When you’re trying your best with polyamory but it feels like if you don’t get it right, you may get divorced.

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

Discussion Topic: Should you sacrifice for your relationship? What is worth sacrificing?

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Episode 54 – Sacrificing Too Much

When you’re trying your best with polyamory but it feels like if you don’t get it right, you may get divorced. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – Should you sacrifice for your relationship?

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My partner and I have been married for almost 2 years now. I knew from the first month that he was into the polyamory lifestyle, which I was willing to investigate when the time was right for me. I come from strictly monogamous relationships, so it’s been rough on me.

I agreed to try and attempt his lifestyle, so he does not feel the need to suppress his lifestyle to make me happy or whatever his reasoning may be. We tried just having threesomes with no feeling attached, and it didn’t work for me. Seeing him involved with another was too overwhelming for me in that sexual matter. Even though it was equally decided and welcomed, I couldn’t do it. It broke me, mentally, for a little while. But I bounced back once I did my own research on polyamory and the benefits that can come with a relationship shared by us with the same woman. He strictly wanted FMF in which we all dated each other exclusively.

The first relationship went okay, but I couldn’t view her as my girlfriend. I could kiss her, but there wasn’t a feeling or connection to me. It felt as if I was just kissing a friend, who was a girl. I just felt like I lacked the friendship of a female companion and she gave that to me, because I really don’t have friends that I regularly speak or hangout with.

Shooting forward a few months, we talked about opening up again to another woman to join. I said I have no desire as of this moment to open up again, but it could change in the future. He came to me feeling he has “sacrificed enough” for this marriage and that we need to talk about if this marriage continues. I feel as if I am in a predicament here.

I love this man to pieces, more than I ever thought I could love someone. I don’t desire having someone, so I talked about him dating the said woman he had interest in all of a sudden. My issue is they have a past relationship from years ago and that makes things harder for me as well. I set boundaries that I would have if this was to start. But now, I’m second guessing myself. I don’t think I can do this type of dynamic but at the same time I feel as if I have to in order to stay married to the man I love. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t want to be unhappy either. This idea of him dating another, makes me extremely unhappy.

I’m at a loss, and I don’t know what to do. I want to tell him, but I’m so scared that he will just tell me to “leave then”. I would like some guidance on how I approach this situation and explain to him that I have changed my mind on it and that new feelings have erupted without sounding like a total bitch for changing my mind.

Response:

So there’s a lot of things going on here.

First and foremost — and I wrote about this in the article about the 13 mistakes people often make when they try polyamory — and it’s, you know, it’s splitting hairs a bit, but a closed triad, which is what your husband wants, a polyfidelitous triad that is closed isn’t— I mean, it is polyamory in a sense, but I think a lot of people would argue that polyamory specifically is about every person involved being able to have multiple romantic relationships as and when they choose.

And him sort of inserting that, not only do you have to be polyamorous which you’re already gonna struggle with if it’s not something that you’re automatically interested in, but you also have to specifically want to date the exact same woman that he wants… And she has to be interested in you both as well. This is a recipe for disaster, to be honest with you because— and it’s something— it’s specifically called “unicorn hunting”, which is something that couples who open their relationship do all the time.

They think it’s safer to find a bisexual woman who is interested in both of them magically who they likely will chuck if things don’t work out. It’s a huge phenomenon. There’s a website called “Unicorns-R-Us” specifically about this phenomenon. And I think it comes from a place of fear. I think that a lot of couples are, you know— When you go from monogamy to polyamory… Polyamory isn’t monogamy plus. It’s not an upgrade. It is a completely different way of doing things. It’s the difference between living in a city and moving to a rural farm and having to wake up and feed chickens every day.

It’s a completely— as you said— lifestyle, as much as I deeply despise the word lifestyle for no reasons that have to do with you. It is a very different way of doing things. And you can’t just go from monogamy and a monogamous mindset into, “Okay we’ll have threesomes and we’ll just add one more person to this dynamic”, as if that’s simple. So, already he doesn’t sound like a person who is familiar with polyamory or who has done the research. You’ve done the research, and you’ve attempted to do the research.

If he had done at least a little bit of research (and I’m surprised you wouldn’t have come across it as well considering it’s a very very very well known and despised phenomenon) you would realise that this desire for this polyfidelitous triad of two women and one man is very very typical, stereotypical, ridiculous and not realistic in any way shape or form. As you see through your experience. He found someone he wanted to date. You weren’t that interested. And that’s kind of usual.

