be a little bit uncomfortable with her but again kind of realise that maybe you’re misdirecting some of that anger. And then last but not least allow yourself to be emotional. It’s not bad to be emotional, just know… try to understand how your emotions affect your actions, and sometimes when you feel really really anxious and really really scared, just like you know I’ve had obsessive compulsive disorder in the past. When I felt anxious I felt the desire to compiles, a desire to control the anxiety by acting in some way that I think will control it, but actually just feeds into the anxiety.

And I think a lot of times when people are in these kind of relationships, they get a compulsion when they feel all this anxiety to do something, to create a rule, create a boundary, to change things, to close things up or do whatever in order to try and stop all that emotion because they don’t give themselves permission to feel it. They blame themselves where they think that they’re bad or they’re irrational or controlling… Let yourself feel things just realise when you’re when your motivations for something or to stop those feelings or to get rid of them because that’s not helpful and find a healthier way to express your emotions.

Like don’t make your partner your therapist. Find a therapist, if it’s affordable to you. And, yeah allow yourself to have it  because you’re not going to be able to get rid of anxiety. The biggest obstacle in my personal experience with anxiety was punishing myself for having it. And so the thing that I try hard in my relationships to do is to just give myself permission to have the feelings. Don’t beat myself up for it, and experience it. Because sometimes you just have to go through it, come out the other end and “Okay, that was bad, but here I am, I survived 100% of my worst days, and I’m okay”.

Sometimes you just have to go through that, unfortunately. It sucks but it’s kind of a thing that sometimes has to happen. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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Episode 45: Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker?

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

Discussion Topic: What do you blame your parents for?

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

Episode 45 – Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you blame your parents for?

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

Letter:

I’m wondering if you have any advice or experience with this.  My partner does sex work, and it causes me a lot of anxiety.  They were doing it prior to us getting together, and have been great in talking to me about it and trying to assuage my anxiety.  In looking for resources online, everything I can find deals with either polyamory or non-monogamy, where both partners are exploring with other people.  I’ve found a few things speaking about situations where one partner is non-monogamous and the other is monogamous, but my situation doesn’t really fit any of these.

Response:

So first and foremost, I will fully admit at this point that I haven’t dated a sex worker, so I won’t know exactly the kind of things that you might be feeling. However, I think that what might be helpful is for you to talk about what causes you anxiety about this because there’s lots of different things that could be causing you anxiety, and some things you can look into with regards to, let’s say you have anxieties about STI fears or things like that. You can actually do more research about STIs.

You can talk to your partner about the barrier methods that they use with clients. You can you know research a bit about sexual health because there’s actually a study that they did recently that shows that sex workers — and I don’t think they use that term unfortunately — have, well in that study they found that the sex worker group they studied versus the swinger group they studied— the sex workers had a lower STI rate.

That isn’t to say that having an STI is a shameful thing and that’s kind of what I feel is kind of implied by that study. But still if STI fears are your worry, then you can do more research about STIs. You could also consider the fact that STI risk is always there whether or not you’re dating a sex worker or not. So I do think sometimes that’s kind of like the first thing people jump to, if they were thinking about dating a sex worker.

So that might be something to challenge within your brain like, you know, you have no idea if you meet someone, unless you personally take a sexual history of every single person you sleep with, you don’t necessarily know how many people that they’ve slept with and I don’t know how many clients your partner has. Literally like, it could be the same level of risk, but you don’t think that it’s the same level because your brain has said “Oh a sex worker is inherently going to have a lot more risk” when actually a lot of sex workers are very responsible about their sexual health. And some people who aren’t sex workers aren’t. So there’s a lot to unpack there about STI shame, about, you know, sex work shame that could be going on in that anxiety.

Or maybe you are having anxiety because you come from a more traditional conservative religious background and the idea of sex work has always been really, you know, you’ve sort of been taught to be ashamed of it. And so you’re kind of worried about that. I mean I kind of assume if you use the word “sex work” that you are more aware than most people might be. But you still might have that kind of… causing that anxiety.

You could also feel a very understandable concern, where, you know, if you have a partner that is in a job that you know— any job. Doesn’t have to just be sex work. You could have a partner who— I think one of the most dangerous professions in America at least is like working at a gas station or working at an oil rig. You know, I think you can ask yourself, obviously there are very specific dangers with sex work that aren’t involved in working on oil rig. There’s lots of dangerous jobs, but you might be worried about your partner’s safety and that’s understandable but that’s also something you know, to talk with your partner about.

It’s not really clear what kind of sex work your partner does. Maybe they can talk to you about what’s involved. I also think you kind of— You don’t want to put all the burden on your partner as well to like make you feel better about their profession, because it’s not really fair on them. So I think that having some basic conversations so that you just understand a little bit more about their work might be good for you to kind of take away and deal with on your own. But it just, it really depends on what’s causing your anxiety.

In terms of resources. I think that you need to find a sex worker rights group in your area, and you should do volunteer work and contribute to that organisation in order to make sure that,  throughout that process you will understand more about sex work and the different sort of challenges that sex workers have in your local area. Because it really depends on your location.

Are you living in an area you know where being a client is criminalised? Are you living in the area where the entire process is criminalised? Are you living in an area where street work is criminalised but doing it at home isn’t but then doing it at home with other sex workers is? Like it’s very complicated, and it will be very dependent upon the area that you’re in.

If you were aware, I am in the UK, then I would tell you to check out SWARM. So people who are in the UK can check out SWARM, I think that even if you’re not in the UK, SWARM has some really great resources. It’s swarmcollective.org. They’ve got a whole resources section. Specifically they have a zine called “Ho Lover” about dating and befriending sex workers.

Just to note on the word “ho” — it’s not something that other people who aren’t sex workers should call other people, even though it’s kind of— some people do use it colloquially, that’s considered a specific word for sex workers. But this zine is about how to be a friend and partner to sex workers, and it says “Many of us carry internalised biases and whorephobia. We can bring those things into our relationships. This zine helps us unpack that baggage and create considerate and caring environments for those we love who do sex work”.

I’m only familiar with some of this stuff because I have tried to unpack my own biases, but it’s hard for me to be able to tell you whether or not your anxieties come from those biases, they come from concern about your partner in general, or from combination of all of those. But I think that really sex worker activist groups are the best places to find resources about sex work in general.

Your specific local sex work activist group may not have something like this where it’s a zine specifically for people who are dating and friending sex workers, but they could have just resources about sex work and the local things that are challenges. And I think in general if you care, then you should just care about it in general. You should try and be more educated as you can be as possible about what’s going on around you and what kind of barriers that your partner might be facing and what kind of situations that you might be able to help with. Just understanding it in general will be better for you.

I think it’s really important to kind of want to re-emphasise not fully relying on your partner to kind of get rid of this anxiety. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing that. But I do think sometimes like having some of these discussions can turn into a little bit of a therapy session for you and it’s just— it is really important that— you know you can ask questions about stuff and see what they are comfortable telling you and ask questions about you know barrier methods if you want or ask what barriers they’ll be using with you or things like that.

But it’s just really important that you do the work, to understand what sex workers go through in general as well as the specific things in your local area that they will be faced with, so that you can just have a better all around understanding the issue. That’s kind of my best advice. It’s kind of short because I’m not a sex worker and I haven’t dated sex workers so I don’t necessarily— I’ve been involved in some amounts of sex worker activism and in general I’m quite a sex worker positive person.

And I believe in full decriminalisation and I believe that sex work is work and sex workers should be respected. And not treated the way that society treats them. But I can’t speak with any education about it and if I’ve fucked up in this episode in any way and anyone who wants to tweet at me. Or tell me or send me a message to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com and say, “This thing you said was whorephobic. This thing you said was wrong”, Please, please do, because I will write a follow up episode. I will release something else, because I’m not necessarily knowledgeable about this whole thing.

But I do want to use this chance for people who listen to me to understand that those resources are out there, and that if they—  even if they’re not dating sex worker and they’re just interested in seeing a sex worker, please care about these issues and locally reach out to those organisations. If you can’t give time, donate to them, and do your part to help out in the situation as much as you can help out. Yep, that’s my advice for this specific situation.

I hope it helps. Try and find a local organisation that can help educate you about this. Take charge of that. Don’t put the whole burden on your partner to educate you. Have some conversations with your partner about stuff that concerns you but be very very wary of trying to make them be forced into a position to reassure you. Especially like if you think about it and you think, because we’re kind of socialised to believe that sex work is, like— people don’t make it as a job like any other job, you know.

There are dangers to a lot of jobs. And some of those things I this may be coming from that. And if you think, “oh, what I’d be sitting down and having this conversation if my partner had a different job”, you know. And you might. You might like, you know, if I had a partner who worked late nights in petrol station, I would be a little bit worried about their safety. I’m also kind of generally paranoid about things. But just try and kind of self examine that a little bit and just make sure that you’re not basically just assuming what their job is like when you don’t necessarily know. Do you know I mean? All right, I’m blathering now.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Episode 44: You Don’t Need 5 Partners

What happens when you struggle to find partners but your domestic partner does not?

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

Discussion Topic: What often impairs your decision making process? Lack of confidence, impatience desire to please, overexcitement…

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

Episode 44 – You Don’t Need 5 Partners

What happens when you struggle to find partners but your domestic partner does not?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What often impairs your decision making process? Lack of confidence, impatience desire to please, overexcitement…

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

Letter:

My partner and I have always been non-monogamous and we’ve taken on the…role (is that the right word?!), of each other’s primary partners. Ever since the start of our relationship, my partner has found it easier to connect with people and has always had multiple partners at any one time. He’s a dominant, hetero, cis male who’s very physical. I, on the other hand, am a submissive, pan, cis female who requires a much deeper, emotional connection with people before anything sexual.

