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I am a 45yr old female (monogamous). Nearly a year ago I met a man who is 43 yrs old and identifies as polyamorous. I had never heard of it and was curious. At first I dismissed it as being an excuse to have several partners (sexual) but after he explained it to me (looking back his explanation was very much like what I’ve read about it rather than something from his own heart/mind) I started to
understand and despite reservations I began a relationship (of sorts) with him. He is a retired SAS soldier and seemed very put together — owns his own apartment (I too own my own home) and not at all flaky or insecure — this was very attractive to me. Our first date was amazing — Id never felt so comfortable and at ease with someone who I was also attracted to romantically and I felt like Id known him forever — our first kiss was incredible, it was difficult for us both to say goodnight and not take things to the bedroom.

A couple days later we had our second date and he stayed the night with me — again, amazing, it was an incredibly intimate and passionate experience and I knew then that I would develop feelings for him quickly. At first he was very attentive, communicating often, when he went away a couple of weeks after we met — I got “I miss YOU” texts and compliments and desire was conveyed, when he returned and I picked him up from the airport, he grabbed me out of the car and kissed me so passionately I nearly crumpled in a puddle, needless to say that night was very satisfying. But then things started to change. He travels alot and went away again for 3 weeks, longer than before. Not one I miss you text and his flirtyness had dissipated and his communication could have been mistaken for a friends texts rather than a love interest.

When he returned however we were as hot and steamy as ever when we were together, but when we were apart I often felt out of sight out of mind. I would discuss with him but he would say things like, that’s just me, I know I’m bad at that, or I’m weird like that, or maybe i’m wrong for you cos I can’t do that etc etc. so this doesn’t become an epic story I’ll bullet point the pros and cons or good and bad in our relationship.

Good
– great sex! (amazing)
– very affectionate when together
– funny and intelligent conversation
– interesting stories
– open to most experiences
– can laugh at himself and act the fool
– loves his family
– isn’t possessive or jealous (outwardly)

Bad
– he doesn’t initiate any time together — unless he is working in my town (we live 2 hours apart) in which case he used to stay with me all the time (now he splits his time between myself and another)
– i’ve stayed at his place 3 or 4 times — he’s stayed at mine dozens and he never invites me to stay at his although says I’m always welcome.
– he very rarely interacts with me on social media (i.e. he was in America for 3 weeks and posted about some show he went to…many people commented, myself as well — he “liked” and replied to everyones comment but mine! weird)
– i used to send sexy photos and he would respond with something sweet or an emoji or whatever, I don’t send them now as the last couple of times he didn’t even respond to them, nothing.
– i will say I miss you, he nevers responds in kind, ever.

I have initiated a couple weekends away which have been great but the whole time we have been seeing each other he has never suggested a weekend together, or invited me to his for the weekend — if not for my organising the odd night/weekend together the only time I’d see him (i believe) is if he was coming to my town for work and would stay with me. we have talked about how I feel very little — he avoids heart to hearts but he knows I’m happy if he lets me know when he’s in my town next or when we will be catching up in terms of his schedule.

I feel torn — last week i sent him a bogus “You are a Winner” text, saying he had won first prize in a competition which was a weekend with me — i did this because I have to have an operation in 3 weeks which will mean no relations for six weeks (he knows about this) so of course he needed to claim his prize that weekend or the following. clearly I had put a little thought into the weekend and the message delivering my idea, his response was “Can’t sorry”. I was gutted. Ok if he’s busy, can’t help that, but no reference to my idea or to when he can do it or suggestions for an alternative.

I don’t know what to do — he is so attentive when we are together yet when we are apart its like I don’t exist. Please help me…I’m an intelligent, capable woman who has had a rough time (i was abused as a child, raped by my sisters boyfriend at 16 yrs) and it took years of therapy and an awesome relationship with someone who gave me confidence to express myself sexually to come to terms with the sexual side of my nature (that was 15 yrs ago). I was celibate for 6 years prior to the relationship I’ve written you about — I wanted to meet someone who blew my mind before I got with anyone again and this guy has certainly done that. He knows of my history and was incredibly kind and caring about it. I don’t need to spend every minute with him and I like that we have time apart, I just want to feel like he looks forward to our time together as much as I do and has regard for me over and above the physical.

First off, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. It sounds incredibly frustrating. I think in this case there might be a mismatch here about needs and unfortunately it sounds like he’s not being clear with you about that and honest.

Before I go into that, I want to clarify something in what you wrote initially. He introduced you to the subject of polyamory and, like many people in the community, he gave the whole spiel about how it’s not about sex it’s about love and whatnot. But the truth is that… polyamory is kind of an excuse to have more than one partner and that’s not really a bad thing. A lot of polyamorous people are trying to define themselves in contrast to the swinging community.

If you’re unaware of it, the swinging community is usually comprised of married couples who swap partners or swap with singles for sex. It’s focused mostly around sex and not about building relationships. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of polyamorous people have felt this pressure to define themselves against it and to emphasise that they want to build relationships and not just have sex. But the thing is, what someone considers a “relationship” is very subjective, because it all comes down to people’s needs. You could have partners who were friends with benefits who were pretty much the same as what would be considered “swinging”, but the people involved define it as polyamory. It’s really up to individuals.

I’m not saying this guy this intentionally to lead you on, but it does fundamentally sound like this is the type of relationship he wants to have with you. And it sounds like you want a lot more than that. Rather than dropping hints about this, I think you need to come outright and say what you want out of this relationship and see if he can provide that.

His means of interacting is a little bit strange to me and a bit cold, but it might necessarily be that he doesn’t have feelings for you, but this is the amount he is willing to and can engage with you in a relationship. It might be that, because you are new to polyamory and don’t have any other partners, you are expecting a level of emotional support and interaction that you would from someone you are in a monogamous relationship with where you both rely on each other as a primary source of emotional support and romantic interaction and, if he has other partners, that’s probably not the case for him.

It’s of course possible that he’s just not that great of a partner, regardless. Some people who are monogamous are terrible at providing emotional support. But either way, your needs are your needs and at present, he is not meeting them. So you either have to reassess your needs and decide if his lack of response to you is worth the other benefits he offers or if, ultimately, you’re going to be unhappy and unsatisfied over the long term.

The big thing I think you need to ask yourself is if polyamory is what you want. It’s possible to be a monogamous partner to a polyamorous person, but I do think that you absolutely have to accept that your partner will not have 100% of their attention on you because that’s just part of what polyamory is. You might find if you do some soul searching that you can tolerate some of the lack of support you’re getting for this relationship and you may be able to find this elsewhere either in non-romantic relationships if you want to remain monogamous or you might search for another romantic relationship to fill this need. But ultimately, that has to be a decision you come to yourself.

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.

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