Triads can form just by happenstance like, especially if you and your partner have similar sort of types, more or less, you can end up being attracted to your partner’s partner. They can end up dating you. It can happen organically but it should happen organically, and it should be that you are discussing the dynamics of this. But you’re not. He’s just sort of been like “Right, if we’re going to do polyamory it’s going to be a triad. I’m going to get another girlfriend basically and you like her too and that’s how it’s gonna be”. And that’s not really what you want.

It’s not only unrealistic for you to just totally be okay with seeing your partner have sex with another person in front of you —because a lot of people aren’t okay with that. And that’s fine. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, but then also to add the added pressure on top of the fact that you also have to want to date his girlfriend, it’s… yeah, it’s just not a good way of starting. It’s a bad, bad way of starting. It’s not safer. It’s just— it sounds like it’s just what he wants basically because he wants two girlfriends.

Like, I’m gonna be blunt. He doesn’t sound like he cares what you want. He wants two girlfriends, and he probably doesn’t want you to have another boyfriend, which is fucked up and stupid. And sorry, maybe I shouldn’t say it that way. It’s foolish. It’s foolish and smacks of insecurity. I mean just read anything on the internet about unicorn hunters… it’s just not a good place to be in.

I don’t think that your motivations for trying polyamory are necessarily bad but the thing that concerns me is the second thing that’s kind of a problem with this scenario. You are terrified of losing him. And so your motivation for trying polyamory is not that you have any individual personal interest into it. You just don’t want to lose him. And even in monogamy I think that being in a position where you’re willing to do anything to avoid breaking up with your partner is not a good place to be.

Sometimes, two people, as much as they love each other and as much as they want to be together, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you do have to break up. And sometimes when we are so desperate just to keep hold of a relationship, we end up doing things that hurt us more than if we would have just broken up when we realised we weren’t compatible. And that’s what worries me about this situation. You are willing to put yourself through anything if it means holding on to this relationship.

Even if this relationship might not be worth holding on to. You have to value the relationship that you have with yourself over any relationship, more or less. You can’t be willing to sacrifice everything for a romantic relationship. It would be one thing if it was your child and a person who depended on you to live, you know. That makes sense. It makes sense to sacrifice your happiness for your child because that’s kind of a part of parenting.

For a romantic relationship to another grown ass adult, like— okay yeah we make compromises with each other, but you are too willing to go through whatever hell you have to go through just to keep him in your life. And that’s not really a good place to be monogamously or polyamorously. It’s never a good place for you to be totally willing to give up everything about you and yourself, just to keep someone in your life, as much as I understand it. And I don’t think that makes you a bad person.

I think that that’s quite typical, especially if you’re a woman, to be quite honest. You are encouraged by society to give up everything for love and that love is the thing that you have to give someone else and that is where your value as a person lies. And no. It’s just something that you really need to think about. You need to care more about yourself and your mental health and your well being than being willing to sacrifice everything for this person. If you had a individual personal interest in non-monogamy or polyamory it would be one thing.

Like if you were like “Well, I’m interested in dating other people” or even “I’m just interested in sleeping with other people”— if you had a little bit of something or even “I like my alone time”, a little bit of individual personal interest can go a long way. You don’t have that. You don’t have any interest in polyamory or non-monogamy. You are purely doing it for him. And that is always not really going to work because, you might have a woman that

you really like and who is more than just a friendship companion for you. I mean, I’m trying to scroll back and see if— I’m assuming you’re bisexual.

Maybe you aren’t. I don’t know. I’m hoping you are, and he’s not just forcing you the date someone who you’re not going to have any interest in whatsoever but you may find someone you fall in love with because I do think that plenty of monogamous people can and do fall in love with multiple people. It’s just that that’s what they choose for the lifestyle that they want. And that’s legit. But you can’t force yourself into this situation, especially if you have zero personal interest in it. You have zero personal interest in it. It’s just not going to work.

And the last thing, which is certainly not the least thing — the biggest problem I have with this entire situation is the way that your husband is basically twisting your arm. Now, polyamorous people can end up dating monogamous people, and they can go, “You know what? I want to do polyamory, but I really like this person and I want to keep them in my life so I’m going to give up polyamory essentially for this person”. And the thing is, is that if you decide to do that, that’s fine. You can later on down the line go, “Hmm, actually, I thought that I could do this but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

What I have a problem with is specifically his comment about how he has “sacrificed enough” for your marriage. That gave me rage face like… sacrificed enough for your marriage? You are the one that’s been sacrificing. You are the one that has been trying polyamory, even though it’s not something that you want. You are the one who agreed to his weird triad dynamic, which I don’t know, maybe you had an interest in. You are the one that’s been sacrificing. And then the second that, you know, you’re talking about opening up again, and you’re like, “ooh, I don’t know if I want to do that”. Now he’s like, “oh, I’ve sacrificed enough!” What the fuck? What the fuck, honestly?