So while I’ve tried, I’ve struggled to find anyone else that I’ve wanted to go on more than a first date with. Now whether that’s because I’ve just had bad luck or because I’m content with my current partner, I don’t know! But I really wish I did.

I should mention that, like you, I have anxiety, amongst other mental health problems, which have all been rearing their ugly heads as of late. As such, I’m beginning to feel very insecure over the number of connections he has, and how easy it seems to be for him, versus the lack of connections I have. I understand it’s not a competition however it’s becoming clearer to me that I’m someone who needs a lot of emotion and support, which he’s currently having to stretch over other partners, plus work, family, friends etc. I have support from friends and family as well, although am wary that I may have been using him as a crutch, however irrespective, I feel my interest in wanting any other relationships may be dwindling.

We spoke and my partner asked if my overall view on non-monogamy had changed, or if this was just because I was feeling lower than usual at the moment, and therefore more insecure – and I couldn’t answer him. It’s like I started having an internal argument with myself, my anxiety making it impossible to work out what was real. I started contemplating different boundaries and rules that would maybe make me feel better, but that’s just unhealthy control. I then started to guilt myself for not being able to be as understanding as him, as he never worries when I have been on the odd date – but maybe that’s because he’s got so used to it never amounting to anything more? He’s never really experienced me not having the capacity for him.

I fear there will always be an imbalance between our respective partners, and while I‘m learning to control my anxiety, I know it’s not going to leave overnight. How I wish I could just wake up and magically feel secure! So, I guess I’m just at a complete loss as to where the heck do I go from here…

Response:

So first and foremost, this is actually going to be pretty short. Because You’re overthinking it. To put it lightly.

You’re really overthinking, the situation. I wouldn’t consider myself to have any interest in dating. I don’t actively date. I don’t try to find other partners, because dating sucks. I don’t like it. I don’t enjoy the company of the vast majority of people. I don’t really like people. The entire reason that I personally have chosen to do non-monogamy isn’t because I like so many people that it’s hard to choose or whatever. It’s because I like so few people that if I do find someone that I like I want the chance to pursue something with them.

I’m kind of at the opposite end of that spectrum, and it’s partly anxiety. My anxiety absolutely contributes to it, but I also just am not that interested in it. And I’ve experienced something very similar. Like I have had to accept that no matter what kind of relationship I have, if I have a domestic relationship with someone, they’re always going to be dating more people than me. Like, generally speaking, unless I find someone who is exactly like me, they’re going to be dating more people than me. And I’ve— it’s taken a while, but I’ve pretty much, you know, just given up on the idea that I need to be out there pursuing dates all the time.

And for a long time I felt like I had to do that in order to be polyamorous or be non-monogamous. I had to have multiple partners, and that pushed me into doing a lot of things I didn’t really want to do. To go into a lot of places that didn’t want to go, and to just being in situations I had no interest in being. And it also pushed me to feeling quite jealous that you know because I assume that other people— my partner having more connections may somehow must be that they’re better than me in some way and, you know.

It’s hard to work through those feelings but— You could spend the rest of your life never, you know, finding another partner, other than the person that you’re with. It doesn’t make you any less or more polyamorous than anyone else. Like you’re going to feel a lot of pressure and you probably are putting a lot of this pressure on yourself, especially because like I totally understand feeling like my partner’s kind of the only person I have to really go to. And they also have these other people and I feel guilty about that. But, you know, it is what it is, and at any given situation somebody might be in the exact same situation with like a best friend or somebody else.

And as long as you’re like having a dialogue together about it and as long as he’s able to tell you, like, “Look, I’m not able to provide you with this support right now”. And, you know, you said you had friends. You said you had other people, so you’re not completely and utterly alone. I think that it’s just about keeping that in mind and having that dialogue and it doesn’t have to be this big thing that’s weighing over your head, you know, it’s kind of like— Think of it if you were in a monogamous relationship, and you both—

You were with somebody and you both owned a house and you had a mortgage and all this other sorts of stuff and then your partner lost a job, and then you had to be the primary breadwinner for a while. Like, you’re going to acknowledge that that situation isn’t obviously ideal, or that you know your partner may be relying on you economically more than is maybe something that you want, but it doesn’t have to be a relationship ending thing and I think as long as you are kind of conscious of it. And as long as you are willing to give your partner space if he needs it, you know and understand that he might be a bit over capacity, then I don’t see what the big issue is.

It seems like you’re able to have discussions. It seems like you’re able to talk to one another, you know and mostly it’s just you beating yourself up. Mostly it’s you— because you’re having this kind of internal argument with yourself and you’re trying to be like, “Oh, should I you know create these boundaries and rules and make—“ and then realize like that’s not going to fix the situation, but then you’re still beating yourself up and guilting yourself. And you know, “he’s has no problem with everything and I need all the support you know”. It is what it is.

Different people have different constitution sort of things, and, you know, human beings are an interdependent species. Contrary to what — and I’m assuming you grew up in a similar culture to me and if I’m wrong, then I apologize — the culture we live in— we live in a culture that encourages individualism to the point that so often, especially if you are a woman, especially if you’re told by society that or, you know, you get the message from society that you shouldn’t— you can be too needy. You can have too many needs. And we sort of think that we need to be these individual islands where we don’t rely on anybody and we never need to ask anybody for help. That message gets really grained into us.

But we we’re an independent or, sorry, interdependent species.  There is a reason why solitary confinement is a form of torture. Because we need one another. We need to talk to people. We need to be in communities. We need to be, you know, cared by others. That’s— it’s a human need, and that’s okay. And he may not need that much support from you right now, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or wrong with him or wrong with the situation.

I have kind of just accepted at this point in my life like… if I find another partner… I mean I’ve had dates and things but like, you know, I’ve got one domestic partner and I’ve had some chances that things but nothings really stuck. And, you know, I do want to like— I want to have another live-in partner. That’s like my ideal situation, but it may not happen. I may not find another person. I’ve had situations that I thought were going to turn into partnerships that didn’t. But it’ll happen when it happens. But I’m not going to like think that I’m less suitable or less capable or there’s something wrong with me or, you know.

I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where someone has been attracted to you who was a lovely person who, you know, there’s nothing wrong with them you just don’t feel anything for them. And that’s okay. Just because you don’t get so many connections doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you. And it might be a— you know my domestic partner right now connects with all sorts of people; finds it really, really easy to connect with people, and it could be because maybe I’ve had more trauma. You know all of these horrible things that have happened to me and I don’t trust people— and I’m working on all that.

Like I’m trying to work on, you know, not being so nervous and scared of new people and not seeing them as a threat and partially kind of like, I think why I don’t connect with people as easy as my partner does, is because of some of that, but I am where I am. I’m in the situation that I’m in. And, you know, it’s not even necessarily about security. It’s just about, you know, just. You can’t fix everything overnight. And it might be partially because of kind of the stuff you’ve been through or even your situation, you know, being in a less marginalised position in multiple ways may make it a lot easier to find connections with people.

I feel like with my domestic partner— I feel like when we started our relationship, there were probably, you know I feel like I’ve kind of corrupted them in a way. You know I think they’re less able to deal with some of the shit that they would have dealt with now— they’re less able to deal with it now, so maybe they would, you know… You make connections with people and sometimes like they say horrible shit like… that’s my experience you know. I’m interested in dating someone. They say something terrible. I’m just like “Ugh”. You know that sometimes can happen a lot to me. Some people can write that off. Some people are fine with that I feel like— like I said my partner is probably less fine with that now.

You know, I’ve kind of brought them over to the grumpy side of it. But, you know, you are kind of just overthinking it and beating yourself up a little bit when you don’t need five partners to be polyamorous. You don’t need 10. You don’t need two. You by saying “I’m polyamorous and that’s”— or “I’m non-monogamous, and that’s how we want to live my life”. That’s enough. There is no test. There is no license. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody and if anyone wants to come along and say “Well you don’t have another—“ they need to mind their frickin business. Mind their business. Are they the polyamory police? Mind their frickin business.

So, you know, try and if you have access to polyamory friendly therapy please try to find it. You can absolutely find it out there even, you know if there’s no one around in your immediate area— look at Skype therapy. Look at phone therapy. Just try and be a little less harsh on yourself and you know for all the virtues of your partner. Yeah, he’s— like you said like he’s being real understanding now but maybe he hasn’t had a lot of situations that have threatened his jealousy. So maybe that has a lot to do with it, but just, you know, trust that your partner is going to be able to tell you when they’re not feeling up to things.

You have to be able to extend that trust to him as well, and trust you have good enough communication that even if bumps do occur in the road, it’s not going to throw everything off course and you’ll be able to cope with it. Because you never know when something happens and you never know when, you know, life has a— can be unpredictable and something could happen, and all of a sudden someone needs your support, someone needs your help, and you have no idea like what’s going to happen in the future.

So try not to overthink it too much. Give yourself a little bit of it, and screw anyone who has something to say about how about partners you have or how often you date. You don’t— you could give up dating right now, and you’d still be just as polyamorous as you were if you didn’t— if you continue trying to find a partner. You know, my position is this let it happen. And maybe, adopting that position will like— it’ll take some of the pressure off of your shoulders to find somebody else so that you can have someone else to rely on or whatever like just… it’ll happen when it happens, and just let it happen.

