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.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

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.

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Episode 35: Primary Responsibility

Do titles matter when it comes to prioritising your time? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

A note to readers: If you haven’t yet seen my Twitter thread, I want to make it absolutely clear that this is a publication that supports #BlackLivesMatter and if you do not, feel free to stop being a listener/reader now. It is not acceptable for white people to continue being complicit in systems of oppression. You MUST do something about it. If you don’t want to, then find your polyamory advice and content somewhere else.

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Episode 35 – Primary Responsibility

Do titles matter when one partner asks for exclusive time? And an important commentary for all listeners. 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 have just entered a poly relationship with an adorable person  that we can name Ulysses.

Ulysses has been with this girl, Penelope for 6 years. A few years ago, they decided to go poly, because Penelope was leaving to work at sea. As a result they see each other rarely. Apparently, Penelope has a lot of casual relations, and struggles with Ulysses’s ways of building intimacy (who likes to build more meaningful, long term relation).

In December, Penelope is coming to our city for a month. She is flying from across the world, and made it clear that she doesn’t want to meet me. She also wants his exclusive attention while she is here. This means that him and I will have next to no contact, after 2 months of seeing each other 3 times a week. Ulysses says that he has no control over the situation, and, though he is sad for me, kinda understands where she is coming from. My issue is, as I see it, that Ulysses is not taking responsibility, by either setting boundaries, OR being honest about the fact that I don’t matter next to her.

On top of that, he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of primary vs secondary relationship, as he keeps saying that, because she feels left behind since he has started seeing me, she is the secondary relation.

My question is: how many red flag is too many red flags? I have never done poly relation before, but the fact that he isn’t taking responsibility, that she seems to want me to disappear, and that he is quite distressed with me insisting about the correct terminology around our dynamic, is making me rather scared.

Response:

Okay, the first thing here is your instincts that Ulysses is not taking responsibility is spot on. He can absolutely control the situation. And I’m not saying that he can necessarily control how Penelope decides to react. But he can control what he does with that information and how he chooses to communicate it to you.

Like a lot of people— and you’re not the only person who’s like this — you are way, way, way, way, way too involved in their relationship. Why do you know all this stuff? Like you don’t need to know all this stuff. I get that some people really want to have a kind of friendly relationship with their metamours. And that’s absolutely fine. And a metamour is the person that your partner dates. By the way, if you don’t know that terminology, however,

sometimes that just isn’t possible. And sometimes

it’s also— even if it is possible, you don’t need to know all that information about like the ins and outs of their relationship.

It’s kind of really inappropriate for you to know that information in a way. You know, because it’s— it puts you in a very weird position. Understandably, you’re friends with Ulysses and like, maybe Ulysses doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about his relationship with Penelope, but he needs to find someone else and find someone else who doesn’t have any romantic connections to this situation. It just isn’t really cool that you know all this kinds of stuff and I’m not saying that’s your fault. But you know, Ulysses is kind of telling you all this stuff, and I think he’s doing it to absolve himself of the responsibility.

Because obviously, you’re going to see this situation as in part if not completely Penelope is fault, because it’s Penelope who’s putting forth that this is what she wants him to do. And he’s not budging. So what if he can understand where she’s coming from? That doesn’t mean he just has to lie back and not do anything or just ignore it every situation or just sort of sit.— That’s why he’s telling you all this information so that, you know, he doesn’t have to face the truth, which is that he doesn’t want to do anything about it, that he’s going to go with what she wants, because he doesn’t, for whatever reason, he doesn’t want to say no to her.

And I don’t think it’s necessarily about you not mattering. Like I don’t even think it’s that deep, unfortunately. And I understand your frustration with the like secondary versus primary labels here because what you’re trying to understand is where you fall and Ulysses’s life and you’re trying to understand what value he places on relationships, and, you know, the negotiations of power here, but unfortunately, he, you know, isn’t going to share those same definitions with you.

And unfortunately, he is going to define things in a way that absolves him of guilt. Like it doesn’t really matter who’s a primary and who’s the secondary in this situation. It just really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the primary person or the secondary person is demanding exclusive attention to somebody for an entire frickin month, it just really doesn’t matter. Either way, that’s a kind of shitty thing to do. And there isn’t really any reason for it. Okay, she’s been out to sea for months. Okay, they don’t get to see each other yada, yada, yada, okay. That doesn’t mean that you come back and you have exclusive access to somebody and you and you get to dictate who they do and who they can and can’t see.

If that you know, if that’s what the life he wants to live, then that’s fine. But that’s, you know, then that— either you have to decide do I want to be with someone who basically is going to do that kind of thing or not? I feel like if this happened to you, if you were in the same situation, I don’t know as that you would just go along with it. So it doesn’t really matter. Like I get the kind of, you know, issues with insisting you— you know him getting distressed if you insisting about the correct terminology because that’s like the closest thing you’re coming to holding him actually responsible for shit is actually saying “Wait a minute here”.

Because if he had to face that, then he’s just trying to create a situation where it’s excusable for her to demand this, but the truth is that, whether you’re the secondary, whether she’s a secondary, like, regardless, it’s not an acceptable thing. In my opinion, it’s if people want to handle the relationships that way, by all means, that’s the way they can handle their relationships. But I certainly— if I were dating someone, and whoever they were with, regardless of any label I put on myself as to where I stood in their life, if anyone else told them that they weren’t allowed to see me, and they decided to go with that. That’s their choice.

You know, this isn’t really up to Penelope. It’s up to Ulysses. It’s up to him. Primarily. It’s not up to anybody else. And, yeah, it’s not up to any of them. It’s rather, it’s not up to Penelope, it’s up to him. And he is making that decision. And you have it kind of right on the nose when you say he’s not taking responsibility by setting boundaries or being honest. And I don’t— I think that the misstep you have there is being honest about the fact that you don’t matter next to her, because I don’t even know if that’s how he sees it. To be honest with you, I think you’re giving him a lot of credit and assuming that he is understanding the power relations of the situation. Like I don’t think he’s thinking of it that way.

I think he’s just doing what he’s told, unfortunately. And he’s not really thinking about the effect that it’s having on anyone. So from his perspective, you both maybe mean the same thing to him. You know, you’re here, she’s not there. Either way, he’s gonna be fine. Do you know what I mean? Like you’re the one who’s not going to be able to see him but he’s gonna have somebody so I don’t know is that he’s even thinking about who matters as much. It’s just literally about the fact that he doesn’t want to argue with her. And so that’s kind of where you’re at. Unfortunately, it’s not even necessarily a red flag. I mean, usually I use the word red flag in a situation where someone’s being abusive. So I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a red flag in that regard.

But it certainly doesn’t bode well, for the way that you know, you obviously want to relate with him. I wouldn’t get so much hung up on labels, because like I said, it really doesn’t matter what label it is. If it’s unacceptable to you, regardless of whether you’re the secondary or not, if it’s unacceptable to you, it’s not acceptable. And that’s it. So it doesn’t really matter.

So yeah, there isn’t very much else I can advise on this because I do ultimately feel like you kind of just have to go to him and say, “Hey, this isn’t acceptable to me. And that’s it”. And that’s really it. And just see what he does. So there’s nothing really else you can do. And just if he starts to tell you like, if he says, “Okay, fine, I’ll work it out”. Okay, but like, if he gives you any more information about his relationship with Penelope, like, you know, the differences of intimacy and what kind of relations she has— it’s none of your business, so it’s just none of your business. And, you know, I get that maybe he’s told you this to try to explain why he’s going along with this.

