Honest from the beginning

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I recently tracked down a guy who was an almost boyfriend in college. I had already met my future husband, even though we weren’t dating yet, and that held me back. Even though we never got together, this guy and I really clicked as friends & he even came to our wedding.

I’ve thought about him on and off over the years. This desire started getting more intense recently, so I really put effort into the search & found him (he has almost zero internet presence.) So once we got in touch, I was already infatuated. Total giddy NRE. We haven’t hung out yet, but we’ve been texting & emailing a fair amount and I really do get the feeling that there could be something there. We picked up right where we left off. I know that I was idealizing and fantasizing and still am a bit, but it also doesn’t seem that I’m wrong about who I thought he would be 20 years later.

But he doesn’t know that my husband and I are polyamorous. As far as I know, he thinks I’m his long and happily married old friend, which I am. But I’m feeling flirty vibes from him. I didn’t want to tell him we’re non-monogamous for a while because I didn’t want to scare him, but now I’m wondering if I should so that he doesn’t feel shitty about himself if he does feel something and doesn’t think that I’m cheating.

I really want this. I don’t want to come off as predatory or like I’m giving him the bait & switch: he thought he was having a good time with an old friend, but I want to jump him. But I really do think there’s something there.

When it comes to these types of situations, I think that the best policy is honesty immediately. If someone isn’t interested in polyamory or doesn’t want to consider it, I don’t think that there is a way to introduce it that would make it more likely that someone is going to be interested in it. People can have experiences of polyamory that turn them off of the suggestion for a while, but ultimately they are going to be interested in it or not.

I would have probably advised you to be honest from the beginning just because there isn’t anything inherently predatory about being polyamorous and being interested in someone else and not being sure if they are polyamorous or not. Polyamory may be intimidating to him, but it’s not something you can necessarily change by introducing the topic to him. It might be that you were enjoying the attention and the opportunity that this brought with it and you didn’t want that to end.

The thing that concerns me is that there’s somewhat of a flirty energy going on and he doesn’t know you’re polyamorous. Most of what you’re focusing on is your perspective and not scaring him off, but it might be worth considering it from this guy’s perspective. He definitely for sure knows that you’re married or doesn’t have any reason to believe you’ve gotten divorced. Without seeing exactly what your texts to each other say, it’s hard to say if it’s crossing a line and he’s okay with allowing that to be nebulous. That… doesn’t make for the best recipe. If part of the draw for him is the forbidden aspect of it, then it might end abruptly.

At this point, it’s just best to have a straightforward conversation about everything. Let him know that you’re interested but you are fine remaining friends and that you’re polyamorous. It might end some of the fun experiences that you’re having, but at least it would be clear to both of you, especially if you are feeling like you want something more from this experience than just flirting and you want things to be honest and in the open.

That’s the best way to go about it if what you want from the situation is to have an honest open partnership with him. You could prepare some information for him to read if he wants to learn more about it. Give him some time to have a think about it and respect the fact that he may have wished you had been honest before, though if he never came forward to make things clearer, it is hard to know when exactly to introduce the subject. It might not be something he’s interested in, but at least you’ll know for sure.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Do you have a question?

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Episode 74: Dating Friendly

Reading Time: 10 minutes

In starting out in polyamory, most people want to make rules — like no dating friends or family. It’s worth thinking more about that rule. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What makes a friend different from a partner to you?

Listen here on or on Anchor, our new podcast host. Visit the Anchor website to find where else the podcast is distributed or use this handy RSS link.

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

My BF and I have been dating for 4 months.  We get along really well and are working on a committed fluid bonded relationship. From the start of our relationship he explained that he desires a non monogamous type relationship. He has been in them in the past in the form of one night stands or FWB type situations. 

I, on the other hand, have only had traditional monogamous relationships but I am exploring non monogamy and think it would be something I’d like to try. Listening to your advice and tips has opened my mind up and given me a lot to think about.

My plan is to present my thoughts to him about it this weekend. To see, among other things, what non-monogamy looks like to him and explain what I think it would look like to me. On that thought, I’ve thought a lot about boundaries and rules. 

With your insight I realised that setting them are not realistic and I do not plan to set any (apart from sexual health rules where we will use protection from now on because I can control that).  That said, I wonder about how to broach the subject of ‘friends and family’ being a potential metamours. 

He has jokingly made sexual type remarks in the past about some friends and family members that make me wonder if he would want that. At the time I told him that he is no longer to do that around me. It made me fearful, jealous and felt disrespectful. 

Thinking on it now though, I wonder if I have any say on whether he pursues that avenue or not? Who am I to say? I’m not saying that I would stick around if he does do that but I can’t stop him if he decides to pursue it. His choice.

So I am wondering, how you would approach this or how others have approached it?

Response:

So first and foremost, I feel like friends and family are two different categories, Putting them together is a little bit different, especially because people have different relationships with their friends and family. And for most people, friendships are a little bit more tolerable than family. Because for a lot of people, and this isn’t even necessarily myself included— But for a lot of people, family is kind of like something that they don’t feel comfortable just getting rid of. 

And I’m not saying that people feel comfortable just getting rid of their friends. But family is a little bit different in that way, in that this is kind of the relationships that they’ve had for their whole life versus a friendship might be very different to them and how they define it. So I don’t think friends and family are kind of in the same category. And I think that you should kind of think about that. 

The second thing that I would think of is that everyone kind of has their own boundaries around how they feel. I mean, there are some people in monogamous situations where you know, they break up with someone, and then maybe like their cousin or something like that. And that can be awkward, but it is— it really just depends on the family. Like it’s so specific and dependent upon the relationships that family members have with each other. I think I would feel weird if my partners dated my family members, not necessarily because I have close relationships with my family, but because I don’t, and it would put me in a really awkward position because I don’t necessarily want to have to interact with them. 

So everyone kind of has their own boundaries around that. I think the interesting thing about polyamory that a lot of people don’t realise is that within monogamy, we’re kind of sold a narrative that your partner chooses you because you’re the best, or they choose you for a very specific, unique kind of snowflake-y type of reason. And I’m not saying that that’s not true. But you know, you kind of assume that your partner has, for lack of a better word, good taste, or— when basically, when you kind of get into a polyamorous or non monogamous situation, you sort of then see the taste of your partner. And sometimes that makes you go, “Wow, I didn’t necessarily know that you would be interested in someone who you know is like this or like that”. 

And because you know your friends, and you know your family members, like when your partner is interested in a random stranger, and you don’t know who they are just yet and then maybe later on down the line, you find out, “oh, that person isn’t, you know, that great”. Maybe they’re kind of, you know, however you wanted to find that. Because, you know your friends and family members, I think sometimes when people are attracted to them and you’re just sort of like, “Oh, I know about that person”. 

And like,  not to say you don’t think negatively of your friends, but you start to wonder what it is about yourself that maybe your partner was into. You start to wonder— it really questions that idea that like, “Oh, yes, my partner is into me, because I’m the best or the I’m, you know, I’m a good catch”. You start to go, Well, what is a good catch? And like, why is my partner interested in me? And if the thing for me, and maybe I’m being a bit of a dickhead, and I fully admit that I could be being a bit of a dickhead. But the thing for me is that I’m going like, “Oh, is my partner just interested in me, because I’m interested in them?” It’s kind of the thing that kind of rocks me a little bit. 

So sometimes that is part of the difficulty. It changes the way that we see our partners, especially if they choose people who are not great for them in some way. Or, it kind of makes you wonder, like, why? Like this person is— especially if they’re not being treated well, and it’s hard for you to just sit back— or at least it’s hard for me to just sit back and go, “Oh, this person is not treating you right. Why are you with them?” That can be a really, really difficult thing. And I’m not saying anything bad of your family members or friends. 