Okay, I hope that helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Episode 43: What If It Ends?

What happens when our biggest fear is losing our current relationship?

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

Discussion Topic: In your worst fears, what might your colleagues at work be criticising you for behind your back?

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

Episode 43 – What if It Ends?

What happens when our biggest fear is losing our current relationship? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – In your worst fears, what might your colleagues at work be criticising you for behind your back?

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

Letter:

Drew and have been together for 1 year and live together. We love each other very much. He may be the one. We are both divorced, and I have older kids. My marriage ended because my ex and I opened up our relationship; he broke the rules we had set; and so did I when I unexpectedly fell in love with the man I was seeing during the open marriage. Needless to say, I am VERY cautious about being non-monogamous again. I can also easily fall in love with men if I’m intimate with them repeatedly.

Unfortunately, Drew often brings up his need to be non-monogamous. Before we met, he was in a non-romantic, non-committed relationship with two women. There were no feelings involved. The three of them experimented and even briefly lived together. It was new and exciting, and he misses it.

I’m very open-minded, but I’m scared of the road he wants to take. I fear it will end our relationship. After listening to your advice, I have decided that I need to accept the worst possible outcome, let go of my fears, and give in to his need, no matter what happens. While we previously agreed to wait for 3-5 years, he brings this up so often, that I just want to rip the band-aid off and get it over with now.

He did say that he will suppress this need for me because he doesn’t want to lose me, but that he will be genuinely unhappy if he does so. In short, I know this needs to happen. There is no reason for him to suffer. If I can’t handle how he is, he deserves finding someone who will.

For what it’s worth, I think that for now he is only hoping to have another [woman] join us occasionally. This idea is not as scary to me as others. He is also open to couple-swapping if that’s what I prefer. I’m not against women and previously thought I was bi-curious. But a 3-way situation would hurt me more than swapping. This is because I can’t bear to watch him be intimate with another woman (if I notice his affection/tenderness towards her, as opposed to pure sex), but I can tolerate it better if I’m with the man in the same room. That is… if I don’t slip up and fall in love again. For me, intimacy is closely tied to feelings. On the other hand, I don’t want other men touching me but would rather find a way to enjoy it than be in a threesome and watch Drew and another woman.

For now, Drew insists that he has no desire for us to open our relationship or be intimate with others outside of our relationship. He simply doesn’t want to feel like he has to have sex with only one woman for the rest of his life. At this point in our relationship, I am not so bored or tired of him that I’m ready for the same. In fact, thinking about it still hurts a little. I even think I might be monogamous by nature, notwithstanding all my prior experiences and several threesomes. All my experiences lead me to believe this is a dangerous path. But I won’t deny him who he is.

I am at a point where I think we need to do this for him and the sooner, the better, so that I don’t have to agonize about it any longer. While your advice may be to hold off for now, I don’t think things would change if we wait. In fact, he will only crave this more and more. But I also don’t know if his desires won’t grow into more, like polyamory, etc. once he gets bored with threesomes.

In short, I see 5 possible outcomes: (1) we do this, and he gets hungry for more, which will lead to us breaking up because swapping/threesomes is my limit; (2) we do this, and I will fall for the new guy; (3) he gets bored or jealous of seeing me with other men and will ask that we stop; (4) I will get resentful and leave him; or (5) we do it successfully, without jeopardizing our relationship.

I should add that there is a lot of respect, and we communicate very well. He is not pressuring me. But his needs are what they are. We have gone to sex clubs and had sex there, including interacting with another [women]. But it’s no longer enough because he also wants sex from them. He also likes [BDSM], and I found great ways to enjoy it with him and for him, but that is also no longer fun for him, now that we’ve done it so often.

What do you think about my situation? And, if we are going to do this, what advice do you have to help ensure that we are successful? How can we do it and still we protect our love and our future? Are there safe/unemotional ways for me to give him what he needs and for us to stay together?

Response:

First and foremost, why is it a problem if you fall in love with someone else? That’s really kind of the big thing here because in your previous relationship you had a rule about not falling in love with someone else. Why? I think that that’s kind of something that you need to think about a little bit more, because your assumption here is that falling in love with someone else somehow, puts your other— your primary or whatever other relationship you have in jeopardy.

And it doesn’t. Doesn’t have to. It may be scary and uncomfortable because you’ve— I’m guessing growing up in a society that has told you that you can only love one person or that you should only love one person and that if you don’t love, you know, prove yourself by exclusively only loving one person you don’t really love them etc and so forth. But you can be in love with more than one person at same time. And that can be fine.

So why is that a terrible situation? Why is that so horrible? Why is it something you’re so afraid of? Because the thing of it is, right… It sounds like this guy that you’re with is mostly interested in having sexual encounters, but even so I would never ever ever ever ever advise someone to create a rule that says, “I will never fall in love with someone else”. I wouldn’t even advise monogamous people to do that because you just can’t control that. Nobody can control that. Monogamous people— you could— you could dump this guy and you could find someone else who felt they were monogamous who had no interest in any kind of polyamorous situation or threesome or anything.

You could find somebody like that. And they could fall in love with someone else and dump you like… It’s just an unrealistic expectation for anyone to have. It’s not about preventing your feelings from happening. You can’t prevent that from happening. You can only decide what you’re going to do with it, and monogamous people may find themselves falling in love with other people. They just choose not to pursue it. And they also you know— it doesn’t have to be this massive devastation. It doesn’t have to mean that you don’t really care about, like… you’re putting so much fear around “Oh I’m going to fall in love with someone else.” And what if you do? So what if you do? What— does that mean you don’t love Drew? It doesn’t, so that’s that’s the big thing.

Second thing here is I’m gonna totally admit to you that when you said that you’ve read my advice, let me find the exact… “after listening to advice I’ve decided I need to accept the worst possible outcome. Let go of my fears and give in to his need no matter what happens”. Whoa! Whoa! Put the brakes on that. Put the whole entire foot on that brake and slam it down. That is, yes, people should absolutely think about the worst possible outcome. Giving into his need no matter what happen— whoa, whoa. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no. That is not what I advise. No, just just absolutely not. I would never ever advise you to go into a situation that you had no interest in that you that made you completely uncomfortable, just so you could please your partner. Absolutely not.

If you are really genuinely not interested in non-monogamy then dump him. You’ve only been together for one year. It sounds really harsh, I know. You’ve got all these fresh feelings. He’s clearly non-monogamous and you are right about that. That is inevitable. He is. He wants to be non-monogamous. He doesn’t want to be monogamous. He’s not interested in that. I think that you are probably non-monogamous as well. You just need to work out, or maybe you have the propensity to be in a non-monogamous relationship. You just need to work out all this fear of loving someone else, but if you don’t have any interest in it. You don’t have to.

So, never never never never never just think that you have to put yourself through Hell to please your partner. Like yes, we make sacrifices and we do things for partners, but you need to not let it get to that level where you’re willing to put away all of your feelings and all of your wants and all of your needs, just to satisfy somebody else. Especially, and I’m making an assumption about you and if I am wrong, I apologise— Women are always expected to do this for men. Always. Now he is being nice here and saying you know “Oh, I’m—“ For some reason— I don’t really understand why— he, knowing he’s non-monogamous, is fully investing in a relationship with someone who is not that interested in it I’m confused about that.

But he’s not pursuing it now and he’s kind of being a little bit monogamous for you now, even though you’ve— you’re still kind of trying things. But, you know, women are always encouraged to do this. To sacrifice everything to. To give up everything for their partner. No, no, you don’t have to give everything up just to make him happy. What about your fucking happiness man? Like no no no so. So yeah, no, that’s not what my advice is at all. Yes, face your worst fears, but the thing is is that you’re still in a situation where the most important thing in this equation is keeping you with Drew.

That’s the most important thing— not you being happy. Not you being okay. It’s staying with Drew, and that’s not where your priority should be. Your priority should never be to save a relationship with someone else at the cost of yourself. It should be yourself and your health and your happiness, and people think that sounds selfish because women are constantly socialised to give up everything and be martyrs and whatever. It’s not selfish.  You need to secure your own mask before you can help other people. You need to be able to help yourself before you help other people. So absolutely do not prioritise saving the marriage. Facing your worst fears— facing the fact that you may have to break up. That you may be inherently incompatible. That’s your worst fear here.

Other things are fears but they’re not necessarily your worst fear so kind of readjust that first and foremost. Secondly, I think you need to have a really big deep dive that not just like, “Why are you so afraid of falling in love with someone else?” But what are you actually interested in? What do you actually want? You know you’re both kind of jumping into all these semi non-monogamous situations, but you’re not really talking about more or less your endgame here, like. I mean, it sounds like Drew is interested just in— He’s just doesn’t want to only sleep with one person for the rest of his life and wants to have sex with other people. Is he actually interested in multiple romantic relationships? Is it about just sex?

What are you interested in? You know, before you broke the rule and everything else. Was it okay for you to be in love with more than one person at a time? You know, is that something that you’re interested in? What do you want? Okay we know what Drew wants. We got that message. We got everything. We got a list. We got you know— but what do you want? Do you actually want to be swapping? Like, I get that like being scared and not really wanting to see your partner be intimate with other people. That is something maybe you can work through. That is something maybe you can, you know, especially if you’re, together like for such a brief time and you do still have to build that with each other.

