Episode 60: Temporarily Open

Can opening your relationship temporarily work to address an incompatibility?

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

Discussion Topic: How do you prefer to be broken up with?

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

Episode 60 – Temporarily Open

Can opening your relationship temporarily work to address an incompatibility? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How do you prefer to be broken up with?

 

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 boyfriend and I have been in a long term closed relationship for almost 6 years. Recently he brought up the idea of wanting an open relationship. Neither of us have been with other people ever or have been in an open relationship before. We decided on this after multiple occasions where we both felt we weren’t having certain needs met. My boyfriend is a very sexual person and I am just not as physical. We’ve talked about if we want this to be temporary or not and as of right now we want it to be temporary.

After listening to many podcasts of yours, we had in depth talks about boundaries and things we should establish for this transition. I am open to the idea but I don’t know the best way to go about this without someone getting hurt. I am not a person who enjoys having casual sex, but I feel this may give us both chances to explore.

We both do not want to break up, as we love each other very much and we want a life together. I guess I am just asking for some advice on how to transition and other tips you may have with combating the fear and anxiety that goes along with this transition.

Response:

In response to your question, I think that the first thing that I would do… I don’t always think that opening relationship to address unmet needs is a bad thing, but I do think that sometimes people rush to that as an option, before considering other options, You say that this is about unmet needs. But it seems like it’s a very one sided unmet need. It doesn’t seem like there is a need that’s being unmet on your side. It seems like your boyfriend is more sexual than you, and maybe wants different types of sex or wants sex more often than you. And so opening the relationship is the purpose of doing that.

I don’t think that that that’s necessarily a bad thing. But the thing that worries me about this is that when you decide to have a non-monogamous relationship temporarily or long term, specifically for the purpose of addressing an issue that is going to be a very big and valid reason for you to feel jealous and scared and it’s not to say that you can’t overcome that or it’s not to say that can’t be addressed. But when there’s a specific issue where— and it depends on how you feel.

You may be a person who’s like, “Look I’m not very sexual, I do not feel emotionally bothered by the fact that you are more sexual and you can have that with somebody else”. But it will be a scary thing and I think that that can happen regardless of whether or not you open a relationship or a relationship begins that way. A very good example of this, which I’ve talked about in the podcast and the columns before is that I am more of an introverted person and my partner is more of an extroverted person (the partner that I live with) and very early on in our relationship, I was very very worried about the fact that they really loved going to parties and I didn’t really like it so much.

And I was very worried that they would find someone who would love to go to parties and I would basically be replaced by someone who they had more fun with. And over time, they did kind of explain to me “Even if I did find a partner who was interested in parties in the same way I am, you are the partner that I want to live with. You have a place in my life. It’s not like I’m going to switch you out or something like that”. Now obviously that helps reassure me but I still have that fear.

So I do think that when you do open, specifically for the purpose of addressing a need, it can kind of make you,

understandably, feel very anxious about being replaced and feel very anxious about the fact that somebody else can give your partner something that you can’t. I think that the very real reality, especially in a culture where this kind of toxic monogamy — not just monogamy — but this… if you’ve lived in the same culture as I have and maybe you haven’t. But if you have, then you have learned that one person should meet everyone’s need and that is what true love is and that if you’re truly in love with someone then you’d never feel anything for anyone else.

This person is perfect and amazing — you learn that stuff, and you do start to believe that stuff. And for a lot of monogamous people learning that that isn’t necessarily the case, but they can still love and care about their partner, and they can still feel connected to their partner and they still have a strong love for their partner is really challenging. So, if you literally have a need that you can’t meet for your partner, getting to a point where you’re emotionally comfortable with that can be quite difficult. So the thing that I have to wonder is can there not be compromises made here?

I’m sure that you may have already tried some stuff like that and it’s not that I necessarily think that you should have sex when you don’t want to. That’s not what I’m saying. But I don’t know as that you need to go into a full open relationship mode, especially when it’s clear that like, it’s something you want to try temporarily, which means that polyamory really isn’t what you want. Because if you were polyamorous you would be looking for actual other established relationships with other people. And while it’s not to say that all relationships have to be long term to be successful.

Generally speaking, most people — a lot of people aren’t necessarily wanting a relationship to have an end date basically when — especially when like a couple more or less are going, “Yeah when we feel tired of this we’re going to end it.” That’s not an enticing scenario for a lot of people who are polyamorous. That’s not going to be a situation that they necessarily want to get involved with because they will get hurt. So, you know I’m wondering if — and since you don’t necessarily enjoy having casual sex, it seems like you’re really going to struggle to find any benefit in this situation for you.

There isn’t really a benefit for you and the one thing that I encourage people to do … there’s an article I wrote called “Thirteen mistakes people make when trying polyamory” which I think you should check out. And the first thing that I encourage people to do is think about an anchor that will keep them sort of understanding when they’re in the difficult spots that this might bring to them. It helps them ground themselves a little bit and what their anchor generally is is the reasons why they chose to do this that don’t have anything to do with avoiding breaking up with their partner.

And that’s really, really important. Because, understandably, everyone like doesn’t want to break up out   of a relationship that they’re in. But you can’t let that prevent you or lead you into doing things that you don’t want to do just to avoid a breakup because that will end up hurting, for a lot longer than just breaking up would. And I know that that’s like incredibly difficult and I don’t think that the vast majority of people are going to make a clean break. I think most people are going to try and save something before it ends and I get that.

However, there are other options that don’t aren’t necessarily a full open relationship like is seeing a sex worker option? Is this situation where your partner could see a sex worker, and that sex worker would be a professional. And I think that that would. I mean, depending on how you feel but I think if you became more informed about sex work and how it worked. I think that that would be something that in a way would be a little bit less scary for you in a way because the sex worker — I’m not saying that people can’t fall in love with sex workers.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen that a sex worker falls in love with a client or something like that. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but generally speaking, it is a professional relationship and so there is less of a reason for you to worry there because if you see a sex worker that has had clients before then they will have had this experience of seeing someone. And knowing that they’re with someone and, you know, they will understand those boundaries and so that might be an option.

I think that there may be— I’m not sure. Again, I don’t want you to necessarily have sex when you don’t want to have sex, but there might be things that — you could work it out in some way. It just depends whether you know, there are things to work out. I don’t know the finer minute details of the sexual in compatibility so it’s hard for me to say. But I do think you should at least try to exhaust those possibilities before you completely open everything.

I think that there are swinger communities. That might also be something that your partner might look into. It might be a lot harder for if your partner is a straight cis man. It might be harder for him to go into a swinger community and find people who are willing to swap with him. Usually it’s a very couple based thing and I don’t think you would probably be comfortable in a swinger situation. You might. You could try it. You can kind of form a relationship with another couple and swap. But, it depends.

I think that, barring all that, regardless of what you choose to do, I do think that there are a couple of things here that make me worry. And the first thing is that you deciding it’s definitely temporary. I think that the thing that I worry about that is that  who gets to decide when it’s not temporary? That’s the thing that you have to kind of really worry about because you know if he starts to fall in love with the person that he’s with and maybe he doesn’t want to admit it to himself and but you could kind of see the signs and you start going “Well now its ended now because I’ve said so. We said it would always be temporary and now it’s temporary. Now it’s ended.”

He’s not going to want to break up with somebody that he has feelings for and understandably that person he has feelings for also is a human being who shouldn’t just be discarded because you guys aren’t working things out together. So that temporariness is a little bit of a concern for me. I don’t know if it’s realistic. There are some people who — and this is one of the things I address in the article that I recommended to you.

There are some people who are very self aware and can have casual sex with people without falling in love with them, or who can experience a love for somebody, and not feel like that has to mean that they have to enter a relationship with them, or know themselves well enough that if they are having casual sex with somebody and they start feeling something that is a little bit more— well, I don’t want to say more.

They start feeling a kind of romantic attraction that isn’t allowed within those boundaries can pull themselves back before they get into a situation where they feel like they’ve gone too far. I don’t know as that most people are that aware. And the thing is that the biggest mistake that a lot of people make when they try polyamory, when they open the relationship, when they try anything, it’s making the rule that I won’t fall in love with anyone else. And I think that that is a unrealistic rule. It’s just unrealistic.

You can’t control that. And you can make yourself aware of how you’re reacting to somebody and you can separate yourself from them so that you don’t continue to have those reactions. But you can’t stop yourself from falling in or out of levels with somebody. If you could, the world would be a lot less complicated, so I don’t think it’s realistic to try to agree that you won’t fall in love with somebody else you or your boyfriend.

I just think that that isn’t going to work. What you need to decide to do, is— what will happen if your boyfriend does fall in love with somebody else? Can you imagine a situation where your boyfriend has maybe one other partner that perhaps is more sexual than them? How would that work with the life that you have now? How would that change the life you have now? And think about like the physicality of it. Maybe your partner is gone, your boyfriend is gone for two nights a week or on the weekends or something like that. How would that change?

Because you say you don’t want someone to get hurt, but easily in this scenario, the person that generally ends up being hurt, is the person that is discarded when the couple wants to save their relationship over others. I know you don’t want to break up and you want a life together, but the other people that your partner may or may not see also have rights. They also have their own life that they want. And it’s important to consider that. There is a whole guide you can look up on “unicorn hunting”. I don’t really think that that’s what you’re trying to do here, but it’s always good to understand the way that people who are often kind of sought out in a little bit of these kinds of scenarios, it’s important to understand their perspective.

And even if your boyfriend is having casual sex with somebody that doesn’t mean that they can’t be hurt. Because as well even if you’re having casual sex with somebody, you could still be friends with that person. And a friend isn’t someone that you just kind of chuck aside and never talk to, again without that hurting them. So, it’s also important to be aware of that as well. I think sometimes when people make these kind of sex only agreements or I’m only going to sleep with these people, they often kind of forget that friendship is also a thing. And just because, you know, you might still be friends with that person and just suddenly cutting them out of your life would hurt, even if you didn’t have romantic feelings for them.

Those are things to think about. Just to recap, all of the things I’ve gone through here. I think first and foremost exhaust all of the possibilities of you being able to be somewhat sexually compatible. Again don’t force yourself to have sex if you don’t want to have sex. That’s not what I’m saying. But depending on what kind of incompatibility you have, is there any room for, you know, some compromises to be made at some points? Just make sure you’ve exhausted that possibility before you necessarily jump to fully opening a relationship.

Think about other ways to open, but not necessarily have a fully open relationship. So like, allowing your partner to see a sex worker is one option that you can consider. Maybe going into the swinger community, again with the caveats about the swinger community that I’ve given. And then the other point is being realistic, both with your wanting it to be temporary and also with your— Basically you haven’t explicitly said that you have a rule against falling in love. But it kind of seems like that’s what this is basically because it’s about casual sex and it seems like it’s more about casual sex than it is about forming another relationship.

But just make sure you aren’t doing that without saying that because I think that is really an issue. Definitely challenge your kind of assumption within this dynamic that, or at least make it very clear to any person that you or your boyfriend does get involved with that you do have a hierarchical dynamic so they know if they want to get involved in that or not. And again be realistic about whether or not you may fall in love with somebody. Consider talking about what will happen if that does happen.

Can you see yourself living in a situation where you don’t get all of the time? I mean I do think if you’re agreeing to an open relationship, then you are agreeing to, maybe not fully polyamory but you’re still agreeing to allow— you’re agreeing that neither one of you will spend all of your time together in the same way that you would monogamously. Some of your time is going to go to other people. So, what if that wasn’t temporary like and what is that it was somebody that he did have a love for or that you have a love for?

And then last but not least check out the “Thirteen mistakes people make when trying polyamory article” that I wrote. I think that has a lot of stuff about grounding, a lot of stuff about the kind of rules that people make without realising it, sometimes realising it, when they first start polyamory and that might help you out a little bit there. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 59: Feeling Disconnected

If COVID caught a relationship when it was just forming, is it worth picking back up again if you’re feeling disconnected?

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

Discussion Topic: How do you prefer to end a relationship? We always assume that in-person is better, but is it?

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

Episode 59 – Feeling Disconnected

If COVID caught a relationship when it was just forming, is it worth picking back up again if you’re feeling disconnected? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How do you prefer to end a relationship?

 

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:

So before COVID I started developing feelings for a close friend with benefits. I haven’t felt this intense about a companionship in years. We worked on some creative projects together and we helped each other with our careers. I started to become friendly but not intimate with his fiancée but I was open to develop something with them potentially a throuple or be a part of their constellation. But it never got there. I got very sick probably from COVID two weeks before lockdown and then lockdown happened. During this time we all kept in contact texting each other at least once a week.

I was doing a lot of self reflection, work on feelings about this and being poly[am], reading self help books, and talking with friends who were in open relationships. I was feeling pretty heartbroken from not being able to see them. It hurt so much I needed to talk about it. I had a really heartfelt conversation with the one I was closest too and it ended on a really positive note. We agreed that it is uncertain where we are going to go or how this will develop but its clear there were some strong feelings between us that we were both excited to explore.

Then the city started to open up. I expressed interest in trying to meet up somehow but it never seemed to work out, not sure if that was intentional or not. I saw them both by chance at a protest for a brief minute but we all got lost in the crowd. We started to grow apart less texting. Then I noticed they went on vacation with two of their friends possibly other companions, not sure, but I felt really left out.

A little bit before this point I was having mental health issues from all the changes in my life from COVID and this so I stopped initiating conversations through text at which point our channel of communication basically stopped. He then recently released a project I was a part of without much notice and I just have a lot of conflicting feelings about it because of all this.

I understand COVID really has been shaking things up and I don’t want to blame but I feel really neglected. It kinda feels like I broke up with folx before I even got to develop a relationship with them which really hurts. At this point though I feel so burnt out by the situation I’m not sure I want to continue to be intimate in the future without any commitment on their part, but still open to be friends.

Do you think its worth trying to salvage something from this situation? Am I being too clouded by the hard circumstances and mental health stuff I am in at the moment? Should I be doing things differently? Part of me hopes that we can one day mend this but part of me would rather move on and find folx who are going to meet my needs better. What are your thoughts?

Response:

So I think that the first thing that you should do is think about — and this might be something that is quite difficult for you. Think bout what it is that you want or expect out of the situation. And,  if you’re just starting off trying out polyam, it might be hard for you to really know what that is. And sometimes I do think that we can sometimes end up in situations where we don’t know that a need isn’t being met until we’re kind of hurting from it not being met and that really sucks to be in.

But I do think that the first thing that might be helpful in approaching them is understanding what it is that you want or expect, and you kind of have a good idea of that because you talk about commitment, but I think that you need to establish what commitment really means. What are you hoping to be in their lives? Are you really wanting this thruple situation? I’m always really really hesitant. I’m assuming that they didn’t approach you as a couple. It just so happened that you were interested in both of them.

If they approached you as a couple, I’m just really, really hesitant about people who date as couples because I’ve written a whole article or column about it. It tends to be a thing that people do because they think it’s safer than dating individually. And I’m not saying this is always the case because sometimes it’s not but it tends to be something that indicates that they aren’t really having the conversations in between them, and they’re sort of dating as a couple as a fail safe because they think it’s just easier, or they don’t trust one another.

And they need to be present while the other is dating somebody else because they’re worried about being accused of or cheating. And that just doesn’t bode well in general, but if they didn’t approach you as a couple, and you just so happened to have some interest in both of them but naturally developed into being closer to one of them just because you met that person first, that’s fine. But I do think you need to think about — what is polyam to you? What is non-monogamy to you?

What do you envision your life being like? Are you more of a solo polyamory person where you don’t really have any established primaries, or even people that you live with? Do you want to live with partners? It may be a situation where you’re kind of open to different aspects but clearly I think the fact that you’re hurting in this situation, which makes sense, means that you do want something more and I think that just saying “commitment” isn’t really clear.

Because the thing that you have to remember is that, with monogamy, you’re kind of operating with a cultural script that everyone sort of knows. If you haven’t read it before there’s a really great article called The Relationship Escalator. And I think there’s been— the same person who wrote that wrote books about it. I’m not quite sure. But the article itself I have read and I think that that really illustrates the kind of script people have.