They could be great, and you totally understand what your partner sees in them. But that can be an interesting aspect of polyamory. I think it’s always worth when you have kind of a feeling of “Oh, I don’t know how I feel about this” kind of redefine it as a friendship and see if that changes things. So if your friend was interested in your cousin and obviously this makes family meetings and stuff a little bit more awkward, right? 

Because a lot of families aren’t really understanding of polyamory or get it and that might make that might make things a little bit more strange if you do have family meetups, but if your cousin was interested in this person, then I think you can realise— or if your friend was interested in your cousin, then I think you can realise, is it about the fear that my partners into somebody else? Or is it about who I know that somebody else to be. So if I had a friend who was interested in somebody, and I knew that person, probably, in my judgment of them, maybe I thought, you know, they might not be great, because I’ve seen them in other relationships. 

And I might worry for my friends benefit, right? Then it’s less about, you know, the fact that “oh, this is a bit weird” and more about, “oh, I’m a bit concerned about what this relationship is”. Now all that said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should stop it. I think you do have the right kind of mindset, which is like, can you actually control what he does? If he does decide to date family members or friends, you can’t really control that. However, the thing I would say is, you can’t also promise that you’re going to be cool with everything. And it’s not realistic for him to expect you to just be able to be cool with everything, or be comfortable in every situation. 

The one thing that I say, there are people who have been really crap to me who I don’t want to be around, because they’ve been really crap to me, or I don’t really care for them. And I’m fine— I can have partners who date those people. That’s fine. The thing that I draw boundaries around is like, “Look, you can date this person, I don’t particularly care for them. So I don’t really want to hang out with them. I don’t really want to do group dates. I don’t really want to do any of that. If they’re going to be in our shared living space, I would appreciate some, you know, warning, so that I can vacate the premises”, like, things like that. 

And that’s just because,I don’t want to be around these people. And I have a right to not want to be around those people if that’s something that I don’t want. You don’t have to just smile and be cool with everything if you can’t promise that. So, you can draw those kinds of boundaries. You can say, “Look, you can date whom you like”. And I mean, this is exactly the same thing as if you were in a monogamous relationship, and you disliked your partner’s friends. And that happens, sometimes. You’re not obligated to like your partner’s friends. And you can say, like, “Look, if you want to be friends with these people, I don’t particularly care for them, they get on my nerves, whatever it is. So if they come around, let me know so I can go out. And don’t invite me to like group stuff, because I don’t want to do that kind of thing”. 

And maybe that makes things awkward but it also makes it awkward for you to have to deal with that. So my approach to that wouldn’t necessarily be “don’t date my family members, or don’t date, my friends”/ I would just be honest about how I felt like, yeah, if you if you date my mom, that’s gonna be weird, you know. That’s gonna be weird. I’m going to feel weirded out by that. And I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be— nobody wants to necessarily break up over something like that. But I’m going to feel weird about that. And just try and take it on a case by case basis, rather than making a big leap to everything. 

And also be willing to question your initial kind of feelings of like, “Oh, that’s weird” . Because, you know, if if I did have a partner who dated a cousin, for example, instead of like, my mom or something like that, I think it would be weird. It would definitely be weird at first. But I think that, for their happiness, as long as I wasn’t like— we weren’t all going to big family functions all the time together and it was weird, I think I could deal with it. So you never know. And it might be that you might initially have some feelings, but you don’t necessarily always have to listen to your initial feelings about stuff. You can kind of go “Okay, I feel this way”. Think about it a little bit, give yourself a little bit of time and don’t make rushed decisions about things and see how you feel about it. 

If you still feel uncomfortable after a while, then that’s fine. You’re allowed to be uncomfortable about stuff and you’re allowed to go, “I don’t think so I think I’m gonna nope out of the situation” or change your partnership in such a way where you don’t live together, or however that may be. And that may seem really scary. But the thing that is important to remember is that you have no idea what the future holds. You may think now that putting a boundary around like “Okay, you can’t date my friends or family members because that would be weird”. But you have no idea what will happen and who he’s necessarily going to date. 

Later on down the line, he may date someone that makes you feel way weirder than any friend or family member could ever make you feel and you can’t really control that. You may foresee some discomfort and maybe like, “Oh, I want to stop this”. Instead of doing that just go “Okay”. And don’t make promises about— that’s one thing that a lot of people do is that they, especially in polyamory, like you— if you are the partner that is scared of making your partner feel uncomfortable— you are going to want to be like, “Are you okay? Are you okay? Please tell me that you’re okay”.

You can’t promise all the time to be okay. And even if your partner does kind of put pressure on you to do that for the sake of feeling comfortable themselves, don’t give in to that. Don’t promise to be okay in every situation. You can’t predict how you’re necessarily going to feel in every situation. But you can promise that you’ll take a case by case approach to stuff, that you will try to be respectful of their feelings, and that they and you both will be respectful of each other’s boundaries around the situation. That is probably the approach that I would take to that. 

So again, to kind of wrap up, friends and family or, you know, for most people, are very different categories. And so it’s it’s important not to just lump those together, because they are very different categories to a lot of people. Figure out amongst each other how you define those categories, and what you think about that. Talk about it. 

The second thing is that it is interesting that within polyamory, the fact that you can see who else your partner chooses, can sometimes affect your relationship, and sometimes for the better sometimes, for the worse, sometimes it’s just interesting to see the choices that your partner chooses to make. And it does kind of call into question, the narrative that monogamy gives you, which is that your partner has chosen you because you are the best, and you have won the race and yada, yada. 

And that is really a really interesting thing to experience. The third thing is if you want to sit with your discomfort and kind of examine it, and think about why it is you feel the way that you do, it’s always good to ask how would you feel if your friend did this instead of your partner. Just because sometimes that takes a little bit of the fear of loss and the fear of sexual competition, a lot of the different things that people experience in polyamory, away from that and makes you kind of a little bit calmer about it and makes you rethink it. 

And then last but not least, you can’t promise that you’re going to be happy about every choice. So don’t promise that. He shouldn’t be promising that either. Just try and take it case by case. Try to be willing to step back. Think about your feelings a bit not making a quick harsh judgments. And also, don’t be afraid to set boundaries around what you’re willing to be around because that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Again, think about it as if you have a partner— you’re monogamous and you have a partner who has friends that you really don’t like. Similar boundaries around that. Doesn’t mean you have to break up, but it does mean that you kind of have to work around that. So I hope that helps and good luck.

Being thrown away

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I had until recently a relationship with a partner, we were together for 1,5 years. He was wonderful, fun, loving. He lives in a different city but would come to visit me every other month. He has another partner who he has been with for a little more than two years. Last fall she moved to the same city as him.

We have regular check in meetings when we see each other usually just to bring up anything that we might need to talk about.

When he was here the last time he told me about a situation with is other partner.

Both of them had been dating other people as usual. But she had now told him that it didn’t feel right to her. She asked him why he needed to date other people, that she thought that they had a primary relationship (although he said to me that there was no hierarchy), and basically asked him to choose between her and I. He had said that he couldn’t do that because it wasn’t fair to me, and she then said that she was out. He was devastated about this, and when he told me I could hear on his voice that he was deeply hurt and crushed by the thought of having lost her.

He told me that he didn’t know what to do, that perhaps he needed to take some time from all his relationships to think about why he was polyamorous, why he seemed to be attracted to a certain kind of person, that he didn’t know. I said that I wanted him in my life always no matter in what form.

Then he left to go home. When we called each other about two days later he told me that he wanted to deescalate our relationship to a friendship, he said that “he had to do it”, that he couldn’t loose her, that she needed him. And that was it.

I feel thrown away. I feel like even though he said he loved me and that I was important that I was actually disposable to him all along. I feel like he never saw me as a person. Even now. He got what he wanted and I am sad and alone. I think he isn’t even sad that he hurt me – why would he be? He has the person he loves. I feel like he sacrificed me and out relationship like it was nothing.