You don’t have much of a foundation and maybe once you’re with him for a lot longer you won’t be so scared of it, but it’s not about just trying to build your resilience for something that’s for Drew’s benefit. It’s about, what are you interested in? Because and that’s really, really important. Anytime someone forces themselves to do non-monogamy just for the pure benefit of keeping someone else in their life, it usually doesn’t work out, and the reason is that when you’re in those difficult situations— because you are— You’re going… this isn’t— All these scenarios that you’ve put forth, you forgot the sixth scenario and what can happen, which is maybe you find that you’re interested in this independently of your own volition, and maybe you try this and you still feel like shit like because you will.

A lot of people who are interested in polyamory who go into it. I started— The relationship, the longest relationship I’m in now, I started being polyamorous. We’re both polyamorous. We started— No one had to introduce it to anyone else. I still felt like shit, the first time my partner went out with someone else. The first time my partner spent all night at a party, I still felt like shit. You’re still going to feel like shit. There is no dream scenario in this situation where you never feel unhappy that your partner is with someone else. Even if you want non-monogamy and when you’re in those situations— the fact that you want it, and the fact that you can go. “Okay. Yes, I feel shit right now but I’m interested in this because of this reason. I get this out of it individually as a person.”

That is what can anchor you, especially when you’re in a new relationship and you can’t anchor yourself with “well we’ve been together for so many years”, you know. When you don’t have that anchor, you can bring yourself back to that situation and back to safety by going, “Okay but I’m interested in non-monogamy because of this”, and then also realising your worst fears can bring you back to safety because even— like I said if you got rid of Drew and you found someone else, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be together forever.

And monogamy creates a type of cultural safety net and the cultural reassurance that you’re going to be together forever because you have all these— as it’s called “the relationship escalator”— you have all these milestones. You have all these ways that kind of infer safety, but it’s not actually safe. It’s not necessarily any more safe because even if you’re with someone in a monogamous relationship for 24 years they might, you know, fall in love with someone else in it or decide they want to be part of a band and travel the world and that’s not what you want. Like… there’s a multitude of things that could go wrong.

But you have to anchor yourself in what about it actually benefits you. What about it are you actually interested in? If you’re only doing this for Drew’s sake, that’s not going to help you. So you need to figure out what it is that you want. If you want this, you know, are you, is it— Are you okay with being in love with more than one person at a time? Why did you freak out so much about it? Is it just because it was against the rules? Why did you make it against the rule? Because you were afraid that your relationship was going to end— and that that’s the thing.

You’re not facing your fears then. You’re creating rules to prevent a situation which the rules can’t and clearly didn’t prevent. So don’t do that. So yeah, to address kind of the steps you need to take: You need to figure out what it is that you both really want. Do you really want non-monogamy? I think it’s okay if you have a little bit of an interest in it and you do sound like have a little bit of an interest in maybe trying new sexual things, being in new sexual situations. You might not be that hungry for it at this point in time, because you still are quite new with each other, but you do have a little bit of an interest in it.

But you need to figure out — okay what does that look like as a relationship, you know? Is it multiple romantic relationships, you know? Think about the physicalities. Do you expect, you know— do you want a partner that lives with you but then maybe goes and visits other people or do you want to live separately? Like it sounds like he had a pretty good setup with the two women that he lived with. Think about what your situation is that you are both happy with and have that discussion with him. Figure out if it’s the newness he needs? Is it actual relationships, you know?

He might not know and and as you said it might be that he tries the kind of new sexual thing and he’s interested in new relationships. Okay talk about that. What would it mean for him to be in love with someone else or for you to be in love with someone else? Is that actually a threat to your relationship? And you need to stop forcing yourself to be part of things just for his sake, and I feel like a lot of people who open their relationships do this. They think, “I don’t want my partner to think that I’m cheating. So the solution is to involve them in the sex act. They need to be part of the threesome. And we’ll just have threesomes and then I won’t be accused of cheating”,

You got to trust each other. And don’t automatically think that just because you’re a part of it that you’re going to be okay with it. Like you may be okay with it now, like sitting here and thinking of it in your head, but thinking of it in your head it’s going to be very, very different to it actually being there, and you might actually find if you’re so afraid of your partner loving someone else, and you’re so afraid of that meaning that they won’t love you. Then, even when you swap, and you’re in the same room together you might interpret something that he’s doing as intimate or loving and then your paranoia and fear is going to kick in.

Like, you need to stop addressing the symptom and start addressing the disease. Your inner fear here is that you or your partner falling in love with someone else is somehow a massive threat, and you need to figure out why is that? Is it a threat? You know, maybe you just need more reassurance. You need to kind of tell yourself. “Hey, actually, my partner being love with someone else doesn’t decrease the love they have for me. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t like me or or that they’re going to love me less”. It’s understandable that you feel this threat and this fear because that’s kind of the way that society has set up romantic love and set up a couple partnership love for you.

That’s kind of the basis and foundation for a lot of love stories is jealousy. “Oh my god she’s with someone else. I really love her”. It’s toxic for a lot of reasons but it doesn’t— It needs to be broken down, and I think that you kind of need to think about that but don’t fix it by forcing yourself into situations that are going to make you uncomfortable. That’s not what my advice is.

Also last but not least, throughout all of this stop putting other people’s needs above your own. Yes in relationships, we all sacrifice things for our partner sometimes. You know when we’re really tired and our partner wants a cup of tea, we go make them a cup of tea anyway. Yeah, there’s things like that. But you need to kind of be conscious of when it gets to be too much. When you’re sacrificing too much and it’s actually hurting you. Facing your fear isn’t facing the fear that you’ll have to do something that you don’t want to do because your partner wants it. It’s facing the fear that your relationship may end.

And that needs to not be the worst case scenario for you. That needs to not be the thing that needs to be saved at all costs, is your relationship with Drew. You need to be saved at all cost. That’s what you kind of need to prioritise and trust me, I find this so difficult. It’s kind of embedded within my personality makeup to be you know— my love language— and I don’t necessarily sign off from the people who have created the love languages but I think that they’re helpful tools— my love language is acts of service. I am the one that’s like “Let me get you something. Let me do something for you”. Oh, you know like, that’s me to a tee.

I have that part of my personality is just kind of who I am, but I have to be very very vigilant. Because I will find myself all the time in friendships, romantic relationships doesn’t matter— I will find myself all the time, giving my time and energy to people who would not do the damn same for me. I find myself all the time willing to sacrifice myself for people who would not piss on fire to put me out to be extremely blunt with you. And so you need to be really vigilant of that. I know it’s a hard line and sometimes you might not know it until you know you’ve realised you sacrificed too much and you either feel resentful or you feel angry, but you kind of have to be conscious of that in that situation.

So yeah, I think if you just you figure out what you want— your partner, Drew figures out what he wants. And you have a discussion about it and you really think about you know what you’re interested in, and you break down that fear you have that either he’ll fall in love with someone or you’ll fall in love with someone, if you want to. I think it’s a useful fear to break down even if you’re going to be monogamous for the rest of your life.

I think that that fear leads a lot of non-monogamous— or a lot of monogamous people into feeling quite toxic possessiveness and jealousy. It’s an understandable fear, but I do think it’s something that you should work on, regardless of what you choose to do in your romantic relationships, and then prioritise yourself more, and and don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary to just sacrifice yourself for other people. All right. I hope that helps and good luck.

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Episode 42: The Dreaded Veto

When you’ve conceded to many rules but your partner demands you dump another, what do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What do you most regret so far?

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

Episode 42 – The Dreaded Veto

When you’ve conceded to many rules but your partner demands you dump another, what do you do?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you most regret so far?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.

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

Letter:

I’m in a tough situation and would love your input.

I’ve been in a relationship with my wife for 10 years, we’ve been open for 7, married for 5. I’ll say that aside from sexual intimacy, my life with my wife is beautiful. We have adventures, we have amazing friends, we travel, and we have shared goals. She’s struggled with depression off and on, and the most recent time lasted 3 years. It’s been challenging, and I’ve supported her through all of it.

When we got together, I didn’t know that for my own fulfillment, I absolutely needed to prioritize sexual compatibility. To be happy, I need to feel sexually valued and desired by a partner. A strong, ongoing sexual connection is a cornerstone of a romantic relationship for me.

When we started dating, we had a pretty good sexual connection for about 3 months, but then her interest in sex began waning. Since then, she’s generally rejected me when I’ve attempted sexual intimacy, she’s avoided flirting with me so as not to lead me on, but when I’ve come right out and asked whether she’s attracted to me, she says she is. I’ve asked if she would prefer we take sex off the table in our relationship, and she got angry and said no. I’ve also read a lot on AVEN and asked if she’s noticed anything on the site that resonates with her— and I told her I would love and support her however she identifies. She got angry with me when I asked, and said no.

In the times that we have been sexually intimate, it hasn’t been very fulfilling for me, because it felt disconnected, and she didn’t seem present— for the most part she’s had no passion, no zeal. She’s even fallen asleep during sex on 3 or 4 different occasions. For a while I thought something was wrong with me. After almost 10 years of continual rejection, my self-esteem was shredded and my sexual well-being was impacted in a lot of ways. I’m now working to heal those wounds with a sex-positive therapist.

Because I was young, naive, and in love with her, I always made excuses, expecting things to change. I would tell myself, “Things will be better when x, y, or z happens… (name any and all external factors here).” I tried a lot different things to fix it, but I tried to tread lightly because the last thing I wanted was to make her feel pressured or inadequate.

Over the 7 years that our relationship has been open, my wife and I have had multiple connections with others, and it’s always been a really fun and positive element of our relationship. In fact, she always said she thought it was hot when I had sexual encounters with other people. It was fun for me, and I felt sexual validation from my other sex partners, but I found that I still felt empty and unhappy, because my connections were casual, rather than the sustained sexual, romantic bond that I need to be happy.