But um, no, you don’t need to know all this because he’s making that decision. And if he’s going to make that decision, then he needs to be able to tell you and say, “Hey, I value this person, this is what they want, and I’m gonna go with it”. He has to be able to at least do that if he if that’s what he wants to do.

So yeah, to sum up, I think I’m just kind of repeating myself again and again here. But to sum up the fact that he isn’t taking responsibility. I don’t don’t think it matters whether or not she wants to make you disappear, doesn’t matter that she doesn’t want to meet you. Those are, you know, she could not want to meet you and, you know, but he needs to stand his ground. So  that doesn’t matter. You should be worried about the fact that he is not willing to take responsibility. In terms of the primary and secondary labels, that’s, that’s not really a concern, I wouldn’t really be concerned about that. Because at the end of the day, labels don’t really matter. Labels don’t matter.

It’s not appropriate for one person, regardless of whether they’re the secondary or the primary. It’s not appropriate for them to basically dictate how another relationship that they’re not involved in happens. It’s not acceptable, in my opinion, and how I do relationships, and it clearly isn’t acceptable too. So that unfortunately, you just gonna have to say, this isn’t this isn’t really gonna fly with me and put the ball in his court and let them decide what to do with it. Unfortunately. I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 34: Afraid of Loss

Your partner is interested in polyamory (and so are you) but they are afraid of losing you. How do you move forward from that?

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

Discussion Topic: Over the last five years, how do you think you have changed?

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

Episode 34 – Afraid of Loss

Your partner doesn’t want to try polyamory because they are afraid to lose you. How do you move forward from that? 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 – Over the last five years, how do you think you have changed?

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:

Me and my wife have now been married for 3 years. It’s a very loving and happy relationship. About a year and a half in, my wife brought up the topic of polyamory and at first I was kind of taken aback just because I’ve always felt polyamorous but didn’t think it was normal because of societal norms. I didn’t want to feel like the typical guy just trying to be a player.

I did some research and come to find out many people are actually doing this. So we get to talking about it and it’s not something she wanted to try right away. Two years into the relationship and I bring it up again if she wants to give this a try. She wanted at first for us to be a triad then later decided we should look for our own partners which I was ok with. About 3 months down the line she no longer wants to continue doing this for fear of losing me. And myself being her husband did not want her to feel uncomfortable in our relationship decide we would stop and go back to being monogamous.

Three years in and in the back of my head this is still something I want to do and want to be part of my life. I don’t know how to bring this up to her and without her feeling less than of herself or even that she has to choose this or leave because I love her very dearly and don’t want to lose her but at the same time I want to express myself and be who I am.

Response:

So the biggest thing here is the fear of loss.

I think that a lot of people have this fear that… for an understandable reason, opening their relationship is going to make them lose their partner. From a certain logical perspective, this makes a lot of sense. Because you would think that if you allow your partner to sleep with other people or have relationships with other people, then they might sort of get wooed away from you.

And to a certain extent that could happen. It totally could happen. Like, her fear of this— even if you feel like quite honestly like it’s never gonna happen in your mind, her fear of this is very, very valid and makes a lot of sense, especially with all the narratives that she’s grown up around. You know, you say that you were afraid of being polyamorous or you felt that way but didn’t want to go that way because you didn’t think it was normal, and you thought that it was just about being a player.

And that whole societal narrative kind of gives you this idea that exclusivity means love. That in order to express love with someone, or for someone, you have to be exclusive with them. And it also kind of encourages the idea that being jealous of who your partner is attracted to when you’re with them, or showing that kind of thing is a sign of love as well. There’s a lot built up around that.

And I think the society we’re also surrounded with, encourages us to see the result of a relationship as a win, competitively. So you know, you can’t sell things to happy people who are happy with themselves and happy with what’s going on in their lives jenerally speaking. You can create a kind of demand by you know, making people feel scared. And I think that we grow up in a society that tells us— unless you grew up in a very different society, and apologies for assuming— but the society I grew up in at least tells me that if I want to find a partner, then I have to be the best at everything.

I have to be, you know, amazing. I have to look this way. I have to do this thing. You know, it gives you a lot of messages about what you should be, so that you can find a partner. But the truth is that we don’t pick partners because they’re the best at everything, because nobody is the best at everything. And in fact, there are billions and billions of people on this planet, and guaranteed there will be somebody who’s better than you at any given skill that you have. So if your partner’s fear is that you’re going to find someone who’s better than her at something, you probably will. But that’s not why you’re with her.

You’re not with her because she’s the best at every single thing that she does or that you do together. So sometimes what I encourage people who have this fear to think about is that you know, to reframe their perspective that they have to be the best of everything.

The other thing that I would also encourage your wife to think about is that monogamy isn’t going to prevent that from happening. It’s totally understandable that she would fear losing you because everyone fears losing people that they love in their life. But there isn’t anything she’s going to be able to ultimately do to prevent that from happening. You know, if you are going to dump her for some random person, then that can still happen even if you’re monogamous.

It happens to monogamous people all the time. Monogamous people in closed relationships, meet somebody else decide that they don’t want to be with the partner that they’re monogamous with and dump them. That happens. So monogamy isn’t going to prevent that from happening. And it’s understandable that she’s afraid, you know. You’re always going to be afraid when you try new things. But there isn’t ultimately anything that she is going to be able to do to prevent that.

And even though it sounds quite horrible, you know, especially from your perspective.You’re trying to reassure her and trying to say you know, “I’m never gonna leave you. I love you”. You know all that kind of thing. The truth is that, you know, there isn’t anything either of you can do even being monogamous to prevent each other from leaving, if that’s what you really want to do.And trying to prevent that puts a burden on your shoulder to save and keep your partner by your actions when you can’t actually prevent that with your actions.

So I think if this is something that matters to you—I mean, you’ve only been… you said you’ve been married for three years. I don’t know if you’ve been together for longer than three years.

You could have just been married for three years, but then you were together for maybe five years before then. I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know if you have kids together. Those are all things to consider when it comes to this. But if this is something that you really feel is part of who you are, and it’s something that you really want to explore, you know…

Obviously, you don’t necessarily want to twist your arm into it, but at the same time, you know, if you were all of a sudden massively interested in golfing, and you desperately wanted to you know, go on a golf tour… And if you didn’t you feel miserable. You know, there’s all sorts of things in life that could come up that could be incompatibilities between you, that just won’t be able to be negotiable.

So I mean, even having kids, you know, if one of you does want to have kids, the other one doesn’t. I mean, there’s only so much you can negotiate around that. So if this is something that’s really, really important to you, and it is something that she showed an interest in, she’s just afraid of. I think that you can bring up a subject in order to kind of say, “I realized that you know, you didn’t want to try it, and you weren’t comfortable with it because of these fears. Can we talk about these fears?”

So you’re not really saying like, “I definitely want you to try it. I definitely have— you have to do this or I’ll leave”. It’s about talking about her fears. And it might help to even ask her to listen to this if that’s helpful for you, because… all of these fears she’s experienced. are totally normal. They’re exactly what people often experience when they open their relationship up and when they try polyamory for the first time. And I think if people could think back on, on what they thought when they actually entered in their first monogamous relationship, they would find that they were probably just as afraid.