How can I move on and find some closure?

Firstly, I want to say that I’m really sorry this has happened to you. It’s absolutely shitty and it’s not a situation that you really should have been put in.

I wish that I could tell you that if you found more “seasoned” polyamorous people you would somehow be safer from this sort of outcome — and that might be what a lot of other people would tell you. But in this case, you seemed to have done all you could do. You had regular check ins, you had a partner who claimed he didn’t do hierarchy (and that may have been his full intention — until it was put to the test) and there wasn’t really anything you could have done differently to address that.

Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t know they have a boundary until it’s been crossed. For some people, polyamory isn’t an orientation and it isn’t something they necessarily feel they have much loyalty too — and there isn’t anything inherently bad about that. I don’t think your partner is necessarily a bad person and I don’t think that his partner is either. If I had given him advice, I probably would have told him to wait a bit longer before deciding to “de-escalate” your relationship. Breakups are usually painful and difficult and most people are going to want to find a quick way to stop the pain. Making a decision that rash doesn’t seem like it’s helpful but I wouldn’t assume that he’s necessarily fine and dandy. If he is prone to deciding things so suddenly, he could wind up feeling the same way about losing you.

The important thing to remember here is that incompatibilities are not necessarily your fault. It may help, even if you do want him in your life, to have a period of separation from him where you can work out your feelings and process them. There’s a lot of understandable frustration and anger you can feel — and rightly so. Even if he doesn’t want to think of it in these terms, he has more or less sacrificed you to save his other relationship and done so in a very sudden way. While he was given this ultimatum quickly from his partner, he didn’t necessarily have to act as quickly.

Allow yourself to feel and let some of this anger and frustration out of your system. Consider working with a polyamory friendly therapist if you feel like you need a more professional look in on the situation. Think about what types of conversations you want to have with future partners about this situation. I don’t think you’d truly be able to completely prevent this type of situation from happening again, but getting a gauge on whether or not future partners have really thought introspectively about polyamory might help feel more secure with them as I’d expect this situation to cause you to feel a lot of worry in the future about your place in your partners’ lives.

Also remember that a lot of people are in monogamous relationships for a very long time when their partners decide that they didn’t actually want to live the life they are living. Sometimes people choose the wrong path in life or they end up growing and changing in a way that the path they’ve chosen no longer works for them. It’s not something that anyone can fully prevent or predict. Sometimes when we stop trying to find a way to prevent things like this from happening we can also relieve ourselves of the burden of believing it happened because we did something wrong.

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 73: Caveat Emptor

Reading Time: 8 minutes

It’s easy to think you might be interest in non-monogamy, but what if you have some conflicting feelings when theory becomes practice? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What “meaning” do you attach to sex, if any? And why?

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

Been with my partner for 2 years now, and I’ve always been a sexually open person, which they knew about from the beginning.

For a while we lived together and I decided to respect their space and go monogam[ous] for a year, still trying to make them understand I like an open relationship with physical meaningless things.

We live separately now and I got them to let me explore some other people.

Recently my partner started dating another person which I thought I’ll be alright with, but it hurts like nothing I felt before. We had a short chat about it and I suggested a little break to think about us without seeing each other.

My question would be – where could we go from here?

I know I’m emotional monogamist open to sexual pleasure. But how could I tell them after I made them try new things to stop?

Response:

So in short, how can you tell them after you made them try new things to stop? I mean, *should* you tell them to stop is the big question here. I think that your reaction is pretty normal actually. A lot of people even if they think they’re totally “prepared” for Non-Monogamy, when the rubber meets the road or the if it hits the shan however you want to say it — It is a lot more different when it’s practice and not just theory. 

And it’s very scary. Regardless of how open you think you are, you have lived in a society your whole life — I’m guessing unless you’ve lived in a different type of culture, in which case I apologise — but most people who are listening to this who tend to be among the people who write me come from a society where monogamy is presented to them as the only option and the only valid option.

And that is a lifetime of messages, a lifetime of … programming seems really daft to say but it’s a lifetime of information that you’ve had to basically, you know, deal with your whole life and along with that, a lot of monogamous people struggle I feel with realistic expectations of monogamy because of that message. A lot of monogamous people struggle with the idea that their partner can be attracted to somebody else and that means something about how much they love them. Like monogamous people struggle with this messaging. 

So of course, you are going to struggle with that. That make sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “emotional monogamist” and I would really challenge yourself on that. It’s not fair, really for you to expect your partner to just dump somebody else. It’s also not fair for that person that your partner is dating, just because you’re uncomfortable. So you can tell your partner to stop. You could make that demand. But if I were your partner or I were advising your partner I would tell your partner to break up with you. Just because for someone to do that is really not cool. And it doesn’t— it’s very selfish with all due respect. 

So— and I understand the feeling of wanting things to stop and even taking breaks and wanting to step away from all of the intense emotions. I get that but you can’t just completely dump someone — and it’s not really fair to do that to the other person — just because you’re uncomfortable. I want to point out something that you said though in your letter. You said I like an open relationship with “physical meaningless things”. There’s two things about this. 

First of all, just because you’re both interested in open relationships— it seems like they are. But you can both be into open relationships and still be very different in terms of how you want to practice them. Just because you’re into that doesn’t mean you’re inherently compatible. Some people are interested in casual sex who are polyamorous. Some people are not interested in casual sex. It doesn’t have to be a relationship ending thing. I don’t think you have to have the exact same outlook or or belief system or needs with regards to sex just to date. 

But I do think you have to accept that your partner isn’t going to have the same outlook on sex as you do. And I think that’s even true in monogamous relationships. I mean, just because two people are monogamous doesn’t mean that they have the same relationship to sex, or the same, you know, value—  value sex in their life in the exact same ways. So it comes down to whether or not this is something you can accept. 

Maybe you feel like *you* want physical meaningless things. Maybe your partner doesn’t and that’s okay. I’ve been in that kind of a relationship where I was with someone who was interested in more casual things, and I’m not. And it was challenging for me because I immediately assumed that all of their casual relationships were like the same as a more serious relationship to me. 

Another thing that I want to point out is that I feel like we get really loosey goosey with the terms like “casual sex” and “meaningless sex”. I mean, it could be that when you say you’re interested in physical, meaningless things that you like, go to a club pick someone out, you know, go to a bathroom together and then never speak to them again. Even so, I would still say that has a meaning. It’s not meaningless completely. You may not want to have a commitment involved in that. That doesn’t make the act meaningless. 

I really want to get people away from assuming that being interested in casual sex means that the people that you have casual sex with, like mean nothing. I feel like that’s a really harsh and horrible way to look at it. And I don’t think that that’s true, just based off of my experience of having a partner who was interested in casual sex. I assumed that casual sex meant that you didn’t care about the other person. But that’s not really true. 

I don’t doubt that there are people who have casual sex who are basically using another human person’s body to masturbate. I’m pretty sure that does happen. However, that isn’t the case for every single person who has casual sex. So I would challenge yourself a little bit on — is this actually meaningless? You may feel a little bit scared and attach meaning to the person that your partner is dating because you’re scared and threatened by it. 

You may be attaching a meaning that isn’t there. The only way you’re going to figure out that is by really getting a better idea of what “meaning” means to you. And that’s a little bit harder in Non-Monogamy. Whenever we’re monogamous we have the thing that’s called “the relationship escalator,” which you might want to Google and it’s this idea that like, you know, this is how your life is supposed to be: you meet someone you get attached you begin an exclusive relationship. You may be move in with each other you maybe decide to marry you have babies, you know, that whole sort of step by step signal that a relationship has meaning.