The thing that people kind of know indicates commitment within monogamy— people kind of have a shared definition of that. But when you’re in a non-monogamous relationship or polyamorous relationship, you kind of have to come up with your own definitions of what commitment means and what it is that symbolises commitment. I think that that’s the first thing.

The second thing is is that I think that you’re not really on the same page, because when you talked about this discussion that you had, it seemed like you *were* kind of breaking up with them because you kind of both acknowledge that you did want to continue things, but COVID was restricting you from meeting in person. It may be possible that neither one of them do long distance very well, and just aren’t very good communicators, when it’s not in person.

And so maybe that in that discussion that you had, that really good discussion you had, maybe their understanding was that things were at a pause, so they don’t see the point in reaching out and trying to continue that and don’t see the point and inviting you to go on a vacation with someone who they maybe shared, like, met with or were closer with so it’s less of a COVID risk, or that they already had prior experience with. So, I think you need to have a better clarifying discussion because it could be that in that conversation you both walked away with different understandings of where exactly you were.

And I also think one thing to flag up about this is that — If you want to date them as individuals then you can’t use the person that you’re closest to as a kind of communication conduit. You do need to have separate conversations with them, instead of treating them as a unit. I think that’s one thing to note. But you have kind of continued the establishment of the communication. And I think it’s fair for you to feel like, “Okay, I stopped communicating and I basically fell off the earth to them, and they stopped initiating discussions with me”. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that that is because they don’t care about you or they’re not interested in you.

They may just think things are at a pause and that you will get in touch if and when things clear up and people can start meeting regularly in person. Maybe they are waiting for you to initiate that. Who knows? I can sit here and I can postulate on what’s going inside their minds as much as possible but you’re not going to know until you actually have that conversation with them. And the thing of it is, is I totally understand half of your brain that’s like, “Man, I just need to get away from the situation because I’m having to initiate all of the discussions. Now that I’m not initiating anything they’re not initiating anything with me. Screw this!”

I totally get that because I quite often feel that way. And I do think that this is probably how 98.9% of my online dating conversations end because I have actually found it really really important that people at least meet me halfway. And I know that sometimes people struggle with online communication. I know that sometimes people struggle to start conversations, but at the end of the day, whether it’s due to shyness or they’re just not interested in me, I want to have relationships with people who can actually start a conversation with me, or who have some interest in my life, enough to talk to me.

I am not going to be the one that initiates 80% of the conversations. I want a little bit more. 40% I’ll take from them, but I can’t like— I hate that and I’m not going to do that and I’d so I totally get where you’re coming from on that and I do think that’s not a bad position to be in. And I do think that when you talk about what you need from them, you need to bring the fact that you initiate most of the conversations up with them and be like, “Look, I can’t be the only one initiating conversations here. I don’t want it to be that way”. So, yeah, I do think that that’s fair.

But what I would say is because your last conversation with them to me sounded like a pause. It didn’t sound like “okay we’re still dating”. It sounded like “Well, COVID has happened. We can’t meet up in person so it’d be nice to explore this but let’s explore this later on when we can actually meet up more in person”. That’s what that sounded like to me.

Who knows what kind of impression? You need to have more of a clear discussion with them. Give people a chance to meet your needs before you decide that they can’t. You’ve already established this bond with this person you’ve already put some effort in. So I do think that you should at least give them the chance to not meet your needs before you decide that they can’t.

Have a sit down discussion with them over the phone, over Zoom, whatever you need. It’s okay for you to feel left out and all this stuff but I don’t think that that was necessarily deliberate. Make sure you’re clear on where you’re at. Are you still interested in dating as much as you can? Is this thing at a pause? Do they need to initiate more discussions with you? Where are things at? Because it could just be that you guys walked away or y’all walked away from that situation with two different understandings or three different understandings of where you’re at.

To sum up, I think that you need to think about what it is that you would like out of polyamory or non-monogamy. Where do you see it fitting into your life? That may be fluid. That may be something that you don’t know just yet but have a think. At least have a think about it. Because if you think about it, people will think about what they want out of monogamy— even though monogamy is— the way it’s presented is like one picture and it’s like marriage and this is kids and this is what you’re going to do.

People envision that and think about that all throughout their adolescence, so they have a million chances to think about what it is that they want out of monogamy before they actually ever even think of getting into a serious adult relationship. So, if you think about it, you need to have a couple of things yourself about what polyamory is to you, what it means to you, what your life will look like in the most ideal state, and that can give you an idea of what your wants and needs are.

And make it just a little bit more clear to them other than just saying “I need you to be more committed”, because that could mean anything to anybody. Have a sit down clarifying discussion about where things are, what it is your needs are. Tell them what your needs are. And really I don’t know if you should have like a three meeting. I’m very hesitant to suggest thrupledom, just because I tend to think that complicates things more than it needs to be.

Have a sit down discussion with each of them, or at least the person that you feel closest to right now, and figure out what it is that you need, and give them a chance, give either him or both of them the chance to actually meet your needs, before you decide that they can’t. I think that’s pretty much what I have to say about the situation. I do totally understand how you feel. The frustration is serious. The frustration is real. I am a most— 99.9% initiator, so I feel your pain. I hope it helps and good luck.

Episode 58: Sexual Incompatibility

After more than a decade, your partner wants to open up because he’s not happy, but you think things are going too fast. What do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: How much detail do you want to know?

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

Episode 58 – Sexual Incompatibility

After more than a decade, your partner wants to open up because he’s not happy, but you think things are going too fast. 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:

My husband of 5 years, and partner of 11 years, recently came to me and asked to see other people sexually.

He sat down and we had a conversation about it where he hit me with a lot of reasons for wanting this and said he was scared to ask me. He said he felt sexually frustrated because when we got together he was mostly a top and I am also. I have tried to be versatile in many ways, but he is rather large. I have tried to use toys and devices to practice to make it easier or even pleasurable, but I can’t manage to. I just receive no pleasure from it. He said he felt betrayed and lied to. He said ultimately it wasn’t fair.

On top of that we never seem to be “in the mood” at the same time since we work different schedules. When he said these things it hurt to find out this way and that he’s been feeling this. I told him I didn’t like the idea and I was uncomfortable with this, but I would think about it and it’s not an easy decision for me. He said it’s not an ultimatum and that he won’t divorce me over it or anything, but deep down I’m still afraid he might since he brought divorce up.

You see he’s asked me for a divorce in the past and then changed his mind when I started to pack my things to move out, he broke down and said he didn’t want to lose me. He wanted to get a divorce but still live together and be in each others lives romantically and sexually. He told me then that he was feeling we had become friends and grown apart romantically. It hurt to hear him say that since I felt that we had become more than that not less. Ultimately I love him and want to make him happy, so I agreed to the divorce and when he changed his mind I agreed to stay.

I thought about it for a few days and told him I don’t like the idea and I am uncomfortable, but if it’s what he needs and makes things feel fair then we can do what he needs. He said for it to be fair we should both have the option, I said ok but told him I probably never would because of how I feel about it. I did ask him to think about some ground rules and guidelines and get back to me on what he thinks.

Less than a day later he is already “going out” (his way of not telling me he’s going to have sex with someone else) and has not even talked to me again about the subject let alone the ground rules I asked him to think about. The entire time he was gone I was a mess of emotions, I tried to distract myself with tv, video games, music, anything I could think of really. When one hour turned into two then three then four then five it got progressively worse and harder to even find a momentary distraction.

Nothing worked and all I could do was think about how I wasn’t enough for him. Would he want anything more from me than to take care of the house and clean up and cook and help pay bills? Would he be asking for that ever looming divorce when he realises he no longer wants or needs me for anything or falls for someone he’s with? Have I failed in this relationship? Have I not done enough, or shown enough affection over the years? By the time he came home over seven hours later I was emotionally exhausted and unable to sleep in our bed so I was trying to sleep elsewhere.

He wanted to talk and cuddle and tell me about it. By this time trying to sleep where I was was causing my back to hurt and I told him I was tired and hurting and needed to alone for a while. He went to his office and waited for me start to fall asleep then came back and tried to cuddle, when that woke me up he tried to talk to me again about his night out. I couldn’t emotionally process anything at the time so I again told him I needed some time and to let me come to terms with the new situation and we could talk later. He wound up getting mad at me and stormed off to bed.

I can only imagine that most of this is due to the fact that he’s asked for a divorce in the past and it feels like a guillotine hanging over me waiting to fall at any point in an argument. I want to make him happy and give him everything he needs to be happy and satisfied and feel fulfilled in his life. I have made many sacrifices over the years both in and out of our relationship. So if a sacrifice is what’s necessary from me I can do that with ease. I guess my questions come down to, does it get easier? What can I do to support him while not destroying myself? How do I learn to cope with this new situation?

Extra information:

When we got together and got to the point of discussing sex he said he was a bottom that occasionally liked to top, and I said I was a top and I had tried bottoming before and didn’t really like it but I would try for him. So throughout the years he was bottom and I was top, and I would try to bottom for him occasionally but it never really worked out, it was too painful for me or I didn’t seem to enjoy it so he couldn’t stay aroused. I have tried to use dildos and plugs to work up to it, but ultimately if I could I didn’t receive any pleasure from it.

Yes, he has accommodated my topness. When we got together, at least to me, I thought I was clear I was a top and it sounded to me that he was mostly a bottom. It seems to me that over the years he has become more top than bottom in desires than when we met, or didn’t want to “mess things up” by saying the wrong thing in the beginning of the relationship. That was part of the reason I was hurt to find out this way and that he had apparently (since he said he was always mostly a top) been holding onto this feeling for so long.

He says he loves me and wants to come home to me and enjoys our sex and doesn’t want any of it to change, but he just needs to be able to top more than bottom.

Response:

So the biggest issue that is coming out for me here first and foremost is that when you did when he did ask for a divorce. You both had such different perspectives of the relationship and that is a really really really huge red flag. Before we even get into all of the details about whether or not you should, or how you should be comfortable with him sleeping with other people, the fact that you’re on such different pages is a huge red flag. And that really really needs to be addressed.

If one person in a relationship feels like you’re just friends and another person feels like you’re even closer than you were before, that is a big problem. So you’re not really on the other page. The second problem here, and this is going to get in the way, not just of, if you both decide to open your relationship up a little bit more and it sounds like you kind of already have, and it’s already becoming a problem. There is a really huge lack of communication here and that is kind of what leads to the first problem.

But if he failed to communicate from the beginning and you’ve been together for 15 years. And he’s failed to communicate all of this time that this isn’t sexually what he wants, that doesn’t really bode well. And the fact that you know you open the relationship and you wanted to set some ground rules — and I’ll get to the concept of rules in a second — but you communicated that you’re going to try it but you wanted to have a little bit more discussion and his first reaction is to immediately go out for a very very long period of time.

And not only do that but then come home, and then you are emotionally distraught. You ask to just be given some space, and he doesn’t give you that space and then gets mad at you when you are expressing that you are uncomfortable. That is a huge, huge problem. That to me doesn’t bode well. And he has to be able to not only communicate his wants and his needs but he also has to be able to respect your space, and he has not really shown that here. And that’s what really really worries me about the situation.

I think that it’s understandable for him to feel like the situation has been unfair. I don’t think it’s fair to say that you’ve been unfair because you communicated from the very beginning what your preferences are. You have attempted to do your best to accommodate him. It hasn’t really worked for you. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair for you to sit there and do something which is not pleasurable at all for you. I think that that’s a bit much to ask. But you have always tried to be extremely clear in your communication. He has hidden his preference it seems like.

And then he doesn’t really communicate very well with you so that is a huge problem. Let me address first before I go on to anything else the concept of “ground rules”. Now, you are understandably worried and scared that you’re going to be replaced by someone who is more of his sexual preference and that is a valid fear, and there’s all sorts of these other things like, you know, is he going to fall for somebody else? This that and the other, have I not been enough? These are all very typical feelings that people have.

And usually when people have these feelings, the first thing that they try to do is address them by making what you called “ground rules” and boundaries. I do think that there are important boundaries and things to discuss about opening up your relationship, especially because that isn’t one thing. And sometimes you need to establish, you know, what time are you going to spend with other people? What time are you going to spend with me? What do you want this open relationship to look like? There’s a lot to discuss.

And I do also think that sometimes when people have all these fears they want to create rules like “You’re only going to love me and nobody else” and I don’t think that’s helpful. I think that’s reassuring in the moment, but at the end of the day, whether you’re open or closed, he can fall in love with somebody else and you can’t prevent that with a rule. You can’t prevent that with the rule of monogamy let alone with any rule that you set up within the standard of an open relationship. So I think that, your first instinct to say, “let’s create some rules” is probably founded in that fear, which is very understandable.

When you open your relationship, it isn’t an upgrade. It is a complete change to how you do the relationship. And not only is it a complete change but he’s basically told you that he’s been unhappy for a very very long time. And so there’s a whole lot of processing that you have to go through in terms of why did I not see it? There’s a lot there that needs to be addressed. Essentially, this has been an issue for a long time and he hasn’t communicated that so it’s almost like you have to rebuild foundations of trust with one another.

And so while you’re doing this, you can’t really do that if he is unwilling to at least discuss things with you first or give you a little bit of time or give you a little bit of space. Those are really really big things and the fact— the thing that really worries me about this, is the fact that when you clearly — and I don’t know how clearly. Maybe you were more upset at the time, understandably. The first night is honestly always a shitty night. I would have told you if you asked me before that night, how should I prepare? I would have said, “You’re gonna feel terrible” because it’s sort of— that is pretty much going to happen.

I think it’s very rare that somebody doesn’t feel terrible when this sort of thing happens so I would have told you to be ready for that. I just think that even so he could have, the second you said “Hey, I need some time, I need some space. Please give me some space”, he should have been like, “Okay, I’ll give you that space”. And the fact that he got angry and stormed off because you asked for space is really really concerning and that is the thing that worries me.

Now, the other thing and the last thing before I kind of will get into summarising my advice here that you also need to worry about is you are saying, “I’ve given the sacrifices. I’ve done this. I’ve done that”. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Because here’s the thing about sacrifices. A lot of times and all relationships, typically, you know will often require some type of sacrifice in some points depending on how long they are. Maybe they won’t.

It’s not completely unusual for there to be some sacrifice in a relationship. However, you need to be able to have that in a way that doesn’t create resentment. And the problem with this kind of attitude of like, “Okay, I’ve sacrificed so much. I can do one more sacrifice”, is that if you feel like you’re always giving and giving and giving to someone who doesn’t give back to you, that will create resentment. That will become a problem.

As much as you want to give a gift, and have it be a gift, the thing of it is is that if it is a situation where you feel like “Okay, I’ll give up this. Okay, I’ll give up that” and you really don’t want to, you’re just doing it to keep this person. Inevitably, you’re going to want basically repayment in kind for the things that you’ve sacrificed, even if you don’t think so now, it does have a way of creating this resentment.

And the thing that I worry about here is that you are so focused on his happiness that you aren’t really focusing on your happiness. I mean in a way you have had your topness needs filled by him and a lot of ways so that’s not an issue. But that doesn’t mean that you know you have no other needs, and that he should be able to behave the way that he’s behaved. So just make sure that you’re actually taking care of yourself. And that you’re finding ways to support yourself because even if he hadn’t behaved this way, even if he had been giving you space and been more receptive and understanding to your situation, you are still going to need that ability to take care of yourself because it’s going to be difficult.

You’re going to go through a lot of stuff in terms of being afraid of loss, all that sorts of things so you need that ability to take care of yourself. And you also need the ability to understand like… they call it in the UK they call it an MOT when you kind of like get your car checked up. But I don’t know if that’s what they call it in other places. I don’t drive so…. Can you do a check up on your relationship?

Are you satisfied with your relationship or are you in a sunk cost fallacy where basically you feel like you’ve given so much to this relationship that  you would kind of essentially lose all of your investments in the sacrifices you’ve made? And you don’t want to lose that so that’s why you’re staying in it. That’s never really good reason to stay in a relationship.

So it’s really important that you ask yourself, “Am I really happy in this relationship? Are things really going well for me in this relationship?” That’s really important to— even though there is a bit of a mismatch in terms of your wants and desires. That doesn’t mean that you get, you know, because you’re getting your needs filled as a top that you don’t have any other needs or that you’re completely satisfied,

With all that in mind, I think that the thing that you should do in terms of how you approach this—  I’m willing to understand if his reaction to you needing space, and his sort of jumping at the chance to go sleep with somebody else. I’m willing to understand that as a first timer error, and just you know him being excited because he has been with you for a long time. He’s really been unsatisfied for a long time, which isn’t your fault.