But the difference is that with monogamy, you have these cultural scripts. You have everything in society telling you like, “this is how you do this relationship. You know, first you go out some dates, and then you, you know, become an item because you become exclusive”. It has all these milestones. There’s a thing called the relationship escalator that’s worth looking up. It has all these milestones that allow you to feel comfort, and security. And you don’t really have that with polyamory, because it’s not, you know, it’s not considered normal in society, or people don’t really talk about it.

So you don’t really have these norms. And sometimes you kind of have to create those norms. So you’re going to be terrified and you’re going to be scared, you’re gonna be worried about losing, you know, one another. You may not be as worried as she was, but you’re both going to be scared. You’re both going to be anxious. That’s very, very normal. And maybe if she kind of thinks about these fears— it’s less about trying to get her to agree to be polyamorous and more about thinking, you know, how can we address these fears? Because when you mentioned— you mentioned that she wanted to try to be a triad and then later decide to look for your own partners, which is good. I think that out of fear, a lot of couples initially think that a triad is safer. And so they go for that, but actually, you know, finding one person to love you, in general is hard enough.

Like expecting a third person to come in and love you both in a way that isn’t threatening is impossible. Like it’s just a very tricky situation. And people always think that it’s somehow an ideal situation because they think it’s the situation which is less likely to end in jealousy. But let me tell you, I had somebody I knew who was in a triad relationship, and she was dumped by both of her  partners on the same day and ever since then, I’ve never really felt that triads were very safe. For me, I’d never had that illusion.

It’s seems like a nice thing. Like, obviously, it’s nice if everybody likes each other. And, yeah, it’s nice if you both have— if you all have the same amount of love for each other, but I think people don’t choose that, because they’re trying to create a certain lifestyle, I think mostly they choose it out of fear. And so I do think that your wife has been making some decisions out of fear. And she’s the one who brought up the topic.

So I don’t think— you know, as long as you approach the situation, and you say, “I’d like to discuss with you the fears that you had”, and you know, what you might be able to find in your area, or maybe even via Skype, a polyamory friendly therapist who can sit down and have these discussions. And then you know, because there’s all sorts of other things to think about. You may both want to try polyamory, but maybe you both have a very, very different idea of how you want to structure your life and relationships. You know, lots of people are you know, have a basic interest in being polyamorous, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the same type of goals in terms of what kinds of relationships that they want. So, you know, that’s not even necessarily half the battle.

It’s important for you to think about things like that. But I think just starting off, you know, just approach the subject in a way that’s like, you know, “I know that you express the fears. I’m not trying to say we have to do this. But I’d like to talk about those fears, and introduce these ideas”. I’ve written a few columns about the fear of being replaced, which you can find, if you’d like, and just see what she thinks, you know, it doesn’t have to be an either or situation.

Later on down the line. If you really feel like this is really, really part of you. And you can’t, you know, you can’t say no to it, and you can’t pretend all your life that you’re fine not doing it, and you desperately desperately want to do it, then you’re going to have to really think about the situation unfortunately, But that happens. And it’s not necessarily polyamory’s fault. Sometimes people just have different priorities and different things that they want to try. And I think you know, you only live once. And if this is something that you really, really want to try, then you should go for it.

I think, in the meantime, you know, I don’t think you should go full tilt right now. But you can have some discussions about her fears, and see if that changes her mind. And you know, find a polyamory friendly therapist, if you have the opportunity. Maybe that person can also like talk about— find a good way to bring up this subject. And, and you can talk about it, and you can work out what you want out of polyamory and what she wants, and maybe she’ll be less afraid. But yeah, 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 33: Stuck in the Middle

What happens when you feel stuck in the middle of your partner and their metamour?

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

Discussion Topic: What should a healthy relationship provide for the people who are in it?

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

Episode 33 – Stuck in the Middle

What happens when you feel stuck in the middle of your partner and their metamour? 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 should a healthy relationship provide for the people who are in it?

 

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 currently trying to work out if I should continue pursuing a relationship with one of my partners who has a complicated primary relationship (I am their secondary partner). Alex and I have been seeing each other for a couple of months and have developed an emotional connection. However, their primary partner, Sam, does not want to have a polyamorous relationship but an open one, with only sexual secondary relationships. Sam has said they are willing to try polyamory rather than stop Alex and I being together but, obviously, it is hard to make something work if it isn’t what you really want.

Due to this situation and the fact that they only stopped being a monogamous couple at the start of this year, they have a very limited understanding of non-monogamy and how to treat people outside of their primary relationship fairly. Sam prefers a structure where they get to make the final decision on everything and Alex isn’t very good at asserting themselves – by their own admission, they are too compliant.

This means that so far Sam and Alex have refused to incorporate any requests from me and have made decisions about our relationship structure that works entirely for them. I ended up setting a clear boundary with them both last week – by not accepting the terms they were trying to set and suggesting that neither one contact me till they were ready to incorporate my needs as well. I don’t know if this will work but I am struggling to see another way to get them to realise that I don’t just have to accept what they dictate.

They have also only spoken about each other in very negative ways to me and I find this quite horrible to be around. I am finding that I am struggling to not adopt their perspectives of each other – Alex feels Sam is too controlling and Sam feels Alex is quite pathetic.

My love for Alex means I am currently torn between a) hoping they will come around and in time develop a more ethical approach to non-primary partners for my own benefit and that we find a way to all communicate and make it work OR b) ending my relationship with Alex in the hope that we can have something more positive together in the future if they and Sam were to break up.

I don’t want to be surrounded by such negativity and accept such poor treatment, but then I also don’t want to be in the position where I’m left hoping another couple will break-up (because normally that shouldn’t be necessary in polyamory). I would ideally put in the effort but fear that anything I have with Alex now will be forever tainted by my association with all of this negativity.

What would you suggest for someone in this situation?

Response:

So, the biggest thing here is that… I totally understand that people have different feelings about how involved they are with their metamours. There’s a such thing as “kitchen table polyamory”, which is basically a situation where people get along with their partners and their metamours as they would, “family”.  That phrasing, as I’ve said before on the podcast has always felt really awkward to me because it kind of assumes that your kitchen table growing up was a fun thing to be around.

That aside, that is sometimes a thing that people really shoot for. And I don’t blame people for shooting for that. I understand why people shoot for that. The problem that I have is that I think it’s, you know… family is one thing, but you don’t get to choose your family. You were born with your family, and you kind of have to— or not, in some people’s cases— get along with them, because you’re kind of stuck with each other.

Whereas you choose your partners. You choose your romantic partners. And even though you don’t choose your metamours, you don’t have to choose to be around them. You don’t have to deal with their stuff in the same way that you kind of do have to deal with your family stuff. And so it’s fundamentally, in my opinion, a very different type of relationship. And sometimes I feel like people put a lot of pressure on themselves to get along with their metamours, because it’s kind of idealized, even though people say “there’s no one right way to do polyamory”…

a kind of setup where you like your metaphors or

you know, feel happy about them and don’t hate them… is an ideal situation.

