Episode 45: Sex Work and Polyamory

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

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

Discussion Topic: What do you blame your parents for?

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

Episode 45 – Sex Work and Polyamory

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

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 44: You Don’t Need 5 Partners

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

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

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

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

Episode 44 – You Don’t Need 5 Partners

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

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, I hope that helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 43: What If It Ends?

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

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

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

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

Episode 43 – What if It Ends?

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

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Episode 42: The Dreaded Veto

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

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

Discussion Topic: What do you most regret so far?

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

Episode 42 – The Dreaded Veto

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

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 41: No Rules Just Wrong

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

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

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

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

Episode 41 – No Rules Just Wrong

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

 

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bear with me, here come the questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I make this work?

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 40: Polyam is Valid

What if you’re struggling to see the relationship you have as valid if they’re married to someone else?

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

Discussion Topic: If a really kind person wanted to praise me, they’d say, if a really tough person assessed me, they’d say.

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

Episode 40 – Polyam is Valid

What if you’re struggling to see the relationship you have as valid if they’re married to someone else? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – if a really kind person wanted to praise me, they’d say, if a really tough person assessed me, they’d say.

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I’m new to mono/poly[am] life. He’s married & I thought we’d stay FWBs. I saw his marriage as a safeguard to either of us catching serious feelings. (My bad!)

Now that we’ve started to know/care about each other, it’s hard accepting that he loves me. I know it’s wrong/insulting to assume what we have is “meaningless” because he’s married. And it would deeply hurt him to know I’ve been stuck thinking this way. Or that I was fine with this being a throwaway type of thing.

But it’s hard to accept that I could matter to him too (or at all). Especially because I spent so much time focusing on boundaries, jealousy, & so much other stuff to  adapt to this, I’m embarrassed to admit that it never occurred to me that I could be more than a “side chick” fling. Or that this was about romantic love at all.

 In my head I know it’s silly & ignorant to dismiss or invalidate any type of love. But my feelings haven’t caught up. It would be nice to believe we could have something special but just thinking about it feels fake.

I’m self aware enough to realize that this is a really shitty view of polyamory & its meaning. I’m ashamed to admit that I just saw him as someone’s leftovers who couldn’t really love as many people as he thinks. And it sucks.

What can I do to start seeing/accepting  poly[am] love as real & valid? How can I work on changing my perspective so I can respect/acknowledge his feelings even though I don’t understand them?

Response:

First thing that I want to say is that I think that you need to give yourself a little bit of a break because this quite often happens to people new to polyamory. They read a lot about it. They investigate a lot about it. And then, despite the fact that they know that they’re coming from a culture where monogamy is the norm, where it’s sort of socially reinforced, and they have all these cultural scripts for monogamy, they somehow just expect themselves to be able to adapt to polyamory easily without much of a fuss.

And just magically— because polyamory seems like a good choice for them. But if you really think about it, I think that part of what your brain is trying to do is protect yourself because you’ve grown up— unless you’ve grown up in a different society than I have. And apologies if that’s the case. You’ve grown up in a society that has told you that monogamy is the norm. It is the socially acceptable way to express love and that the only valid love is you know, when people are married to each other. So there is some type of protective instinct I think in your mind to go “I need to be really careful because I don’t want to get my feelings hurt”.

Because you know— and in your defence, there are quite a lot of married polyamorous people and you don’t really say much about his history like whether or not he’s been polyamorous for a certain amount of years, whether or not he was polyamorous before he met his current wife. There are plenty of people who become polyamorous in their marriage and then decide to date someone else. And then it doesn’t work out in the way that they think it should. And they dump that person and that person gets really hurt.

So I don’t think that you protecting yourself a little bit is immature or necessarily a sign that you don’t consider polyamory, the love that people have in polyamorous relationships, real and valid, I think it’s just kind of a little bit of a natural self protectant in the situation, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s not silly and ignorant. I think you’re just trying to be wary of it. And that’s fair enough. I mean, you don’t really say how long you’ve been with this person, or how long he’s been married to this other person.

And there is a big imbalance here in terms of, you know, the amount of times you know— the amount of time he’s with this married person versus you unless he met you a week after he met this married person. And even if that’s the case, he’s married to this person. There just isn’t natural power and balance and it makes perfect sense for you to try and be wary of that. I think that you need to give him a little bit more credit in just assuming his capacity for love. But I don’t think that you just trying to protect yourself as necessarily, you know, a sign of your immaturity or something ignorant or bad about yourself.

I think that you need to kind of think about as well what is real and valid love. Because the thing about growing up in a society where monogamy is the default and where marriage is kind of encouraged is that it creates what’s known as the relationship escalator and if you haven’t heard of the concept of the relationship escalator definitely Google it.

It’s basically a sort of cultural script that you get, which sort of says right, you meet someone, you really like them, you go on a date, you date officially, you move in together, you get married, you have kids— it’s a sort of like upper escalator of steps that you take in order to— you know, in general everyone’s relationship isn’t— people can fall in love with other people. Things can happen. It’s not as solid and secure as we’d like to think, however, this kind of escalator and the sort of script that you follow gives you the reassurance that your relationship is stable and that your love is valid.

And so it’s going to be really hard for you because within polyamory, you kind of have to create a different kind of escalator. You have to create different types of meaning. You have to decide what commitment means if commitment isn’t being sexually exclusive to somebody, then what does it mean and how do you define it? And what does it look like in your life? So you have come through a culture where real and valid love, has been defined by marriage and has been defined by sexual exclusivity, has been defined by monogamy.

If they have children, then that’s even more going to reinforce that concept for you. So you kind of have to break down the messages that you’ve received about what real and valid love means. And you kind of have to think okay, “What makes this type of their relationship more real and valid?”. Is it the marriage thing? Are there other things that you both can do that can create that kind of stability for you or create that kind of, you know, maybe after five years, you decide— you may not be able to legally marry multiple people, but you can certainly have as many marriage ceremonies as you want.

You know, you can certainly buy rings for each other, if that’s the kind of way you want to express your commitment to one another, then you can do that. So just think about what real and valid love actually means to you. And I think if that means that you’ll be able to accept it, but it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be a difficult egg to crack when you have an entire society surrounding you that says, you know, it has to end in marriage, or you know, if somebody doesn’t make it out of the relationship alive, then it’s not a valid coupledom.

So you have all of that to fight, and that’s not easy. So give yourself a little bit of a break again. I think as well… You know, one of the things that people joke about polyamory and about polyamorous people Is that we sometimes over communicate and communicate to an extent to which it becomes unhelpful. And I do think sometimes we overthink things. People in polyamorous situations are so worried about it “working” and are so aware of kind of a it’s not— I wouldn’t say it’s a dominant cultural narrative because people are aware open relationships exist. I think they’re sort of aware of it.