So maybe he did get a little bit too excited. I think that first thing you need to do is find a polyamory friendly couples therapist and talk about first and foremost, the issue with the divorce, and you two being on completely separate pages, when it comes to how you thought your relationship was going because that is really a problem and that is going to be a source of anxiety and fear for a long time.

I don’t necessarily think that it’s the divorce that sort of hanging over your head like a guillotine. I think it’s the fact that when he did ask for divorce you were on such different pages, and that created understandably a heck of a lot of anxiety for you. Because essentially it came out of nowhere, so what you’re afraid of is not necessarily a divorce. It’s that it will come out of nowhere. So you have to kind of address that first and foremost with each other.

Work on your communication issues. Have that discussion about… not necessarily ground rules. And always question your rules. Is this about preventing emotion? Preventing loss? Does this rule actually address the situation that it’s meant to address? Thinking about what your ideal relationship looks like— how will he go out and meet people? Is that something where he is actually going to develop relationships with other people?

What will you do if he starts to have emotions for somebody else? You know all this stuff are things that you both need to have a talk about, and he needs to be able to do that without, you know, getting frustrated and upset and having a therapist there can sometimes help with that. Also, maybe he needs to come to a better understanding of how to give you a little bit of space when you need it. I understand that it’s frustrating. You know when you want to tell your partner — maybe what he wanted to tell you, was that “Hey this can actually work!”.

And he is actually relieved because he was afraid you would have to break up but then it’s like, oh no I can go out. I can do this and then I can still come home and my partner still here and I’m really happy about that. It’s cool. It’s great that he’s happy but you’ve just sat there for like seven hours and understandably been freaked out and you need some space, so you need to work out things like that together.

I would say it does get easier in terms of those kind of raw emotions and that fear. It definitely does get easier when you rebuild that trust together, but you have to be able to communicate well in terms of “this is my boundary” or allowing yourself to sit in the discomfort and see that he’s still there and he’s not going anywhere. But you have to address that ultimate issue of the fact that you didn’t know that divorce was coming because if you didn’t know, if you had no inkling, then that just tells you that something else could be around the corner without you knowing and that is what is going to freak you out the most.

Also, last but certainly not least, just as a reminder, you have to be able to support and take care of yourself and maybe you should see a therapist on your own about your willingness to sacrifice things. I’m not saying that no one should sacrifice anything in a relationship at all. I do think that sometimes you know we make compromises and that’s okay. But you can’t be the person that’s always sacrificing, always sacrificing because as much as you might think now, “Oh I’m absolutely fine with this. I just want to make my partner happy,” if you are not being satisfied or if it’s not mutual, resent will build.

And that isn’t necessarily about you being a bad person. I’m a sacrificer too. So I totally understand. And it can feel really hard because later on you’re like, “Shit I gave up all this stuff and I’ve been trying so hard and working so hard and nothing is coming of it”. And then you almost feel like, “Am I secretly manipulative and passive aggressive? Did I only just give this person or did I only just work this hard to get something in return?” It can be really hard. It can be really difficult.

There’s lots of fucked up ness about it. I do think people can be naturally giving and naturally sacrificing and I don’t think that just because you end up in a situation where someone isn’t giving you the support that you need, it doesn’t mean you gave with the expectation that they were going to return— I mean everyone should have that returned to them by someone that they care about. It’s not manipulative to give something in a relationship and expect that that person will also be there to support you and be sad when they’re not.

But that sacrifice thing is a doozy and you need to be able to be really introspective about, “I’m going to sacrifice this with the caveat and know that okay— at what point am I going to say I’m done giving. I am not being supported in this relationship— And this isn’t necessarily about how much I’ve given—“ although that will absolutely frustrate you. But, “I am not being supported in this relationship so I need to start giving to myself”. And that’s really important for you to remember and for you to work on.

Right, yeah. I think I’ve summarised all the points. I don’t think it’s completely lost. I do think that if your partner continues on this path of just doing whatever, not talking to you about it and also getting mad at you for wanting to have your space, that is really not a good sign and then you really need to think about whether this is going to work. Because I think if everything was perfect and you had a partner who got angry at you for putting down a boundary and saying that “I need space and I need time,” that’s just a bad sign overall.

And not a good sign. Even if he were like, “Okay, fine I’ll never sleep with anybody else. We’re closing this up”, the fact that he got mad when you said, “I need space” is a huge problem and so if that happens again, you definitely need to think about other options unfortunately.

I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 57: Begging For Time

You’ve started in a new triad but you’re feeling like the third wheel and no one is spending time with you. What do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What is a gift you’ve been given that’s made you cry?

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

Episode 57 – Begging For Time

You’ve started in a new triad but you’re feeling like the third wheel and no one is spending time with you. 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:

Hello. I’m a 27 year old bisexual female who has been in a monogamous relationship for almost 2 years and we have been close for almost 5 years.

We both are Aquariuses and born the same year 2 days apart. We have been traveling homeless together for years and finally got together. We bonded right away because we are so much alike.

After almost 2 years, we recently met a girl who is really cute and down to earth. Me being bisexual, I want to have sex with a woman and the way I see it if I’m in a relationship with a man, if i have sex with a woman so does he.

So I met a girl who accepts both of us who we both like a lot but she had a boyfriend at the time. She is now single so recently we fooled around one time.

Two days later they decided they want her in our relationship. I instantly felt hurt. I agreed out of my love for him and out of curiosity because I have never been in a polyamorous relationship.

But I also told them I don’t know how it will go or how I will feel being that I’m very insecure and emotionally unpredictable. I believe that I have borderline personality disorder. So I constantly am either very mad, very sad, or very happy.

This has been going on for a month now and they are constantly in each-other’s space always making out or loving on each-other or finding ways to be alone but I am not getting the same love or affection. It feels that me and her are sharing him.

I am fine when we are all together or when me and him or me and her are together but when they are alone which is a lot of times they are constantly running to the store together or going to take a nap together or finding any way they can to be alone and it leaves me sitting in the living room alone.

Every time I feel very upset and often lash out or cry. I try to vocalise my feelings to them and somehow I’m selfish or I need to get over it. That I’m just insecure and need to calm down.

The last 3 days I’ve been asking him to have alone time with just me. Alone time with my partner that I have had for the last 2 years! And we work at home, so when she’s at work we are working.

The second she gets home he spends the entire time following her all around (we live at her house until we find our own place). So I’ve been trying to get him alone for 3 days. I’ve been on shark week for about 4 days so they have been having sex without me since I started. Also we switch off who sleeps at night together.

Day 1

I asked if we could have some time he said yes after work. She’s at work. Then once we got work done she requested he spends time with her. So he does…. I am left sitting alone. I got upset they told me I’m being irrational and need to stop. I cry. I’m still alone. We all go to bed together.

Day 2

She’s at work. I ask again. He says after work. So we work till 7 pm. We finally are done she asks him if he will go drive with her to a friends. He does. Again I’m on the back burner sitting here alone… He tells me we when he gets back we will. He promised me the 2nd day that we would. We never did. Me and him go to bed and I try to have sex. He lays there like a dead fish. No effort. I got upset and told him to at least pretend he is enjoying this. He said she’s sleeping. He doesn’t wanna be loud. He told me to get off of him. We went to bed.

Day 3

I ask to spend some time just us. He says yes. We finish working and fall asleep. When we wake up I ask again. He gets irritated and says I’m bothering him. At 2am they go to bed together, I asked them not to have sex until he keeps his promise. They get irritated but agree.

Today is Day 4.

Me and him slept in until she got home. I didn’t ask again today. Yesterday he mentioned in front of her that I’m bothering him about it and she chimed in that if I leave him alone he might try harder.  We woke up. He instantly went to the living room to give her attention didn’t even say good morning to me. She took a nap after work.

Hours later still nothing. I took a shower with him. We tried for a whole 2 minutes. He got soft. We got out of the shower and he said after we get out the shower but she’s sleeping. So she wakes up and she asks him to shower with her. They have sex even tho we have not still! And he tells me its ok. Don’t get mad. This is what you always do. So they fuck and its 3am and we still haven’t.

She’s now going to bed which means he wont want to. They’re talking about how we should try again in the shower and they don’t want a mess on the futon. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m being ran over. It was my relationship to begin with. She has made no effort towards me but is infatuated towards him.

Response:

So, okay, there’s a lot going on here.

Honestly, why are you with these people? I want to be delicate about this situation but it’s really really horrible. This is a really horrible situation. Really horrible. You’re being treated terribly here. I know that there is a kind of midway point between you know — people can overreact.

People can have very insecure, very instant emotional reactions to things especially in polyamory. Especially when there’s this attempted triad situation and it feels like there’s not a balance of time being spent between both people. But you don’t respond to that, by gaslighting somebody,

So it can be possible that two types of realities exist where, yes this person is having an intense emotional reaction that maybe they could learn to regulate themselves a little bit more and therefore not react so emotionally to the situation, because they are in a situation where they’re actually safe and they’re thinking that not safe while also — yes maybe we need to have a bit more of a talk about things and work things out.

You could be in a situation where this whole entire situation can be different and he could be spending equal amounts of time with you as you would with this person and you still get very upset. He still would be unjustified in saying that you’re irrational and that you just need to get over it.

That’s not an acceptable response, even if you are being irrational. Because people don’t regulate their nervous systems or learn to calm down or learn to trust or learn to feel safe with people who are basically telling them that they are being ridiculous. That’s not a response that helps anybody come to terms with a situation, and that may be how he feels and it may be frustrating for him, and that’s fine too. But in this situation in particular, you’re not overreacting at all.

You’re basically being ignored. You’re basically being completely rejected constantly and a certain amount of rejection will happen in any relationship. Most people are not going to always match up exactly when it comes to wanting to spend time together, when it comes to having sex. Two people aren’t always going to have matching identical desires so rejection is normal and will happen. That is fine.

However, when you’re constantly being rejected, not only for sexual things but also just for time spent with somebody that is going to impact you. And you’re going to be upset by that. And that is perfectly valid. And I think that the things that you need to ask yourself first and foremost — do you want to be with someone who you have to beg for them to spend time with you?

I feel this so hard, because I don’t know what kind of environment that you grew up in or what kind of situations you were around. But for me, I always felt like, if somebody wasn’t calling me names or beating me up, they were a good partner and that’s what a good partner was, and I always thought that anything that I wanted was an add on. Anything that I wanted wasn’t standard or acceptable.

And so I had, not this situation, but I had a similar situation where I was with somebody that I felt like every time I tried to ask them to spend time with me, or hang out with me or anything they would react with disgust, or frustration, or they just obviously didn’t want to spend any time with me. And because it wasn’t an overt rejection or an overt dumping, I put up with that for a very very long time.

Because I thought maybe if I just ask them right or hit them at the right time or if I— you know. I blamed myself for that reaction instead of realising, hey, do I want to be with somebody who isn’t enthused to spend time with me? No, I don’t. So, really think about that. You’re sitting there and even when it comes to sexual situations, you’re like “he could pretend to enjoy it”. Do you want someone who’s pretending? Do you really really want that?

Do you want someone who is with you out of some type of emotional manipulation or guilt, and who is pretending to like you? Do you really really want that? You don’t want to be around somebody who was only spending time with you because they promised, and all of the rules and situations like when you’re asking them not to have sex because he hasn’t had sex with you and he promised… while I totally get that, You’re not going to be able to fix his shitty behaviour by restricting what they do together.

And it’s not her responsibility or her fault that your boyfriend is behaving in this way, but she’s also not helping by basically contributing to your gaslighting by basically saying, “well maybe if you left him alone he would try harder” bullshit. Obviously, okay it’s fine for him to feel bothered by you if that’s how he feels. Okay he feels that way. But equally you need more time with him and if he doesn’t want to give you that, then he could also do something about that and he’s not.

Instead he’s telling you that you’re a irrational. Oh he keeps promising. Oh, we’ll do that we’ll spend time. This time we’ll spend time. He’s not being a grown up about it and going, “I don’t want to spend this time with you”. You know he could say that overtly to your face, instead he’s just pushing it off and pushing it off and then basically saying that you’re doing it wrong and that’s why he doesn’t want to spend time with you. Bullshit. Bullshit.

Ask yourself if these are the kind of people that you want to be in a relationship with? I know you’ve clicked with this person. You’ve been together for two years. Hopefully he hasn’t spent the entire relationship being this way but even if he hasn’t, he is now showing a side of himself that is really not great. If there’s any side of himself that’s basically going to

ignore you or treat you poorly then, do you really want to be with this person?

I think that there is an element and a part of, you know— you say you think you have borderline personality disorder. There probably is definitely things for you to work on in terms of feeling more secure, but this is like a perfect example of when I talked about how you can be the most secure person in the entire world, and have the best self esteem in the entire world. But if you’re with someone who’s treating you poorly, you’re still going to feel like crap. There’s no amount of self love, and, you know, self care that’s going to make up for being in a situation where someone is completely ignoring everything, and not treating you right which is what is happening here.

Of course there’s an element where you know you have some anxious attachment stuff going on, where you could work on that. But you need to work on that in an environment where you’re with someone who actually wants to be attached to you and someone who actually wants the best for you. You can’t fix that in a situation with people who don’t want the best for you or don’t care about you.

There’s a brilliant piece about— I don’t know if you’re familiar with nonviolent communication, but it’s a whole way of phrasing things that’s supposed to be really really helpful, and someone has pointed out how with nonviolent communication you assume that everyone who is communicating doesn’t mean any harm.

And how nonviolent communication can actually help abusive and horrible people because they do mean harm. And when you assume that they don’t mean harm, that is actually giving them a benefit of the doubt you shouldn’t give them. So you could work on all of these parts of yourself but you can’t do that in this environment. This is terrible, like I’m not saying he has to have sex with you every time you asked him to. I’m not saying yes to drop everything to spend time with you, but he needs to be better at communicating that he doesn’t want to and be more honest about that if that’s the case.

So then you can make a decision. “All right, do I really want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be around me?” This is such a bad situation. I feel so bad for you because you’re sitting here, begging for time for someone, and begging for attention from someone who is just like telling you not to get mad because he’s not meeting your needs and he’s also— this is like one of the most painful aspects that you can have in polyamory in my opinion and in my experience is seeing your partner give something to somebody else that you want from them that they refuse to give to you. That hurts so much.

That is so shit. And it’s so painful, and you’re sitting here watching him basically give time to her and give none to you. And that’s — ugh, don’t be in this situation. Honestly that’s my best advice. Leave, both of them. Both of them. This clearly isn’t a triad situation. Y ou didn’t even want to be in it to begin with. They just decided that this was a triad relationship, and no effort has been made on her part to form any kind of bond with you. So, just leave this situation.

It’s such a bad situation in so many ways that you deserve much much better than this. I feel so bad for you. This is horrible. You don’t deserver to be treated this way. This is absolutely terrible. These people— I’m sure that there are obviously positive sides to their personalities and, but this is a truly despicable way to treat somebody.

So to recap, ask yourself if you really want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you and who puts off being with you, who complains about being with you, who responds to your distress with annoyance and with gaslighting behaviour, basically telling you that you’re irrational. You can acknowledge and validate someone’s feelings in the moments even if they aren’t rational. If you feel like, “Oh, I think you’re gonna leave me”. Okay. You can, as a partner go, “It’s okay that you feel that way and I see that you feel that way. Here is why I’m not going to leave you. This is what I feel,” and, you know, that is a helpful response.

Saying you’re irrational and you’re just jealous and you’re just insecure and you just need to get over it. That is not a helpful response, regardless of whether or not someone is actually under threat of their partner leaving them. That’s not helpful regardless. Ask yourself if you want to be with someone who responds to your distress in that way, because that is rubbish.

And then, yeah. Last but not least, you deserve to be in a better situation than this, and you should absolutely leave because you didn’t want to be in a polyamorous relationship. This isn’t really a polyamorous relationship in my opinion. I’m not trying to be all no true Scotsman or anything but this isn’t— If you didn’t consent to it and you felt forced into it— It’s one thing to try polyamory because, and I think that you were open to the concept, but it just doesn’t sound like this was actually polyamory.