My wife and I never defined ourselves as poly[am], and we’ve never gone as far as to have girlfriends or other committed romantic relationships. We’ve had connections that have felt more romantic than platonic, but we’ve always said that our connections would be based more on friendship and sex rather than romance and love.

A year and a half ago, I met someone who I have an incredible, life-changing connection with. (I’ll call her A.) In the time that I’ve known her, I’ve felt more happy and fulfilled than I have in almost 10 years.

Several months ago, my wife started seeing a therapist to work through her sexual and mental health blocks. I’ve been supportive of her the whole way. She’s now in the process of rediscovering her sexuality and is asking me to end things with A so that we can work on our (nonexistent) sexual connection. She says that it’s incredibly painful for her when I spend time with A, because it triggers her feelings of inadequacy— that she couldn’t give me what I needed, so she feels that I replaced her with A.

My wife and I are seeing a poly[am]/queer/sex-friendly therapist together, and even still, the therapy isn’t helping, and my wife is devastated every time I do so much as go to lunch with A.

I don’t want to hurt her, and I don’t want to destroy our marriage, but she says she’s distraught and can’t live like this anymore. I want to be a good partner and continue to support her. And I suppose being a good partner means ending things with A. But just the thought of it makes my stomach churn. It’s so hard to lose someone so important to me. I can’t string A along like this, and she doesn’t deserve to be treated as disposable.

My wife is upset that I’m hesitating to end things with A, and she’s telling me that if our marriage was my priority I’d do it.

I’ve developed strong feelings for A, which is not actually allowed in our version of non-monogamy. But I want it to be, and I want the opportunity to expand into this connection. Despite developing feelings, I’ve continued to respect my wife’s boundaries. To help her feel comfortable with A, I’ve complied with the rules that she’s lain out over these past 18 months. (A is well aware of all the boundaries as well.)

The thing is, the sexual connection with my wife is not there, and I don’t know that it ever will be. When we are intimate, it’s not pleasurable for me, and in fact makes me a little uncomfortable, like being intimate with a family member. I don’t know whether or not this can be fixed. I hope that it can?

I just don’t see a way out. Not one where I can be happy, anyway. If I lose A, then I’ll go back to living the way I was before. Content enough, but never fulfilled, because it means abandoning a big part of myself. If I don’t end it, I’ll devastate my wife, injure our relationship beyond repair, and likely lose my marriage and the entire beautiful life we’ve built together.

The rules I’ve complied with have included: Seeing A a limited number of times per month, a curfew when I do see her, texting my wife every couple hours, including each time I move from one location to another when I’m with A, and setting up times for the 3 of us to hang out. (For a time, I couldn’t spend money or go out for meals with A, so A and I would watch movies or play board games at her apartment, but then my wife changed her mind and asked me not to hang out at A’s apartment. But neither of these last 2 rules are in place anymore.) To further demonstrate to my wife that she’s my priority, A and I paused for 5 months last spring. A was understanding, but it didn’t help my wife, and it only hurt A and me.

My wife has an intense connection with someone I’ll call H. They had (and still have) a close, special bond, but then my wife deescalated their relationship to platonic friendship when we moved out of state 4 years ago. At the time, she told me it was because she wasn’t feeling it anymore. Now, she’s revealed that it was incredibly difficult and painful for her to end things with H, and that she only did it to prioritize me. (I was going through a rough time with the loss of a friend.) I never asked her to do this, and I never would have. Last weekend we were all at a wedding together, and my wife expressed interest in reconnecting sexually with H again. I gave her my blessing, because I truly do want this for her. But when I bring up A, my wife tells me that she can have this with H, because A is “a different situation.”

Response:

So this is an incredibly unfair situation. That’s my first comment about this.

Like, it’s so massively unfair in so many different ways. Like when you first started describing what was happening, and you started saying about, you know, how you basically haven’t been sexually compatible. And that’s the truth of it, you’re not sexually compatible, whether it’s due to reasons that, you know, your wife needs to work through things, or it’s due to her being naturally the way she is, which you’ve also been really, really supportive of, you just aren’t sexually compatible. And you’ve tried your best to work through this. And yet, it’s never enough.

And then you add this bit at the end, where you’ve complied with rules about, you know, you have— you can only see her a certain— see A a certain times number of times per month, and you have a curfew, that you’re texting her when you’re moving from location to location like… And then you’re not allowed to spend money together, and then you’re not allowed to hang out at the apartment, and then you’re not allowed this, you’re not allowed that. You know what, why not, instead of demonstrating that your wife is a priority, demonstrate that you are a priority to yourself?

You are allowed to be happy and you are bending over backwards in all of these situations to make your wife happy. And you’re doing it sacrificing your own happiness. And it’s also impacting A. Like, as you said, A is not disposable, and she shouldn’t be treated like she’s disposable. And given the fact that you know, you mentioned this side relationship with H like.. if anything— Well, first of all, she lies to you and for the re— like she can’t even honestly communicate about it because she knows that she’s making this decision. And I mean, it’s just wild like I don’t even have the words to…

She sacrifices something for you without telling you without you requesting it and then expects you to do the same when when you never talk about it or agreed on it. And the result is that it you know, you are being hurt and A is being hurt. Ahe should know exactly how it feels to just give up a relationship and throw it out the window. But she doesn’t care. Because it’s all about prioritizing the marriage and prioritizing you two and prioritizing her. What about prioritizing yourself? Like, you know, you’ve given up so much in this relationship, to try and make her happy. And it’s not even about the sex anymore.

Like, here’s the thing, like, if you had come to me to ask for advice about rules and starting off, I would have told you to stay the hell away from rules that say, ”I won’t fall in love with somebody” because I don’t think that’s realistic. So it already kind of got off on the wrong foot. But it became— it has now become something where you’re just literally not allowed to have anything that makes your wife feel slightly uncomfortable. And unfortunately, sometimes things make people feel uncomfortable. And I can understand why that freaks people out.

But she’s just kind of like, dictating what you’re allowed to do with other people. Now you can’t even talk about A. You can’t even go out to lunch with A without it being you ripping her heart out. And it’s not fair. Like that’s— it’s just fundamentally so unfair. The situation is… I’m like angry on your behalf by how unfair The situation is. now in this situation, like, you know, if it were one thing if… if she were making the simple request, and there hadn’t been all these other issues about H and about her basically controlling every aspect of your relationship with A and she just wanted to

stop non-monogamy because the reasons that you started non monogamy were because of the sexual incompatibility.

You know, then I might ask you to examine the reasons that you went into non monogamy and be really honest about them. Because the thing is, is that the whole reason for you— you need to get rid of A because A reminds her of her inability to please you. And I just think that you guys need to be really, really honest about this. You did go into non monogamy seemingly, unless there’s something you haven’t included here, because she didn’t want to have sex with you in the way that you wanted. Like, you have a base level incompatibility. And I know that it sucks. And I know that it’s going to be a source of insecurity for a lot of people.

But sometimes people are at a base level incompatible. And the only thing that you can do is either break up, or you can choose to make some compromises. And this is a subject, in terms of sex, you know, where you can make compromises by opening up your relationship. And I don’t think it necessarily has to be about incompatibilities. It doesn’t have to be like your wife wasn’t enough. It’s about the fact that for whatever reason, she wasn’t interested in having sex and rather than pressuring her or, you know, making the situation into something that you would resent, you both agree to something else.

And she also had other encounters it sounds like not just with H, but maybe with other people. So you know, the kind of trigger for it, even if you don’t necessarily believe she’s completely and utterly, you know, not good enough or anything like that— the trigger for it was very much that you wanted to have sex with other people. And if you revisit that and say, “Well, our connection isn’t really, you know what I need yet. So I don’t want to end my relationships with other people”. And I think that’s totally and completely valid.

And it’s not fair after all of this stuff like I am— quite frankly, I’m surprised that A is still hanging around. Because if anyone asked me to pause our relationship for somebody else for five months, and I was being jerked around like this, and my partner had to like, text someone every time we moved, and then oh, now they can’t spend money on me or we can’t— like I would have dumped you quite honestly a long time ago, because I wouldn’t be okay with someone who’s not involved in the relationship dictating my relationship. So I’m surprised A has held on for this long given given the push pull of this.

So it’s just not fair. Like and and you’ve demonstrated that she’s a priority over you. You’ve already demonstrated that and yet it feels like her level of anxiety— and I totally understand her level of anxiety and I don’t blame her for having it. I don’t think she’s a horrible person. But there’s a thing about anxiety where if you give it an inch, it will take a mile and this is one of the reasons why I really advise people to sit with their discomfort when they’re in polyamorous situations, sit with that and don’t immediately start creating rules around it. Sit with it, go through it know that you’ll survive.

Because if you just, you know, I found it very similar to the anxiety that I’ve felt in other situations in my life when I’ve had compulsions. And when I’ve been like, “Oh, you know, I’ve created, you know, these fears in my head that, Oh, I can’t do this thing or something horrible will happen”. And the minute I fed into that, and I stopped doing that thing, it— just more things will be added to that list. Oh, now I can’t do this, because something horrible will happen. Oh, now I can’t do this because something horrible will  happen. Feeding my anxiety or validating it never made it go away, it only just helped it grow.