And when you are non monogamous and you don’t have that relationship escalator, it is hard to understand what “meaning” means, especially since you live in a culture where exclusivity is the meaning. Exclusivity creates that meaning. So how do you create that meaning? And I think people make the mistake of assuming meaning, and not really knowing how to make meaning themselves, and feeling really lost about it. So I think that you might want to sit down with yourself a little bit and figure out why it is that you’re interested in Non-Monogamy? 

What do you hope to get out of it? What is your ideal within that? Because I feel like you just assuming that you’re an emotional monogamist perhaps because of this experience? I mean, you may be. But what is it that you specifically want out of this? And then when you try Non-Monogamy Again, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. Because like I said, just because you are non-monogamous doesn’t mean everyone who is not-monogamous is going to be completely compatible with you. 

You may want a relationship that is more swinger like to be honest. That sounds more like swingers where you have one marriage and one kind of emotional relationship but you have sexual experiences with other people. I still wouldn’t call that meaningless, but it is the primary relationship which is prioritised and sort of seen as more important, and that may be fine within the context of a swinger community. 

But for people who feel like they’re more polyamorous who want what’s called “Kitchen Table polyamory” or something like that, where not only do you want multiple deep romantic relationships, but you want those people to get along and you want to have a big kind of family. That may not be compatible with you even if you feel you are non-monogamous. So, figure out what you want from non-monogamy. In my beginner 101 non monogamous article which you can find a NonMonogamyHelp.com I talked about it in the terms of an anchor and that is your personal reason for wanting non monogamy. 

And when you have that better idea, you’ll know what it is that you’re trying to ask for from a partner and you’ll be able to navigate some of these anxieties a little bit more. Because if you know, like, “Okay, I want to be non monogamous, but this is a specific thing that I want”, then you can approach other partners and see if that’s what they’re actually interested in. And then you won’t have such a major reaction to things. I think you’ll still have fears. 

I think you’ll still have anxieties and that’s fine. I don’t think you should set yourself up for failure by thinking that just because you’re super into what you call “physical meaningless things” doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings. You’re going to have feelings because it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to live in a monogamous society and just absolutely have no emotions when your partner is with someone else. I think that that’s just not realistic for most people. 

So yeah, to recap, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to force your partner to break up with somebody else. However, I do think that it’s important for you to figure out what it is that you want and your partner as well as — for you both to figure out what your ideal is, and to see if you actually are compatible within that. I think you should question your assumptions that you are an emotional monogamist and that the things that you do are meaningless to you. Because I feel like that may not be completely true, but it’s all about finding what non-monogamy actually means to you so that you have something to compare it to when it comes to meaning. 

I do think that you might want to look into swinger communities just because what you’ve already described — if this is exactly what you want — seems more akin to the swinger vibe necessarily, then the polyamorous vibe. And yeah, in general, I just think that you need to give yourself a little bit of a break. You will have fears. You will be hurt and nervous and scared with your partner dating another person. I think even if you find someone who is interested in the same style of relationship, you will still be scared if your partner is doing something physical with somebody else that is supposed to be “meaningless”. It’s expected and understandable that you might feel scared. Some people don’t and that’s fine, but it’s very very understandable. So don’t beat yourself up too badly for that. And lastly, I hope this helps and good luck. 

Betraying yourself for others

Reading Time: 3 minutes

My ex and I were together for a year and nine months. He was my first relationship and first sexual encounter. He is fifteen years my senior, and we met when I was eighteen. I didn’t know about his actual age, or the fact he had a girlfriend on the other side of the country (we were both new to the area at the time) until a few months into dating each other. I was vocal about wanting a non-monogamous relationship from the beginning, and continued to be until the end. However, he wanted more. When a dirty message (albeit unprovoked) came up on my phone several months after we met, he angrily told me that he didn’t want to be with me if I wouldn’t be exclusive. I was scared of losing him, and know that he knew he was pressuring me into commitment.

I justified my sleeping with other men on two separate occasions, as well as sending explicit photos to others because I gave him a multitude of chances to see things my way (or to leave, which he ultimately did and should have a long time ago, as much as I hate to admit it) and didn’t enthusiastically consent to monogamy. I knew he wouldn’t be okay with what I was doing, but at the time, I thought I was justified in my actions. I realize now that I in no way was and seriously betrayed him, even though I was never caught. I think it may be for the better for both of us now that it is over, although that is no excuse for what I did.

I am seeing a therapist now to work through both the end of the relationship, and how I contributed to the unhealthy environment. I still love and care about him so much. He was my best friend. All of this information makes everything even worse, because I wonder how could I have ever done that to someone I know means so much to me.

Do you have any advice for me on how to work on forgiving myself and move forward?

I feel like you’re holding yourself here to an account that your partner doesn’t seem to be holding himself to. This relationship began with him cheating on you, whether you were vocal about non-monogamy or not. A hidden relationship is, to most people’s definition, cheating. He not only lied about his actual age but he also lied about another relationship.

While I do think you should have been the one to cut things off when he told you that he didn’t want to do non-monogamy or even before when you realised he had been cheating on you and lying about his age, you are 15 years younger than he is and in a way, I don’t see why he couldn’t have done that either and I very much wonder if his anger at seeing the text was because he thought that, due to your age gap, he could somehow convince you easier to be monogamous.

Whether or not you were justified in your actions, I really don’t see this as some kind of long intense and intended deception. If anything, you were honest from the outset on what you intended to do. Even if you knowingly did things you knew he wouldn’t like, it’s not like you overtly lied about it either.

On the contrary, there’s a lot of excuses for what you did. He was pressuring you to commit in a way you didn’t want to commit. You gave him the chance to leave on a consistent basis. While I absolutely do think you should have ended things when he said he didn’t want to be with you if you wouldn’t be exclusive, I don’t think it’s worth this level of self flagellation.

What you might want to consider working through your therapist with is what you define as a ‘best friend’ and how do you go forward recognising that the level of treatment you expect yourself to have for others is clearly not equal to the level of treatment you expect others to have of you. You’re asking yourself how you could have done this to someone who means so much to you but… he cheated and lied from the beginning — how could he have done that to you?

Go easier on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Being afraid of losing a relationship you can sometimes enjoy outside of the rough patches is a very human thing. Wanting to avoid a breakup is a very human thing. Be aware of the choices you made that ended up making this breakup more difficult, but don’t beat yourself up for it.

Pay more attention to when you’re also seriously betraying yourself or allowing others to do so and accepting it as deserved.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 72: Problematic Pedestal

Reading Time: 12 minutes

When you put one partner on a pedestal, it can cause a lot of constant anxiety. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

How do you deal with expressions of emotion? Sadness? Anger

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

My partner and I have been together for 2 and a half years. It is my first queer passion and relationship.

I am a cis woman and I’ve had 2 long relationships with cis men, one of them lasted 9 years. (At one point of this relationship I brought up the idea of non-monogamy and he freaked out, later I left for 6 months abroad and he cheated on me which landed to us breaking up and then coming back together gain after a succession of little drama an [STI]).

My actual partner came out pretty early, dated and had sex with a lot of people during their life. They were assigned female at birth, they’re non binary, and they only date women.

When we met each other it was very intense and we fall in love quickly. It was new for me but it was special for both of us. I was a very independent person but they weren’t and I adapted myself and we had a very fusional first year.

We decided to open up our relationship a bit more than a year after we met. It was something we both wanted. 

For me it meant freedom and mostly the possibility to explore my lesbian sexuality. I was also drawn by the idea that it would make us closer in a way. For them, at first it wasn’t clear, they were curious to explore new stuff, supportive of me and kinda aroused by the idea of me having other stuff. But the reality was very different. 

We both signed up on tinder and to sum up, they started dating people right away and I freaked out about it. I was really sad, crying all the time, every little thing was hurting me and it kind of took away my own desire to pursue anything on my own. I was feeling insecure, jealous, not enough etc etc. 