It just sounds like he wanted to be with this person, you know. Polyamory isn’t cheating with permission. That’s not what it is. This isn’t a situation that I would describe as polyamorous. This is highly unethical. And it’s hurting you. And you shouldn’t have to deal with that you should find someone who responds to your distress with empathy and compassion, who wants to spend time with you and who is excited to spend time with you. That’s what you deserve. You deserve someone who is ecstatic about spending time with you and you can find that and you will find that, but not with these two people.

So I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 56: Escalating Past a Metamour

Your partner is escalating your relationship and it’s making your metamour jealous. What can you do?

*A metamour is a person who also dates your partner who you do not date.

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

Discussion Topic: What does an “escalation” in a relationship mean to you?

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

Episode 56 – Escalating Past a Metamour

Your partner is escalating your relationship and it’s making your metamour jealous. What can 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. Discussion Topic – What does an “escalation” in a relationship mean to you?

 

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My metamour, Kay, suffers with depression and anxiety, I feel it would be unfair to omit this. They have been dating our partner, Pip, for a year longer than I have. My relationship (friendship) with Kay started to go downhill a year ago, after they found out that Pip and I were fluid bonded and regularly had sex without condoms. Kay has another partner with whom they are fluid bonded and have been for several years.

Since then Pip has suggested that we move in together, introduced me to their parents, and planned a big holiday for us to visit their relatives in another country. The last time I met Kay it was clear that they were blaming me for “plotting” these relationship escalations, even though they were all initiated by Pip (which it turns out they had failed to mention). Kay told me that they had a fear I was going to change to being monogamous and “drag Pip down with me”.

I feel it isn’t my fault that between the two of them they had never had any of these discussions about how their relationship could escalate, despite over 2.5 years of dating. I said I thought it was pretty normal to at least discuss these kind of escalations by that point in a relationship. Kay said “it’s always going to be unfair if one partner is always planning ahead then the other partner never even gets a chance.”

I feel really stuck in the middle here, and unfairly blamed. I don’t feel I can break it to Kay that all of these ‘life events’ were initiated by Pip. Then they would want to know why Pip hadn’t sought out the same things in their relationship. But I feel like I have to either do that or just pretend to accept some “blame” for things moving forward in my own relationship with Pip.

This all happened just before lockdown and I’ve had very little interaction with Kay since the climax of this whole saga. I know that this all makes the situation really awkward for Pip but I don’t know what to do to make it better. I feel like I don’t want any kind of relationship with Kay right now.

Response:

Right. So, initially when I’m reading through all of this, my first instinct is to be like don’t have any relationship with Kay. You don’t have to have any kind of friendship or anything with Kay. But the thing that kind of really bugs me about this entire situation is you are doing Pip’s work for them. And that’s really not cool. I would have just outwardly said straight to Kay’s face from the beginning that they started to blame me for all of this that this was initiated by Pip, and if they had a problem about their relationship with Pip, then they needed to go speak to Pip and not to me, because I have no control over that.

I would have outwardly said that. It makes Pip’s life awkward? Tickity tough. Okay? Pip’s life is awkward then and that is a

direct consequence of Pip not having those discussions with Kay. Especially if Kay is going to talk to me. If we’re going to talk, and we’re going to have a friendship and you’re going to start blaming me for stuff that’s not my fault, I’m going to immediately tell you who initiated this stuff. And I’m not sure why you haven’t done that.

Okay, it makes Pip’s life awkward. Big deal. Pip made Pip’s life awkward. The second that Pip decided not to have these discussions with Kay was the moment where Pip made Pip’s life awkward. Especially if Pip knew that you and Kay were talking. At what point does it make any sense? So, yeah, two things.

First and foremost, you are not required to have any kind of friendship or relationship with Kay if you don’t want to. And I know. I’ve gone through depression and anxiety myself. Anxiety is something that I’ve got. It’s tough. I get it. But that is something that you can, especially if the anxiety is technically kind of being caused by you (which it’s not really). But I can understand from Kay’s perspective feeling really anxious about the way that your relationship is escalating and feeling like that’s not happening to me and wondering why.

I can get that. That’s a totally logical reason for having that. However, if Kay is using you to voice these concerns, you can set your own boundaries and it doesn’t have to be like an either or situation. It doesn’t have to be like “Excuse me Kay. Fuck off. Never speak to me again”. Doesn’t have to be like that. But you can set very clear boundaries with Kay and it’s understandable they have anxiety. It’s understandable that they have these problems, but you’re not their therapist and you’re certainly not Kay and Pip’s couples therapist at all.

So you can very clearly say to Kay, “If you have a problem with what’s going on in your relationship with Pip, then you need to speak to Pip or a relationship therapist and not to me”, because that is unfair to you. It puts you in the middle of a situation that you have a stake in, and it would be no different if you and Kay and Pip were all friends, and you went to, I don’t know, Disney World with Pip and Kay was really upset because Pip had always said that they would take Kay to Disney World. And instead of going to Pip and saying “Hey why didn’t you take me to Disney World?” Kay came to you and said “Hey why the Pip take…”. It would be the same if you were friends.

You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of this, so don’t allow yourself to be. Put very clear boundaries down with Kay. You don’t have to be like “Fuck off forever and never speak to me again”. Because I do kind of think that, you know, maybe there are other things you have in common. Maybe even a casual cordial friendship is possible between the two of you. It’s just

that because Kay is using this as a means to voice their grievances and their relationship with Pip, it’s very difficult to be friends with that. So make that very clear and very known.

The other thing that that Kay said that you said, “it’s always going to be unfair if one partner is always planning ahead and then the other partner never even gets a chance”. The problem that I have with this kind of mindset, again we were discussing about the relationship escalator and about how there’s this thought process within monogamy where it’s like okay you meet, and then you are together, and then you decide to move in together and then you have babies, and then— you know all of that progression. The reason why that’s so complicated within a polyamorous framework is because some of that is contingent upon there being only one person who does that.

It’s going to be very hard for someone to live that kind of life and progression if it’s only one person. And the thing of it is, all of the relationship escalating things you’ve mentioned about like going on trips together, meeting their parents, and moving in — I mean, some of those things may be things that Pip only wants to do with one person, but they aren’t necessarily completely limited to one person. Like they could be things that Kay has done as well but if Kay wants to be the first and if Kay wants to be the only then that’s always going to be an issue. And that is something that Pip has to address with Kay, not with you. This is not your battle to fight.

So yeah, the first thing is that you need to set clear boundaries with Kay about what can be discussed. And if you have to get really blunt, and really honest about it then do, because it’s your right to say, “Look, I’m not involved in this”. You can’t control if Kay wants to blame you. There’s nothing you can control about that, but you can absolutely control how much you hear about this kind of stuff, and you can absolutely say “Listen, if you continue to have discussions with me about your relationship with Pip, and about how unfair you think all this is, then I will not speak to you anymore, because I am not the one who you should be talking to about this. If you feel like Pip is not treating you fairly then you need to speak with Pip and leave me out of it”. And you can make that very very very clear so that Kay either decides to stop speaking to you altogether, or decides to stop speaking to you about this.

The second thing that’s kind of going on here that I don’t think you’re really focusing on is that you are bending over backwards to make the situation easier for Pip. Why? Why are you doing that? Pip should be the one who’s talking to Kay about this, and you have that realisation. In your letter you’re talking about like, you know, Kay— all of these things were initiated by Pip which they had failed to mention to Kay and you don’t understand why in their 2.5 years of dating they have never had that discussion and it is not your fault that they’ve never had that discussion. It’s Pip’s fault, in a way. It’s also Kay’s fault a little bit. It’s like both of them.

Pip’s not doing anything and Kay is talking to you about it instead. They both need to stop it. And I kind of feel like you’re holding Kay super responsible in a way that you’re not holding Pip responsible. Pip should that share some of this blame as well. And you’re kind of just like “I don’t want to make things— All of this is gonna make the situation really awkward for Pip”. Tough shit. Like honestly, I do think you need to be a little bit more talking to Pip as well as telling Kay like “Look these are my boundaries. I’m not going to have this discussion with you. If you have a problem with the relationship that you have with Pip then you need to speak with Pip”.

Equally, you can go to Pip and be like, “Kay is talking to me about this stuff. You need to talk to Kay. You need to do that because I am not the one who’s going to be put in the middle of these situations. It’s not fair to me. You need to do the work that you need to do with Kay, so that this is addressed, and so that she stops coming to me. There’s something clearly going on in your relationship which is not my business, but it’s being made into my business. So please do something about that”.

You’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to hold Pip a little bit responsible because it isn’t your job to fix the situation. You say you don’t know what you can do to make it better. You can’t do anything to make it better. Pip is the person that needs to do something to make it better.

So to sum up, two things. First thing you need to put more boundaries in between you and Kay when it comes to discussing this. You can absolutely say, “I do not want to discuss this with you”, and you need to say that if that’s how you feel. And then Kay can either choose to continue whatever friendship that you would have had without this or Kay can choose not to talk to you, but either way you were allowed to put that boundary in.

Second thing, you need to give Pip some of the blame for this. Be a little bit more annoyed with Pip than you are with Kay because this is Pip’s relationship which Pip is not clearly not addressing, and you can say to Pip directly, “Kay is coming to me and talking to me about this stuff. Why? You need to talk to Kay. You need to figure this out because it’s not fair for me to be put in the middle of it,” and you can say that 100% to both of them. “It’s not fair for me to be put in the middle of this”.

If you have to sit them both down, I mean I don’t think you can do that with lockdown, but like if you have to sit them both down and be like, “I don’t want to be in the middle of this anymore. Discuss amongst yourselves,” you’re allowed to do that. I’m sorry. I’m just really annoyed on your behalf because you shouldn’t be put in the middle of this. This is absolutely… And the fact that you can’t even say overtly to Kay… like “Pip is the one who initiated this stuff”. Say that. Just say it. So what if it makes Pip’s life awkward? It’s making your life awkward and it’s not even your fault. You don’t deserve that.

Anyway, I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Episode 55: How Much is Too Much?

How much is too much to know about your partner’s other relationships? Where is the line?

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

Discussion Topic: Do you believe in first impressions?

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

Episode 55 – How Much is Too Much

How much is too much to know about your partner’s other relationships? Where is the line? 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 – Do you believe in first impressions?

 

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’ve started listening to your podcast on and off in the last few months.

One thing that I notice is a recurring theme in your advice is that you often say it’s none of their business to know all this stuff about any of the relationships that the letter writer is not involved in.

What I’m curious about is: where is the line? How much stuff is enough to know?

When I’m in a relationship with someone, it’s important to have *some* kind of understanding of each of our existing/potential relationships in order to navigate the dynamics that arise and even just from a logistical point of view when planning out time for each other.

When meeting someone new I want to know what kinds of relationship/s they have in their life so that I can see how they relate to their partner/s, what kinds of boundaries they may have in place, whether what they have to offer is something I am interested in. These are difficult things to figure out if there’s a cone of silence around all their other relationships.

One time my partner and I tried a mutual agreement of non-disclosure with our respective new relationships. In hindsight the complete lack of transparency was the biggest driver of it hurtling into disaster. Where we would normally give basic updates on how the relationship is progressing and how we feel about that person, there was absolute silence and we both projected our insecurities into that empty space. It was horrible. My partner and I learned the hard way that too little knowledge did not work, and had we been able to provide each other with the updates that we normally would, it would have headed off a lot of the insecurities that all of us were feeling.

So I guess I would like to know, in your opinion, what kind of stuff, and how much stuff, do you think is appropriate to know about the other relationship/s that your partner is in?

Response:

Okay, first of all, when I’ve said in my podcast or columns— when people have asked me questions and I’ve said “You know too much”, or “You’re too involved”, almost in every case, that isn’t what you’re talking about here. You’re talking about wanting to know about logistics, or things like that. There’s kind of an in-between between Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and knowing every single thing, beyond a point where it’s kind of like, is there any privacy in these relationships?

I’m not advocating for people to operate on a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell basis which is what it sounds like you were actually operating under. A very strict agreement of complete non -disclosure. That isn’t what I’m what I’m saying. That is pretty much Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, other than the fact that you may know that your partner is in this other relationship. It is kind of a don’t ask don’t tell setup. That’s not necessarily what I advocate. What I advocate is supposed to be contrary to the advice that or the instinct that people have to know everything about another relationship.

And I do kind of think that’s working in this situation that you’re describing. People tend to think that if they know everything about the other relationships that their partners are in, they can prevent something bad from happening in their relationship. The reason why I don’t think this is good is because, ultimately, there’s only so much you can control. You cannot control the relationships that your partner is in, and sometimes when you want to know about that relationship, it stems from a desire to want to counteract the anxiety by controlling everything, or wanting to know as if  that’s going to help you foresee something bad.

It’s a preventative measure, and what I’m saying is that, that can’t prevent it. When you are in a relationship with somebody and they’re in relationships with other people, those relationships that they have with other people should have a reasonable respect of privacy. It isn’t sometimes very fair when you know your partner is disclosing stuff about their other partners to you, to those other partners.

It’s a balance between the privacy of other people and also— sometimes I feel like people want to know those details because they don’t want to actually hold their partner accountable for their decisions. And it’s used way too much as an excuse. So for example, if you are dating Person B, and they are dating Person C, they could say to you that person C is getting really upset every single time this happens or that happens and what I feel like is going to happen is you’re going to blame Person C when Person B makes choices based on Person C’s actions, instead of going, “Okay, I get—“ You know your partner’s welcome to tell you that their other partner is getting upset yada yada.

But ultimately it’s them that’s making a decision based on that information. It’s them that is choosing— if they are choosing to change your relationship because of what’s happening in other relationships. The thing that I worry about with being like “This is what’s happening in this relationship and this is what’s happening in that relationship” is that rather than being used as a way to talk about dynamics, it’s being used as a way to blame other people, for what you are choosing to do. And that’s why I don’t particularly advocate it. I think that it’s— it tends to be a way that people use to try and avoid things, and sometimes I think it causes more problems.

Yes, you have filled this void of not knowing with your own insecurities, but knowing that isn’t going to solve the problem which is the insecurity. The problem really isn’t this void or what’s in it. It’s the fact that you feel like you need to have this information, and if it’s not there then you’ll put it there, in order for you to feel comfortable and safe and secure in your relationship. And I do genuinely feel like, regardless of whether you have no information and you’re putting information in there or you do have information, the initial problem is that you feel like you need to know this, to solve the fear and the insecurities and the doubt that you are experiencing, and that is the issue.

That is the real problem. Not whether or not that information is there. It’s the fact that you feel like there should be something there for you to feel safe and secure in your relationship but that is kind of what it boils down to. Now there’s different things that you mentioned along here. You said “It’s important to have some kind of an understanding of each of our existing potential relationships in order to navigate the dynamics that arise even just from a logistical point of view and planning out time for each other.” You can have a partnership with someone who communicates to you how they do relationships, without necessarily knowing tons about other people.

So for example if I had a new partnership and I would say, “Okay, this is how my life is organised. I have a partner that I live with. Generally speaking, that partner that I live with does tend to take up a lot of my time because we live together, and there’s logistical planning. However, in terms of how I do relationships, I am not a person who believes in prioritising anyone just because I’ve been with them longer”. So I would highlight to them that if they feel like I am not giving them the time that they need or if they feel like that I am prioritising my relationship with the person I live with over them, then they need to highlight that to me because that is not what I intended.

However, what I would say is that I do have a disability, I do have a condition which makes my energy levels low. I don’t always have access to the best transportation because I can’t drive, things like that. Like they have to — depending on where they live and where they are in their life — you know, if I if I had another partner that basically wanted me to be their primary, that wouldn’t work. I don’t have the time or energy for that. So it’s about figuring out what your individual preferences are, what your commitments are, what all of those things are.

I don’t need to tell them, intimate details about my partnership with the person that I live with in order for them to get a good understanding of what place they would have in my life, and I don’t even know what that would entail. Like what is it about my partner, and my relationship with the person that I live with that you would need to know in order to understand things? You need to be able to trust me when I say “This is the time I have. This is the place that you would occupy in my life. This is how I operate”. You would have to trust me in order for that to work.