I think that they’re… the sort of assumption that most people would have is that it doesn’t work. Like they would just assume that it doesn’t work. And when we ask, Well, what does work mean? We define working as you know, the people in that relationship being in that relationship until somebody in that relationship dies. And that’s what working means.

And even though I’m lax to sort of recommend Dan Savage in any way, shape or form for a various amount of reasons, the aspect of the advice that he gives when he says that we need to stop defining relationship success, as you know, one person— only one person makes it out alive. I agree with that. I think that You are surrounded by a society which in some ways, I wouldn’t say completely dominantly says— but the idea is that open relationships don’t work. Non monogamy doesn’t work. Polyamory doesn’t work.

And so you have to kind of fight against this and that that is really difficult and and takes up a lot of your energy. And part of that and trying to protect ourselves from that assumption that “Oh, it doesn’t work. I need to make sure this works”. And we judge ourselves so much based on that and we judge our ability to do polyamory. We don’t do that for monogamy. You know, comedians have made tons of money, bocous de money on joking about how terrible marriages and about how horrible monogamy is. Monogamous people are never expected to love monogamy they never expected to enjoy monogamy.

However, there is a different standard that is kind of put upon the shoulders— and I think it’s partially self placed. We think that we need to enjoy non monogamy all of the time in order for it to be validated. choice. And so you really, really put in the situation where you’re like, hyper examining everything because you’re waiting for something to fail, because you don’t want it to fail because you want everything to work because it has to work. And that creates a lot of tension where if you were monogamous, you wouldn’t be worrying about half these things.

So I think you need to like, think about how often you’re thinking about this. Think about how much weight you’re putting on this. Think about, you know, would you be analysing this so much if you were just dating him? And the assumption would be that maybe you would end up being in a monogamous relationship? Or maybe you wouldn’t? So I think you need to— it’s easy to say, don’t worry so much. But really, that’s the advice, like, think about how much you’re picking this apart, and ask yourself if you really need to pick this apart so much. Is it really helping you? You know, you’re not going to be able to take out some kind of love-ometer and measure how much what is real and valid love and how much love do I have for this and that neither, like it’s not something that’s a measurable concept.

So you just have to try that, you know, you care about this person and the relationship will go where it can go. I think if you do have the resources and it’s accessible for you, I think finding a polyamory friendly therapist would also be really helpful. But in general, I think, to kind of sum up, remember that you don’t have any models for this. You don’t have any scripts for this. You don’t have the relationship escalator.

You don’t have all of this—  all of these messages about what real invalid love means and examine that. I think don’t be so hard on yourself. Because you’re protecting yourself in this situation of saying, “Okay, maybe I need to not put all of my eggs in one basket”. You’re protecting yourself. So don’t be so hard on yourself for protecting yourself. And then you know, last but not least, don’t pick this apart to such a minute extent. You don’t need to analyse this in such serious depth.

Think about where you want your relationship to go. But you don’t have to pick it apart so much that you’re just analysing and fretting over the details and like “Oh am I accepting that this love is real and valid? Am I you know, really accepting this or not?” I think that part of you your inability to accept it as the fact that you’re kind of hyper analysing it.

Alright, well, I think that’s about it. I really hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 39: Multiple Escalators

Is it possible to find a “primary” relationship and build it with an already existing close secondary relationship?

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

Discussion Topic: If someone likes me a lot, I start to feel…

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

Episode 39 – Multiple Escalators

Is it possible to build a new primary relationship on top of an existing, serious secondary relationship? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – If someone likes me, I feel…

 

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 to my husband of 9 years, and we’ve been polyamorous for half that time. Up until recently, I also had a very serious boyfriend. When I first met him, my boyfriend was solo poly, but we loved each other very deeply, so I became the partner he prioritized most. However, because I already have a primary partner, there were certain needs I couldn’t meet for my boyfriend. So a year into our relationship, he decided he wanted his own primary partner and started building a primary partnership with someone else. Which I wanted for him and wholeheartedly supported. And their relationship grew very rapidly.

However, what followed was several months of the worst poly[am] drama I’ve ever experienced. My metamour could see how much my boyfriend loved me, and it made her feel very anxious. As long as our relationship didn’t grow, she was ok with things. But when my boyfriend wanted to introduce me to his family or travel with me, she’d feel threatened and get angry with him. She had a more hierarchical view of polyamory, and she felt certain things should only be reserved for primary partners. She would repeatedly ask him how he could have more than one escalator relationship. My boyfriend would stick up for us and wouldn’t allow her to limit us. Instead, he tried to help her work through her fears and insecurities. But it all caused a ton of conflict between him and his primary partner.

Throughout all of this, I did my best to be supportive of their relationship. I was patient while my boyfriend worked with his primary partner on her fears, and at times, I compromised what I wanted to help my metamour feel comfortable. I didn’t want to be the reason their relationship failed, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice my own needs and desires. I didn’t try to limit how my metamour’s relationship with my boyfriend could grow, and I wanted my relationship with him to also be able to grow.

Eventually, their fighting got so bad that my boyfriend broke up with her. But then he turned around and told me that he needed our relationship to be smaller. He said that everybody he knew started with a primary partner first and then added other partners. He said he was doing it in reverse. He said he wouldn’t be able to meet a potential primary partner if he continued being so deeply involved with me. He said our non-primary relationship had become too important, and he had struggled with how to prioritize between me and his former primary partner. So our relationship also ended.

This whole situation has left me wondering if it’s even possible to build a primary partnership over top of an existing, serious secondary relationship. Is this type of configuration inherently doomed to fail? Is it possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new if you’re already in a loving, committed, non-primary relationship with someone else? And as the secondary partner in this situation, how much should I set aside my own needs so they don’t threaten my partner’s growing primary relationship?

Response:

So I think that the biggest piece of information in this situation is what your boyfriend said when he said he struggled with how to prioritize between you and his former primary partner. And that’s the key, really. It isn’t so much that it’s impossible for someone to have a secondary but very important relationship with someone and then build a quote unquote, primary relationship that is supposed to mean more or whatever they wanted to find it as. It’s that your partner had difficulty doing that.

And I think that it’s sad because I think that had your boyfriend had a more supportive person that he was dating, it probably wouldn’t have been so hard. I think that it’s understandable for his metamour to be scared, especially if she’s new to polyamory and doesn’t really know. But, you know, they have to come to an agreement of what primary means. And I think that’s the thing here there.

And I’ve spoken about this before. Hierarchies don’t have to be inherently shitty. And I think that a lot of people rail against hierarchies because of situations like this where they’re so prescriptive, or people use them as a reason to control other people rather than them being kind of guidelines for how someone might go about things. I wouldn’t be threatened by my partner meeting a metamorphose parents.

You know, I guess, well, I don’t have parents for my partner to

me. So maybe I’m less threatened by that, because I don’t have the equivalent. But, you know, the whole point of, of the relationship escalator— I felt that the point of that article was to point out that we make assumptions about how relationships should quote, unquote, grow. Not that these are the way that relationships grow. And that’s the only way that relationships grow.