And I think that, because you’ve complied with these rules, it’s only just fed her anxiety. She’s only allowed her anxiety to continue to grow. Because it’s just growing and growing like at first, you know, you’ll only can see her a certain number of times a month, then you have a curfew, then you you know, and I don’t know at what point these rules were all in effect, or whether they were all in effect all at the same time. But now you can’t even talk about her. Because, you know, it tears out her heart every time you talk about her, it’s— or go out to lunch with her like… it’s growing and growing. And it’s, it’s not— she’s never really going to be satisfied unless she either addresses this anxiety and learns how to cope with it with whatever therapist she has.

Or until you break up with A. Like, unfortunately, she’s putting you in that position. And you throughout this whole letter, like you’re trying to be a good partner, and trying to prioritise her and you’re— like, it’s so sad, because it’s, it’s she didn’t she’s not doing that for you. in this situation. You know, the only time when she’s actually prioritising you is when you don’t even ask for it. And she’s making herself into a martyr for a cause that no one asked her to be a martyr for. So it’s just— it’s not a fair situation. And unfortunately, I don’t— Unless your wife decides to address her anxiety, I don’t know as that there is a situation where everything’s gonna work out fine.

I think that you need to put your foot down and prioritise yourself. Okay, stop prioritising her, stop prioritisng the marriage and prioritise yourself. You are happy with A. You have this great connection with her. And it’s not so much about choosing A over your wife, it’s about saying to your wife, “I want to be in a non-monogamous relationship, I want to continue my relationship with A. I will not be dumping A at your request. I will not be— and I don’t think you should— I will no longer be allowing you to dictate the time that I spend with A and when I can. Obviously I’ll try and work with our schedules and make sure that I give you enough time, but you will not be dictating to me at what times I can or can’t be with A and I will work with you to rebuild our sexual connection. I will work with you to rebuild our trust. I will work with you to rebuild whatever it is we need to rebuild. But I’m not going to get rid of this relationship to do that, because I don’t believe I need to do that. I don’t believe that A is preventing me or preventing you from actually working through this. You may be feeling insecure about A. You may be feeling challenged about the situation with A and we can work through that. But I’m not going to react to your insecurity around it by dumping someone that I care about.”

And I think you can totally do that. You can still continue to support her and you have supported her. All the times that you’ve been with A you have consistently demonstrated that you care about her even when it has been unfair to you and unfair to A and I don’t think you should do that anymore. But I do think you can say “I’m absolutely willing to stay in this relationship with you. I’m absolutely willing to make sure that I give you the energy that this needs in order to work”. It’s not about prioritising one relationship over another. Because it’s— that’s really just weird.

Like, I mean, imagine if you know, you were tending a sick cousin or something like that, like, would you be thinking about “oh, I have the sick cousin but I need to prioritise my marriage”? I just human relationships don’t work that way. Like and it’s and it’s just weird and competitive to be like, yeah, I need to— I have this other relationship but my wife is more important than anything else. Like that’s just not how humans work. Different— like obviously, like, you know, we care more about the people that we have relationships with than random people we see off the street at certain points, you know, but I just feel like even those cut and dry situations are like, you know, anyone who forces you to choose… That’s not a good thing. And she shouldn’t be forcing you to choose.

And if she’s using exact language, like you described about saying that basically, if you cared about her, you’d dump A. That’s just not fair. That’s absolutely, completely unfair. And whatever couples therapist you’re working with, if she’s saying that while a couples therapist is in the room with you, and the couples therapist is not saying anything about that, then you need to fire that person and find a new one. Because that is fundamentally horrible. I mean, it’s emotional blackmail, like absolutely, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So yeah, to sum up, yeah, this is an incredibly unfair situation. And I’m sorry that you’re in this situation, because it’s really shitty. I think that A is absolutely not disposable. And you shouldn’t treat her like that. And if anything, your wife should know what it feels like to have to— to feel like you have to dump somebody, even though you never asked for that. And the biggest kind of message that I have for you is that rather than prioritising your marriage, you need to prioritise yourself, you need to secure your own mask before you start putting on everyone else’s mask, and figure out what it is that you want.

And put your foot down and say like no, and if that’s not a tolerable situation for your wife, like, I understand, like, you know, yes, it’s going to feel shitty when you know, your partner, and you have a have an in compatibility. I mean, I’ve had similar situations with my domestic partner, where I’m not a big party person. And my domestic partner is a big party person. And it took me a long time to not feel inadequate. It took me a long time to not be scared that my partner would chuck me and leave me for someone who loves parties too.

And I understand that and she’s allowed to feel those feelings. But just because she feels those feelings, doesn’t mean that A needs to be thrown out, you know, and chucked out. Like that’s not how you handle that. You can be absolutely willing to work through her feelings with her, absolutely willing to reassure her. But

I wouldn’t dump A especially not in this situation. And I would actually stop doing all of these things like I would absolutely refuse to allow someone else to tell me how often I could see someone else.

Like it’s one thing if you were going out with A all the time, and she said, “Hey, I don’t see you, as often as I’d like to see you and it’s really hurting me”. That’s one thing. But she can’t dictate to you, the number of times you’re allowed to see someone per month you’re not a child. You don’t have a curfew. And I don’t think you should put up with that anymore, let alone dumping A like, absolutely not.

So yeah, I’m sorry, I’m just— I’m kind of very frustrated on your behalf. It’s just… it just seems like you’ve, you’ve done so much. You’ve bent over backwards for this person. And then they have the audacity to say to you that you need to dump this person or else you don’t care about me like, wow, that’s horrible. Yeah, and I’m really I’m really sorry, again, that you’re in this situation. But yeah, I don’t I don’t think you should get rid of A. I think you should put your foot down, figure out what you what your wants and needs are. I think you know what they are. Put your foot down. And unfortunately, if it makes— if it means that, you know your wife can’t be with you anymore, then maybe that is the way that things should be, unfortunately.

Because you know someone who— is someone who clearly isn’t prioritising you. Just.. I don’t know if it’s worth it. To be honest, even— I know it seems hard because you put 10 years of your life into this situation. But don’t don’t do something for a sunken cost fallacy. And that’s— look that up. It’s basically the idea that like you’ve already put so much into this, you have to keep putting things into it. Like, okay, 10 years, that’s a long time. But just— as I said in the beginning of this episode, didn’t even mean for it to be necessarily related to the letter today. But just because you’ve known someone for longer doesn’t mean that they have your best interests at heart.

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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Episode 41: No Rules Just Wrong

In trying establish rules, does that make you less “ready” for non-monogamy or polyamory?

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

Discussion Topic:  List the now guilt inducing occasions when you were especially mean to certain people.

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Episode 41 – No Rules Just Wrong

In trying establish rules, does that make you less “ready” for non-monogamy or polyamory? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – List the now guilt inducing occasions when you were especially mean to certain people.

 

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

Letter:

Just starting out. Boyfriend (46) and I (42) are in love almost 5 years. Didn’t date officially ‘til this year because we live in different states and both have kids, moving wasn’t an option, so I didn’t want to date long distance. But he’s the best I’ve ever known and we decided it’s worth the wait until we can combine households.

Here’s the thing. He’s NOT conventional. I hate to admit, I AM. Too many rom-coms 🙂 But at the start I told him I was open to a one-sided open relationship where he could see another person for mainly sexual encounters. He thought it best to not do that right away. He would be monogamous for me. Later he brought it up as an option because of the distance, until someone moves, and I agreed if it wasn’t a romantic relationship or an ex of his I’d give it a try. (I also could do as I please, but I don’t want to see others).

Well, he tried it. He hooked up with one half of a lesbian couple he’d been poly[am] with before. I balked when they invited him to a party. (Social outings? I hadn’t prepared for the thought!) Also the other half of the couple still had feelings for him! Messy. He called it off when I was concerned, to say the least, about the dynamics. He was bummed but didn’t want to risk our relationship. He could see the issues at play and was understanding to me.

Later he said a woman from his past reached out, who he had never dated but they were on and off regular sexual partners. And friends. I thought I might be comfortable with that so I okayed it. Then he didn’t make a move with her, and he told me he was feeling content without another partner. Plus we had a few plans where we’d see each other more than usual. We left it open, he could still decide.

It came up again. I start preparing my mind for him seeing her, when the other night he tells me they’d argued because he had never gotten around to seeing her, yet had flown out to see me a couple of times. And she’s seen me on his social media, when his policy for the longest time had been to not post anyone. She felt hurt.

I questioned, if their encounters were meant to be casual, how could she get jealous of me? Why should she have opinions about him posting my pic unless she harbors feelings for him? (Side note: Why did he tell me any of this?) I’m certain he hasn’t seen her in quite a while, and not since we’ve been together.

He chastised me that she has feelings and people aren’t disposable. He thought non-monogamy is just not going to work because I can’t handle it, and he was disappointed. He acted distant and cold. He didn’t seem to like how I felt threatened and scared/jealous about their fight. I thought it was unfair to me. I’ve never tried this before and I want reassurance, not for him to defend a potential partner so vehemently. But he’s put me at arms length for the past couple of days.

I asked him to go ahead and see her. Rip the band-aid off. He’s very wary of it. But I don’t want someone who believes as he does in personal freedom to abstain from someone else’s company/intimacy unless it’s absolutely his choice. So we started to talk about what that would look like.

Bear with me, here come the questions:

We wouldn’t have “rules”. For example, I can’t say “no holidays with this person.” Is that normal? Healthy?

What might he have been thinking to become so standoffish? It really hurt. He said he saw a different side of me but I swear I’m just doing my best with new information and feelings.

I’m sure it’s obvious I’m not “ready”! But I’m willing to read up, meditate, whatever. I’d rather he not conform to me. I think he should have physical companionship since we don’t see each other for weeks. I just wish he’d be patient with my learning curve.