Maybe you don’t immediately trust somebody’s word. You need to see it in action in order to get a good idea of it. So that is… that’s one thing I’d say about that. Somebody can pretend like they are and this is, this is actually— it’s quite funny that this comes up because for a very very long time I felt like relationship anarchy was just something that people who didn’t want to take responsibility used as a cover for, you know, to say I don’t have any priorities when actually they do. I have kind of since come to believe and understood relationship anarchy a little bit better and what it’s supposed to mean, even though I think that people don’t always use it to mean that in a similar way to anarchy in general.

People can lie about things you know. They can say, “Well, I don’t have any primaries. I don’t really…” you know, and then make decisions that counter that but the thing of it is, you can’t prevent everything. You can’t prevent yourself from getting in a relationship where your needs don’t match up, where somebody isn’t honest or maybe doesn’t even know. Like some people just aren’t self aware enough to know where they’re making their decisions and why. So that’s a possibility. And there’s nothing that you observing them in their other relationships or knowing any details about that, isn’t necessarily going to prevent that.

And you have to understand that part of entering into multiple relationships includes the risk that those relationships will end. That’s just part and parcel of the risk. So I still think that you wanting to know the dynamics of someone else’s relationship is partially a way to shield yourself from heartbreak, and you need to maybe— all of this is a very anxious response, which is understandable.

It’s totally understandable that you would want to try and protect yourself. That’s not a bad thing. But ultimately, this is creating a lot more problems than there needs to be. Now when you talk about you and your partner tried this mutual agreement of non-disclosure with your respective new relationships, the lack of transparency was the biggest driver of it hurtling into disaster,

Okay, you would normally give basic updates and how the relationship is progressing and how we feel about that person, but there was an absolute silence. We both projected our insecurities— how does another relationship increasing in terms of feeling and how you feel about that person how the relationship is progressing — progressing into what?

If you’re feeling this fear it’s because you haven’t talked about what relationship progression means. It means different things to different people. Are you on the relationship escalator? Is one of you expecting to marry someone else? Like, that’s the discussion that needs to happen. That’s what you need to work out with each other, is where you fall into each other’s lives and you have to trust each other to talk to each other if that changes.

But having regular updates. I mean, If someone asked me that like, “How is your relationship progressing? And how do you feel about that other person?” I would feel really… what do you mean progressing into what? I have no intentions upon getting married. I have no intentions of having children. I have no interest in purchasing property or any of the other sort of general milestones people have for “relationship progression”. So what does that mean to me?

You’re asking these questions because you’re afraid of your partner falling in love with somebody else and you being replaced. That’s what it feels like. And whether or not you have this information— I’m sure It felt great. I’m sure when your partner said “Well I don’t know if I love this person yet, but we’re seeing how things go”. I’m sure you felt very relieved by that. I don’t doubt that for a second, and I’m sure when you didn’t have that information, you started to panic.

But the issue is the panic. The issue isn’t the information being there. It’s the fact that you feel like you need this for some reason. Why? Why do you need that? Can you not work together to sort out your insecurities and figure out why you feel so anxious? How do you reestablish a relationship with each other that means that you don’t worry about things like that? You don’t need updates like that. You have to also accept that regardless of getting these general updates, at any point in time your partner could be like “No, I’m done. I’m done with our relationship”. These updates are not going to prevent that.

These updates are not going to shield you from that. It’s not  going to make it easier for you, even if you like— okay, your partner’s like “I just met this person,” next update, “I’m dating,” next update, “I’m starting to fall for this person,” next, update “I love this person”, next update, “I don’t want us to be together no more”. You really think that the progression of those updates is going to somehow prepare you mentally for losing that partner? It’s not going to.

Your brain is trying to help. It’s trying to do something with all of this fear, understandable fear that it has that you will lose your partner, but these updates aren’t going to— They will temporarily make you feel better, no doubt. No doubt. But you need to address the fact that you’re filling what you see is a void with insecurity— You need to address that and figure out how you counteract that insecurity, instead of just trying to feed the information in, because it’s, it’s not actually— it does make you feel better and temporary, but it’s a temporary solution.

It’s a band aid over gaping wound. It isn’t fixing the actual problem. And that’s why this situation devolved the way it did, because when you can’t— you know, you need that and you haven’t addressed the core issue. So when you don’t get that information for whatever reason and you might not. You might not get that information. You wouldn’t when you don’t get that information all of a sudden you’re filling it with insecurities and you’re scared so you need to figure out why it is that you and your partner— Either you know, if you felt insecurity on both sides which it sounds like that was the case.

You need to figure out how you build up more trust with each other, rather than trying to fill up with regular updates. You don’t tell me how long you’ve been with your partner so I’m not sure if this is necessarily new. And even if you have been with them for a long time, if you’ve just started trying out polyamory it makes sense as you would have all of these insecurities. But yeah, I can’t give you a hard and fast answer, of what kind of stuff and how much stuff is appropriate.

It’s not necessarily about what kind of stuff or how much stuff. It’s about what’s the purpose of it is? What is the point? To try and stave off fear and anxiety? Because if the point is trying to stave off fear and anxiety, I don’t think that’s useful, because in the long run, it won’t prevent anything, and sometimes knowing these details can trigger more anxiety. Sometimes if you’re, you know— if your next update is “I’m falling completely head over heels in love with this person”, then it might be your brain goes, “Wow. They fell in love faster with this person than they do with me. What’s going on?”

Sometimes more information is more for your anxiety to work with. Ultimately it comes down to what you and your partner are with comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with regular updates, then you know, who am I to tell you to stop doing that? If it’s not a violation of the privacy of the other person who is involved and you should always check that and you feel comfortable with that, then go ahead. But the one thing that I would just say is that it’s not necessarily about, you know, how much or what not to know.

It’s about whether or not it’s actually serving you to know. Is it actually solving the situation? Will it actually do what you are trying to prevent? Will it prevent what you’re what you’re trying to get it to prevent? Because usually I feel like people are sharing this kind of updates or sharing this kind of information in order to prevent something from happening that it cannot prevent. And that is why I tend to tell people that they’re too involved, because they’re trying to be too involved, to be able to stop their partner, leaving them, and ultimately they cannot do that through this method.

They can’t do it at all. If somebody decides to leave you, short of locking them in the tower, which isn’t really going to fix the situation, you can’t stop that. You can’t stop your partner from leaving you. You can’t stop your partner from falling out of love with you. None of that is a thing that you can control and temporarily as I said, if you haven’t already read it I wrote this article called “13 mistakes people make when trying Polyamory”. I suggest you check it out as well.  One thing that people tend to do is that their brain in these types of situations, says, “What can I do to keep this person in my life? Because I’m afraid of losing them. I know I’ll do X, Y Z”.

And it’s an easy solution. It’s much easier and nicer and less traumatic and less scary for your brain to think that if you do X, Y Z, then your partner won’t leave you. Now you can be a complete and total asshole, obviously, you know. The best thing you can do to keep your partner around is by being respectful person, treating them well, treating yourself well — all of those things. But outside of that there isn’t anything you can do and your brain will trick you into believing that you can do things in order to temporarily relieve some of that fear and anxiety.

But the problem with this is that in the long run, what this inevitably ends up meaning is that you lost that relationship because you didn’t do X, Y Z and other relationships that you’ve had, you’ve lost because you didn’t do X, Y Z. This mind kind of like temporarily anxiety relieving thing ends up really screwing you over in the long run because it blames you for the things that happen in other relationships that you could not control, and that’s the problem with that mindset. It doesn’t prevent the thing you want it to prevent and it ends up creating more blame for you.

So yeah, basically to sum up, there isn’t a hard fast rule, other than the privacy and respect for the third person and, or the other person or people that your partner is dating about what to disclose or how much to not know. The only thing you really need to consider yourself with is what will knowing this information do? What problem will this solve? And will it actually solve that problem? Because, in the example you gave, the problem is that, you know, you see this void. You’re filling this void with anxious thoughts and you think that replacing it with updates will fix it.

When the actual problem is that you feel like you need this information in order to feel secure in your relationship and that is the actual problem. And that is something that you should think about. How do we build security between each other? What is relationship progression? What does that mean? What is the end goal? What is the ideal situation for yourself and your partner? Do your ideals …. you know this is my ideal polyamorous situation and this is your partner’s — do they mesh up? Are you compatible? Because at the end of the day, you know, that’s kind of what you’re asking with a relationship progression.

You’re afraid of being replaced. You’re afraid of things changing. You can’t prevent that. You need to discuss with each other, what your situations are and if you want it to change and also respect that even discussing that and knowing that doesn’t mean it can’t change in the future. Shit happens. Life happens. The only thing that’s constant is change.

So, you can’t ultimately prevent it. You have to sit with that discomfort and be able to get used to it and trust your partner that if something were going to change in your relationship and change in your expectations that they would discuss it with you, and that they would be there to support you. Because if you don’t feel like that’s the case, then that is ultimately the bigger issue than knowing about what’s going on in other relationships.

I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Episode 54: Sacrificing Too Much

When you’re trying your best with polyamory but it feels like if you don’t get it right, you may get divorced.

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

Discussion Topic: Should you sacrifice for your relationship? What is worth sacrificing?

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

Episode 54 – Sacrificing Too Much

When you’re trying your best with polyamory but it feels like if you don’t get it right, you may get divorced. 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 – Should you sacrifice for your relationship?

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 married for almost 2 years now. I knew from the first month that he was into the polyamory lifestyle, which I was willing to investigate when the time was right for me. I come from strictly monogamous relationships, so it’s been rough on me.

I agreed to try and attempt his lifestyle, so he does not feel the need to suppress his lifestyle to make me happy or whatever his reasoning may be. We tried just having threesomes with no feeling attached, and it didn’t work for me. Seeing him involved with another was too overwhelming for me in that sexual matter. Even though it was equally decided and welcomed, I couldn’t do it. It broke me, mentally, for a little while. But I bounced back once I did my own research on polyamory and the benefits that can come with a relationship shared by us with the same woman. He strictly wanted FMF in which we all dated each other exclusively.

The first relationship went okay, but I couldn’t view her as my girlfriend. I could kiss her, but there wasn’t a feeling or connection to me. It felt as if I was just kissing a friend, who was a girl. I just felt like I lacked the friendship of a female companion and she gave that to me, because I really don’t have friends that I regularly speak or hangout with.

Shooting forward a few months, we talked about opening up again to another woman to join. I said I have no desire as of this moment to open up again, but it could change in the future. He came to me feeling he has “sacrificed enough” for this marriage and that we need to talk about if this marriage continues. I feel as if I am in a predicament here.

I love this man to pieces, more than I ever thought I could love someone. I don’t desire having someone, so I talked about him dating the said woman he had interest in all of a sudden. My issue is they have a past relationship from years ago and that makes things harder for me as well. I set boundaries that I would have if this was to start. But now, I’m second guessing myself. I don’t think I can do this type of dynamic but at the same time I feel as if I have to in order to stay married to the man I love. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t want to be unhappy either. This idea of him dating another, makes me extremely unhappy.

I’m at a loss, and I don’t know what to do. I want to tell him, but I’m so scared that he will just tell me to “leave then”. I would like some guidance on how I approach this situation and explain to him that I have changed my mind on it and that new feelings have erupted without sounding like a total bitch for changing my mind.

Response:

So there’s a lot of things going on here.

First and foremost — and I wrote about this in the article about the 13 mistakes people often make when they try polyamory — and it’s, you know, it’s splitting hairs a bit, but a closed triad, which is what your husband wants, a polyfidelitous triad that is closed isn’t— I mean, it is polyamory in a sense, but I think a lot of people would argue that polyamory specifically is about every person involved being able to have multiple romantic relationships as and when they choose.

And him sort of inserting that, not only do you have to be polyamorous which you’re already gonna struggle with if it’s not something that you’re automatically interested in, but you also have to specifically want to date the exact same woman that he wants… And she has to be interested in you both as well. This is a recipe for disaster, to be honest with you because— and it’s something— it’s specifically called “unicorn hunting”, which is something that couples who open their relationship do all the time.

They think it’s safer to find a bisexual woman who is interested in both of them magically who they likely will chuck if things don’t work out. It’s a huge phenomenon. There’s a website called “Unicorns-R-Us” specifically about this phenomenon. And I think it comes from a place of fear. I think that a lot of couples are, you know— When you go from monogamy to polyamory… Polyamory isn’t monogamy plus. It’s not an upgrade. It is a completely different way of doing things. It’s the difference between living in a city and moving to a rural farm and having to wake up and feed chickens every day.

It’s a completely— as you said— lifestyle, as much as I deeply despise the word lifestyle for no reasons that have to do with you. It is a very different way of doing things. And you can’t just go from monogamy and a monogamous mindset into, “Okay we’ll have threesomes and we’ll just add one more person to this dynamic”, as if that’s simple. So, already he doesn’t sound like a person who is familiar with polyamory or who has done the research. You’ve done the research, and you’ve attempted to do the research.

If he had done at least a little bit of research (and I’m surprised you wouldn’t have come across it as well considering it’s a very very very well known and despised phenomenon) you would realise that this desire for this polyfidelitous triad of two women and one man is very very typical, stereotypical, ridiculous and not realistic in any way shape or form. As you see through your experience. He found someone he wanted to date. You weren’t that interested. And that’s kind of usual.

Triads can form just by happenstance like, especially if you and your partner have similar sort of types, more or less, you can end up being attracted to your partner’s partner. They can end up dating you. It can happen organically but it should happen organically, and it should be that you are discussing the dynamics of this. But you’re not. He’s just sort of been like “Right, if we’re going to do polyamory it’s going to be a triad. I’m going to get another girlfriend basically and you like her too and that’s how it’s gonna be”. And that’s not really what you want.

It’s not only unrealistic for you to just totally be okay with seeing your partner have sex with another person in front of you —because a lot of people aren’t okay with that. And that’s fine. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, but then also to add the added pressure on top of the fact that you also have to want to date his girlfriend, it’s… yeah, it’s just not a good way of starting. It’s a bad, bad way of starting. It’s not safer. It’s just— it sounds like it’s just what he wants basically because he wants two girlfriends.

Like, I’m gonna be blunt. He doesn’t sound like he cares what you want. He wants two girlfriends, and he probably doesn’t want you to have another boyfriend, which is fucked up and stupid. And sorry, maybe I shouldn’t say it that way. It’s foolish. It’s foolish and smacks of insecurity. I mean just read anything on the internet about unicorn hunters… it’s just not a good place to be in.

I don’t think that your motivations for trying polyamory are necessarily bad but the thing that concerns me is the second thing that’s kind of a problem with this scenario. You are terrified of losing him. And so your motivation for trying polyamory is not that you have any individual personal interest into it. You just don’t want to lose him. And even in monogamy I think that being in a position where you’re willing to do anything to avoid breaking up with your partner is not a good place to be.

Sometimes, two people, as much as they love each other and as much as they want to be together, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you do have to break up. And sometimes when we are so desperate just to keep hold of a relationship, we end up doing things that hurt us more than if we would have just broken up when we realised we weren’t compatible. And that’s what worries me about this situation. You are willing to put yourself through anything if it means holding on to this relationship.

Even if this relationship might not be worth holding on to. You have to value the relationship that you have with yourself over any relationship, more or less. You can’t be willing to sacrifice everything for a romantic relationship. It would be one thing if it was your child and a person who depended on you to live, you know. That makes sense. It makes sense to sacrifice your happiness for your child because that’s kind of a part of parenting.

For a romantic relationship to another grown ass adult, like— okay yeah we make compromises with each other, but you are too willing to go through whatever hell you have to go through just to keep him in your life. And that’s not really a good place to be monogamously or polyamorously. It’s never a good place for you to be totally willing to give up everything about you and yourself, just to keep someone in your life, as much as I understand it. And I don’t think that makes you a bad person.

I think that that’s quite typical, especially if you’re a woman, to be quite honest. You are encouraged by society to give up everything for love and that love is the thing that you have to give someone else and that is where your value as a person lies. And no. It’s just something that you really need to think about. You need to care more about yourself and your mental health and your well being than being willing to sacrifice everything for this person. If you had a individual personal interest in non-monogamy or polyamory it would be one thing.