You know, I think that it’s, it’s sad that your metamour was so focused on these little things and thought that they should only be for her, and I don’t know what your boyfriend did to negotiate that with her. I think that It sounds like he didn’t feel like he could negotiate that with her. And he is assuming that there’s a right way to do this and there isn’t. It’s really sad. Like he doesn’t have to break off a great relationship that he has in order to find another one and he is— I’m really… I’m really even caught off guard by his assumption that he needs a primary partner

If he’s solo polyamorous— you know, solo polyamorous people, generally speaking, you know, don’t feel the need to have a primary partner. If they have needs that, you know, if they have things that they want partners to do with them that their current partners can do, they can just find another partner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a quote unquote, primary partner. I don’t know how familiar your boyfriend is with solo polyamory or just polyamory in general, but there’s no configuration that you have to proceed in. And, you know, if if someone is threatened by the relationships that this person already has that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with by him.

And I think that, you— I think that if you’re a quote unquote secondary and someone makes that clear to you, I think that it’s, you know, just like you made clear to him that you had a primary relationship. So there there were things that you wouldn’t be able to do with him. And I think that’s fine. But and I think that as a— you know, you have to kind of accept that if you’re going to accept being in the quote unquote, secondary role. However, that doesn’t mean that you know, just because someone is a quote unquote, secondary doesn’t mean that their opinion doesn’t matter, or that they shouldn’t necessarily have to shelve what they think is an important in a relationship.

Just because, you know, their metamour whoever has the primary quote unquote role has decided that such and such as more important, you know. How people define what is important, or how relationships grow is really up to them. And that’s something that you have to— It seemed like you had a good idea without with your boyfriend, but it seems like the metamour had a different idea of that and it’s seems like rather than realizing that a lot of the clashes in the situation where because the metamour had very specific ideas that he didn’t agree with— you know, he can have a primary relationship, it doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to meet his parents, or that you’re not allowed to travel with him.

That’s, that’s not what— a thing he has to agree to. So it sounds like rather than realising that this is this particular individual’s way of doing it, he’s decided that that is the way that everyone does it, and that he needs to break up with you in order to find the primary person. And that’s just– I mean, it… It sounds like you didn’t say that that’s what he did specifically. You said your relationship ended. You didn’t say who ended it or why but I’m assuming that that was a big reason why your relationship ended. It is possible to build a primary partnership over an existing serious secondary relationship that the— you know, it’s like sort of saying is up possible to have a boyfriend if you have a best

friend.

It’s possible to have multiple strong, serious relationships in your life. It doesn’t even have to be romantic partnerships. You know, now there are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, it’s not always possible for you to spend the same time. You know, it might be that when he does find someone he considers a primary. And they agree with what that means. It may be that he spends less time with you, but I don’t think that means that your relationship is smaller. Like, I really don’t like the idea that spending less time together or, you know, I mean, maybe if he doesn’t want to— if you’re not bothered, like if I had a partner who was like, Oh, you’re a secondary, so you can’t meet my parents. I wouldn’t care I’d be thrilled actually. To not have to… Meeting the parents is a scary thing for me. So I wouldn’t mind that sacrifice, but I know it’s just something that you have to talk out and agree on.

What does it mean? Because you can easily say primary and secondary in all these kind of catch all terms, but people have different ideas as to what primary means. You know, for monogamous people or primary someone that’s the only person that they sleep with, you know, but they still have friendships, they still have other relationships in their life that mean a lot to them and maybe very serious to them. And, you know, it’s kind of bothersome if someone feels threatened by their partner having a serious relationship with someone else.

Yeah, that’s, it just sounds like they disagreed on what primary means. Unfortunately, he took that to mean that that was how all those experiences where maybe he had some other experiences with people like that, and he just, you know, felt like he had to disallow you from doing certain things. But I don’t think that you should sacrifice you know, even if you are quote unquote, secondary, that doesn’t mean that you— you know, what is your idea of a relationship? What do you need in a relationship?

And regardless of whether you’re secondary or not That shouldn’t have to mean that you are discarded or that your needs aren’t important. So you just have to figure out what what that is and what’s important to you. And I think it sounds like you do have a good idea about that, because you communicated very clearly to your boyfriend that you know, you have this primary partner, that means that there are certain needs that you can’t meet. And I think that maybe, you know, he didn’t have a very good idea of that.

Maybe he has a better idea of that now. And it’s really unfortunate, but yeah, it is, it is possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new even if you’re already in a committed loving relationship with someone else. And I just think that you should never set aside your own needs, you know. There there are things that you— like set aside— you can compromise on preferences. You can compromise on some things, but you need to figure out what what is the bare minimum that you need? And what are the things that you can compromise on, you know/

Maybe meeting the parents is something you can compromise on because you’re like— if you’re like me, and you’re like, that’s a stressful thing. And to me meeting, you know, because I don’t have any parents for my partners to meet, it doesn’t mean that not meeting my parents means I don’t care about them. But it obviously has, you know, for some people that has a lot of meaning. So maybe for you, it doesn’t matter that much, because you’ve already met, I’m assuming you’ve already met your husband’s parents, maybe you already have that in your life, and you could, you know, you don’t need it for the second part.

So just figure out things that you actually really need, and things that are just, you know, things that you can do without and

I think it is quite difficult for him. You know, I— it is quite hard if he’d never had that kind of setup before to try and negotiate that. And I think ultimately, you know, he didn’t know how to prioritise and that ended up causing him a lot of stress. And so he doesn’t reasonably want to face that dilemma again, you know, it might— even if it sounds kind of crappy that he’s he’s been really affected by this unfortunate situation.

You know, I am sad that he had that experience because I do think if he had a better experience, he would have been able to prioritise things a lot better. But I think if he if he genuinely feels like it’s gonna be hard for him, you know, he might come back to you when he has a primary partnership and feels a little bit more solid in  what it is that he wants and what it is that he can give you. But yeah, it is possible.

And I don’t think that you— you– unless you are going out of your way to stop your partner from meeting or talking to other people— and even if you were doing that, it is ultimately your partner that needs to come back to you and say “Nah”. You asserting your own needs doesn’t threaten your partner’s growing primary relationship. You didn’t threaten that relationship. You weren’t responsible for that relationship. That’s your— that’s your partner’s relationship, that he is responsible for managing and dealing with on his own. Like, maybe with your help and encouragement. But ultimately, it’s his responsibility to manage you didn’t threaten that relationship.

That was a situation that had a lot to do with clashing ideas of what primary means. So please don’t feel like in the future that you somehow having needs and existing is a threat to somebody else because it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be if he’s able to manage that situation, and maybe he’s not able to manage it. And that’s why he unfortunately ended it with you. Yeah.