Eventually I had some experiences (3) but it wasn’t completely satisfying for me.  For them, it was great. They’re so hot and very experienced in dating so it was just so easy. I couldn’t help compare our experience and it had a bad impact on my ego. During this time, it was always very clear that our relationship was the priority and that the other relationships were secondary and not serious. We’re leaving together and we’re very committed to each other and want this to stay like this.

We stoped it because of winter, pandemic and also because it didn’t really end well with 2 of the people my partner saw because they wanted more and not them. It was a hard winter because of the pandemic and because my partner was very depressed. I got a bit cold and distant because I wasn’t receiving any really attention. At the end of the winter I was even considering breaking up because I was feeling really unsatisfied but I still loved them so didn’t.

In June, I had to travel and left for 6 weeks. Before that we decided to open things again. I wanted to be free during my travel and also wanted them to be able to meet people and have nice time while I was away. They were saying they didn’t want anything too regular and we kinda agreed on that. I was clear about the fact that I was not comfortable (or ready) with them having an other girlfriend. 

During this 6 weeks, they started dating a younger girl and it was hard from me again right away. I thought they didn’t want anything regular but they said they changed their mind and really like this person. They were transparent with me about all this but I got very upset and so it put a distance between us (in addition to the actual distance). 

Again as I was 100% of time thinking about what they were doing, paranoid, fearing, being stressed out, feeling betrayed, humiliated etc. it drained me from pursuing anything on my own. Again it had a bad impact on my confidence.

When I got back home a week ago, we had some big deep beautiful discussions about the situation. They were very transparent about the fact that they really enjoy the non monogamy, that they like this girl, that they still love me very deeply and that our relationship is so important and precious to them. We are feeling closer than before, we’re very affectionate and kind with each other. 

I am feeling very much in love and I have butterflies again, which might be caused by the fear of losing them. They say their feelings are more deep and stable but they’re passed the honeymoon phase. I understand that but it is hard for me to accept it. Specially if they are experiencing this phase with someone else.

I am so scared of them falling in love with this girl and losing my “status”. I think part of it is that our narrative has always been very romantic and they tell me things like I am the best relationship they ever had and I am the love of their life etc. Which makes me feel so good but I realise that I am completely terrified about loosing this special place. 

I overthink everything, I feel obsessed with this situation, I am always comparing everything and it’s driving me bananas. I don’t really have people to talk to about it because my friends are all monogamous and I feel judged. I am gonna start seeing a therapist next week who is specialized in this topic but I don’t have a lot of money so I don’t know how many sessions I’ll be able to do.

This girl my partner is seeing is the 4th person they dated in a year and I thought that by now I will feel better but I really don’t. I can’t help but feeling humiliated and sad. Is it normal that it takes so much time to adjust ? It feels hopeless and I am questioning if it’s really something for me. What do you think ?

The other thing is that I am a very emotional person and I cry A LOT. I struggle finding a good balance between good communication and overwhelming sharing. I have a tendency to share everything and burst into tears very easily but it has a bad impact on us because it creates a distance and they fear to hurt me so we share less. I feel really stuck because I don’t know when I should just shut the fuck up and work alone on my shit and when it’s important to share. 

I am afraid my emotions are gonna sabotage our connexion. And I always read stuff like it’s important to express your emotions and cry but I am like : yes ok but what if it’s 5x times a day every day? I don’t think it’s constructive either ! What do you think ?

Response:

I feel like you kind of nailed it on the head a little bit. And a lot of people do this in Non-Monogamy when they start out and I get why they do it. But it is something that I feel like ends up causing a lot more panic and anxiety than it’s worth. It’s okay if you really want a situation where you have a primary or prioritised relationship, right? 

That’s okay if that’s really the way you want to operate. And I feel like there are some people who do operate that way and that’s fine. There are some people who want a kind of non-monogamy where their primary interest is in having sexual experiences with other people, but they kind of want to have the romance and stuff and lifelong commitment and everything with another person. 

And I think if that is what works for you, that is fine. The problem is that I feel like that’s kind of what people end up going for by default. Because monogamy is kind of presented to you as the only option. You kind of go for a similar kind of monogamy within non-monogamy if that makes sense. You opt for a solution that feels a little bit more safe in some ways. And I feel like if you don’t actually operate that way, it’s not really going to work and I also feel like exactly what you said. You’re afraid of losing your status. 

And when you put people on a pedestal, when you create a hierarchy, understand that that will create anxiety, because if you are ‘the special person’, exactly like you said, you’re going to be worried about basically being ousted from your throne. You’re going to be worried about being taken off of your pedestal. There is a way to reassure and compliment and, you know express your love for people that doesn’t involve a kind of exclusivity or putting people on a pedestal. 

It’s very hard for people to do that. Because that is kind of the thing that we are surrounded by in most cultures, right? Like all of the love songs, all of the things that you know, we’re encouraged to consider romantic all have to do with exclusivity. All have to do with like “You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met” and you know. And this creates a lot of problems in monogamy. This creates a lot of problems for people who feel like even in monogamy, that their partner should be perfect and they should always feel enamoured by that. 

It creates a lot of problems for monogamous people. So I feel like carrying this over — unless you are the kind of person where this is kind of how you operate. So you’re not really trying to put anyone on a pedestal it’s just that this is how you prefer to do things because this is how you operate or this is what your interest is in non-monogamy. If you’re not that type of person then that pedestal is going to create a lot of issues. 

So I think that what would be helpful is if you both made some attempt to figure out what your ideal is. So just because two people are polyamorous doesn’t mean they are compatible. You can be incompatible. Some polyamorous people want this kind of setup where there’s one person that they feel romantic towards one person they have a life with. And then they’re kind of being sexually adventurous and for the record  — I also dislike when a hierarchy is set up the way that people seem to act like people that their partner sleep with or have experiments with don’t matter. 

They do matter. It’s not as if — I feel like it’s a little cruel sometimes. And I’m not saying you’re doing this, but I do feel like it’s a little cool sometimes. The way we talk about it’s just like Oh, I’m the most important and everyone else is just trash basically and I know you didn’t say that. But I think that it would also help if we just kind of accepted that, you know, casual relationships are still relationships, like. The connections that people have with people. It doesn’t have to be so freakin cold.

Okay, yes, you may not want to establish a life with this person. Or spend the rest of your life with this person. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. You know, people can have huge impacts on your life, even if they only spend a little bit of time with you. So that’s that’s the first thing. But I think that what you need to do is you both need to think about why — what it is about polyamory that you are excited by, what is it that you get out of it? What is the personal benefit that you get out of this? I talk a lot about this. If you go to NonMonogamyhelp.com. I have a 101 and a 102 article. And in the one on one article, I talk about finding your anchor. And I think the finding your anchor is really, really helpful. 

So what your anchor is basically as the personal reason, which isn’t sustaining another relationship but your personal interest in Non-Monogamy and you could be a monogamous person to a polyamorous person and still have an anchor and your anchor may be that you like to have some time alone and so you don’t mind that your partner is with someone else because you like having more alone time than you typically might get within monogamy with another person who is monogamous. So you need to find out what your ideal is. 

What is it that you would like around that? Around that is about physicalities right? I think the bare minimum of non-monogamy is accepting a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. As I’ve said, in a lot of the columns and podcasts, a lot of monogamous relationships are also like this. If you have a partner with a time intensive career, where they may not be spending all their time with you. 

You also kind of have to be okay with that or not date someone who has that kind of a career. So that is kind of the first step. Like okay, this is this situation, my partner may not spend all of their time with me. It doesn’t sound like you have that problem. It doesn’t sound like that’s an issue for you. But you also need to think about what it is that you actually want. 