Like if you were like “Well, I’m interested in dating other people” or even “I’m just interested in sleeping with other people”— if you had a little bit of something or even “I like my alone time”, a little bit of individual personal interest can go a long way. You don’t have that. You don’t have any interest in polyamory or non-monogamy. You are purely doing it for him. And that is always not really going to work because, you might have a woman that

you really like and who is more than just a friendship companion for you. I mean, I’m trying to scroll back and see if— I’m assuming you’re bisexual.

Maybe you aren’t. I don’t know. I’m hoping you are, and he’s not just forcing you the date someone who you’re not going to have any interest in whatsoever but you may find someone you fall in love with because I do think that plenty of monogamous people can and do fall in love with multiple people. It’s just that that’s what they choose for the lifestyle that they want. And that’s legit. But you can’t force yourself into this situation, especially if you have zero personal interest in it. You have zero personal interest in it. It’s just not going to work.

And the last thing, which is certainly not the least thing — the biggest problem I have with this entire situation is the way that your husband is basically twisting your arm. Now, polyamorous people can end up dating monogamous people, and they can go, “You know what? I want to do polyamory, but I really like this person and I want to keep them in my life so I’m going to give up polyamory essentially for this person”. And the thing is, is that if you decide to do that, that’s fine. You can later on down the line go, “Hmm, actually, I thought that I could do this but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

What I have a problem with is specifically his comment about how he has “sacrificed enough” for your marriage. That gave me rage face like… sacrificed enough for your marriage? You are the one that’s been sacrificing. You are the one that has been trying polyamory, even though it’s not something that you want. You are the one who agreed to his weird triad dynamic, which I don’t know, maybe you had an interest in. You are the one that’s been sacrificing. And then the second that, you know, you’re talking about opening up again, and you’re like, “ooh, I don’t know if I want to do that”. Now he’s like, “oh, I’ve sacrificed enough!” What the fuck? What the fuck, honestly?

Because here’s the thing, if he approached you and you entered into a relationship, and the marriage, and you were like, “I’ll try polyamory, but I don’t know if it’s for me”. At that point, he should have been like “Okay, there’s a chance that this person will not be into it and we will have to go back to monogamy”. He has to accept that when he decides to be in a monogamous relationship at first with you and you try polyamory, there is a chance that you will find them you went into it, that’s legit.

If he wanted to be with you and he was fine accepting a monogamous marriage and doing all that in the beginning, then he should have accepted as well that there was a chance you wouldn’t be into it. But here he is later on down the line, talking about how he sacrificed enough for this marriage. And that basically threatening you with divorce if you don’t do what he wants. And it’s one thing for him to be like “Okay you don’t really want polyamory, I have figured out through this experiment that I actually really do want it, and I can’t do monogamy so now’s where we should really separate”. That’s one thing.

That’s a mature decision. An unfortunate and sad decision definitely but a mature one for him to make and go “Okay, you know, it’s not really something that I want”. Fine. That’s fine. For him to turn around when you say, “Look, I’ve tried polyamory thing. I don’t think I could do it. It’s upsetting to me. And it breaks my heart” and for him to go “Well then we’ll just have to talk about where this marriage is going to go”. What the fuck? Like honestly I’m furious on your behalf. He’s basically— he is threatening you.

And you need to ask yourself if this is the kind of person you want to be with. Like honestly it’s not even like— I’m not even going to get into the fact that the person he’s interested in having a relationship with is someone he has a history with. That’s neither here nor there. That’s an issue that could have been handled separately to this, but the fact that he is literally saying that he sacrificed enough, like… Fuck you. If he didn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship with you then he shouldn’t have gotten married to you. I don’t know what was agreed on from the— I mean you said you knew he was interested in polyamory, but he had to accept when he was going to be married to someone who hasn’t got an interest in it, that if they try it, they may not want it.

And he has to have the maturity, if he desperately wants polyamory and doesn’t want to do monogamy, to say to you. “Okay, you don’t want to do this, I do. Clearly we need to break up”. That’s different than “Well we’ll just have to talk about how the marriage is going to continue”. That’s so shitty. That’s so shitty and it’s putting you in the position of having to break up with him, which isn’t fair. Like it’s just not fair.

You don’t want to do this. Like point blank, you don’t want to do this. And if he does, then he should be one to at least say, “Hmm, maybe this isn’t going to work out then” in a nice way or you know even if he didn’t want to make the official cut and dump you— understandable. It’s very different to having a conversation with one another and saying, “Oh my god, well, I understand you don’t want to try this”. And he should be willing to listen to your boundaries. He should be doing as much work as you’re doing to try and make something work but he’s not. He’s not, and it’s just such a trash situation.

Because to be quite honest with you, even if you went to him and was like, “Actually, do you know what? I definitely can’t do this. That’s where I’m going”. Even if he were to be like “Alright then I guess I’ll give it all up”. I don’t know if you should stay with him at all. Even in a monogamous situation, you need to really really look at this. This is a person who is 100% fine with threatening you in this way, and ask yourself if that’s someone that you really want to date and be married to.

If he’s willing to do this to you over polyamory, What else is he willing to do in terms of threatening you to get you to do what he wants you to do? Like, really, really think about that, and I know you don’t want to leave him. But, like, honestly, do you really really want to be with someone who treats you this way? This is an appalling way to treat somebody. It’s really gross. If you come to him and say, you know, you say you’re scared to come to him and tell him you don’t want to do this and he’ll say “Leave then”. Why doesn’t he leave? Why doesn’t he leave then?

But he’s putting it on your shoulders. It’s such a shitty way to behave like, really, and you think you sound like a bitch. You think you’re a bitch for not wanting to do polyamory when you, from the very start were monogamous and didn’t have any interest in it, and at least gave it an attempt, and it doesn’t work for you, but you’re somehow a bitch for that? How does that work? You’re not a bitch for that. You’re not a bitch for changing your mind. You’re allowed to change your fucking mind like come on.

Honestly just think about this for a second. You are allowed to have the life that you want to have. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re not a bitch for changing your mind. And the fact that like he’s just willing to let you sit there and be miserable. If you didn’t break up with him and you just said, “I don’t want to do this”, and he just shrugged and went ahead and did it. That is a person who was totally fine with you being miserable as long as he gets what he wants from you — is that someone you really really want to be married to? Like, think about it, just for a second.

Because I do think that if you just step outside of the situation and stop being mean to yourself. Stop thinking that there’s something wrong with you for not wanting to do this. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just because you don’t want to have another girlfriend in between the two of you, just because you don’t want to have threesomes, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. That doesn’t mean there’s some sort of character flaw that you need to work out. That doesn’t mean that you’re broken or that you’re too jealous or you’re too insecure. Sometimes you can just not frickin be into it. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

So if you just take a step back and go “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with me, this is just what I want. In the same way if I didn’t want a suburb, or you know did want to have kids or didn’t want to have kids” — like if you put this situation in the frame of wanting to have children, and he wanted to have them and you didn’t, or you wanted to have them and he didn’t. Imagine thinking you’re a total bitch if you change your mind about having children. You’re not a fit for that, or thinking that like, you know, he’s sacrificed enough if you’ve changed your— like this is just… Yes, I’m going to be going on and on about this because I’m furious on your behalf.

It’s absolute ludicrous for someone to treat you this way and you should not put up with it under any circumstance. So, let me try to sum up, without going into a big whinge again. One. His whole concept of this triad ideal, this polyfidelitous triad is unrealistic stereotypical. Look up unicorn hunting. It’s a thing. It’s it’s not a realistic thing, it’s not safer and it’s not necessarily better. And that’s also just generally not an open thing to just— basically what he wants is to have another girlfriend who you also like, and you don’t get to have anything else and that’s not fair. So it’s just completely unrealistic, borderline misogynistic. It’s codswallop basically.

Second thing is that you don’t have a true individual motivation for trying polyamory. What you have is a fear of losing him. And that, in and of itself isn’t a good motivator. And the problem is is that your fear of losing him is going to make this situation hurt 10 times more than it would if you just ended it, as much as that may or may not sound logical to you in this moment. It’s actually the truth. Dragging it out long, forcing yourself to witness things like him sleeping with other people, kissing with other people, you trying to form a relationship with someone that you just don’t feel anything for— It’s also not fair to that third person.

You don’t have an individual motivation to try polyamory, and that in and of itself is going to cause you a huge amount of struggle because you there isn’t anything, especially in the closed triad situation where you’re just supposed to like this other girl and you don’t get anything else out of it. There’s truly no motivation for you to want to do it as an individual, which is going to spell disaster.

And last but not least, this is somebody who was threatening to end your relationship if you don’t do it, and won’t even have the courage and the decency to realise that you both have different wants in life, and to do the right thing which is to initiate a breakup as an end is instead attempting to twist your arm into doing polyamory, and you really, really need to ask yourself if someone who is perfectly fine with forcing you into a dynamic that you are unhappy and uncomfortable in if that is really the kind of person you want to be married to.

Because that person isn’t treating you right. You know you can’t help it if he’s really into polyamory and you’re not. You really can’t help it but you can handle that situation in an adult and decent way without forcing someone into it. Forcing someone into polyamory doesn’t work, and it isn’t really polyamory. It isn’t really open and isn’t really consensual. It isn’t really anything that most polyamorous people would say is part of the tenants of polyamory. It’s the opposite of that. You know this isn’t polyamory. This is like a harem he’s trying to grow. So you really need to ask yourself if this is the kind of person that you want to be married to, because, even as I said, and I’ll say it again. Even if you were to go to him and call his bluff and say, “I don’t want to do this”, even if he were to say “Okay fine. I won’t date her. I’ll just be monogamous”.

I would still really really think about — because if he’s showing this behaviour now, with regards to this, unless he is saying, “I shouldn’t have done that, I apologise for that. And I’m going to therapy or I’m going to do X, Y Z to address that behaviour and stop that behaviour”, unless he is fully willing to apologise and not do that again, you need to be aware that he is going to do this in the future. It’s not a one off thing. If he’s perfectly fine with twisting your arm into doing this, then he will twist your arm about something else. And you need to think about if that is something that you really want in your life, and if you deserve to be treated that way because you don’t.

I hope that helps. Sorry for my rantyness, it’s just, yeah, I’m really annoyed on your behalf. I hope it helps and good luck.

Episode 53: Forgiving Mistakes

You have a metamour who thinks someone you’re dating is a bad person. What do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What do you think about forgiveness? When should one be forgiven?

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

Episode 53 – Forgiving Mistakes

You have a metamour who thinks someone you’re dating is a bad person. 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. Discussion Topic – What do you think about forgiveness? When should one be forgiven?

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 married, and my husband has two other partners in addition to me: his partner Anna of 3 years, and Lisa of 1 year.  I get along well with both his partners and hang out with them semi-regularly. On my side, I have one other partner I’ve been dating for several months now, Zach.  When I first met Zach several months ago, we instantly clicked.  He seemed very thoughtful, mature, and we had great chemistry. After our first couple dates, he briefly met my husband at a party we were all at, and my husband said he felt “good vibes” from him.

A few days after that party, my husband had a date with Lisa, and he told her about meeting Zach.  Afterwards, Lisa contacted me and said she wanted to talk to me about him. When we spoke, she was really upset and was crying. Apparently, Lisa briefly dated Zach a year earlier, and they saw each other for a couple months. She told me that he violated a boundary of hers twice. She wasn’t comfortable telling me exactly what that boundary was, but she said she felt very manipulated and didn’t think he was a good person.

Obviously this was super concerning to me, but it was also confusing. In my few interactions with Zach up to that point, he’d been respectful of my boundaries, very communicative, and very careful. What’s more, my husband’s other partner, Anna, was seeing him casually at the time I met him, which I took as a good sign. I decided to continue seeing Zach and to form my own impressions. However, I took Lisa’s words to heart and proceeded with caution. I also asked Lisa what her boundaries were if I continued dating Zach, and she said she didn’t want to be around him at all, and didn’t want him to contact her. And I agreed to honour that.

Lisa had also told my husband that Zach violated her boundaries, and of course, my husband was upset by this. It made him understandably uncomfortable with Zach.  In the past, my husband has been friendly with my partners and has been open to hanging out with them, but after talking to Lisa, he didn’t want to engage with Zach any further.

Fast forward several months, and my relationship with Zach has grown. I’ve been moving very deliberately and slowly, because I was worried NRE would cloud my judgement. But he’s been 100% respectful of my boundaries; we have excellent communication, and I feel very safe with him, both physically and emotionally.

Because of this, my husband has become more comfortable with Zach, and he appreciates how he’s been a good partner to me. But he still doesn’t personally want to engage with Zach at all because of Lisa.  Lisa really values loyalty, and my husband told her that he wouldn’t pursue a friendship with Zach out of respect for her.

But as my feelings for Zach grow, I’m wanting to bring him into my life more. I recently asked my husband if he’d be willing to meet up with Zach and his primary partner (who I’ve met and love), but my husband isn’t comfortable with this. He’s worried that if he hangs out with Zach at all, Lisa would view it as a betrayal, and he’d be compromising his integrity. I know you can’t force your partners to hang out and be friends, but I also feel like my husband hasn’t given Zach a real chance. The only interaction my husband ever had with Zach was at that party all those months ago.

I don’t need my husband and Zach to become besties, but I would like to be able to all hang out together on occasion, like I do with his partners, and like my husband has done with my past partners. Also, it’s going to be hard to involve Zach in my life more if I can’t bring him around my husband.

I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do. I’m trying to respect everybody’s boundaries, and I understand why my husband feels uncomfortable.  But I also feel like I can’t grow my relationship with Zach the way I’d like to because of his history with Lisa.  My husband and I still don’t know exactly what happened between the two of them, but the shadow of it is having a very real impact on both my relationships now.

Response:

Now I want to say before I start that you did send me a little bit of extra information which you didn’t necessarily want me to divulge. I’m not going to divulge too much of it but one thing that I do think is really important to this is that you did highlight that there is some BDSM elements that are involved in this and I think that is actually really, really important so I do think that needs to be part of my response.

I’ve been in this situation so many times, both like as a person who has experienced some unsafe behaviour from someone and as a person who is friends with someone who has experienced unsafe behaviour from someone. I’ve been in this situation, and it is quite difficult and this quite frustrating. There may be a situation where you accept that. Zach just won’t be able to hang out with your husband, and that is what it is. That might be preferable to what I might suggest here. Because the thing about me, if I place myself into this situation, I really don’t like tiptoeing around things.

And while I wouldn’t want to press Lisa about what happened to her, based on the information that you’ve given me, I feel like I would really, really want to know, and I would really, really have a hard time— it’s not necessarily that I wouldn’t believe Lisa because her experience is her experience. But it’s the fact that, especially with the BDSM element that you mentioned — and even I think without the BDSM element — people fuck up. People make mistakes. And people have to be given some ability to atone for those mistakes.

It’s not a sustainable community solution. And I know that it’s a big thing especially within BDSM communities to be like “As soon as someone’s abusive we chuck them out and the community is all safe”. It’s not a sustainable solution. It’s really not, for all people because you create this environment and myself and any autistic person will be able to tell you there have been so many times when we have fucked up. We have broken some type of social rule. We have messed up, and not understood and people have responded by isolating us. And they have responded by kicking us out of spaces, sometimes not even telling us what we did.

I have gone through this on a social justice level of going into places, making mistakes, as we’re wont to do, and people’s responses, either being kicking people out, just absolutely trying to verbally eviscerate them, or just you know, as if we’re not yelling at people for the same mistakes that we made. I know this is a boundary violation. I know Lisa is upset about this. And I’m not saying that you need to force Lisa to confront Zach, but a frickin conversation needs to happen here. It just needs to happen.

And it’s a conversation, not necessarily between Lisa and Zach but a conversation between you and your husband and Lisa and Anna. I just I feel like it’s a little bit, you know… nobody’s talking, and we’re all trying to— and the thing that makes me a little worried is that I have witnessed people utilise this element that we have created— like I said in the discussion question I talked about. We, we need to stop recreating these unjust systems.

