I was in a three-year monogamous relationship recently. I had an experience with the entheogen/psychedelic ayahuasca that helped me see that many of the issues in that relationship and all my previous relationships had roots in co-dependency. I realized that exploring ethical non-monogamy could be a powerful tool to help me release some of my own co-dependent habits, mostly around clinging too tightly to my own standards and expectations of my monogamous partners to take care of themselves in certain ways that didn’t always have a direct impact on me and that I had a new-found wish to simply accept and hold space for change (or not-change).

This thought process was also sparked by a friend who expressed a desire to enter into a romantic relationship with me. So, I wasn’t just introducing my existing partner to the general idea of non-monogamy, but also to my more immediate desire to begin a relationship with another man. My existing partner tried to the extent that he could, but it was overwhelming for him and he acted out in ways that I found fundamentally unacceptable and I ended that relationship.

The problem now is that the man I began a new relationship with was also never interested in non-monogamy. He was ok with me continuing my existing relationship, but once I was out of that relationship and exploring the possibility of others, he expressed discomfort. Finally he asked me to choose non-monogamy or him.

I see great potential in my relationship with him that I haven’t seen in my other relationships. The communication and openness has been wonderful and he’s someone who really takes care of himself — and the lack of that in my last relationship was one of the things that sent me on this non-monogamy journey. I recently told this person that “I can’t do monogamy” in response to his request that I choose.

In the absence of a clear answer, I felt that choosing a personal principle over an individual might be the right path. But I find myself wondering if I’m holding onto an ideal instead of being present with what’s in front of me. I don’t know for sure yet whether non-monogamy is the right fit for me — I haven’t had a chance to fully explore it yet. I have a sense that it’s the best path for me, but I’m not clear on whether or not it’s so important for me that I want to choose it over someone I have grown to love.

There’s a lot going on here.

With the full recognition that I’m not a therapist (but I will be checking this with the therapist I work with), I’m not convinced that polyamory and/or non-monogamy are tools that can help people break bad habits. In fact, I think that codependency isn’t something that’s going to be solved by trying non-monogamy. You can accept and hold space for change within monogamy. And people can be codependent and be non-monogamous.

And actually, given what you’ve said about how your codependent habits have to do with with “clinging too tightly to my own standards and expectation of my monogamous partners to take care of themselves” — I don’t necessarily think that this is specifically codependency. You don’t explicitly say what sort of things your partners aren’t doing for themselves that frustrate you, but I wouldn’t describe that as being codependent. It’s not unreasonable or unrealistic for you to want your partners to take care of themselves and to feel frustrated when they don’t, even when it doesn’t have a direct impact on you.

Your aim shouldn’t be to distance yourself from these feelings but rather accept them and learn how to cope with them better. I don’t think non-monogamy is necessarily going to change that or fix that. That has to be done by seeking out therapy, if it’s accessible to you, and identifying ways of rerouting your energies to more productive things.

That said, it’s hard for me to be able to tell you whether or not you should or shouldn’t pursue non-monogamy or not. I think if your main motivation was seeing this change within yourself, it’s worth you really trying with someone who you have communication with and who does take care of themselves if you don’t have that behaviour anymore.

Ultimately, non-monogamy isn’t supposed to be a way for you to find other partners to distract you from one partner getting on your nerves or to keep someone who you have an incompatibility with around so you don’t have to hurt them. It’s about wanting more than one romantic and/or sexual relationship in your life or that freedom to explore that and I’m not sure if that’s really what you’re seeking.

Have some introspection with a polyamory friendly therapist and talk some of these things through. It’s possible to be someone who can do both non-monogamy and monogamy, it’s not always an either or situation. But what you don’t want to do is give up a good connection you have just because you feel you will reach some type of higher level more “adjusted” state as a non-monogamous person than you would being monogamous. Because it’s not a higher path, it’s just a different one.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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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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