To sum up, yes, it is completely possible. This is a really sad, unfortunate situation. Please don’t blame yourself for it. It sounds like he just couldn’t prioritise, just couldn’t manage. And, you know, it’s really unfortunate for him, it’s really unfortunate for you, but it’s not something that you caused by having needs in the future, try to figure out what it is you need from a secondary and what it is that you can do without and negotiate that, you know, from the beginning of your relationship and don’t kick yourself too hard for any of this because it’s really it’s not your fault.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 38: Is Polyamory Part of Me?

Is polyamory a fundamental part of who we are or is it something we can learn?

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

Discussion Topic: Rank in order of importance for you in your career: money, status, creativity, social impact, colleagues.

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

Episode 38 – Is Polyamory Part of Me?

Is polyamory an inherent part of who you are or is it something you can learn to be.  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Please visit @NonMonogamyHelp and view our post here: https://twitter.com/NonMonogamyHelp/status/1267089826492428288

 

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 am in a long term relationship with my partner (I identify as female and he identifies as male). We have been monogamous for the entirety of our 6 year relationship except for 1 threesome we had a couple of years ago.

My partner is open with me about how he would like to have sex with other people (casual sex, no relationships). I do not want this but I realize that it’s very important for him and I just don’t know if or how I can ever get to a point where I can be ok with it. I should say that I really want to be ok with it (and even sometimes I think it would be fine) and if he ever came to me saying, “either I can sleep with other people or I have to leave you” I would give it a shot because he is truly my life partner.

I guess my questions are:

  1. Can a person who has always been monogamous and who is uncomfortable (but also confusingly open to it…) with the idea of sexually open relationships eventually be at a place where they accept it and are at peace with it?
  2. Are monogamy and polya fundamental parts of who we are or can they flow to meet a partners needs?

My greatest fear here is that there is no hope for change and that I will lose my partner because of this. Thank you for any advice you can provide.

Response:

So I think that there are a few things here. First, to answer one of your questions: are monogamy and polyamory fundamental parts of who we are? I think that really depends on the person. I don’t think that we know enough about the way that our brain develops and the way that society influences us. And even I think the idea that nature and nurture are inherently separate things. And they don’t kind of talk to each other and influence one another— I think even that isn’t true.

I don’t think that you can raise a human being an isolation separate from a society and somehow find who they truly are. I think, you know, there’s a reason why isolating us in things like solitary confinement is torture. We are social creatures. We develop in relation to the social situations that we’re in and the society that we’re in. So I don’t really think that there is a fundamental part of who we are, that we could really suss out. And so I think it’s pointless for us— I mean, I get why people say that, like when you have a situation like you know, being queer, and people say, “Oh, we can, you know, therapise you out of being queer. We can— you can pray the gay away or we can separate that”.

Or when you get into like eugenics where people are basically saying the identities are these things that they can edit out of you then yeah, you do want to be able to say, “this is an inherent part of who I am”. And I understand you know, I am, you know, trans man, I am non-binary and that does feel like an inherent part of who I am. But I don’t know as that I can say for certain that it is—  I don’t know, I don’t know. And I don’t think that matters.

What matters is that some people feel that polyamory is a fundamental part of who they are. Some people feel like monogamy is not something that they can choose for themselves, and not something that they can do and that is valid. If that’s how people feel that’s valid. Equally people feel like monogamy is an inherent part of who they are. And that’s also valid and then there are folks like myself. I could do monogamy if I wanted to, just not interested in it. So, you know, I certainly couldn’t practice a form of monogamy that society encourages. And I think that there’s an important distinction to make there.

I think that there’s a very difference— a very big difference between you wanting to be a person who only dates one person and “monogamy” as the way that this society presents it because the way that our society constructs and teaches us about monogamy is is very biased in a lot of ways. And is to serve a specific function. You know, encouraging people to be in one partner you know, two partner relationships where they only find one person, there’s a very specific purpose and power that that that goes into that and I don’t think we should ignore that either.

And that’s not to say that you wanting to date one person makes you kind of a bootlicker or anything like that. It’s just that it’s always worth questioning the things that society says you should do. And I think that that’s a good thing for all people to do. But I think that you can— you can be a you know, be willing to meet your partner’s needs. What concerns about this is that

there’s a little bit of an imbalance. And I do realize that, you know, in some ways that there there is going to be an imbalance with a lot of situations.

You know, if a partner— there’s not like, for example, having children, there’s no way to compromise on that. You know, either you have children or you don’t. I mean, theoretically, maybe you know, you can, even being a foster parent is still being a parent, like you can’t compromise on whether or not you want to have children in your life. And I don’t know is that you can necessarily fully compromise on whether or not you want to be in an open relationship where your partner is allowed to sleep with other people.

The thing that concerns me is that you know, you say you identify as female and your partner identifies as male, and I always tend to find that it’s women that are bending over backwards to meet their partner’s needs. And I’m not saying that that’s the situation that you’re in, or that your partner isn’t receptive to your needs. But I think you need to be cognisant of the ways that you are always willing to sacrifice your needs for the benefit of your partner’s. Especially if there are men. And that might be something that you need to think about.

You know, you are wanting to change everything. And you say that if he ultimately gave you the ultimatum, you would go with it. And then that, you know, a lot of people would do that regardless of how they identify. But it’s very important to kind of catch yourself and realizing, you know, what it is about that, that makes you want to go, “Okay, I’m going to, I’m going to go with it”. Your greatest fear here is that you’ll lose your partner. And I think that that’s something that you also need to think about because breakups happen, and they feel horrible, and I’m not gonna lie about that. But they are survivable.

And I think that if your greatest fear is losing your partner, that is always going to be something that whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous is going to encourage you to make decisions that don’t benefit you. Your greatest fear shouldn’t be that you’ll lose your partner because you could lose your partner regardless. You know, you don’t have to be in a polyamorous relationship for your partner to decide they don’t want to be with you anymore. Being in an open relationship— polyamorous or just open sexually, like, you know, plenty of monogamous people experience a situation where their partners decide that they don’t want to be with them anymore.

You could grow apart, regardless of these kind of— his interest in being sexually open. Like there are so many different ways that you can not end up together, even though you’ve been together for six years. And I think that that’s something that’s really worth working on, and thinking about speaking to a therapist about because, yeah, it sucks to lose your partner. And I’m not trying to make light of that. And I certainly understand that fear. But the thing that I always kind of encourage people to think about is how they would deal with their worst fear because it may be that you two are inherently incompatible.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try polyamory or try and open relationship. I’m not saying that—You know, it’s hard for me to say can you— as someone who’s monogamous, who’s uncomfortable with the idea, eventually be at a place where they accept it and be at peace with it. I mean, what does that mean? You know, there are times when I’m not at peace, about a situation that I’m in, I you know, I’ve more or less nearly been polyamorous for 10 years and there are still some times when I am unhappy or I am jealous or I’m freaked out about something.