Because here’s the thing, if he approached you and you entered into a relationship, and the marriage, and you were like, “I’ll try polyamory, but I don’t know if it’s for me”. At that point, he should have been like “Okay, there’s a chance that this person will not be into it and we will have to go back to monogamy”. He has to accept that when he decides to be in a monogamous relationship at first with you and you try polyamory, there is a chance that you will find them you went into it, that’s legit.

If he wanted to be with you and he was fine accepting a monogamous marriage and doing all that in the beginning, then he should have accepted as well that there was a chance you wouldn’t be into it. But here he is later on down the line, talking about how he sacrificed enough for this marriage. And that basically threatening you with divorce if you don’t do what he wants. And it’s one thing for him to be like “Okay you don’t really want polyamory, I have figured out through this experiment that I actually really do want it, and I can’t do monogamy so now’s where we should really separate”. That’s one thing.

That’s a mature decision. An unfortunate and sad decision definitely but a mature one for him to make and go “Okay, you know, it’s not really something that I want”. Fine. That’s fine. For him to turn around when you say, “Look, I’ve tried polyamory thing. I don’t think I could do it. It’s upsetting to me. And it breaks my heart” and for him to go “Well then we’ll just have to talk about where this marriage is going to go”. What the fuck? Like honestly I’m furious on your behalf. He’s basically— he is threatening you.

And you need to ask yourself if this is the kind of person you want to be with. Like honestly it’s not even like— I’m not even going to get into the fact that the person he’s interested in having a relationship with is someone he has a history with. That’s neither here nor there. That’s an issue that could have been handled separately to this, but the fact that he is literally saying that he sacrificed enough, like… Fuck you. If he didn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship with you then he shouldn’t have gotten married to you. I don’t know what was agreed on from the— I mean you said you knew he was interested in polyamory, but he had to accept when he was going to be married to someone who hasn’t got an interest in it, that if they try it, they may not want it.

And he has to have the maturity, if he desperately wants polyamory and doesn’t want to do monogamy, to say to you. “Okay, you don’t want to do this, I do. Clearly we need to break up”. That’s different than “Well we’ll just have to talk about how the marriage is going to continue”. That’s so shitty. That’s so shitty and it’s putting you in the position of having to break up with him, which isn’t fair. Like it’s just not fair.

You don’t want to do this. Like point blank, you don’t want to do this. And if he does, then he should be one to at least say, “Hmm, maybe this isn’t going to work out then” in a nice way or you know even if he didn’t want to make the official cut and dump you— understandable. It’s very different to having a conversation with one another and saying, “Oh my god, well, I understand you don’t want to try this”. And he should be willing to listen to your boundaries. He should be doing as much work as you’re doing to try and make something work but he’s not. He’s not, and it’s just such a trash situation.

Because to be quite honest with you, even if you went to him and was like, “Actually, do you know what? I definitely can’t do this. That’s where I’m going”. Even if he were to be like “Alright then I guess I’ll give it all up”. I don’t know if you should stay with him at all. Even in a monogamous situation, you need to really really look at this. This is a person who is 100% fine with threatening you in this way, and ask yourself if that’s someone that you really want to date and be married to.

If he’s willing to do this to you over polyamory, What else is he willing to do in terms of threatening you to get you to do what he wants you to do? Like, really, really think about that, and I know you don’t want to leave him. But, like, honestly, do you really really want to be with someone who treats you this way? This is an appalling way to treat somebody. It’s really gross. If you come to him and say, you know, you say you’re scared to come to him and tell him you don’t want to do this and he’ll say “Leave then”. Why doesn’t he leave? Why doesn’t he leave then?

But he’s putting it on your shoulders. It’s such a shitty way to behave like, really, and you think you sound like a bitch. You think you’re a bitch for not wanting to do polyamory when you, from the very start were monogamous and didn’t have any interest in it, and at least gave it an attempt, and it doesn’t work for you, but you’re somehow a bitch for that? How does that work? You’re not a bitch for that. You’re not a bitch for changing your mind. You’re allowed to change your fucking mind like come on.