Is it dishonest to agree to this if I know I will need to work through big feelings and I’m not sure how yet?

I thought our communication and conflict resolution was good, but now I’m at a loss.

I don’t think he’ll leave me. I’m more worried about losing my marbles. We love each other so much.

How do I make this work?

Response:

So a few things to answer in terms of the questions. First, what is normal in terms of rules? Generally speaking, I think that you need to look at what the function of a rule is, when you set it. If you want to say “no holidays with this person”… I mean, what what is that rule trying to do? What is it trying to prevent? And is it actually going to prevent the thing that you’re trying to get it to prevent? If holidays have this really important big meaning to your— like, let’s say, you know, you… let’s say for example, you don’t have any family to go to on Christmas and Christmas is a sad time for you. This kind of an example for my own life. Like Christmas isn’t a great time for me.

I don’t really have a rule that says my partner has to spend Christmas with me, but you know, it is a hard time for me. So if someone is in my life, who cares about me, they should theoretically give a shit what I’m doing on Christmas.  So you know, and I do think sometimes rules are put in place that are kind of obvious. Like, if you’re in a monogamous relationship, you wouldn’t put up a rule that says “no being mean to me”, because it should kind of be obvious that you won’t be mean to each other.

So I think when it comes to rules, it doesn’t really matter what’s normal because every person and every relationship is different. I just think you need to think about what is it trying to prevent? Quite often when people are new to polyamory, the first thing that they do is put in rules that are trying to prevent someone from falling in love with someone else. And you kind of see traces of that in this situation. Like, the biggest thing that bothers me about the situation is that it’s not really clear what function non-monogamy has in your life. It’s almost too open ended like at first it’s just a temporary thing because you’re long distance. And from your perspective, you’re coming at this from you know, this is just for sexual encounters for sexual companionship.  So it doesn’t really make sense for your partner to be with people who have any kind of emotional or deep meaning.

Equally, I can see it from his perspective that you know, people have feelings. People you know— he could meet someone who is just interested in sexual encounters and doesn’t have any emotional connection to him. But he’s more than likely especially if he’s previously been polyamorous and has— and knows other people who are polyamorous he’s more than likely going to find someone he has some type of care for even as a friend, and people aren’t disposable.

So I think you haven’t really had basic discussions about what non-monogamy looks like in your life. What is it supposed to mean? What are the boundaries around that? And to be fair, I think you haven’t had that because you’re just trying to roll with the punches a bit because you’ve never done this before. I find it really, really concerning— You know, you say what might he have been thinking to become so standoffish? It doesn’t really matter to me what he’s thinking to become so standoffish. It concerns me that he’s become so standoffish and what I see here is like the first  chance he has to have kind of a sexual encounter doesn’t work out. And you don’t really describe what specifically happened.

But it seems like he made the choice to give up the chance with that, because of the potentiality for messiness. And because you had concerns and what he can’t really do, and what it’s not really fair to do is expect you— expect him to come to you and say, “I’m going to go sleep with this person” and then expect you to be utterly emotionless about it. I think what he did is he called it off, and he probably has some feelings about calling it off, because maybe he wanted to do that. You just weren’t prepared for it. Like I think you just thought, “Oh, it’s just gonna be— there’s gonna meet up and have sex, you know, I don’t expect them to go to parties together. I don’t expect them to be friends. I don’t really expect this kind of socialising. And that kind of throws me off, understandably”.

But rather than going “Okay, I see that it throws you off. Let’s have a talk about this. Let’s work this out”. Maybe sometimes you have to experience a little bit of anxiety and realise he’s still there and you don’t have anything to worry about. But instead of doing that, he calls it off. And maybe he has some kind of, you know, annoyance about that understandably. So, you know, he was trying to be understanding to you but really what he

did was just avoid a situation. You know it— that didn’t really help you in the end. Was it really going to risk your entire relationship for him to sleep with this person? Well, you made it out to be and he made it out to be more of a mountain than a molehill.

So in a way it I think it just delayed the inevitable. You’re going to have to have that point. If you’re going to do any form of monogamy, you’re going to have to have that point where you do freak out and you do feel scared because he’s sleeping with someone else. If what you’re trying to do is avoid that, then it’s never gonna work. And I don’t think he’s helping in that regard. And and on top of that— on top of him going, “Okay, well, I’m not going to try this because you feel anxious about it”, that you know, okay, you feel anxious about it, he should support you, instead of just expecting you to just feel okay with everything.

So what he should have done is support you through that and work through that and then have you have that first experience. And then even if he didn’t even want to sleep with this other person anymore, you would have at least had that experience but instead you kind of sideswiped it. So then you go on to this other relationship from his past.

Even though they’ve never dated, they obviously have a friendship. There’s all these kinds of things that he’s telling you. And then, you know, you don’t have a great reaction to that, which is very, very understandable. And then he chooses to respond to you having a bad reaction to be standoffish and basically chastise you for not being able to do non-monogamy well enough. And that is, that’s kind of the crux of this problem here. It is totally understandable for you to be really confused by her feelings.

Now, there may be a long, long history, you know, because you’ve mentioned how he always had this policy of not posting anyone. If he knew, you know, if he if he had this relationship with this, this new person from his past, and they had a sexual relationship before and she wanted him to post pictures. And he was like very much not doing it. And you know, if you think about it, a lot of people post pictures on social media with with their friends. It’s not necessarily that you post a picture on social media with someone it means you’re sleeping with them. But if he made this big deal about it, and was like, “No, no, no, no, I’m not doing that now.” And then he meets her again. And then he has you on his social media, you know? And then she goes, “Hey, is this policy changed now? Are you kind of putting people up? Are you gonna put me up there?” And he may have not really thought about that.

And they argue about it, because it’s now become a hierarchy thing, because he had this big, important policy about it. So it’s understandable that she would react that way. It’s understandable that you would then go, “Wait a minute, this is just a casual thing. What’s, what’s the big deal?” They’ve made it into a big deal. And then on top of that, when you said, “Why did he tell me any of this?” You were spot on. Spot on. Why do you need to know about any of this? It’s understandable yo say, “Oh, I had an argument with her”. But why do you need to know the ins and outs of all of this? And all it does is just stress you out? Because you’re like, “Oh, crap, she’s like freaked out to her pictures on social media. She wants her picture on social media. What does that mean? I thought this was casual”.

It’s confusing for you, because you haven’t established what non-monogamy really means. Other than this temporary that’s supposed to be sexual only situation going on. And for you that’s very separate and distinct. For him, it might not be so but because it’s so separate for you, anytime people get into that realm of friends or more than just being a hookup, you’re gonna freak out about it. It’s understandable. It’s understandable that this would freak you out. And there’s really no reason for you to know all this. And then on top of that, for him to react

to you being worried about this, you know, first he— in the first situation, he reacts to you being worried by breaking off a chance with somebody. And maybe that wasn’t the whole story, but that’s how he reacts first.

And then the second thing, you have these feelings and you’re kind of freaked out and confused about what this means for their relationship. And his response is to be distant and cold. And then say it’s not going to work because you can’t handle it, to basically put the entire blame on you because you’re scared and jealous as if you’re not supposed to have feelings. It is unfair.

You’re 100% right. It is unfair, you haven’t tried this before, and you’re going to be scared. And even if you have tried it before, let me tell you something.

You know, the first— I had been polyamorous I can’t remember how many years, maybe three or four years before I met my current domestic partner. The first time my domestic partner went out, and not even all night but just went out to a party where I knew that they would potentially probably sleep with someone. I was a frickin nervous wreck. And I had been polyamorous before I was just a nervous wreck. You’re establishing new relationships with people. You know, even though you’ve been together for a long time, you’ve been long distance, you’re kind of at this weird intermediary stage. You say you can’t really do long distance very well. You’re even pushing yourself to do this, because it’s not something that really works for you in general.

So on top of all of that other stress, you’re now trying also this new thing. So of course you’re going to be nervous. Of course you’re going to be scared. The first couple of times that you try non monogamy and your partner is with someone else you’re going to be anxious as hell. It’s normal, it’s natural, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. And I— really bugs the crap out of me when people expect people coming from a monogamous society to just suddenly be able to do polyamory without any jealousy, without any anxiety. Because you know whether it’s because he is not used to it. Maybe he’s been polyamorous in so many situations with so many people who either didn’t share their anxieties with him, or were just so experienced that they just weren’t fazed about it.

Some people aren’t fazed about it, that’s fine. Some people go on rollercoasters, other people can’t. Different people are different. So maybe he’s never had to actually manage a situation where his partner is anxious about it. And given how he’s managing his other partner by telling you all of the ins and outs of what’s going on in their relationship. It doesn’t really seem like he’s very good at managing that in general with anybody. But it’s all your fault, though. It’s all your fault because you can’t handle it. It’s just such bullshit. It’s not fair. It’s not fair at all. So yeah, I do think that this is a problem to acting distant and cold. Keeping you at an arm’s length just because you have not so great a reaction— that’s absolutely poor as fuck communication, and the fact that he’s like, “You know, you’re— maybe you can’t handle it”. Maybe he can’t handle it.

It sounds like he can’t handle it. If he can’t communicate in difficult situations— like it’s okay if like you have a heated discussion and he needs to take a moment, like that’s one thing, but for him to be like, put you at an arm’s length for the past couple of days, because you had a nervous reaction. And I don’t think that you were saying that she was disposable. And I do think that sometimes when people try polyamory for the first time, and they do have an established relationship with somebody, they do get to a point where they’re so protective of that, that they are kind of looking at other people as disposable. But the thing of it is, it’s not like you agreed to be fully polyamorous from the start, and that’s the thing that kills me.