You know, we have ups and downs in our life. There isn’t some kind of ultimate permanent equilibrium that you’re going to be able to reach. That’s where you know, you’re never going to be unhappy about it. You might be unhappy about it in perpetuity, but just because you’re monogamous doesn’t mean you won’t be unhappy about other things. So I think that’s— that’s something that you should really break apart and think about. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t fear losing your partner, but I think that, you know, someone, someone said something really brilliant at an event that I went to I wish I’d have got their name and I wish should have written down the quote.

But it was something about how when you have anxiety or fear about a certain outcome happening to you, you’re not actually afraid of that outcome, you’re more afraid that you won’t be able to deal with it. So if you have confidence that you’ll be able to take care of yourself, if you have confidence that you’re able to cope with situations, then facing scary things is a lot less scary.

And that’s also my experience with anxiety, the more that I tried to kick myself and blame myself for having anxiety, the worse that it got. When I just kind of accepted that, Okay, I’m gonna have anxiety and I’ve had anxiety for a long time, and I’ve been able to cope with it for a long time. And I’ve never died from a panic attack. And I’ve always been able to deal with a panic attack. The more that I’ve been able to do that, the more that, you know, being faced with a panic attack has never been as scary as it was before I had that realisation.

So I think what you need to focus on is restoring your confidence that if you do lose this relationship because that is a possibility. Regardless of whether or not you’re polyamorous or not. There is nothing that you can do— and realizing this actually, I think takes a huge burden off of people’s shoulders when they actually do realize it. But there is nothing that you can do to magically, completely, you know, absolutely make sure that your partner will never leave. I mean, there are, don’t get me wrong, there are things that you can do to make sure your partner won’t leave you.

Those aren’t things that are ethical, or things that you should do. But if you want your partner to freely love you, and stay with you, there isn’t anything that you can do to completely prevent them from falling out of love with you. Because that’s just how life works. You can’t prevent that. So when you accept that you can’t prevent that, then that fear isn’t going to become your greatest fear anymore. When you accept that, you know, you can be a total jerk to your partner. You can call them names and throw things at them. That will probably encourage them to leave.

So it’s not to say you know, you should not care about your actions and your behaviors. But it’s to say that ultimately, the love that your partner has for you isn’t something that you can control. Because it isn’t necessarily always something that they can control. They can fall out of love with people even if they don’t want to. So that’s something that you should think about.

I think that you don’t really go into what the experience was like when you did have a threesome with a couple and that sounds like a foursome rather than threesome, but I won’t be nitpicky. You know, did— was that something that you were interested in? Who initiated that? Was it something that you would do again? I think that one of the things that can help people when they’re interested in open or polyamorous relationships is having their own motivations. You wanting to do it to keep your partner in your life isn’t really the best motivation for it.

Like— and that doesn’t mean to say that you have to be open or you have to be interested in being open. There are people and I’ve written about it on the column before— there are people who are monogamous with their partner. And their partner is polyamorous with other people. But I think that they accept the situation and they get something out of it, that allows them to be okay with it. So whether that’s— what I tend to compare it to is, you know, people can be monogamous, but be with someone who has a very time intensive career, that means that they won’t be with them all the time.

So if you’re gonna marry someone, or date someone who has an extremely time intensive career, like if they’re a politician, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or just any kind of career that demands a huge amount of their time, or even demands that they drop everything and go to wherever it is they have to go, you kind of have to accept that as part of a relationship with them. And so I think that one thing you’re going to have to accept is that if you want even I think a sexually open relationship, even if he’s not interested in having relationships, quote, unquote, with other people, you will kind of have to accept that he might not spend hundred percent of his time with you.

You have to accept the increased STI risk that, you know will happen, I think as well that you need to be really careful because, you know, some people know themselves very, very well. And they can say that they can have sex with other people without falling in love or or feeling any romantic way about anybody. But I do think that that happens. And not everybody is in a position where they’re really self aware enough to realise that they are having feelings for someone. So rather than just sort of saying like, “Okay, this will only be casual sex and there won’t be any feelings” and outlawing feelings you need to talk about what it is that you’re going to do if there are feelings and someone has feelings.

But I think that you need to think about you know, you say you’re confusingly open to it. Are you open to it because you see a benefit for yourself? Are you open to it because it’s the only way that you can keep your partner and you’re totally afraid of

losing your partner and that’s the only thing that’s motivating you. Fear isn’t a very good motivator in this instance, because it is going to be very scary to open your relationship. It is going to be very scary for your partner to sleep with other people.

The first night that you know, he’s out, it’s probably gonna be a terrible night, because it was terrible for me. And that was me having already had a polyamorous relationship and in the domestic relationship I’m in now the first night that my partner was not even fully away for the whole night, but just set a long party I was wracked with anxiety. So, you’re gonna feel a wreck. You’re gonna feel all of these feelings and what’s going to make it easier as you allowing yourself to feel that and not being afraid of that, and knowing that you can take care of yourself.

And you can find out you know, I don’t think that there’s a way that I’m going to be able to tell you or that you’re going to be able to know if this ultimately won’t work for you or not. I don’t think that there is… you know, I think that you can tell by looking at situations like the the threesome that you had and say, “Okay, I’m interested in that I have some interest”. And you know, you can gravitate back to that because you clearly had it you don’t say that it was a terrible experience. You don’t say it nearly wrecked you all and you nearly broke up. So I’m assuming that things went all right. And in that regard, you know, you can kind of anchor back to that and and see how you felt back to that and go, “okay, could I do this more than once?” That’s something that you can also consider.

But I do think one thing— last thing that I’ll kind of say to add here is that another option you might consider if your partner is just interested in having sexual relationships with other people, which— or just having sex with other people not necessarily having relationships, what you might consider is he could hire a sex worker. That would be probably something that would be less of a quote unquote threat to you, because it’s someone that he’s hiring, it’s a professional relationship. It’s, you know, not something that you’re gonna have to think, “Oh, is this person secretly trying to date my partner” or something like that.

It’s very straightforward. sex workers are very on the ball about this kind of thing. They probably have, you know, experienced something like this and could probably, you know, If you ask them maybe, you know, they’d know what things to flag what things you should think about they, you know, they might have experience with this before. And that might be something that allows him to have a bit of sexual freedom, but still makes you feel a little bit safer rather than it being— because then you can avoid all that: What if it’s someone that you both know? What if it’s your friend?

You know, you can avoid kind of all that situation– all those kinds of situations if that’s something that he’s interested in and equally like sex workers will be well up on STI risk. And they will be able to, you know, let you know in a way that sometimes people who are kind of just casual about it aren’t on top of their STI checks as always. So that’s something to consider.