And that is a situation that a lot of people aim for, for very understandable reasons. It’s not comfortable. And it certainly doesn’t help matters when you’re dealing with all kinds of other emotional stuff that can happen when you try polyamory. It doesn’t help if you really, really hate the person that your partner is dating. However, I do sometimes feel like the big push to be this close and to be involved, sometimes ends up creating more problems than it actually serves.

Because in this situation, I don’t know if you knew Sam, before you met Alex. If you didn’t, then you’re just way too involved in the situation. You’re way too involved in their relationship. It can be quite difficult if you were friends with both of them before because then you kind of already have that friendship, but if you never really knew or talked to Sam rather before you met Alex, then you’re in this really, really involved situation which just makes it worse for you.

Because what you’re saying is they are making a decision about your relationship structure. They aren’t making the decision. Alex is making the decision. And I feel like you’re not really holding Alex accountable for what they’re deciding to do. All due respect to Alex and I get that there’s some criticism pointed towards Alex with regards to not being able to be assertive. But at the end of the day, you have a relationship with Alex. You don’t have a relationship with Sam.

And, you know, it’s hard to say if you were really close friends before, then this makes it a little bit more awkward. But I do think that there needs to be some separation there. And you need to realize that, you know, Sam has a relationship with Alex and that’s their relationship and you don’t need to know the ins and outs of what’s going on in their relationship. You don’t really need to know how it is that they prefer to do their relationship really. You don’t really need to know that. What you need to know from Alex is whether or not Alex has the time to devote to you. Whether or not Alex can meet your needs. And instead of holding them both accountable as if they are one unit.

Because you’re not dating a couple. You’re dating Alex. And Alex is the person who is refusing to incorporate your requests. Whether that is because Sam is asking for it or not—  it really doesn’t matter, because Alex has to be responsible for Alex’s decisions. Because at the end of the day, if Sam were to say, “Oh, I want to do this”, Alex still has the power to say “Actually, no, that’s not how I want to do things”. And maybe they haven’t come to an agreement about whether or not they want to be just open or polyamorous, but they need to come to that agreement. And that’s not your responsibility to facilitate.

So you’re kind of way, way, way too involved in what’s going on in the ins and outs of their relationship. And part of that is this weird crosstalking that you’re getting where they’re speaking about— which is so so inappropriate, and I get it and that’s why I wonder if maybe you were friends with Alex before— were friends with Sam (Sorry, I’m getting names confused) if you were friends with Sam before this started because it seems very, very odd for Sam to complain about their partner to you.

That just seems weird to me if you weren’t already friends. And you know what, even if you were friends, it’s just the same as if you were not dating any of them. Like, imagine if you weren’t dating any of them. And they were just your friends and they started dating, and they started complaining to you about each other< That would still make you feel awkward. Or if they even if they weren’t dating. If they just started bitching about each other, to you behind each other’s back. That would make you feel really, really awkward. So that needs to stop. I don’t see why this is acceptable. It’s not acceptable if you’re friends with them. It’s not acceptable. If you’re dating both of them.

It’s not acceptable. If you’re dating one of them. It’s just not acceptable at all. It’s not acceptable if it makes you feel uncomfortable, and it feels like it’s affecting your relationships, you’re allowed to say, “Listen, I get that you’re having some frustrations in your relationship right now. But you really need to find someone else to talk to about this because I don’t feel comfortable hearing this stuff about Sam or about Alex”. You’re allowed to say that. You don’t have to sit there and listen to

to all this. You know, it’s putting you in a very, very weird position. And and even if you weren’t dating any of them, it’s just not appropriate. And and it’s having an effect on you.

As you said, you don’t want to be surrounded by that negativity and accept that poor treatment. I think you did a good job. With regards to setting a boundary with both of them. I wasn’t sure what kind of terms they were suggesting or what you were objecting to. But clearly, you made it obvious that I’m not— this isn’t acceptable for me. But I think the different thing that I think you should do is instead of treating them like they’re some kind of team and they both get to decide things, you need to— Alex needs to step up. Basically, Alex needs to take responsibility for their decisions.

And you need to speak to Alex about your relationship with Alex because you’re not in a relationship with Sam unless I read this wrong. Or unless you forgot some part of this letter. You’re not in a relationship with Sam. So it’s really none of Sam’s business right now. If you want to sit down and you want to have a conversation with Alex about your terms, that’s a conversation with Alex. This has nothing to do with Sam. Sam may have an opinion about it. And that’s, that’s very well, whatever. But it’s not really Sam’s business. And it’s not your responsibility to negotiate anything with your metamour.

It’s absolutely not your responsibility. So you need to make, you know— you need to maybe go on further in the boundaries that you’re establishing and stop involving Sam in these discussions, and Alex can discuss it with Sam. If that’s how they want to operate. That’s fine. You can’t change what’s going on in their relationship. You’re not their therapist, and you’re even though they’re certainly treating you like you’re the therapist, you’re not the therapist.

It’s not your job to fix what’s going on between them. If they feel that way about each other. I mean, that’s kind of terrible. That’s that’s quite discouraging. And I think from my perspective, if I was sitting there in the middle of it, I don’t know if I want to date either one of them. Because here— like they’re both talking about each other behind each other’s backs. If people talk about

about somebody behind their back in front of you, the only logical conclusion you can draw from that is that they might be talking about you behind your back in front of somebody else.

I mean, maybe Sam, or sorry, maybe Alex is complaining to Sam about you behind your back. And it’s just— it doesn’t feel very good and I would feel not only odd about it, and it would affect my relationship with him, but I’d also feel just really grossed out by it. Like it’s one thing like— occasionally we complain about people to people that we you know it’s not enough to like or you’re kind of fielding how you feel an engaging other people’s responses, especially if you’re in my position where sometimes like I don’t trust my own feelings so sometimes I feel like it’s easier for me to talk to somebody else about how I feel about somebody rather than you know, waiting until I go to them directly if I need to, or sometimes it just need to blow off steam and that’s fine.

That’s one thing, but you know, to say, you know that Alex— Sam feels Alex is quite pathetic, and like, these aren’t.. like…

“Oh, you know, Alex frickin won’t pick up the fucking clothes”. You know? It’s not like, you know, occasionally whingy shit that generally speaking somebody might have a problem with this is, this is a serious insult and a serious, you know, it’s not a happy thing. So, you know, you can’t— you’re sitting there and you’re listening to some serious complaints, which is that one person is too controlling, and the other person is too pathetic, which is like horrible.

That’s a horrible thing to say about your partner. That’s absolutely horrible. So, yeah, I think that you really need to stop being so involved. I think that you know, you’ve got two options here. You’re talking about, hoping that they come around, and that’s not an option because it’s not about them. It’s not about them coming around. It really isn’t. It’s about Alex coming around. You have a relationship with Alex, not with Sam. And I think you need to readjust how you’re approaching that.

And you may have to end your relationship with Alex. Because if Alex isn’t willing to step up and say to Sam, “This is what I want” and deal with whatever goes on between them, then Alex is not the person that you should be with because clearly Alex can’t meet your needs and is not willing at this point to make those needs known to Sam.

So yeah, it’s not like the best situation to be in unfortunately, because, you know, it really sucks. A lot of people are in the situation, when they open a relationship. A lot of people are, you know, feel like they are beholden to their metamour, and they’re beholden to people that they’re partner is with. And, you know, it’s just, it’s sucky. It really is sucky and there isn’t anything that you can necessarily do about people like that. If people are not willing to operate as individuals, if they aren’t at a point in whatever kind of non-monogamy they’re at, where they understand how to treat people. Then there isn’t anything you can magically do to fix that. And I really don’t think you should make yourself their test case in trying to help them fix that.