So stop trying to reassure each other by saying “Oh, you’re the most amazing person”. We do love our partners and they are amazing in their own way. But you don’t have to make it into a competition and that isn’t helping anyone. So instead of doing that, think about the physicalities like, are you going to have two set nights together? Are you going to schedule time together? I think that especially when people live together, it’s very, very easy and honestly even this is true for monogamous people. 

It’s very, very easy to forget to spend intentional time with one another and intentional time with one another is really, really important. So agree on some physicalities like is your partner going to spend three nights a week with you that kind of thing?

That will help you feel a little more grounded, you won’t feel so out of whack. If you know what your future is with each other. If you know you have the same kind of picture, the same kind of ideal with each other, then it won’t be so difficult for you to calm yourself when you’re in that kind of a state. I think also it’s important for you to put together kind of an emotional self care routine, something that helps you figure out where to go for help.

Like you obviously don’t have you know, and then and it’s worth — you know, I don’t know if you feel judged or if your monogamous friends have made you feel judged. You know, I think the monogamous people if they’re your friends, they should be able to support you. And it’s worth having those conversations with them. It’s worth reaching out to them and saying like, “Hey, can you give me some emotional support here without telling me that my lifestyle is wrong?”. I feel like they should if they’re your friends be able to do this. But other than that you can kind of figure out how you handle your emotions.

Exactly what I was speaking about earlier in the podcast about your nervous system like how you calm your nervous system. Seeing that therapist. When you go to see that therapist, ask that therapist for techniques on how to deal with your emotions. And then when it comes to how much you share. I feel like that’s really dependent on the person, right? Because some people will be able to sit there and listen to stuff and also put down some boundaries and say “I think that you’re going a little bit too far. I think that you’re oversharing” and you have the ability to trust your partner to lay down those boundaries. 

So maybe you need to have some honest conversations with each other. Maybe you need to ask your partner like instead of keeping things from me, can we establish almost like a safe word where you can say okay, things are getting a little intense. I need a break. Take a break, step away from each other, have those emotional processing things that you can do to kind of get that out and then come back. You know, you don’t have to process everything right away. You don’t have to spend five hours sitting and talking with each other. 

You can just go okay. All right. I’m feeling a little bit high emotion right now. I need to step away. Step away. Have a talk with a friend or you know, whatever you can do that kind of gets you a little bit less in the kind of reactive feeling, and then come back to the discussion but don’t beat yourself up as well. Like my last piece of advice. Don’t beat yourself up for having feelings like— people tell you to kind of like express your emotions and and sometimes you know it’s not like you constantly express— you’re not an open bottle or I don’t know what the phrase is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you just express everything all at once all the time. 

But you allow yourself to feel things. You allow yourself to go through that. And you will get to a point especially when you learn how to balance your nervous system and you learn how to calm yourself, you will get to a point where you see yourself having that anxiety spike. And you’re able to kind of experience yourself seeing that instead of being in the middle of it. And then you can express it in a way that you need to and it gets a little bit easier to navigate that, but you don’t reach that point by beating yourself up. So don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction. To feel scared to feel all of these things. 

Nothing that you’ve described is out of the norm. When it comes to emotions, I think that you will get to a point where you feel a little bit better but this isn’t all just you shutting the fuck up and working on your shit as you said. This is also you working with your partner to establish some shared idea of what it is your ideal is and then you know that you’re both working together on that and you will still have panics. You’ll still have freak outs you’ll still be scared. 

But at least you’ll be able to come back to that and say okay, but we have this idea. We have this thing that we both believe in we have this thing that we both want to work on. And you’ll be able to come back to that. I think people already have that in monogamy because it’s so culturally scripted.  You have the relationship escalator you have signs that kind of ground you in knowing that things are serious that your partner is committed, etc and so forth. So when you don’t have that, you just need to find out how to create that within your relationship. 

And I think a great way to start is by talking to each other about what your ideals are, figuring out if you have a shared idea of a life that is compatible, if there are compromises you can make or they can make and just figure out how you both work together. I think that would be a huge help. 

So to summarise, the pedestal is the problem here. That is why you’re so anxious. You both need to make an attempt to figure out what your ideal is because two polyamorous people can be incompatible. So figure out if you’re compatible in that way. Schedule some physical actual days out, nights out, or nights in just some time. That’s intentional, that you know for sure you always have this time with them which can help a lot with anxiety. 

And then, as I said put together an emotional self care routine. Something that helps you figure out where you can go for help. Reach out to some of your friends and see if they— they should provide you with that support even if they don’t get polyamory. And last but not least, don’t be so mean and hard on yourself about it. And there isn’t anything bad about having a lot of feelings. It’s just about how you navigate that if that makes sense. So I hope this helps and good luck.

Hierarchies causing paranoia

Reading Time: 7 minutes

When I met the person (A) I’m seeing now, 5+ years ago, he was seeing other people. At the time I wasn’t particularly interested in anything more than casual anyways so seeing him occasionally suited me.

A few months in he told me that he was now in an open relationship with someone. The open relationship ‘rules’ he and his girlfriend had included no sleepovers, (which we never had anyways) and also that she wanted to know each time he met up with someone (presumably I wasn’t the only other person he was seeing).

Ultimately this didn’t make much difference to our situation, so we continued to see each other sporadically as before. We had several conversations about it, since I was curious about the idea of polyamory, having never really experienced it before. (I’ve had casual relationships with several people at the same time, but always stopped seeing the other people once it started to get serious with one)

Around 6 months in I started also seeing someone else (B) and it progressed rapidly. I considered how to keep both relationships going as I enjoyed them both for different reasons. B was very romantic, very much about us as a couple, very supportive, and very vocal about building a future for us together. A and I have a lot of interests in common, and we have a playful banter that I find irresistable. I asked A for advice on how to broach the subject of open relationship, which he gave me – be upfront and honest from the beginning.

I had one conversation with B where I asked him abstractly how he felt about an open relationship, and he said that while he wasn’t interested in pursuing it and wanted to only see me, but he was ok with the idea if I wanted to see other people. After some thought, I decided that it didn’t seem fair for someone to put all their energy into me and for me not to reciprocate the same in return, so I stopped seeing A, who wished me the best and we agreed to still be friends (although we had minimal contact for those years other than the very occasional friendly message).

Over 3 years later, B turned out to be one of the worst relationship experiences I’d ever had. He had lied, cheated on me with several people, and worst of all- gaslighted me. After a few months of discovering this, and some therapy, I managed to extricate myself from the whole unsavory situation and break it off for good. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since.

Around this time, I contacted A. He was happy to hear from me and we immediately picked up where we left off (he was still in an open relationship with the same woman). We saw each other occasionally.. and texted a bit in between. It was just what I needed after months of feeling unwanted in my previous relationship. Then COVID happened. We were all in lockdown, and I barely left my apt for months. A and I continued to chat via text, and about 1.5 months later I felt safe enough to venture out to visit him. He said he had been seeing someone else sporadically who also hadn’t really left her apt much too.

Things had shifted slightly during this time. He had split up with his girlfriend and invited me to stay the night. Over time we started to spend even more time together, 2-3 times a week. We were in contact almost everyday. He sometimes hung out with me and my friends, went away with me for a weekend in the summer, spent thanksgiving together with my friends. We continued to enjoy each other’s company (all this while I knew he was seeing someone else but I guess I never cared to ask for much detail). It has been just over a year since we started seeing each other, and about 8 months we have been hanging out since he split with his ex girlfriend.

Recently I’ve realized that I’ve developed feelings for him, when I felt jealous about hearing that he had made plans with someone else on a night that I had suggested to meet. Having not been a particularly possessive or jealous person in previous (monogamous) relationships I struggled with it quietly at first, trying to understand my feelings and why it bothered me (especially since I’ve known about his seeing other people all along). I realized that we had slowly developed a romantic relationship even though it had been undefined and hadn’t really been discussed. So eventually we talked about it all… how we both felt that this was much more than just a casual relationship, all the insecure feelings I was having, how he had approached his previous non-monogamous relationships.