So to kind of sum up, I think that first and foremost, you need to work with a therapist and a polyamory friendly therapist if you can find one because what I don’t want you to do is end up with a therapist who thinks that polyamory is the devil or something and doesn’t think it’s a good option for you. I think the first thing you really need to work on is your fear.

Because it is something that could happen. And I think that giving yourself more confidence in your ability to cope with those kind of situations, and having more of a safety net will make you feel a lot better. I think that you might want to talk with him about a sex worker. See if that’s something that he’s interested in. I think that there isn’t necessarily a way I can tell you if polyamory is fundamentally part of who you are a part of who your boyfriend is. I don’t think it’s necessarily worth thinking in those terms.

There are  wider discussions and maybe it’s a couples therapist thing that you have with your partner about how you know, do you have other threesomes in the future instead of him— instead of him, sleeping with other people? Like you really need to negotiate— Instead of just approaching the situation as you being willing to sacrifice everything and sacrifice your needs for him, you need to approach The situation with what are the compromises that you can make with each other that allow you to still stay together but meet his needs and meet your needs.

Be very, very wary of agreeing to situations where you’re sacrificing everything and he’s not sacrificing anything. But yeah, those are— I think if you start with that, you know… expect it to be not fun at first like honestly just expect that first. You can you can read all the books. You can read all the articles. You can mentally prepare yourself but just expect that you’re not going to feel great. Make other plans. See if you can go to a friend’s you know.  Just expect that you’ll feel miserable.

For me that miserable feeling did go away once I— you know, it’s just like my anxiety— once I kind of saw the situation, went through the tunnel, dealt with all the feelings and then I was like, “ Oh okay, my partner still here, they’re not going to leave me for someone else”. You know, or if they do, it’s, you know, it’s not something that I can control then that helped me deal with it. Now I don’t mind. Now I don’t have sleepless nights. And I don’t have the same problems, but it is something that you just have to… that should get better and it might not get better and you might end up being ultimately incompatible.

But if you address the first situation where you embrace the fact that this might happen, and don’t make all of your decisions based on fear, then it might be something that, you know, you can work towards without feeling so afraid. And without letting it guide you so much that you end up in situations you don’t want to be in just because you’re afraid of losing him because, you know, that isn’t— it seems like the worst thing that could happen to you, but it really isn’t so, and I think working on that will really help. So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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Episode 37: Don’t Want to Share

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing.

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

Discussion Topic: List 5 things that are important to you in this life. How much time do you give each of them?

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

Episode 37 – Don’t Want to Share

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Please visit @NonMonogamyHelp and view our post here: https://twitter.com/NonMonogamyHelp/status/1267089826492428288

 

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:

Long story short I don’t want to practice poly[am] anymore. And it’s upsetting to my primary (and really only) partner. But i think he understands. But the main issue is the other person we’ve been talking to. I don’t want to hurt her.

What I’m really confused on though is how I don’t want to be poly anymore. I feel like when were with this girl.. I’m pretending, like its just a show.

Or maybe the real reason is I’m being selfish and don’t want to “share” my boyfriend so to speak.

I know this is vague and very short but I would very much appreciate any advice or thoughts you have.

Response:

Okay, the first thing that I’m noticing here is that you seem to be dating as a couple, or I’m not really sure what’s going on here, because it’s a person that you’ve been talking to. And some people, you know… if a person genuinely wants to find and date a couple, fine, I don’t think that that is the vast majority of people out there. And I think that a lot of people who are opening up their relationship and it doesn’t tell me— you don’t tell me if you’ve just opened your relationship or how long you’ve been, quote unquote, practicing polyamory, but I do think a lot of people who open up their relationships think that it’s safer to operate as a couple and so they operate as a couple.

And I don’t think that works for a lot of reasons, because it’s quite difficult and not necessarily predictable to have one person fall in love with one other person. And I think it’s even twice as difficult to have an expectation that two people will be able to fall in love with one person in the exact same way at the exact same rate. And it’s not always fun to like be part of this situation where you go on a date and there’s two people there just… some people really like that and that’s absolutely fine. If that’s what folks want to do.

I just think that it’s probably better for people to try and date individually first, precisely because of what it seems like you’re experiencing here. You know, you don’t want to hurt this girl, or this woman that you’re seeing or that both of you are seeing but you’re clearly pretending. Like you aren’t interested in her and you know, you feel under pressure to, for whatever reason, perform your attraction to her, maybe because your boyfriend was right there.

Like if your boyfriend just wants to date this person, then let your boyfriend date that person. And you need to have a foundation of trust in between the two of you, so that you trust him to not violate your boundaries or to stick around with you. I don’t think it’s necessarily selfish to be in this kind of situation, and not really want to have another person there. I don’t think that that’s necessarily selfish. You don’t really talk about whether or not you have a problem with your boyfriend dating other people when you’re not there.

But I think that if it’s something that you want to do in terms of you want to date other people then you kind of have to sit with the discomfort and learn how to process it. And it will get better over time as soon as you establish that trust with your boyfriend. And know that you can you know, through example, that if he goes off and you know goes on a date with somebody else, he’s still gonna go on dates with you as well.

So I think that’s the first thing is that you all… you need to date as individuals. And don’t be in a relationship, or be on a date that you don’t want to be on. Break up with anyone or break up any relationship that is fake. That you’re not really actually wanting to be and because it’s also not fair for the other person, like, you know, you don’t want to hurt this person that you’re considering dating but you, by pretending that you are attracted to her, are going to end up hurting her.

So it’s better just to be honest about it. And you and your partner don’t have to be attracted to the same person. You don’t have to date the same person. And it’s very, very unrealistic if that’s your ideal situation. I mean, it would be great. If you and your boyfriend like the same person. If you know you could form some type of triad that worked for you all. That would be a really great situation, but that’s not realistic. That’s not likely to happen because if you think about, you know, a single person.

If you were single, like would you want to date two people at the exact same time? Who expected you to love them the exact same way? And especially if like what ends up happening when couples do this is that inevitably they come across problems in the relationship and their first reaction to that problem is just to chuck the third person that they brought in which really isn’t cool for them. So I just think that you need to date individually

In terms of whether or not you want to be polyamorous I think that what might help is you thinking hard about what the reasons you have for being polyamorous are do you have good reasons? Are you just being polyamorous because your boyfriend wanted to date other people? And you decided to go along with it? What do you as an individual get out of it other than staying with your boyfriend? Think about those reasons.

Because I do think sometimes when you are in situations Where you have a lot of emotions, where things seem really tough? It can feel like “Well, why the hell am I doing this anyway?” It can, it can get really frustrating. So what brings you back is just realizing, oh, I do actually have a reason for why I want to do this. And this is the reason. And sometimes that can help out a huge amount with, you know, figuring out what it is that you want and why it is that you want it.

I would also think about what it means to quote unquote, share your boyfriend. What does that mean? And why do you not want to do that? What do you think is going to happen as a result of that? Are you— do you have fears that you’re kind of indulging? And what what does it mean to share? And what are the specific things that you are quote unquote, sharing?