So yeah, I think I think what you need to do to kind of recap is establish very clearly that this isn’t a joint decision between Sam and Alex. You’re speaking to Alex, about your relationship with Alex. That’s all you’re doing. And, you know, you’re gonna have to ask Alex to step up to the plate and and decide what it is that Alex is going to do. Because otherwise, there really isn’t anything else that really— yeah, there really isn’t anything else that can be done. You cannot force them both to speak to each other.

And also, regardless of what continues, like if you still friends with them, or whatnot, you need to not have people like talking about you behind— or talking about each other behind their backs in front of you. Even if you were just friends, that would be inappropriate, and it would— if it makes you feel uncomfortable, and that’s perfectly valid and I think that you should definitely put a boundary down there and be like, you need to stop talking to me about this because it’s not fair and it makes me feel uncomfortable. They need to find therapists or if they can’t afford therapists, and they need to find another friend to speak  to about this. So yeah, 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 32 – Dating a Colleague

If you fell for someone at work and they’re now off limits, should you keep pushing it? Is your partner giving you an unfair veto?

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

Discussion Topic: What are you a little addicted to?

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

Episode 32 – Dating a Colleague

If you fell for someone at work and they’re now off limits, should you keep pushing it? Is your partner giving you an unfair veto? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode&nbsp;on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What are you addicted to?

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 a 45 y.o. woman and have been married for 23 years. We started our relationship very young and “decided” to be monogamous. I use quotation marks because at the time we really didn’t know better; we didn’t really discuss openly different relationship styles. We didn’t know about long term relationships at all.

We have 2 kids ages 7 and 10. My husband has been a good guy but over the last years I have lost desire and he also stopped finding joy in life and would focus on family and life’s constraints, including allowing codependency with his mother, etc…. He became the “no, we can’t” guy.

After having been raised thinking that infidelity is an absolute wrong, lo and behold I fell deeply in love with “Guy at work”. This was a person who had helped me grow tremendously professionally and personally. He helped me become self confident and aware of different ways of loving, living and giving. I was not looking to fall in love with anybody but found myself with deep feelings for this guy.

I learned he felt the same way and without much foresight I gave myself into this new relationship, which lasted about 8 months, even though we both developed our feelings over many years of working together. It became so intense that for me to be honest with myself I decided to stop the relationship and think about what i really wanted in life.

I also didn’t want to do this behind my husband’s back. Initially I thought the issues I had with my husband were the source of my falling in love with someone else. As I progressed in therapy and reading and listening to podcasts, I realized that while my relationship with my husband could and should be improved, my feelings for “guy at work” were independent, and that I would like to try consensual non-monogamy.

About a month into couples therapy I disclosed my affair. I don’t think I did in the best way, and I’m not sure how I could’ve had the wisdom to do it in a better way, but I wanted us to work through the reality of our situation and felt I needed to be upfront with him. In essence I told him I had developed feelings for another person, that I still loved him and that I wanted to explore an open relationship.

He immediately went home to the computer and found a lot of my communications with “guy at work”. This hurt him immensely because he learned a lot of details that I believe have damaged him psychologically. My husband entered into a phase of righteousness about my affair. We started the slow process of building trust. I stopped all communications with Guy at Work I have not spoken to him at all over the last six months.

The problem is that I really don’t see myself going back to monogamy… neither does my husband, but he has put as a condition that “guy at work” is off limits… But HE IS the one I love and that I want to have an additional relationship with… I feel it is a very deep need and one that if my husband does not allow would just be devastating to me.

I also don’t believe that my husband should be able to control who I see. Although I believe that mutual non-monogamy is based on mutual consent, I don’t believe he has the right to veto who I love. I believe that ultimately we are on this earth to build meaningful connections and contribute to other people’s lives, and I don’t want my husband controlling that.

That said I wanna go through this process in a very careful and respectful way. I know that reading all of our texts was scarring to him. And even though he sees a benefits offer of an open relationship, he has told me that “guy at work” is off-limits. BTW, neither he nor I work at the same place anymore.

I would like to work with my husband and help him get through the trauma that he suffered. I have a few questions. The first one is whether it is possible to successfully open a marriage after an affair has been disclosed – a deeply hurtful for one of the partners. Second, will my husband be able to ever get over my feelings for a guy at work? He doesn’t even live on the same state so it would be a long distance relationship if anything…

I should also add that even though I deeply love my husband, and I find him attractive, I don’t desire him. He’s a good looking guy but I don’t feel that I want to have sex with him. I can do this occasionally if we have had the right level of affection, but that something that we’re still working through and I find myself not desiring to have sex with him as often. I am okay with that.

I would really appreciate your advice. Seems that most of the talk on open relationships is for twenty-somethings but many of us in our 40’s need it as well… Thank you so much!

Response:

A few things here. The first question you ask is, is it possible to open a relationship successfully after an affair? Yes, it is possible, but with some real big caveats here.

It is very, very rare for a person— or a couple that is already in an established monogamous relationship, for both of those people to decide to be non-monogamous at the same time. It’s usually one person that comes up with the idea. Quite a lot of times either that person has already cheated. Sometimes they have developed an interest in someone and that is something— that is someone that they want to pursue.

Rarely is it the case that they just kind of discover that they want to be non monogamous. Usually it’s something that spurs them to it and encourages them to break that barrier. Even if they’ve considered it before. It’s usually another person that they want to pursue, that has caused them to decide to make the move to either ask for it or have an affair. I think that the things that make transitioning from an affair to a successful open relationship are— for one thing, owning the situation.

It’s hard for me to say, you know whether or not you’re fully owning the situation itself. It sounds like you are. You admit that this was really hard thing for your husband, and that it’s been psychologically damaging to him. However, there’s one issue in the fact that immediately after you disclose this affair, your partner went home to the computer and basically, snooped. Snooping never really works out. And usually people snoop to find things that they don’t know.

And I find it really concerning that your husband decided to snoop when he already knew what he was going to find. That, coupled with the fact that you’ve said that he’s kind of lost his, you know, spark. That he’s been quite on the negative side. That he’s developed some codependency with his mother. These are— and that’s kind of your definition. I don’t know if that’s actually been a therapist that said that.

These are kind of really concerning things about him that I think he really needs to pursue with a therapist and it doesn’t sound like— it sounds like you have a couples therapist but I don’t know if he is seeing a separate therapist and I really think he needs to consider that because that decision to decide to go and then look for information that he knew was going to be damaging to him, is a really, really big red flag.

And it doesn’t sound like he actually apologised for violating your privacy because that was a violation of your privacy. He shouldn’t be allowed, even if you have cheated— that doesn’t automatically give him access or rights to explore any bit of communications that you’ve had with someone else. So you really need to be able to own up to things and be really, really honest in the fact that he’s kind of been self righteous about this and that he it doesn’t sound like he’s really sought help for this choice that he made is kind of a big barrier to this.