He said he understood how it felt, having been through the same jealousy and confusion before when he first began an open relationship, of which he’s had 2. He patiently assured me that it was normal to have these feelings at first, and said that it was good to talk about it openly and honestly, asked how he could put me at ease, what ground rules would help me feel ok with it. It has been a few ongoing conversations that happen generally when I feel a little rattled about finding out that he has made plans with her. Not always, but sometimes, usually when Its a time I’ve suggested to meet, less so if it isn’t. I asked to know in advance when he was seeing her, so it wouldn’t be a surprise. He readily agreed to this. Then I said that like his previous girlfriend I prefer to be the only one that sleeps over. This he said was more difficult to walk back since the other woman and him had already been doing this, but that he would not sleepover with any other people he started seeing in the future.

I also asked about the nature of that relationship – he said they saw each other about once a week, and had no plans to increase the frequency. He told me a little about their connection, and tried to reassure me that it wasn’t as special as ours was to him. He has been seeing her for 5 months. She sees other people other than him sporadically too. There is also one other woman that he sees once every few months, that clearly isn’t emotional. No worries about that, in fact I think it’s pretty hot and like hearing about their sexcapades.

Anyways, I’m in a bit of a pickle. I think I am open to being in an open relationship, I’m in to the idea having other sexual partners, and am curious about meeting other sexual partners myself. I do however now feel the need to be the primary relationship, and that the surrounding relationships are casual, not emotional. But since his other relationship happened before we discussed any of it, it’s like a grandfathered situation. He insists it’s not the same and that I shouldn’t feel replaceable but somehow I still have a niggling feeling that comes back every so often.

I don’t want to ask him to end or some how de-escalate the relationship with her- to me it seems way too controlling and unfair(esp to her, even if I don’t know her) I’d never dream of demanding that. I think anyone asking someone to do that would probably end up being resented anyways, even if they did agree/acquiesce to it. I also believe that by asking someone NOT to do something they’d likely want it more, so that’s counter productive ultimately.

So, it’s a bit of a conundrum.. How do I deal with these feelings I have? Is it reasonable to desire to be a primary person in an open relationship and for others involved to be secondary in this particular instance? I can’t help feel a little like I’m changing the goal posts/rules mid game. While I believe him when he says I’m the special relationship, I also can’t help feel like that could change at any moment should they spend more time together, and it makes me uneasy. Is it a case of learning to get over the jealousy and just trusting in him or am I not cut out for this and should I just leave?

You started as his “non-primary” relationship and that changed and shifted. Despite the rules his girlfriend instituted, their relationship didn’t necessarily last. I think deep down you know this, which is why you feel anxious. Although his reassurance should technically help, it doesn’t. I don’t think that’s what he meant, but this is what ends up happening when people give the kind of reassurance that your partner gave.

When one person holds the position of “primary”, inevitably this means that this is a position you can either be in and or not be in. Obviously, you’re going to want to be in this position and now that you have more to lose, you’re a lot more afraid of losing this position. You’re not necessarily jealous, you’re worried that what happened to his girlfriend could easily happen to you. Someone else could grow stronger and closer to him and if there is only one place for a “special” relationship, then you’ll always have to be vigilant that you can be replaced.

It’s normal to feel when starting in an open relationship, especially when you start having more feelings, scared to lose your partner and to want to have more stability. I think people get scared in monogamous relationships too, they just have more cultural scripts to tie them down and soothe their anxiety. You don’t have that, so you’re reaching for something to grab ahold of. And even though your partner is willing to provide it, the unfortunate side effect of being put on a pedestal is that you can be kicked off.

Having nervousness around this doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for it. Negative feelings and jealousy is really typical especially since a lot has changed. Even if you dated previously but your relationship was different, it’s changed now so it makes sense that you would be nervous. I would suggest you and your partner not lean into your feelings. I wrote previously on this in a column called “When reassurance means denial” which might help.

I also wrote an introductory article which might help you and your partner find your anchors and figure out what you want out of non-monogamy and that might allow you to find something to cling to that isn’t a hierarchical position and also help you face some of these fears.

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 71: Feelings and Friends

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We create rules sometimes about what our partners can do because we’re afraid of losing them, but sometimes the rules we make don’t actually change anything.

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

Discussion Topic:

How do you introduce the topic of STIs to someone you’re interested in dating or sleeping with?

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

Episode 71 – Feelings and Friends

We create rules sometimes about what our partners can do because we’re afraid of losing them, but sometimes the rules we make don’t actually change anything. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website.

 

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

My boyfriend (26) and I (21) have been together for 3 years. We are in an “open” relationship, where we have both given permission to sleep with other people. As a couple, we talk about and fantasise about being with other people, both together and separately. 

Neither of us have found the right situation, until now. I used Feeld, the app, and found someone who has consented to the situation and with meeting up with me alone and with both of us together. I was excited and when I presented this to my boyfriend and asked if we could meet for drinks, he told me he didn’t want me talking to and developing relationships with other people.

To me, that’s understandable and not at all unreasonable; however, the issue there is that I’ve never just “hooked up” with anyone. I need some sort of connection before sleeping with someone. I have no intentions of having emotions involved or to fill any sort of role that is currently filled by my boyfriend with anyone else. I just want casual sex, but I feel the need to get to know new partners. He doesn’t seem to understand and isn’t willing to compromise on it. Not that I feel like we should if he’s truly uncomfortable with it.

My question is, does this mean we should just close our relationship and move on? I’m not against that but I would be a little disappointed, as this has been the basis of my fantasies for years.

Response:

The issue here is that friends go out for a drink together. Friends have emotions and feelings towards one another. If he doesn’t want you to develop relationships with other people… I mean, I know that he means “a relationship”, right? But a friendship is also technically “a relationship” in the broadest sense of the term. It’s totally understandable if for him he can meet someone with little to no conversation and get busy, that’s fine. That’s fine. Not everyone else is necessarily like that, and you are not like that and I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to want to just meet and have drinks.

And I’m guessing you’re gonna find a lot of people— I mean, I don’t know maybe in random clubs and stuff like that — maybe you will find more people who are cool with like just randomly hooking up without at least having a little bit of a conversation first. But generally speaking I would say within the polyamory universe, most people want to have like a chat and get to know each other a little bit. I really don’t think that that is developing a relationship, right? 

You chat and have drinks with coworkers and you’re not necessarily developing long term deep partnerships with coworkers. I mean maybe you do. But that’s not a huge ask. So I think you need to have a bigger discussion because, what happens if you do develop feelings for somebody? Because even if you were to follow these very — to me — a little bit odd rules… But okay, it’s his rule. That’s how he wants to do it. 

Just because you don’t have a conversation with somebody doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t develop feelings for them. Sex sometimes creates feelings, and especially if this is something that you’ve been fantasising about a lot. You can develop feelings. And what does that mean? Because I think people say — but what it means to have “have feelings” is a very subjective emotional experience which I don’t think is necessarily the same for every single person on this planet.

Does he just not ever meet up with drinks with somebody unless he definitely wants to have a relationship with him? Because if that’s how he does things fine, but it’s clearly not how you do things. And what this kind of means in a lot of ways, is that there’s kind of a feeling of a lack of trust. That he doesn’t trust you. I don’t think he thinks that logically in his brain. He’s not like “Well I don’t She’s just going to go meet up with somebody and they’re going to be married next week”. I don’t think he thinks that, but this type of rule and this type of fear tends to come from two things. 

One is that he has an anxiety understandably of losing you. He doesn’t want to lose you. So he is going to be afraid of you developing feelings for someone and ditching him. That is a totally understandable feeling. He can’t control that. His making this rule is not going to be able to control that. You could meet someone at the grocery store and reach for the same mango and you both fall desperately in love. Doesn’t happen to me. Could happen to you. I don’t know your life, you know. That could happen. 