Those are things to really consider. And also like you’re welcome to like, not practice polyamory in air quotes. As much as you want. You don’t have to always be dating someone else in order to be polyamorous. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone around to date. Polyamory communities can be really small and maybe you’ve dated around a lot, and you just kind of ugh. Dating is also really exhausting. Not everyone wants to date all the time. It can be really, really tiresome. And not everyone you know is thrilled to do it. So just because you aren’t dating someone else right away doesn’t mean that you aren’t polyamorous.

So, you know, if you want to put a pause on dating, that doesn’t mean you’re not polyamorous. It just means that you are not interested in dating for a while. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe you can put a pause on dating for a little bit. But I think that the first thing that kind of needs to be worked out in this because it’s not really clear from your letters, whether or not it’s advisable for you and your partner to date the same person at the same time.

You know, it seems like— you’re talking about how when we are with this girl, I’m pretending like it’s just a show. Well, you don’t both have to be with her at the same time. You don’t both have to date or at the same time. You can be interested in the same person at the same time. Like that’s totally fine. And I’m sure plenty of people have had that situation where they’re interested in the same person at the same time. That’s very different from dating the same person as a couple. Like dating individually and it just so happens that you’re together is fine. And that can be a totally non-predatory thing.

But if you are dating as a couple and expecting things as a couple, that is where the problems really arise. And I do think you really need to look at that before you can really iron out any of the other problems here. But yeah, overall, to kind of sum up, I think that yeah, again, you need to date individually. I think you need to think hard about why it is that you want to be polyamorous or did want to be polyamorous at some point. What are the benefits that you get out of it? And really bring yourself back to that when you start getting in these kind of not so great, happy moments.

I think that you need to think about what it means to quote unquote share your boyfriend, and what it is about that that scares you. And when what it is about that, that you have fears around and maybe kind of work out, You know, is there a way that your boyfriend can reassure you about his commitment to you in a way that will make sharing him feeling less scary? And then last but not least, like just because you’re not actively dating doesn’t mean you’re not quote unquote, practicing polyamory.

You can not be dating anyone. And that just might be how you feel at the moment because dating isn’t that fun for a lot of people. So if you don’t want to date for a while, or if you want to just put a pause on that, that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to,

you know, date all the time just to be polyamorous.

And that really goes back to the first question because if you and your partner are insisting on dating at the same time and insisting on dating the same people, that’s this is exactly the reason why people advise people not to do that. Because inevitably it ends up feeling forced for one person if they don’t feel fully into it. And that’s just not a fun situation to be in.

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 36: Last Ditch Attempt

Should you go along with polyamory to keep someone you love in your life?

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

Discussion Topic: What does being “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 36 – Last Ditch Attempt

Should you go with polyamory to keep someone in your life? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Please visit @NonMonogamyHelp and view our post here: https://twitter.com/NonMonogamyHelp/status/1267089826492428288

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 started dating this guy freshman year of high school. But he had problems with depression and broke up with me my junior year. Even though we broke up we continued to date. We would see each other as often as we could and we’d talk as much as normal and we even had sex for the first time  (both of our first times). Now I’ve graduated high school but he’s a senior and a lot of things have changed. We don’t see each other as often and we don’t talk as often and I’ve had problems with trust because a while ago he had a fling with someone else.

He always reminds me that we aren’t actually together. And I try to remind myself too. Lately we’ve been talking about just cutting each other out of our lives. But I don’t want to lose him. I just can’t be friends with him because I don’t want to see him being in a new relationship. The problem is he’s okay with continuing being “together” but he also wants to be able to see other people. I just don’t know how to be open to that. How do I stop fearing that he’ll fall in love with someone else?

He isn’t good at communicating, I always try to talk to him but we end up with nothing. I want to give it a shot at dating multiple people at once but I’m scared of losing him. He told me that he doesn’t believe in forever and that he needs to know what life has to offer, he needs constant change. Should I just let him go instead? I still love him and he still loves me. I’m not good with jealousy but I also want to still be with him. Do you think I might be holding on to something dead?

I hope you answer my email because I’m kind of lost and I need help with these thoughts. Thank you for taking your time reading this.

Response:

So the first thing about this that I noticed is that you’re not necessarily interested in non monogamy. You’re interested in him, which isn’t a horrible thing. There are a lot of times where people you know— rarely is there a case where both people in a couple are interested in non monogamy and they both come together and they both decide that this is a good choice. Like that very rarely happens. Generally speaking, when you have a couple or two people who are interested in each other, it’s one person that’s kind of more interested in non monogamy that kind of encourages the other person to try it.

So it’s not necessarily a horrible thing if— or even a doomed thing if one person isn’t that interested in non-monogamy or is mostly interested in non-monogamy because they don’t want to lose the other person. But I do think that in general, for it to work, one of two things has to be true. One of those things is that there has to be something for that person in it. You know, they have to see some benefit in it either there. You know, even— it doesn’t even necessarily have to be an incredible interest in dating other people. You know, if you had said something in your letter where it’s like, where you were like, “Well, I’m young too, and I am interested in seeing other people and I don’t just want to be with this one person for the rest of my life”, then I could see that there is something about non-monogamy that appeals to you as an individual outside of the influence of this one other person.

The second thing that I think that has to be true if the first one is not true— if you’re only interested in non monogamy in order to keep one person in your life or vice versa, like you’re only interested— you’re not that interested in non monogamy but you’re dating someone who really, really is and you care about that person and you don’t mind them dating other people whilst you are monogamous because that is a situation quite a lot of people— I mean, I don’t know how many I haven’t taken a census but I do hear of many situations where one partner is monogamous to that person and the other person is polyamorous and has multiple partners. I think that can work.

But that doesn’t really seem like what your interest is, you know. There isn’t anything outside of this guy that you’re kind of still have a lot of feelings for that motivates you to try non-monogamy. So that’s the biggest and first thing that I notice in your letter. The second thing is that you say he isn’t good at communicating. And that really isn’t a good sign. Like, you know, people who— I’m not saying that people who are non-monogamous are necessarily better at communicating. But there are a lot of things about non-monogamy because of the nature of it not being very common.

When you’re in a monogamous relationship that’s kind of socially and culturally endorsed. There are a lot of assumptions that people make and I think that ends up being a problem in monogamous really ships to that there is a shared cultural narrative of what monogamy is. There’s a shared idea of milestones. There are a lot of shared cultural things that make people go, “Okay. This is what this is, this is what that is”. And that does end up causing monogamous people a lot of problems when one partner makes an assumption that something is this way, and the other partner doesn’t agree.