The second thing is honesty. Committing to full honesty in the future is also a big thing. And, you know, it doesn’t sound like you— and I may be getting this wrong— but it doesn’t sound like you’ve been honest with him about not desiring him anymore. Maybe because you saw his behaviour when you actually disclosed the affair. And you don’t really want to give him any more reasons to be depressed but you know, did that— did you explain that?  Because you said you still love him and you still want to work on things, but you need to be honest about the fact that you don’t desire him.

The other kind of question that you had that kind of relates to what I’m going to continue to say about whether or not it’s possible is, is it possible for your husband to get over his feelings? I think that obviously, your husband is projecting and blaming the responsibility of this entire fair on this guy at work. That really isn’t fair in a way. I mean, he has been really self righteous with you, which has shown that he does blame you as well.

I mean, it is equally your fault, as well as this guy at work. I don’t think it’s completely unfair for him to not feel great about you being with guy at work, because even though you did have the affair, and you decided to do that, this guy represents a lot of really negative things. And I don’t know what he read in those messages that he shouldn’t have read, but he’s not going to be able to get that just out of his mind.

Which isn’t your fault, because he shouldn’t have read that. But equally like I understand where you’re coming from. You talk a lot about, you know, mutual consent and mutual non-monogamy and he doesn’t have the right to veto. But at the same time, you didn’t give him the chance to consent to it to a non-monogamous relationship. You had an affair. And at this point, he can’t go back to the time before that affair. So you kind of removed his agency from the situation.

It’d be one thing if you saw yourself developing feelings for this colleague and you approached your husband at that time, and offered him the chance to either try an open relationship with you or go your separate ways, but you didn’t give him that option. So now he’s forced. He’s essentially forced into non-monogamy. Even if he can see some benefits out of it. He’s been forced through your affair into the situation and it’s not really— if you think about it, you now being like, “Well, we need to be mutually— have mutual consent and you can’t veto who I want to be a partner”.

You know, I get that and I fully fully support that. But I don’t really feel like this is a veto. I feel like this is a fair boundary, given what he’s been through. I think it’s fair enough, if you’ve had an affair, for him to say, “Okay, I will do non-monogamy, but I really don’t want it to be with this person”. I think honestly, like— I think that that’s not really a veto. I think that that’s the continuous circumstances by which he’s willing to continue in this relationship with you. That’s not really a veto.

It’s not as if you developed feelings for this guy and you were already in an open relationship with mutual consent. And then he tried to take that away from you. You pursued this, and you pursued it behind your husband’s back. And now you didn’t give him the chance for mutual consent then. And so I just feel like, you know, this— it may not make a lot of sense, and I do really feel like he’s projecting a lot of his feelings onto this guy.

And maybe blaming him a bit more than he needs to. But I think that given what’s happened, and given everything that he’s been through, even if some of what he’s been through is because he decided to violate your privacy. You know, in a perfect world, yes, he doesn’t get to control or veto any relationships, but you didn’t give him the the ability to consent to an open relationship. So I do kind of feel like it’s, it’s a fair enough ask, or it’s a fair enough boundary for him. And that’s kind of what he’s doing.

He’s putting his cards on the table at this point. Because once you’ve kind of broken your initial relationship agreements, you’re negotiating a new relationship agreement, and he has decided that okay, non monogamy is okay, but not with this person. And I think some people have boundaries like that even without an affair. Some people are like “You can’t— I’m not cool with you dating my friends”. A lot of people have very reasonable boundaries around you not dating family members. So this is now his boundary with regards to how he’s going to move forward in this situation and be able to cope with this and still stay with you.

And I think what you need to decide is whether or not you actually want non-monogamy. Or you just want to date this guy. And I mean, I think you really need to consider the fact that you haven’t spoken to him for six months, and he doesn’t even live in the same state as you. I mean, for all, you know, work guy could be in a monogamous relationship with someone else right now. Like, you may be building up all this and making all this kind of kerfuffle initially about this guy who you had this really intense connection with, but you haven’t spoken to him in six months.

So what you’ve communicated to guy at work is that he’s not your first priority, and that he will be chucked if and when your husband is upset. You know, he— I don’t know if he knew you were married, which also really, you know… I understand you’ve learned a lot from this guy, and he’s been wonderful and awakened all kinds of things within you, but if he knew you were married and was willing to participate in infidelity with you, that’s kind of… that’s not— that’s not consensual non-monogamy either.

So I would then question whether or not guy at work is able to participate in consensual non-monogamy because he’s already kind of illustrated that he’s not willing to participate in something consensual. He’s fine with it being non-consensual, which is a problem. And some people, unfortunately, are interested in cheating because it’s exciting and it’s and it’s secretive, but aren’t really interested in legit,  you know, non-monogamous relationships.

So, I think that’s something you need to think about. Because you’re putting all this on the line for someone who may not even be available to you right now. So, you know, you have to decide whether or not this relationship is worth giving your husband up. And, you know, or I think, given the status of your relationship, like… I know, you’ve been together for a long time.

Does he really want non monogamy or is he just doing this to keep you? You’ve been married for 23 years. That’s a lot.

You’ve got kids, who aren’t fully grown yet, but at the same time, you started this relationship when you were really young. You didn’t really know what you wanted. Now you know what you want. And I think you need to really sit down and ask yourself, is non-monogamy the thing you really want? Or is it just that you liked this relationship and you wanted ir to continue? And ask yourself some real hard questions about it. Is it really going to continue? Now that you’ve had this big upset?

Is it really going to be able to just pick up from where it’s left off with this work guy? Because you haven’t spoken to him in six months. You don’t even know where he is right now. And whether or not he’s with somebody else, or whether or not he’s actually interested in a consensual non-monogamous relationship or if he just liked the cheating. So there’s a lot of things to really consider there.

And to be fair, I don’t think it’s— I don’t think it’s completely out of the ballpark, and completely ridiculous for your husband to say, as a compromise, “I will stay and I will do non-monogamy because I may get some potential benefits out of that. So I see the benefits to me in doing this, but I don’t want you to pursue this guy you cheated on me with”. I feel like that’s a pretty fair ask, in a way. It’s a compromise.

But you have to decide if it’s a compromise you actually want to make, and whether or not it’s worth it for you. Because ultimately, that’s what it kind of comes down to. There may be a time in the future, you know, after the dust is settled and you figured out a groove with non-monogamy and you figured out what you both want it and it’s working for both of you. There may be a time when he’s not so bothered about guy at work, but I don’t think it’s… he can give you a time limit on that.

I don’t think he can realistically project when his feelings will be better. And I think because the onus is on you. You are the one that violated your agreement together. You are the one that lied. So you have to reestablish

That trust with him. And maybe you deciding, “Okay, you know what? I won’t see this guy”. It seems unfair to you, but part of it may be that that’s what he needs to reestablish trust with you to know that you are actually going to give up something because you haven’t had to give up something.

If you really think about it, you’ve had your cake, and you’ve got to eat it too, in a way. You’ve had your really fun relationship with this work guy and you’ve had your husband. He hasn’t, you know— He’s now just figuring out that those eight months like, we’re a lie, and now he has to adjust to that.

And now he has to figure out how to work out a new relationship now that his whole life has changed. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask for him to not want the person who was involved and knew about it (I’m guessing that guy at work knew that you were married) to not be a part of that. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask. So it really comes down to what you… what you’re willing to do.