Honestly just think about this for a second. You are allowed to have the life that you want to have. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re not a bitch for changing your mind. And the fact that like he’s just willing to let you sit there and be miserable. If you didn’t break up with him and you just said, “I don’t want to do this”, and he just shrugged and went ahead and did it. That is a person who was totally fine with you being miserable as long as he gets what he wants from you — is that someone you really really want to be married to? Like, think about it, just for a second.

Because I do think that if you just step outside of the situation and stop being mean to yourself. Stop thinking that there’s something wrong with you for not wanting to do this. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just because you don’t want to have another girlfriend in between the two of you, just because you don’t want to have threesomes, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. That doesn’t mean there’s some sort of character flaw that you need to work out. That doesn’t mean that you’re broken or that you’re too jealous or you’re too insecure. Sometimes you can just not frickin be into it. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

So if you just take a step back and go “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with me, this is just what I want. In the same way if I didn’t want a suburb, or you know did want to have kids or didn’t want to have kids” — like if you put this situation in the frame of wanting to have children, and he wanted to have them and you didn’t, or you wanted to have them and he didn’t. Imagine thinking you’re a total bitch if you change your mind about having children. You’re not a fit for that, or thinking that like, you know, he’s sacrificed enough if you’ve changed your— like this is just… Yes, I’m going to be going on and on about this because I’m furious on your behalf.

It’s absolute ludicrous for someone to treat you this way and you should not put up with it under any circumstance. So, let me try to sum up, without going into a big whinge again. One. His whole concept of this triad ideal, this polyfidelitous triad is unrealistic stereotypical. Look up unicorn hunting. It’s a thing. It’s it’s not a realistic thing, it’s not safer and it’s not necessarily better. And that’s also just generally not an open thing to just— basically what he wants is to have another girlfriend who you also like, and you don’t get to have anything else and that’s not fair. So it’s just completely unrealistic, borderline misogynistic. It’s codswallop basically.

Second thing is that you don’t have a true individual motivation for trying polyamory. What you have is a fear of losing him. And that, in and of itself isn’t a good motivator. And the problem is is that your fear of losing him is going to make this situation hurt 10 times more than it would if you just ended it, as much as that may or may not sound logical to you in this moment. It’s actually the truth. Dragging it out long, forcing yourself to witness things like him sleeping with other people, kissing with other people, you trying to form a relationship with someone that you just don’t feel anything for— It’s also not fair to that third person.

You don’t have an individual motivation to try polyamory, and that in and of itself is going to cause you a huge amount of struggle because you there isn’t anything, especially in the closed triad situation where you’re just supposed to like this other girl and you don’t get anything else out of it. There’s truly no motivation for you to want to do it as an individual, which is going to spell disaster.

And last but not least, this is somebody who was threatening to end your relationship if you don’t do it, and won’t even have the courage and the decency to realise that you both have different wants in life, and to do the right thing which is to initiate a breakup as an end is instead attempting to twist your arm into doing polyamory, and you really, really need to ask yourself if someone who is perfectly fine with forcing you into a dynamic that you are unhappy and uncomfortable in if that is really the kind of person you want to be married to.

Because that person isn’t treating you right. You know you can’t help it if he’s really into polyamory and you’re not. You really can’t help it but you can handle that situation in an adult and decent way without forcing someone into it. Forcing someone into polyamory doesn’t work, and it isn’t really polyamory. It isn’t really open and isn’t really consensual. It isn’t really anything that most polyamorous people would say is part of the tenants of polyamory. It’s the opposite of that. You know this isn’t polyamory. This is like a harem he’s trying to grow. So you really need to ask yourself if this is the kind of person that you want to be married to, because, even as I said, and I’ll say it again. Even if you were to go to him and call his bluff and say, “I don’t want to do this”, even if he were to say “Okay fine. I won’t date her. I’ll just be monogamous”.

I would still really really think about — because if he’s showing this behaviour now, with regards to this, unless he is saying, “I shouldn’t have done that, I apologise for that. And I’m going to therapy or I’m going to do X, Y Z to address that behaviour and stop that behaviour”, unless he is fully willing to apologise and not do that again, you need to be aware that he is going to do this in the future. It’s not a one off thing. If he’s perfectly fine with twisting your arm into doing this, then he will twist your arm about something else. And you need to think about if that is something that you really want in your life, and if you deserve to be treated that way because you don’t.

I hope that helps. Sorry for my rantyness, it’s just, yeah, I’m really annoyed on your behalf. I hope it helps and good luck.