However, when you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, you can’t rely on those assumptions. And so there often needs to be a lot more communication around the basic foundations of the relationship. And you know, what progress is if there is progress, what certain things mean how you define non-monogamy, all that sorts of stuff, and also the different style of relationship that you want to have. And if he’s not good at communicating at all, if you often try to talk to him, and you’re getting nowhere and the only thing he seems to be very good at communicating to you is that you actually aren’t together. Like that’s the only thing that you’re getting really loud and clear from him is that you aren’t together.

I don’t think that spells out very good things for the future. If you wanted to try non-monogamy, I think you should try it with someone who was very good at communicating their thoughts and their feelings throughout the process. And this doesn’t seem to be like that kind of a person. The only thing he’s very clearly communicated to you is that you’re not “together”, but he has no problem being together and seeing other people. I’m sure he doesn’t have a problem with that. I’m sure that is very, very convenient for him. However, that’s not the issue here. It’s not— it shouldn’t be about his convenience. It should also be about your feelings as well.

And so if he’s very poor at communicating in general, that just doesn’t— even for a monogamous relationship that just doesn’t spell good things. And you all seem quite young, you know, you’re starting… you’re talking about high school and I don’t even know if you’re at uni yet or at college yet. So you’ve graduated high school, you’re quite young, like I don’t expect him to be a stellar communicator, you know, coming out of high school, but if you can’t even talk to him now about this kind of stuff. I just don’t think that this is about a good way to go about it.

The third thing that I noticed here is that you know, people can tangentially be interested in non-monogamy without really actually wanting non-monogamy. And what I mean by that is that there are quite a lot of people who would find it very convenient and very easy for them to have and be able to date multiple people. It seems very convenient and very easy and it seems like something that they want because of all of the things that you’ve said that he said— that he needs to change and he doesn’t believe in forever and he needs to go out there and take life by the horns and all that crap. That’s very well and good.

However, when you look at it on the outside and you think that non-monogamy is just about being able to sleep with multiple people, you know, while no one gets mad, that’s really not what non-monogamy is. I don’t really think that he wants non-monogamy I just think he doesn’t want to have to commit to anybody. And he doesn’t want to actually have a relationship where he needs to do some emotional labor for somebody else. That’s what he wants. He wants to be able to come and go as he pleases, which isn’t necessarily what non-monogamy is. I mean, there are quite a few people who would be absolutely fine with no strings attached sex and all that kinds of stuff. And that’s fine. I’m not saying that’s, that’s not a valid thing to want.

But what I’m saying is that that’s definitely not what you want. And that’s definitely not what polyamory is, in particular. It’s usually about having multiple relationships and a person who is afraid to commit to one relationship isn’t kind of going to be able to commit to multiple relationships. That’s not how it works. So in general, I think that yes, you are holding on to something dead. And I don’t think that that is out of character, to be quite honest with you. I mean, you’ve just graduated high school. This guy represents a lot for you. This is like, you know— This is the first person you’ve slept with, you know, it’s someone that you still have quite strong feelings for and that is very, very understandable.

It’s totally understandable that you would want to make this work because someone that you have a familiarity with someone that you have all of this history with, is a lot less scary than a brand new person. But I just don’t think that trying to make this work is going to work. I mean, you know, you broke up it when you were in your junior year because he had problems with depression. I’m not really sure what that means. Plenty of people with depression can have relationships, but for whatever reason, he’s just not in the position that you want him to be in. He’s just not in a position to be what you want.

And I don’t think— I don’t really think what you want is non-monogamy. I don’t think that you want to date multiple people. I think that you just want it so that you can keep him in your life and you’re already struggling. You know, when you’re friends with him and you see him with other people. I don’t think that situation is going to be made any better than you know, if you’re together, and he’s also with another person. Like, I think that’s just gonna make it worse, I don’t think that’s necessarily gonna improve over time. I mean, yes, you could work on jealousy. You could work on, you know, examining your assumptions about your fear that he’s going to leave you.

You know, you could work on that. But I think at the end of the day, there’s no real point in doing all of that work for someone who is making it quite clear, even though he’s bad at communicating, he’s still making it quite clear that he doesn’t want the things that you want in a relationship. He doesn’t want to settle down. He doesn’t want to do the things that you want him to do. So it’s not really worth it, to keep putting yourself in this situation, because it’s just you know, even though it seems like dragging something along is actually going to be easier for you. And that might be why he hasn’t explicitly spelled out to you that this isn’t going to work.

And it might be that he just likes being friends with you and doesn’t want to lose that but sometimes, the easiest way to get over something is actually by having a clear and clean break, so that you can go, “Okay, we’re broken up now”. It might be good for you to have some distance from him. And you might get that distance from from college, if you do go to college, or if he goes to college. You might get that distance. But, you know, you need to have some of that distance away from him. Because I think that there’s a lot of emotions here. There’s a lot of, you know, love that you have for this person that you know, that you still are holding on to because it’s comfortable in a way, but I think in the end, at the end of the day, it’s going to be not that comfortable for you if you keep holding on to it.

So yeah, to kind of sum up, I don’t think that you’re interested in non-monogamy really, I think you’re just interested in keeping him in your life. And while I can understand why you would want to do that, I don’t think it’s in the end going to work out. Secondly, if he were good at communicating with you, it would be one thing for you to consider are trying an open relationship or some form of non-monogamy.

But the fact that he’s not good at communicating his feelings to you, that doesn’t spell very good things for even a monogamous relationship. And last but not least, him not wanting to commit to you isn’t really the same as wanting multiple relationships. Usually people who don’t want to commit to one relationship would probably also struggle to commit to multiple relationships. And I don’t think that that is something that he’s really interested in. And I think as well if, if you’re already struggling in terms of seeing him with other people, I don’t think that allowing him to— giving him permission to do that so that he stays with you is really going to help the situation.

You’re so young. You’re gonna find other people. You’re gonna get over this. It’s really hard. I know, personally, for me, the first kind of huge relationship that I had in terms of, you know, impact in my life and this person being someone that I actually loved. I tried as hard as I could to keep hold of that. So hard. And I think that in the end, it made it worse for myself a little bit, which wasn’t the other person’s fault. It was more just me, I just wanted to keep this person in my life. And I think that in the end that just made it that much harder when it was quite obvious to me that they couldn’t stay in my life.

So yeah, I think it’s best— you are kind of holding on to something dead. And it might be best to give yourself some space from him. Give yourself some time, get used to being alone, you know, learn how to be alone. I think that’s probably the most healthy thing that a person can do when it comes to relationships is actually learning how to be alone, because so many people end up in not great relationships because they’re scared to be alone. And if you can learn how to be alone, and how to be fine with being alone, that could actually be hugely beneficial for you.

So I think that’s the route you should go rather than trying non-monogamy just to make this person happy or just to basically give this person permission to cheat. That would probably end up making you a lot happier to separate and learn how to be s ingle and be happy to be single for a short period of time and find someone else later down the line if that suits you. I hope that helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

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

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