So yeah, to sum up, is it possible to go from an affair to a successful non-monogamous relationship? Yes. But with some serious caveats about people got to be really, really honest with one another. They gotta own up to their shit. You have to be willing to own up on both sides to the mistakes that you’ve made. And you’ve got to, as I said, Be honest about, you know, the real situation. It doesn’t sound like you’ve been fully honest with him about where your desire levels are.

And maybe that’s part of it. And is it possible for your husband to get over his feelings? Maybe, at some point down the future, but I think that considering you’re the kind of the one that messed up here, you need to think about the fact that he is in a situation where his entire foundations have cracked and you’ve got to rebuild that. As you said, and maybe part of rebuilding that is, I mean, you haven’t spoken to for six months. Like I said, you know, you’ve clearly already separated from him in a way. You’ve already shown that and I don’t think it’s fair to say, “Okay, let’s not see him for two years and then I’ll go”.

You need to let your husband decide that and I don’t think it’s completely out of the ballpark of fair for him to decide to compromise by having an open relationship but not— but to say this person that you cheated with is off limits. I don’t think that’s— I don’t really see that as a veto power. I see that as his sort of putting his cards and boundaries on the table of like, “Alright, I will compromise on non monogamy but this is what I want”. And I don’t think that’s the same as a veto. I think that’s different.

It may not be suitable for you. I may not be happy for you, It may not be what you want. But I don’t think that’s completely unfair. So ultimately, it’s it’s kind of in your ball— It’s in your ballpark. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t use sports metaphors when I don’t know sports. It’s in— it’s up to you

to decide whether or not those terms you can agree with. And it comes down to, with the situation of lacking and desire for him, with his depression and the other I mean, I don’t know if he’s depressed.

It seems like he’s got something going on he needs to work on with somebody. Is it something that you want to continue? You know, is it non-monogamy that you really want? Or is it just dating this other guy that you really wanted? Because if you decide non monogamy is the thing you want and you can’t make this agreement with your husband could easily turn you know, decide to break up with your husband, go back find guy at work is dating somebody else.

That’s why you got to be really into non-monogamy, not just this guy at work because if you go back— You got to be okay with the fact that if you go back to guy at work and he’s with somebody else, and he’s not interested, or you know, what have you Are you fine with that? Or are you actually like, “Oh crap. I just wanted  guy at work”. Yeah. So it’s something for you to you to think about and pick through.

But I hope it helps and good luck.

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Episode 31: So Uncomfortable

You’re trying polyamory but you’re struggling with discomfort every time your partner shows interest in someone else. Does this mean it’s not for you?

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

Discussion Topic: If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

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

Episode 31 – So Uncomfortable

You’re trying polyamory but you’re struggling with discomfort every time your partner shows interest in someone else. Does this mean it’s not for you? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode&nbsp;on Patreon.

 

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 (27F) am a lesbian with limited dating experience due to being partially closeted and anxious about it until this year. I recently started dating a bisexual woman with considerably more sexual experience who I met online. The last few months have been dreamy, domestic, intense, and erotic. When we started hooking up, I knew she was non-monogamous but I was unconcerned other than discussing the usual safety stuff.

Our relationship quickly grew more emotionally deep and we are compatible in ways that I never knew I could be. We are on the same page that we feel we want to make a long-term commitment happen, and with the full knowledge that I am queer, in requited love for the first time, and probably still in some sort of honeymoon phase, I think I want to keep this woman.

That being said, the one persistent issue we’ve been having is regarding the open or closed status of our relationship. I’ve been trying to warm to the idea of being open because I know that she is a sexual person and variety is really important for her wellbeing. I also recognized that my initial discomfort with the idea could have been due to my unfamiliarity with poly[am] dynamics.

We have talked about it extensively and set up boundaries that would mean we are each other’s primaries, and casual dating and hooking up with others would be allowed, although neither of us has taken advantage of this yet. I am unsure if I even want to do so although I am curious what sleeping with other women might be like. I know she definitely has been testing the waters but has refrained from meeting anyone yet so as not to hurt me.

I realized I couldn’t abide by our agreed terms recently when she was testing the waters again and telling me about flirting and being interested in hooking up with someone. I felt my stomach curl in on itself and betrayal fill me, even though I knew she was fine by our terms.

We had a long talk and are currently considering two options that we would try out as trial runs before sitting down and having that real, heart crushing talk about whether we need to part ways. The first, her idea, is that she would try out monogamy with me, super communicating to make sure resentment wasn’t building and adjusting accordingly. The second, my idea, was that I’d let go and let her pursue whoever with the request that she tell me no other details than bare bones, for health purposes and to make sure she’s happy.

I know that I would not be able to handle if I made her persistently unhappy and know she currently feels guilty because that’s part of how I’ve been feeling this whole time. I have to hope that by normalizing it to myself, working through my hang ups, and giving my unconscious time to settle into the idea that she is here to stay and is proving that by staying, I can begin to let go and let her do what makes her happy while also being happy and secure myself in what we have.

Am I missing something? How can I make myself (and therefore her) more comfortable here? Are there any reading resources? I am aware enough to know that there’s only so long we can carry on like this, and I am determined to put in my best effort to figure this out before either of us gets hurt any more than we need to. My heart has already been working through some rough truths and to me, she is worth every scuff.

Please give me some hope or guidance here.

Response:

So I have to say like, there’s barely anything for me to say here, because honestly, I think you have nailed it. I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to try monogamy. It seems like she’s pretty well versed in the fact that polyamory is, or at least an open relationship, is what she wants. And I think that your suggestion makes a hell of a lot of sense.

It might be that over time, you’re more comfortable hearing some details or just kind of more than the bare bones. But I think, in the meantime, that actually works really, really well. She and you both need to stop avoiding things though. She’s avoiding going out with other people to avoid hurting you. And that’s totally understandable. And I’m not saying that’s wrong.

But eventually like… basically, the more you avoid that kind of thing, the worse and worse the buildup gets, and the more and more anxiety sets in, and the more and more discomfort you feel. So she has to stop avoiding meeting people because she’s afraid it might hurt you. She kind of has to accept the fact that you may have to experience polyamory before you really really know if it’s not for you or not.

Unfortunately, that’s kind of how it has to be. And there’s no… there’s no real easy way to do that. And the most— most of the time, when people try to find easy ways into polyamory, it just tends to be more avoidance. So I do think that your option makes the most sense. You’re going to feel uncomfortable, though. You know, you ask, “How can I make myself more comfortable?” You’re gonna feel uncomfortable, like that’s just… that— This is a new, completely new relationship for you actually. It’s new ground because it’s actually the first kind of real deep relationship that seems like you’ve had.

And you’re trying out an open relationship, you’re gonna be uncomfortable, like you’re just gonna. The problem is, is that the discomfort that you probably felt and having this first requited— you know, you probably felt some discomfort when you started off in this relationship or some fear. But you expected that to certain extent, or that was seen as culturally appropriate. But the problem is, is that you are, you’ve been living in a society that tells you that love, you know— part of love is exclusivity. Part of love is someone only wanting to date or have sex with you.

And so you’re fighting against this messaging you’ve been giving your whole life, so you’re gonna feel even more uncomfortable. And I think you can kind of appreciate, as a queer woman, you know— you don’t really— you talk about how you’ve been, you know, partially closeted. So you know what it feels like to kind of be afraid because you’ve had society telling you something is wrong, wrong wrong. So you know what that feels like.

