I’m a woman and I had only ever been in monogamous relationships. About a year ago I met a man through Tinder who made it very clear he’s non-monogamous from the start. In fact, on our first date, he asked me how I feel about it and explained his reasons for choosing it and what he’s found through it. I felt we had a connection so I continued seeing him, thinking that I was open to the idea of non-monogamy as I wanted to change my approach to dating, and that it would be something I’d “try”.
Obviously, I ended up falling in love, and we’ve been together and non-monogamous since. Now that it’s been some time later, and our relationship has developed and we’re much closer, I realise that I am no longer “trying” non-monogamy but am actually practicing it, which has led me to be very anxious about our relationship. I feel like I’m not sure if I want to be non-monogamous or not anymore, but also I don’t want to ask for a monogamous relationship.
He’s older than me, has had more experience dating in general and is much more experienced with non-monogamy. He’s been dating other people a lot more since we’ve been together. While I’ve been on some dates here and there, I haven’t built any real connections with anyone, so I’ve only been dating him really. I have a lot of very intimate friendships, which is where I think a lot of my energy goes, and I think we both have different ways of spending our energy on people around us. Part of why I’ve fallen in love with him is because of the way he loves, and I’m afraid that by wanting a monogamous relationship, I’m going to be taking that part of him away and that our relationship will just not have those positives anymore.
We’ve spoken about these feelings before, especially since this is my first experience with non-monogamy, and I’ve expressed the anxieties I have about it. He was very understanding and kind in our conversations and I know he’s open to talking about it more. But still, I’m worried that the conclusion for me will be that it turns out I want a monogamous relationship, which I feel I can’t ask for because it would be asking him to give something up. I don’t know if being monogamous will resolve my anxieties and I don’t know if remaining in a non-monogamous relationship will be me just doing something for my partner’s sake. What do you think?
The anxieties that I see you speaking about don’t have much to do with who your partner dates, feelings about not getting enough time with your partner, or really anything to do with his other relationships. Your anxieties really only seem to be about whether you will or won’t potentially ask for this monogamous relationship.
I’ve been non-monogamous for seven years, and I’ve very rarely been able to find other close connections outside of my domestic partners or people I live with. I’ve tried, believe me. Gone out on lots and lots of dates. But nothing has really ever clicked. But I am the type of person where it takes me awhile to find someone I like. But if I end up being old and my domestic partner is the only person I’ve seriously dated… am I monogamous? No, no not really.
You don’t seem to have a lack of interest in pursuing other people, you just haven’t found anyone that you fancy as much as your current partner and that’s pretty normal. You’re not bothered by him dating other people and in fact appreciate and admire how he loves other people. It doesn’t seem like his dating currently takes away anything from your current relationship. You don’t express any loneliness or problems coping while he’s off on other dates… so the real problem here is a little bit of your own making.
There are some people who are monogamous with their partner while their partner is polyamorous and that is a setup you could consider but I would say that what you have is pretty polyamorous. Intimate friendships are a very valid type of relationship. Our society teaches us to value romantic relationships over others and place different types of relationships on a hierarchy. Perhaps what you like about polyamory is it gives you the freedom to have these intimate friendships without this being a “threat” to your current relationship.
Outside of your worries about whether or not you may want monogamy in the future… what’s the actual problem in your relationship? It seems to be working fine. You’re dating and trying to find another romantic partner but you have lovely friendships and plenty of company along with a partner who seems to be happy with both you and his other relationships so… where’s the problem?
Is there a reason you cannot force yourself being in this situation for the rest of your life? At what point do you imagine asking for this monogamous relationship — and why? Other than forcing him to dump some people and maybe spending more time with you, what would change?
It sounds like most of your anxiety is stemming from the fear that you aren’t -really- non-monogamous because you haven’t yet found another romantic partner and you’re very worried that not finding a connection is some sort of sign that you’re not inherently non-monogamous. But I really don’t think that is the case. I think that you need to be patient, give it time and most of all, try to remember the good things that are happening in your life right now. You’ve got a lot of good connections, and that’s okay. You don’t need to have five different partners to be non-monogamous. All you have to do is decide that you want to practice non-monogamy and… that’s pretty much it!
There are so many things about your life that could change. In 10 years, you may decide to abandon your current career and return to university or maybe you’re sick of living where you’re living and you want to move to another country. You never know where things will take you. But right now, are you sick with worry about whether or not you’re going to like your career in 10 years time? Are you anxious about whether or not you’re going to leave the country ever? No, because you’re focused on the present when it comes to those things because the future is so unpredictable for you, that trying to predict and control it now is wasted energy.
Likewise, who can say if you’ll ever find someone you connect with as much as the partner you have now? But so long as you are currently happy and satisfied with the amount of time that’s spent on you and you have lots of support, then I’d say go with it and see where it takes you — and try not to worry about something you can’t control.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.
Do you have a question?
If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your question will be posted anonymously.