We live in a society that has an unjust system, a system that takes people who have done wrong things and bad things and I’m not saying that you know, yay, murder is great! No, but what I’m saying is that the system isn’t a just system the idea of separating a human being from from everyone, and closing them often segregating and humiliating them isn’t always a just solution and isn’t sustainable, you know.

Lisa’s still upset. And maybe there’s a conversation that can happen where Zach can understand that what he did was wrong and if he is someone who was willing to listen, if he is someone who is willing to say “oh shit I’m sorry”. You have to at least give somebody that chance. Like, you know, I’m not trying to tell you to tell Lisa what to do. Lisa has to decide. She’s perfectly in line to say, “Listen, I don’t want to hang out with him. I don’t want to be around him”. I’m in the same way about some people.

People who I gave the chance to apologise, who did not apologise and who decided to continue their behaviour. I wish the best for them, but I don’t want them near me, and I have the right to say that. However, when it becomes about “loyalty”… I just feel like that is… that is something that needs to be discussed. It’s not about telling Lisa that she has to tell Zach that he did something wrong, so that he— I mean… I feel like given the additional information that you’ve given me about exclusion from communities and spaces… I just feel like people fuck up. If he hasn’t apologised for it then you need to dump him. If he’s been told that he did something wrong and he refuses to acknowledge it, even if he’s nice to you, I think I… yeah I’d be done with that. And it’s hard because nothing’s happened to you thus far with him.

But it sounds like, from the additional information that you sent to me, that he has no fucking clue that something bad has happened. Maybe there is a Lisa out there for me. Maybe there is someone whose boundaries I’ve violated who is not telling me that. I can’t fix that. Nobody can fix things that they don’t know about. I’m not the kind of person that would be like “Okay. Fuck you, I don’t care”. Like, I’m not that kind of a person. The second that I find out that I fucked up, I try my best to apologise. I don’t get it perfect. I’m not perfect.

But in the past in situations where I have— someone’s basically told me “You have violated this boundary. You made me feel bad or you did this”. I have tried to apologise. I’ve done my best, and I have tried to learn from that experience. You kick somebody out of the community like this and especially if they don’t know, like, if they are– if they don’t apologise and they refuse to listen then fine, I don’t have any problems with saying, “Fuck this person then”. If they can’t be arsed to be, you know, if they if they can’t be arsed to actually say that they’ve done something wrong and actually do something about it, then that’s fine.

It doesn’t sound like this has been a situation with Zach. I’m not saying he didn’t fuck up. He probably did. There is a brilliant person on Instagram named KinkyBlackEducator, I believe that’s their Instagram username and basic guides about BDSM that they put out talk about how consent violations can and do happen. And we just have to talk about it in some way. And like… again, I’m not telling you that you need to tell Lisa that she has to confront Zach. That’s not what I’m saying. But you got to talk about this loyalty thing.

You can totally honour the boundary of not having to have Zach   anywhere near Lisa. That’s fair. But it’s not fair for your husband to basically feel like he can’t be friends with Zach and can’t even interact with him without that being some insult to Lisa. Like that has to be discussed. And maybe in that discussion you can put forth the point that in your interactions with Zach and surely in Anna’s interactions with Zach, he’s never done anything and it’s not to say you don’t believe her but it’s that maybe he would apologise. Maybe all of this trauma could be resolved, or at least some type of justice can happen, rather than just, you know, locking him away. Maybe we can actually solve the problem. You know what I mean like, I just think that that is to me what accountability is and what needs to happen more often in communities that isn’t happening in so many communities.

In so many communities, it’s like you fuck up once and BLAH. I just feel like, especially when you’re talking about, you know, nobody walks out of the womb knowing how to, knowing all the tips and tricks on everything. We all fuck up. We all make mistakes. It is not—Yeah, Okay I’m going on and on about it. Basically you get my point. I think that you can make that point. It just doesn’t work. And this is a good example of why it doesn’t work because now your husband is insulting Lisa by being friends with Zach and we— that conversation just needs to happen. And you need to figure out if that is actually how Lisa feels and understand that there are multiple situations I have been in Lisa’s situation.

I have had somebody who… actually I think I was lucky enough to—  thank my lucky stars I never had a scene with them but I have, I have been around somebody who showed me that they were very unsafe. And this was somebody who was a community leader. It was somebody who everyone loved, because they were very charming and charismatic and it felt like I couldn’t go to any community events they were at. It felt really hard because I didn’t want to, at the time I didn’t want to get them blackballed from anything.

I didn’t want to get them kicked out of anything, but I was frustrated by the fact that this person was continuing to mistreat people, and nobody was holding them to account. And so I can totally understand how Lisa feels. I think I asked you in a follow up questions to get a gauge on whether or not Zack is kind of popular and has some social capital to get away with treating people like shit constantly again and again and again without any— That’s the thing about this like a thing that we like to think that we do, which is that we get rid of people who are toxic, but I don’t think that that’s always true.

I do think that sometimes people have the social capital and the privilege to get away with being toxic again and again again without, without any consequences. So I understand being in that position. I understand.  I tried to avoid putting people in the position of defriending somebody just to prove their loyalty to me because I don’t like that. That loyalty thing is a bit… It’s a bit suspect, to be honest because. Yeah, I just, I just feel like even in that situation I understood why people were friends with them. I understood why and even in my personal life situations where people have sexually assaulted me, I didn’t necessarily blame people for still being friends with the people who sexually assaulted me.

So, I don’t think accountability and justice comes in the way of just completely isolating a person, especially if we if they’ve never been given the chance to actually know that they fucked up. And this is the kind of thing that I just think, you know, I feel like I’m going on and I don’t know if that’s really helpful. I think that that is something that’s worth talking about with Lisa, having that discussion with her. If she gets to a point where she’s like, “No, nobody your husband can’t—“. Basically tells your husband, who we can or can’t be friends with or threaten— you know then your husband has to make that decision.

I think I’d feel very uncomfortable… I feel very uncomfortable with people telling me who I can and can’t be friends with, because that isn’t a good sign for any kind of relationship. Any partner telling you who you can and can’t be friends with or basically creating a situation where if you’re friends with somebody, then they— I just yeah I just don’t think that that’s a good situation to be in.

So it’s a discussion that you and your husband need to have with Lisa potentially with Anna there too because she has also dated Zach. And I think that that’s an important key factor. And then I think that you’re going to have to think about a future where Zach can’t be as involved in your life, and you’re going to have to think about whether or not you want to tell them why. I would really really struggle to not tell Zach why. Like, I just would even if I thought it might lead him to have a discussion with Lisa, as much as she wouldn’t like that, I kind of feel like I would have— I would feel like that’s dishonest for me, like, like what am I going to say? Like how? Yeah, I just I think you need to think about are you going to tell Zach, because I think he will notice. I mean unless he’s the kind of person who’s like “Ahh I don’t need to be friends with your husband. I don’t need to hang out with all you whatever. It’s fine”.

If he’s that kind of a person then you kind of don’t really have a problem. It’s more or less just unfortunately, you’re in that situation. But if he does want to be involved and you’re sort of like “Nah, you can’t come to my house because…”. You have to keep making up excuses that basically creates a situation where you’re lying to him. And I yeah I would, I’d really struggle with that. I would just have to be honest with him and tell him like. I just couldn’t pretend like everything was fine when it wasn’t. So yeah, let me try and wrap up, and some up in some kind of way because I know I’ve just— this is a subject that I feel a lot about because I’ve been in so many situations and it’s a thing that I feel like, especially social justice communities we’ve— It’s just a thing that happens and I’ve seen…

I’ve been the person who is sick and tired of someone who has all of the social capital and treats people like shit continuing to be allowed to be in charge of everything. I’ve been the person who has, you know, been told that they fucked up three years later after the fuckup happened and just felt so frustrated that they just didn’t tell me when it happened and I could have apologised then and feeling all of this self hatred and shame for a mess up that I did and trying to learn better and am better now but just, yeah, I’ve just been on all sides of this. I’ve also witnessed people, people I care about, you know, get doxxed online because somebody decided to use these types of communities against them so I have a lot of feels.

Anyway, sum up. Let’s sum up and shut up. It’s a conversation you need to have with your husband and Lisa basically is what I feel like, and you need to figure out this loyalty thing, and figure out if Lisa can understand that you haven’t had a problem with Zach, Anna hasn’t had a problem with Zach, your husband hasn’t had a problem with Zach, you will not be forcing her under any circumstances to be around him in any way shape or form. But you have to be able to do your stuff on your own. It’s not fair for her to tell you all who you can or can’t be friends with, and you will be keeping a close eye on him.

And maybe offer some type of community accountability process, where if she doesn’t want to confront him maybe you guys can. Maybe you can make him understand what he did. And then, if she lets you do that, maybe you can see if he’s apologetic or not and if he’s not apologetic and maybe this whole point is moot. Because you’ll basically be like alright well you know that you’ve done this wrong and you don’t care. That will kind of make you figure out if he’s really safe or not to be around because just because— and I will add this as a major addendum, just because he’s been safe around you thus far does not mean he will not change.

There is a book which I constantly, constantly, constantly recommend called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft and I think that every single person should read it. Like it’s such an important book and it explains to you how abusive natures work. And there’s one thing in the book that’s just, like— there are a lot of abusive men who don’t get abusive until their partner is pregnant. How’s that for a mindfuck? Just because he’s not been horrible to you, doesn’t mean he can’t be. So, that is a very real thing.

It’s also very very very important that you not treat Lisa as if she’s lying. It’s important that you acknowledge her and  I feel like you have done but throughout this process of having this conversation with her. It’s important that you don’t take her complaints lightly. And last but not least I think that you need to accept that there may be a situation where you are just not, you know, Zach is not going to be in your life in the same way. Like if Lisa says, “Absolutely not. I consider it betrayal. I consider it a problem. I don’t want you interacting with him”, and your husband decides to comply with that. Then you’ve got to decide what you’re going to do. Are you going to be fine with that?

I mean, you might have to accept that that’s where the situation is. And if you decide to accept that’s where the situation is, then you know, are you going to tell Zach? Are you going to not tell him? So, I mean you don’t even know what it is technically that he’s done but you need to think about that as a real possibility if Lisa decides like “Nah I’m not I’m not having it”. Which is fair enough for her.

I’m trying to sum it up. I think that the loyalty thing is, and I don’t know— is this something that she’s actually said? Has she said “you cannot be friends with Zach” or has your husband just assumed that she would be upset if he was? So, you know, that’s why this conversation between all three of you needs to happen, because it’s— maybe everyone’s going on hearsay and no one’s actually having a conversation about it. And so that needs to happen. I tried to sum up, this is a… this is something that really affects me so it’s kind of hard for me to keep things 100%, like straight in my head, but I’ve tried to set everything up.  Hopefully this helps and good luck.

Episode 52: Anxious After Marriage

Anxiety can often become so overwhelming that you begin thinking non-monogamy just isn’t for you.

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

Discussion Topic: What is your ideal living situation? With or without partners? How would you organise your space?

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

Episode 52 – Anxious After Marriage

Anxiety that’s so overwhelming can make you feel like non-monogamy isn’t for you at the time. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is your ideal living situation? With or without partners?

 

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 identify as queer and genderfluid, am in my thirties and recently married my partner. They are from the UK, we live in Berlin and think about having a child. So this has been a practical decision mostly. However, this process was also very emotional. We had a really lovely weekend celebrating with many different people in our lives. I felt really out and open and vulnerable doing this. They are the first person my mum met.

I came out as queer when I was 16 and my mothers reaction was just generally horrible. So horrible in fact I did not involve her in my life beyond talking about weather, work and studies. I have been living non-monogamous since I am 19 and started being part of queer, kinky and sex-positive spaces in my 20s. This was a very important part of my life, discovering the possibilities of queer bonds, love and intimacy. Last year, I was finally able to start therapy and starting to deal with childhood trauma – mostly emotional neglect and abuse from my mum.

This is a very intense process, bringing up a lot and I come to see more and more how panic attacks, dysfunctional behaviour and self harm affect me and my intimate relationships. I moved in with my partner last year – we have separate rooms and live together with another fab roomie – but I feel like the closeness can be a really big strain on us when I start spiralling again. In addition, they started a relationship with another person right after our wedding – for the first time since our relationship began.

I am really not coping well with this situation, in the first couple of weeks after they told me I broke down a lot and hurt myself. They are really loving and caring, showing me how much they love me and that in fact they want to include me, want me to get to know their lover and build a connection of my own. A really loving and great base to built a non-mongamous relationship on.

However, I constantly feel triggered, I am dealing with jealousy I seldomly have felt in my poly[am]-past before and I am really wondering if for the sake of my mental health I need to open myself up to the possibility that I might not want to live non-monogamous right now. That would mean though, that our  relationship might end.

I feel so guilty, I can’t possibly tell my partner to end a relationship with someone they love. My partner themselves is not sure they would want to end that relationship. Understandable, none of us wants to suffer and resent each other, but I feel so sad! We recently started couple’s therapy and decided that it might be more healthy for boundaries and our intimacy if we don’t live together and I have my own space to live in -> where ultimately we also have space for the two of us (living with a roomie had a big effect on our sex lives). This is good.

It all boils down to: Am I monogamous? What happens next? How can I continue with this person I love so much?

I find it really hard to find helpful resources beyond: Poly[am]  is superior or mono is superior. Are there any queer people moving from non-monogamy to monogamy and dealing with the complexity of this development?

Response:

The first thing I would say here is I’m really glad that you are doing individual therapy. I think that that is really really really important. I think that you need to work something out with your therapist, about strategies for addressing self harm. If you are self harming, and you know that you are kind of slipping back into that, there are quite a lot of good resources online about how to not self harm but like, how to relieve that anxiety.

Because generally speaking self harm comes from a place of being overwhelmed by feelings and wanting to get them out, or control. There’s lots of different reasons why people self harm, but there are other things that you can do that aren’t as harming. Like one thing that I’ve read about is holding ice or things like that. You need to work on a kind of emergency plan for that, so that you can, the next time you sort of feel yourself going down that road, you don’t have to call up your therapist and say, “Ahh help me”. You have the sort of tools in your toolbox, as it were, to actually address it and actually do something in the moment.

And that way you don’t necessarily need to lean on your partner for emotional support. It’s not bad to lean on your partner for emotional support. I think that a lot of polyamory resources are really shitty in that they’re very Western bootstraps mentality and sort of encourage the idea that if you need your partner at all, you’re being controlling or manipulative or whatever. That’s not the case. We need other people, as much as I— I’m like the biggest introvert. I’m the biggest recluse like, you know, I don’t like people at all. And yet, I know that I need people.

So, this is a situation where you need to, yes, lean on people but also give them— you know, figure out what works for them in terms of how much emotional support that they can provide you. I think that you also need to think about what is triggering this. I have a feeling that what is triggering all of this upset — because you said you never felt this way before in other polyamory situations. I feel like what is probably triggering this is the fact that you have married this person.

So, we don’t— I mean I’m not, I don’t think hierarchies are always bad in polyamory. I am more of a— I would probably define myself more as a relationship anarchist then, I mean— if that’s part of polyamory or not that’s a debate or whatever. I try not to operate on hierarchies, because I don’t like them. And people can I think queer marriage and be married. You might be married for immigration reasons which, hey, can understand. However, marriage does, regardless of whether you are actually invested in the institution of marriage or believe that it means anything, it’s still, especially if it’s done for immigration reasons, creates a power imbalance.

And the thing about a hierarchy and this is one of the big reasons why whenever people start polyamory they… So, one of the first rules that they create is like I will never love anyone but you or you are my primary or you are the most important person, and everyone else is not as good. And I understand that. I understand why people do that. However, the problem with that is that once you create a hierarchy, it means that one person is  sitting at the top. And when one person is sitting at the top it’s all well and good when you’re that one person but it also means that you can be dethroned basically.

And my guess is that what’s triggering all of this upset in you, is the fact that you are now married. So you’re married. You want to have a kid. Even if you aren’t necessarily hierarchical, you are creating a situation where this is the partner that you want to have kids with. This is the partner that you you are married to and you can be replaced in that sense, and that is going to kick in all of these fears, because you have more to lose now. You have more to lose. Now you could become divorced. Now your whole entire future of, oh I want to have kids with you, can be interrupted. And so that is what I’m guessing is causing all of this panic for you.