And this is, in a way, not exactly identical, but it is similar to that. You don’t have any models for this. You don’t have any guidance in it. So you are going to feel a little lost and a little scared and that’s okay. Doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that this isn’t necessarily for you. And the good thing here is that you know, you’ve already decided what you’re going to get out of this. I think it’s really great that you’ve talked about kind of— the kind of relationship structure that you want. I think it’s worth considering, you know— it doesn’t sound like you’ve set up any rules of like, “I won’t fall in love with anyone”.

It doesn’t sound like you’ve set up rules that have to do with things you can’t control. You know, you’ve decided, “Okay, we’re going to be each other’s primaries, this is what that means: casual dating and hooking up is something that is allowed”. And, you know, it seems like you’re communicating enough to where if things seem to be getting more serious with someone else, you’d have a talk about that and you kind of explore that.

So, you know, you’ve already decided what kind of relationship structure you want. It seems like you’ve decided the physical aspects of that. It seems like you’re talking about safety, which is really, really great. It seems like as well, you’re thinking about what you can get out of polyamory. So you’re— even though you’re kind of, you know, not keen on the idea at first, now you’re sort of realizing, “Oh, okay, maybe it might be interesting to date other people”. You can see where you can go with that.

So honestly, you’ve done pretty much all you can. You’re in an excellent position, like you’re— even though it may not feel like that right now, because you are really nervous and really uncomfortable. This is just a necessary part of the process. Like you’re gonna feel uncomfortable when you’re trying something new. You’re both, you know, you have this really strong connection. You’re really really afraid to hurt one another. You’re really really afraid of losing one another. But what I see that’s really awesome about this is that, you know, you both are understanding that there is a potential that you might be incompatible, and you’re not hiding that from one another.

You’re very, very honest about that. You’re like, you know, I’m, you know, we may have to have that heartbreaking conversation about whether we need to part ways, but you’re trying really hard to make sure that you’re doing the best you can to figure things out before you hurt one

another. And hopefully, it seems like you’re your girlfriend is also committed to doing that. I honestly think that’s the best thing you can do. Like you’re both— if your girlfriend is approaching this as emotionally aware as you are, then you’re both in a really, really great place.

You know, there won’t be anything you can do to prevent complete and incompatibility. But you’ve got pretty much everything going here. So yeah, I would say like, I don’t advise that she try monogamy. I just feel like, you know, if she’s had a lot of experience, and you don’t say whether or not she’s tried monogamy before, but if she’s had a lot of experience, and she, you know, unless she’s kind of a bit older and is feeling like I don’t really feel like dating very much anymore.

You know, it’d be one thing if she had all this experience and was kind of reaching a point in her life where she wasn’t that interested in going out and doing anything with anyone anymore. It would be one thing for her to try monogamy, but that just doesn’t seem like where she is right now. And I don’t think it’s really good for her to deny that aspect of herself. Because even though you know, it’s kind of– resentment as kind of a hard thing to figure out, like, when is it coming up, because it’s a kind of thing that builds slowly and slowly.

And I just don’t know if even with constant communication, you’re going to necessarily be able to prevent that. It’s just going to lead to a

bit of unhappiness. And I think it’s— it’s probably more likely that you might be… you know, because you do have some interest in seeing other people because you also don’t necessarily have a lot of experience yourself, a lot of people end up being interested in polyamory down the line, because they don’t have a lot of experience. And because they, you know, didn’t really think about marriage and kind of, you know, sexual monogamy for the rest of their life.

They kind of go “Oh, wait, I don’t know if that’s really something that you know, I want to do in my life”. So it makes a lot more sense from your end to for you to be potentially interested in sleeping with other people in the future. Maybe you won’t be that keen on it right this minute. And maybe you might be the kind of person like me where, you know, I don’t find partners very frequently because that’s just not how things go for me and that’s fine.

But either way, you’re approaching this honestly like in one of the best ways that you can. If you have access to therapy, I definitely think you should still try and see a polyamory friendly couples therapist that can kind of help you talk about things. That therapist may feel like the bare bones kind of— because you’re not asking for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You’re not basically asking her to lie.

And I think you just want to know the basics of things for health purposes. And just to know that she’s happy and that she’s okay. And I think that’s fair enough. And you might find that as you you know, as you said— You said it perfectly like, you know, you just have to settle into the idea. See that she’s here to stay and have her prove that by staying and then you’ll begin to feel a lot less anxious. I think that’s really, really true. And I think as you become more comfortable with her, you establish a foundation

together.

You probably will find that you’re okay with hearing a little bit more. It’s okay if you don’t want to know the intimate details. I don’t want to know the intimate details. I’m not interested in that. It doesn’t, you know— some people are really interested in that either way is fine, but you might feel later down the line that you’re a little bit more settled and you feel a little bit more established with her and it doesn’t feel quite as scary to hear that stuff.

That description of you— you know your say your stomach curling in on itself and having all those emotions— that’s totally normal. And I think if you read anything or you understand anything, make sure you avoid anything that makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you for having a bad feeling or that having any kind of negative reaction to your partner dating or seeing someone else means that you’re not polyamorous because it’s completely understandable for you to have these feelings, you know, you—

I feel like, you know, with being a queer woman and knowing what it’s like to be closeted, like you know what it’s like to be influenced by a culture that’s around you and to feel really bad. You know, I can’t speak for you, but I know that I’ve heard from a lot of people were the first queer feelings that they had were coupled with a lot of shame and a lot of guilt and a lot of negative feelings. And again, I’m not saying being queer is the same thing as being polyamorous because I don’t feel that that’s the same.

But what I’m saying is that you can— if you can kind of look to that experience, if you did experience something like that, and kind of understand that these reactions and feelings you’re having partially are fear, understandable fear, because you’re with this new person, and you haven’t really established your foundation yet, and you’re scared, and that’s understandable. But also partly because you live in a society that’s told you your whole life that exclusivity means that someone loves you. So it’s hard for you to just, you know, turn overnight and magically believe the opposite.

So, yeah, to sum it up, I think that you’re in a really, really good place. And I think your idea sounds the best. And I think you should see if you can get a polyamory friendly couples therapist to kind of help you walk through

stuff. She needs to stop avoiding this. You know, you’re gonna have to bite the bullet and go with it at some point. You can’t avoid hurting someone. Unfortunately, that’s just how things happen. It’s totally understandable.

I’m not saying that she’s in any way you know, being bad or whatever, but you gotta jump in at some point. And just expect that you’re feeling comfortable. Learn how to cope with that. Realize that being uncomfortable doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just part of, you know, part of the experience. There’s also a good book called “Rewriting the Rules” by Meg-John Barker, I definitely recommend that one. And yeah, in general, just kind of go with it.

And trust that you’ve done the work. You’ve set the foundation. You’ve decided what kind of relationship you want. You see the benefits you can get out of it. And just try to, you know, learn how to cope with that anxiety, and eventually that anxiety will get better. Like, in my experience, it does. And you may unfortunately find out that polyamory isn’t for you. And that’s also okay, too. And it really does sound like if you do figure that out, like you both seem communicative enough where it doesn’t have to be this horrible, you know, life altering, cataclysmic sad thing, it sounds like you part in a fairly amicable way. So try to as well keep that in mind. All right. I hope that helps. And good luck.

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