It’s like, yeah, people have feelings and they’re not disposable. But your original assumption of what this non-monogamy was in your life was that it was just for him to get like his sexual kicks while you are far apart from each other. So, of course, you’re worried that there could be more to this relationship. Of course, you’re worried about that. That makes sense. It’s not like you’re saying she’s disposable and that her feelings don’t matter. You’re just like, “Well I’m confused that she’s having these feelings because I thought this was casual”. And you’re allowed to ask these frickin questions without him, you know, basically putting you in the naughty chair. Just absolutely ridiculous.

So yeah, and I think that to answer your other question, like, is it dishonest of you to agree to this if you know you will need to work through these big feelings and you’re not sure how yet? It’s not just dishonest with you. But the thing of it is, is if he’s going to react to you having feelings by keeping you distant and cold, and keeping you at arm’s length, it doesn’t exactly give you total, any reason to share your emotions with him. It basically punishes you for sharing your emotions. So next time you are scared, you’re just gonna want to keep it to yourself. Because the second you tell him he’s gonna act like a big baby about it.

So it’s not dishonest. A lot of people try non-monogamy try polyamory, try everything, not knowing how it’s going to affect them. And to be honest with you, even if— you could be polyamorous for years and then you know something tragic happens, or you have a big life upheaval and all of a sudden, your mental health is all over the map and you can’t handle the same things that you could handle the week before with the same grace. That stuff happens like it’s not— polyamory it’s not some type of higher level mental achievement that you get. It’s not some type of upper level relationship unlock code that when you’ve meditated enough you achieve this— I didn’t even know the right frickin words for it. But it’s not it’s not— It’s not some higher level of thinking.

It’s just a different way to do relationships. And people can be good and bad at it. Just like they can be good at bad at monogamous relationships, given the entirety of their surroundings and what’s going on in their lives, it’s not a zero some simple game like that. It’s not at all dishonest of you to be like, “Hey, you know I’m gonna agree this let’s just rip the band aid off” and I do think that instinct isn’t a bad one. Because you are going to feel anxious so just get it over with. Stop waiting for you to just suddenly be okay with everything and just go let’s just do it and manage it and cope with it and see how things go.

But because it seems like he doesn’t want to deal with any unhappy emotions, and he just wants you to be okay with everything without him having to do any of that work. That’s not realistic. That’s what’s dishonest. You know, you have to be able to come to your partner especially if you’re trying something so new that you’re not familiar with. You haven’t been given the cultural tools to really take by the horns, you’re gonna be nervous and you need someone you know, if not a polyamory friendly therapist, you need someone— a partner who is going to be understanding of that. It’s okay to not know how you’re going to feel about something and I think that’s the other thing that if he had been you know, if he is more experienced in polyamory, the big thing here I see is you giving permission.

You’re like, “Okay, you can sleep with this person. Okay, uou can sleep with that person” and the problem with giving permission and the reason why I always very much discourage people from feeling like they have to give permission is because it does feel like oh, you said okay to that person. Now, how do you take that back or It feels like once you’ve said okay to someone, you’re not allowed to have any feelings about it. So in general, I would discourage that. And I kind of feel like if he was a little bit more experienced with this, he wouldn’t be asking for permission, he would be like, “I’m gonna sleep with this person. And this is what this involves”, he’d be really clear with you. This is so unclear, like, you know, even though this has been given to you as “This is what we’re going to do in the midterm of us moving in together, because I need, you know, to have some sexual relationships, and I’ve got some physical needs. And I’d like to do this well, until we move in together”.

This has been what’s presented to you not, I’m gonna go and date and be romantically involved with other people. I think it’s realistic of you, you know, I do think sometimes when people do that whole, like, “Oh, I’m only going to have sex with people. I’m not going to fall in love with anyone else.” It’s not realistic. You know, the boundaries between friendship and you know, lover aren’t always clear cut for everyone. And it’s also like people don’t want— not everyone wants to operate in such a cold way when it comes to like sexual relationships. People want to be friends with the people they have sex with. And that’s fine. But none of that has been defined for you. So of course, you’re going to be freaked out, it makes total sense.

So yeah, how do you make this work? You don’t make this work. He helps— you both make it work. And he has to fix this conflict resolution problem, because you have to be able to come to him and this isn’t— even if you hang up non-monogamy and you don’t try it again, like this is deeply concerning for other aspects of your life like this, how he is going to respond when things get tough is to keep you at an arm’s length? Like you— You really need to. I think you both need to find a polyamory friendly therapist and talk this through. Because yeah, I do think some aspect of this is you’re freaked out about it. You’re gonna be freaked out about it and you do kind of have to— the only way out is through, kind of have to go through some of it, you kind of have to have him sleep with someone else and know that, you know, he’s not all of a sudden not interested in you.

You kind of have to experience it, and know and live through it and know that you’re fine in order to kind of get through some of that anxiety. But it’s gonna be very, very, very, very, very hard for you to do that if the person that you want to come to for reassurance and guidance and patience is going to put you at an arm’s length a second you have a bit of fear about something and is gonna chastise you.

And where basically you’re in a situation where you need to prove that you can do non-monogamy because his ability to do non monogamy is totally you know, not a question. He can do it. It’s you That’s the problem— No, no, that’s that’s not a good approach. And it’s not an approach that’s going to even work for monogamy, let alone non monogamy.So he needs to whatever conflict resolution and communication skills he’s employed the past he needs to find them and get back on them. Because this, this just isn’t a way.

So to sum up, I think that it would be good for you all to start from a place of finding a polyamory friendly therapist, if that’s an opportunity for you, because I do think you kind of need— when you have someone who’s doing this kind of weird emotional stuff of putting you at an arm’s length, it is helpful to have like a non— a non influenced party. But I do think you need to think about what does non-monogamy mean, in the context of your relationship? Is this just a temporary thing? I think you need to kind of maybe accept that, even if he is just seeing people for sex, that doesn’t mean he’s not friends with them, doesn’t mean he won’t go to social gatherings with them.

And it doesn’t mean that they won’t have feelings about how he does his relationships, but he needs to not tell you about stuff like that. Like he shouldn’t really— and you know, you can say like, “Look, I get that, you know, you’re my partner and I always feel feel bad that you have this argument and I don’t want you to have arguments but mate I can’t— hearing this kind of stuff kind of freaks me out. So maybe I just— it’s not that it’s a don’t ask don’t tell situation. But maybe I don’t need to know the ins and outs of whatever’s going on in your other relationships, because it just kind of makes me a little bit panicked”. So, you know, I think that’s fair.

I think that in terms of rules, whenever you establish a rule, think about what it’s trying to prevent, and will it actually prevent it? Or is it just a way of preventing you from basically delaying the inevitable, which was kind of the first situation here. Like maybe it just didn’t work out for other reasons, but he shouldn’t pull the plug on something just because you’re afraid. You need to experience that anxiety a little bit. And you need to have faith in your relationship together and know that it’s going to last through that and go back to that kind of rock that you’ve built with each other and try and hold on to that and just know that it will be okay. You just kind of have to go through the anxiety a bit and he needs to let you have that anxiety.

He needs to figure out why he’s being standoffish and sort that out because he can’t be putting you at an arm’s length. This is not a game of you proving yourself to him and he needs to stop putting you in situations where basically his ability to do non-monogamy is unquestioned but yours isn’t. Like granted, you are new to this, but it doesn’t help that he’s making this into a — the second you have any negative feelings about anything, you can’t do it, like he needs to be a lot more patient, as you said, with some of your feelings.

In general, there’s no “ready”, whether you’re “ready” or not for non-monogamy. I think you should try and get rid of that out of your lexicon because your ability to do any kind of relationship has a lot to do with what else is going on in your life. There are people sometimes who go complete hermit who have a really, you know, not great mental health. And their response to it is to stay at home and not speak to anyone. They don’t even do friendships very well when they’re feeling depressed. And that, you know is how sometimes things work. It’s not a zero sum game “ready” or “not ready”, like different things are going to provoke anxiety and the fact that you’re a part to the fact that you don’t do long distance to begin with very well. is already putting pressure so you need to kind of keep that in mind and not set yourself up for failure basically, by making it seem like you need to go through this without having any feelings in order to effectively “do Non-Monogamy”.

And last but not least, this is a big concern in terms of the way he’s communicating, he needs to not communicate this way. It’s okay for him to remind you that this other woman does have feelings, people aren’t disposable. But again, I don’t think that comes from you just assuming that anyone he sleeps with is someone that can be easily tossed aside the moment you don’t feel well. And more from a confusion of this discussion. You know, you assume that the non monogamy that was happening was about gratifying, you know, sexual needs and not necessarily about building other relationships. So it’s just kind of a misunderstanding between the two of you have expectations and what non-monogamy means and if you had that conversation about what it means, how it’s meant to happen, when is it meant to end and is it meant to end?

Because, you know, you say he isn’t conventional. Is he going to be happy being monogamous for the rest of his life? This is kind of a big discussion y’all need to have and think about. And you can’t do it all if he is going to put you in the proverbial naughty step the second that you have any feelings about it that aren’t happy ones. Maybe he is not ready for non-monogamy to be honest, if he can’t manage people’s emotions, and deal with the negative feelings that any of his partners have.

So yeah, that about sums it up. I really hope this helps. And good luck.

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