And that, you know, what I always advise in terms of this panic when it comes to— because everyone has panic. Don’t believe a lot of the kind of rose tinted bullshitty polyamory resources that will act like “It’s so lovely and yes I did feel jealous once, but I feel so much better now and everything is perfect”. Everyone feels shitty, and you can’t be raised in a society that tells you that monogamy is the only option, and that love is best expressed by being exclusive to one person and not feel a way about your partner being with somebody else. Like you just can’t, it’s, you would have to be…

I mean, unless you were raised in a family where there was non-monogamy and it was sort of normalised to you. You’re going to feel a way. You’re going to feel scared, you’re going to feel you know— you’re raised with all of these messages, you’re going to feel a way about it and that’s okay. It’s okay to have these feelings. It’s okay to freak out. It’s okay to think you’re going to be replaced and your partner’s going to leave you and oh my god… Like, all of that is okay. What I find helps in that situation, and in almost any situation where I’m trying to compare myself to other people, is that I have to realise, like I have with a lot of the anxiety that I’ve had in my life: There is only so much that I can control.

I cannot control everything. And what anxiety is — at least for me and my experience of anxiety — anxiety is a response to the trauma that I’ve been through. Because of things that I have experienced which I could not control my brain has gone “Oh crap, we’re in the situation that we can’t control. We’re constantly having to experience horrible things that we can’t stop. Well, I guess what we’ll do is that we’ll distract this brain into thinking that there are things that they can’t control, so that it doesn’t have to focus on the things that it can’t”. My anxiety has always been a very big distraction and coping mechanism.

It goes, “Actually, instead of, you know, facing the fact that you can’t control that there are people in your life who treat you like shit,  we’re going to make you think that if you behave a certain way, then you will. You will unlock the magical key, and you will all of a sudden get all of the things that you should have which is love and care and support”. And in a way, we believe this on a societal level as well, like rape apology is exactly this. People believe this. People believe that “if I don’t go outside wearing a short skirt I won’t be raped”. And we know it’s

just ignorant and foolish and ridiculous, and that is not how sexual assault works, but people believe it because it’s easier for them to cope in a world where all they have to do is not wear a short skirt and they can avoid this thing that can happen to them regardless.

So it’s that kind of a thing, in my experience with anxiety and I think that maybe now that you’re having to all of a sudden — Oh, now you’re married. There’s a new relationship. Ah! You have all this to lose your anxiety is kicking up because it’s like, “Ah, we must do something to prevent the loss of this valuable thing. We must do something.” And, yeah, it’s totally understandable but at the same time like… you can only do so much like really genuinely speaking. There was only so much you can do to prevent someone from falling out of love with you.

If a promise, if a marriage, if saying, “Oh I love you and I’ll only love you” prevented people from leaving then monogamy— there would never be anyone who divorced. Unfortunately, all you can do is just be your best partner, be your best self and treat— you know you can obviously be an asshole to your partners. You can mistreat them and that’s going to make them not want to be around you, but sort of just trying to be a good partner and trying to communicate and trying to give them attention and give them love, there isn’t anything you can do to stop someone from falling out of love with you.

There isn’t anything you can do to prevent being replaced and that’s really really frightening and so your brain is going, “AH! We don’t want to think about that so let’s just do all this other stuff and pretend like if we’re the perfect partner and we never have any problems and we were always happy, then it’ll be all right”. Unfortunately it’s just not the case and even though it seems counterintuitive, when I realized that and when I was like, “Look, I can’t prevent someone from leaving me. I can’t stop someone from no longer being attracted to me. I can’t do any of that. All I can do is try and be the best partner that I can be”. And I know it can be a damn good one. And it is what it is.

There’s nothing else I can do and I have to let go of the idea that I can control that. So, I think, and if you look up — I wrote an article called “13 Mistakes That People Make When They Try Polyamory” which encompasses a lot of this information about dealing with these emotions and how you kind of face your fears a little bit and sort of go, “Okay, what can I actually control?” and that will help you a lot, if you actually go into that article and read through some of the bits about finding an anchor. I don’t want to keep repeating the same things if t hat’s not helpful in the same podcast so yeah.

I think that your change of living situation might be helpful as well. But just keep in mind that I do think that if the core issue is kind of that you’re afraid of being replaced and you haven’t really dealt with that or addressed that then moving apart may not necessarily fix that. So, and also I can’t really tell you if you’re monogamous or not. I do kind of feel like just because you have all these feelings, it doesn’t mean you’re not, you’re monogamous like. It’s so hard for people and that’s one of the reasons why I hate, hate to me use these intro polyamory resources because people start to think that having these negative emotions means they aren’t polyamorous and that’s just not how it works.

Everyone has these emotions. When you having them doesn’t make you less polyamorous, so I can’t tell you if you are or not, that’s up to you, but I do think that if you think about what you can and can’t control — try to remember that. Work with your therapist on some specific strategies against self harm in the moment. You may not have a therapist that you can call right at the time and maybe there’s some help lines you can call but work on specific strategies about countering self harm that can help. Then you can also think about what is triggering this. My notion of what is triggering this is that is the fact that you’re married now, and it’s the fact that you have so much to lose now. I could be wrong.

It’s something you might want to explore with your therapist. I think couples therapy will help, but I also think that you trying to figure out what’s different about this situation— Is there something different about this person? Because you did also mention that living with a roomie have had a big effect on your sex life so has there been something that’s changed within your relationship with this person other than the marriage that might have made you feel like you were disposable or you were going to be replaced or anything like that? Just think about what has changed, and how might that affect your mental state. And then, yes. Last but not least, you know. Don’t beat yourself up for the feelings.

Just because you have them doesn’t mean that you’re monogamous. Plenty of monogamous people may not experience any jealousy if their partner were into someone but they still choose monogamy because it’s something that they want. So, yeah. Basically, don’t beat yourself up for having anxiety. It’s okay to have anxiety doesn’t make you a bad person. Doesn’t make you a bad partner. It’s all just about figuring out how to cope with things and another thing before I finish.

Check out Clementine Morrigan, because Clementine writes specifically about trauma informed polyamory, and that might be really really helpful for you if you have specifically had issues with how you were raised and things like that. I’ve found… their are zines, you can order online there’s a workshop on trauma informed polyamory I’m not sure if Clementine is running that still now when I published this. But, there definitely zines on Clementine’s website, you can you can download or for, and pay to have. Check that out. And yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 51: Conversion Therapy

What happens when you’re done with polyamory and want to seek therapy to convert you to a monogamous person?

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

Discussion Topic: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?

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

Episode 51 – Conversion Therapy

When you don’t want to be polyamorous anymore and you’re considering therapy to convert yourself back. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?

 

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 don’t want to be like this anymore. I just want to be a monogamous person.  My partner can’t deal with it and I can’t lose my entire family.  Is there conversion therapy for people like me? I really really hate being like this.

Response:

So first thing that I have to say is, I’m sorry, I’m sorry that you are going through such a difficult period. It’s hard, because your letter so short, to really understand what it is that’s happening, but I can understand that you are going through a lot of things right now. And, yeah, I just… just plain basic empathy just… I’m really sorry that you’re having to deal with this. And that you feel like everything is about to fall apart.

To answer your question in a really short answer… no. Conversion therapy doesn’t work for the things that it’s supposedly supposed to work for. So, as far as I know —  and I don’t know the history of conversion therapy so I could be wrong —  but conversion therapy started as a way to supposedly make people be less gay. And that doesn’t work. It never has worked. It’s traumatising and there’s a reason why it’s banned and a lot of places because it is… You cannot force somebody to do something that is against their nature.

And I’m not going to argue about nature and nurture… because I think that it’s so much more complicated than we give it credit for. But I do know that like on a basic level, the thing that I always compare sexuality to, and you could equally extend to how we choose your relationships, is taste. So I really really like salmon. It’s my favourite food. I really really hate capers, I’m not gonna like capers more if someone shoves them down my throat. If someone forces me to eat nothing but capers, that’s not gonna make me like capers any more.

In fact, it might make me hate capers more. It might make capers truly traumatising for me. So, unfortunately, there is no thing— if you really really want non monogamy, if you really really want polyamory— whatever it is that you’re hoping to find… you really can’t force yourself to want something else. Equally if your partner isn’t wanting polyamory, you can’t force them to want it. You just can’t. Unfortunately that’s just not how things work.

What I would say to you is that, I did write something… I wrote something recently called “13 Mistakes That People Make When They Try Polyamory” and I do think— I was going to record the entire article as a podcast episode I still may do that one day on a break. But I would say that that might be something that you might look at, because I do think that— I don’t know anything about your situation. I don’t know if you’ve tried it. I don’t know if your partner’s tried it or if you’ve just suggested it and your partner’s been like “Hell no”.

I don’t think that there are always cases where, you know, even if somebody is like “EH!” when they first react to polyamory that it’s necessarily a bad thing. And it’s always worth continuing to have discussions about things. But I do think that you do need to do a little soul searching. It sounds like you’re not the kind of person that can just go to being monogamous unfortunately. But I would try look up “13 Mistakes People Make When Trying Polyamory”. It basically goes through some of the things that— some of the mistakes that people make.

Because I do think sometimes if you try polyamory and you try it with some of these things in place, it  can be just like shoving capers down your throat, it can be a really traumatizing experience and it can be something that puts you off polyamory and it can be something that makes you not want to touch it again. So it could be that whatever you’re doing, might be things that are you know mistakes in a way, things that make things harder. A couple of the mistakes to give you kind of rough examples:

The first thing that I noticed a lot of people do is making rules to try and stop their emotions. When you, when you kind of decide on a non-monogamous relationship, you are deciding on an essentially different relationship structure. And I don’t think that people always get that. I think that people just think it’s like an upgrade to monogamy and they don’t realise that it is a different way of doing things. And so a lot of times when people first start or decide to open a relationship, they’ll make rules that try to reassure their partner like “I won’t love anybody else but you”.

And that’s a very common monogamous reassurance so people feel reassured by that. That kind of thing freaks me out, personally, but it is something that tends to reassure people so that’s tends to be a promise that people make when they open their relationship. There are a lot of problems with that promise. I go into it my article and that is one thing that, you know, doesn’t work and anytime you create a rule, you need to also imagine what your plan will be if that rule is broken. You need to think about what the rule is designed to prevent because so many people make rules that are just designed to stop emotions or prevent negative emotions from happening and you just can’t avoid that.

The second thing is about anchors. So, like I say, and I’ve said in the podcast, my columns, I say it all the time, agreeing to non monogamy means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. And there are monogamous relationships that are like that. There are plenty of monogamous people who have situations with— that are like that. But the thing is is that if you are choosing polyamory then I think that you really need an anchor that is something you can hold on to when things are getting really hard.

And the anchor is usually what polyamory brings to your life. So what are the benefits — outside of keeping a relationship — that polyamory brings to your life? The thing is, if your partner doesn’t have that anchor, if they are holding on to the monogamous relationship you had the no amount of reading is going to change— is going to make them see that it’s different, and want that difference if they don’t want that difference. In the same way, you can’t force yourself to want monogamy if that’s not what you want.

That is another thing. I think that people also don’t expect they’ll be afraid, which is a huge thing and they— you can’t reassure your partner out of anxiety if your partner has anxiety so that’s another thing. There is an assumption that all polyamorous people are inherently compatible when there’s all sorts of different ways of doing polyamory. So even if you want to do polyamory or, you know, even if your partner didn’t want to do polyamory you may want to do polyamory in a fundamentally different way, which doesn’t help so that that is also a thing.

The other thing is, assuming that unhappiness is a failure, which may be contributory to maybe some of your partner’s feelings about things, if they assume that they would suddenly be happy about everything and polyamory and, you know— they have that expectation of non-monogamy when that expectation doesn’t exist for monogamy. So that’s something e to think about. Trying to form a triad. If the first thing that you tried to do was open your relationship only a smidge to include one other person that’s a very common first time mistake and there’s a lot of reasons why that doesn’t work.

Another thing that people do is they give their partner permission, so they will put themselves in a position where before they do anything they have to get their partner’s permission for it. And even though that sounds like a good idea because they’re trying to check in and reassure their partner, there’s a lot of reasons why that’s a double edged sword. Doesn’t always work very well.

Another thing people do is forcing themselves to mingle with metamours and get along with metamours, which you don’t have to do. And it can create more problems and it helps. I think the other thing people do— another first time mistake is trying to like emotionally weather everything and they basically ask their partner to tell them everything about their other relationships because they kind of think that they can sort of…

It’s almost like herd immunity. It’s like… they think that they can become more strong by hearing all of these details that are excruciating like to somehow be able to conquer non-monogamy by knowing all the intimate details about their partners goings on and sometimes that doesn’t help. You don’t need to put yourself through the emotional ringer to be a polyamorous person.

The other thing people do is they make it into a competition. Usually one person and a couple, if they open, one person will always get more dates than the other. That’s quite normal. And that creates a struggle, you know and it creates a lot of tension and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile. The other thing that people do is, when it doesn’t work thinking that closing it will fix that. Or vetoing another person, another partner will fix everything, when that isn’t going to fix everything. Basically if you have to close a relationship, a polyamorous relationship in order to fix it, then there’s some deeper problems going on there that need to be addressed.

And then, yeah, I think, ignoring inherent power imbalances… if you brought a “third” into your relationship and it didn’t work out… there’s sometimes people who bring “thirds” into the relationship ignore the power imbalance that the couple in the relationship has over the third person, and you just— it’s not to say you can’t ever have a triad, or anything or that you can’t both be the same person. But it is— you have to acknowledge the power imbalance there.

And then the last kind of mistake people make is punishing themselves for feeling things. So I think, like I was saying before like it… A lot of the times when I’m giving advice to people it’s mostly that they should let themselves feel their feelings. Because a lot of beginner polyamory resources overhype jealousy and make it seem like jealousy is a character flaw that they have to rid themselves off and not a legitimate emotion to have, in a lot of situations. So, that is a thing— like you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings.

There’s also some other things I talk about when it comes to polyamory and starting like— starting from cheating is the thing that happens a lot. When they sort of feel like their partner is pushing polyamory because there’s a window of opportunity like maybe they’ve always been interested in this person and then now this person has broken up with your boyfriend and they’re like, “Oooh!”. That can be a thing that can put a lot of pressure on things.

Dating exes or coworkers is another thing that people often do. But the last thing that I always say and what I think that you should do: Find a polyamory friendly therapist and talk through this. Find a polyamory friendly couples therapist and talk through this, because I just think that… I just think that like, if you’re so desperate and you just want all this to be over with I totally get that in terms of just wanting to change and be monogamous, but you really can’t force yourself to be monogamous, you just can’t.

Unfortunately it’s just not how things work. It is understandable for you to fear losing your family and fear losing this relationship, but there is a such thing as a sunk cost fallacy, which is the idea that you, you know, the more you kind of dig this hole, you think “Well I have to keep digging because I’ve dug so far”, and you keep putting effort into a situation that isn’t actually helping you because only for the reason that you’ve already put so much into it.

If you have kids, I can tell you from personal experience,

kids are better off with two separated parents who are happy than with two people who are together and miserable. Unfortunately, that is the case. Having separated parents isn’t the end of the world. It is kind of difficult to deal with sometimes and it is a change but it’s not the end of the world and you shouldn’t stay together “for the kids”. Speaking as someone whose parents tried to do that, please don’t do that, because you are setting the example as a parent for your child of what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.

They do catch on to certain behaviours even without them consciously thinking it. They will kind of see what you’re doing and then go, “Hm, is that what I should be doing in a relationship?”. And you don’t want to give them the wrong message about what they should be looking for in a romantic relationship so being separated is sometimes much better for that and also like you won’t— you never lose your family in terms of your relationship with your children, unless your partner is threatening to, you know take away your custody in which case you should talk to a lawyer.

But you won’t lose that. You will always have that, and you shouldn’t also stay with your partner just for the sake of keeping the family together. Your relationship with yourself is pretty damn important. Staying true to yourself is pretty damn important. You only have one frickin life and you can’t spend it doing shit that you’re just going to regret and feel miserable about later on. A better parent and a better person in general, is someone who isn’t filled with regret and frustration and anger because of the choices that they’ve made. So I hope this helps and good luck.