You could meet someone at work who you chat with and you fall in love with. Unless he plans on keeping you locked up in a tower and not meeting anyone but you… And if he does, you should leave. He’s not going to be able to prevent you from developing feelings for somebody. That’s not controllable. So he has to understand that as much as he is afraid of that and that’s — I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. That makes total sense. He can’t actually control that. And he certainly can’t control that by making these weird arbitrary rules.

If anything that’s more likely to drive you away than it is, you know… because if this is something that you really want to act on, and this is a thing that you feel like, “Well if I don’t do this… I have only one life and so I need to find someone who will let me do this or who’s interested in doing this”. So yeah it’s just… he can’t really control his fear with that rule and he needs to understand that.

Then you both kind of need to understand what it is that you would like— what it is that “having feelings” means. Because another thing that I think happens a lot when people open the relationship is that there’s so many rules about like… “You need to tell me when you have feelings for somebody” or, you know “I need to know” because people have a really understandable fear and anxiety that their partner will meet someone, be blown away and be like “Well, screw you, I’m gone bye”. That is totally understandable and people are people aren’t afraid of that in monogamy because they don’t think it’s going to happen.

But it can totally happen in monogamy. Polyamory doesn’t magically make that more likely to happen. Okay, understandably, like someone having permission to go out and have dates with somebody is a little bit different but somebody can fall in love with someone that they’ve just met, and ditch you. Either one of you. That is something that can happen. So, that is something that a lot of people fear and so they try to create all these rules of like, “Okay, I need to monitor the situation so that I can have— the first sign that anything is wrong and we can we can handle that”. 

But you need to start from a base level of trust right? It’s sort of like if you started off in monogamy and you decided that you would each show each other all your text messages for the week. That’s kind of the analogous rule. When you start off in monogamy, you start off on a basis of trust, which means that you don’t need to look at each other’s text messages. In the same regard, you need to start off on the basis of trust. He needs to get that you are saying “Hey, I’m prioritising this relationship. We’ve both decided that the type of non-monogamy that we want to have is one where we are a primary type, and then we have other sexual fun experiments with other people, but there is no change from this primary type, and that’s fine”.

And I would also encourage you to communicate that to other people so that they’re aware that this is the hierarchy that you’re working on and they don’t get upset or will understandably know to not expect more from you. But you both agreed on what you want. So now what you need to do is trust that that’s what both of you want, and give yourself a little leeway. Because going out with drinks with someone is not developing feelings, So, yeah. All right. 

To sum up, first things first, friends have drinks together. Having drinks is not developing a relationship with somebody. You need to have a bigger discussion about what that means within the context of your relationships, what you’re going to do if you do develop feelings with for somebody. And then also, you need to remind him that he may have this fear and you may have it too. You just may not have had it crop up just yet. that he might lose you, but he can’t try to control that by making these arbitrary rules. 

Instead of you all making a rule that you won’t fall for anybody else, you need to decide what you will do if that does happen, and that will actually help. Don’t just make a rule. You can’t control your feelings. So it’s important that you don’t try to make rules that act as though you can control your feelings. Try to have trust in one another, and talk about what will happen if the “worst” should happen and you do end up having feelings for somebody else. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Ethical vs healthy

Reading Time: 8 minutes

I’m new to the world of ENM and after lots of time spent reading– I’m more confused than ever!

Before I get into all of it, I guess my concerns can be boiled down into two questions: 1) Is it possible to co-create an ethically non-monogamous relationship in which the majority of attention/ focus is placed on the primary partnership and other relationships are kept “casual”? I ask if it’s possible because a lot of sources that I’m reading about ENM seem to suggest that such structures are extremely difficult to maintain and even naive, as people often fall in love with others. 2) Is it possible to do so ethically?

To question 1– When my partner and I got together, he was very upfront about the fact that he wanted to create an ethically non-monogamous relationship. I’d say I’m a bit more oriented towards monogamy than he is, but ENM has interested me for a while and seems to align with my values. We decided to only see each other for the beginning of our relationship as we got to know each other and to then open things up down the line. I have been very clear with him and myself about what structure of ENM I think will make me happy:

Our relationship is a “home base,” we prioritize this relationship in terms of time/ making plans for the future/ emotional support, there is an intention that outside relationships are “casual” and more like hook up buddies rather than other serious, committed partnerships (I say intention instead of rule because if one us wants something more serious with someone else, we’ll have a conversation about it– it won’t be like someone did anything bad).

None of these are “rules” and I would only want to continue with that structure if we both continue to feel good about it. We don’t have the strict “outside relationships can be sexual but not romantic” limit because it doesn’t really make much sense to either of us. I know it’s impossible to control feelings, and he doesn’t feel like “romantic feelings” and “casual relationships” are mutually exclusive. At the same time, I just don’t think I’d be happy in a non-hierarchical polyam situation. I really enjoy the sense of building “a home” and future with one romantic partner.

My partner says this structure also sounds fulfilling for him. He’s a bit more open to a non- hierarchical situation in theory. But as he says, “I’m choosing to be with you and I know this is what you want, so I’m more than happy to do it.”

But is this structure just doomed to fail? Am I being naive in thinking we can maintain it?

And towards my second question– I’m super confused because so many ENM sources indicate that requesting limits on your partner’s relationships with other people is unethical and controlling. I’m not interested in having veto power or commanding that he do things, but I do want to have a sense that I can voice discomforts about his actions with other people, and that those discomforts will be taken seriously. For example, if he started seeing someone really frequently, I’d like to be able to say, “Hey, this feels like your relationship with ___ is getting more serious and might be outside of the structure we initially agreed to. If I’m correct, I feel uncomfortable about that. What do you think?” That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to end that relationship.

I mean, that could be one outcome of that conversation if he decided to do so. But it could also look like, “I know that I still highly value being your primary partner and I don’t know if a non-hierarchical situation will feel good and happy to me. What are your thoughts around that? What do you want? Is there a way we can work with this other person so that there needs/ wants are being incorporated into that structure if we both decide it’s still what we want?” I guess what I’m getting at is– Is there a way to strike an ethical balance between influence and control? Where my partner might make decisions that ends up limiting his other relationships IF AND ONLY IF it is ultimately his decision, albeit one that is influenced by my wants and desires (given that I’m an important person in his life, and we’ve both said to one another that we want each other’s feelings about situations to influence our decisions).

We have of course decided to be upfront with future partners as soon as possible about these things– that we will prioritize our relationship in the above mentioned ways and that there is a chance our relationship may influence other relationships. But is it still unethical going into this knowing full well that we may be influencing each others’ relationships.

Anyways, I know this is a lot! I thank you for reading this and would love to hear your thoughts 🙂

The issue I have with your first question is that a primary partnership and “casual” relationship necessarily mean the majority of attention and focus is placed on one “primary” person. I believe you could have a primary partner without necessarily focusing the most on them at any given time, but I think other relationships being “casual” doesn’t negate the meaning they have to the individual. It just might mean what is expected and agreed on in terms of time commitment. Basically, “primary” is really up to how individuals define it. Your assumption that building a home with one partner and not another means one means more to the person than the other isn’t necessarily true.

Not all non-hierarchical polyamorous people are solo polyam people. Some do build homes with others and sometimes multiple people. I would probably encourage you to challenge that perception. It’s possible for someone to have serious committed relationships with multiple people and actually live with only one. Some people don’t wish to live with any partners. That doesn’t mean that they don’t care as much about those partners as people who live with their partners.

The definition of “ethical” at it’s basic means that nothing is against explicit consent or hidden. Any structure where people are consenting to what’s going on and happy with what’s going on is technically ethical. Codependent relationships can be technically ethical. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, if agreed upon, can be ethical. That doesn’t always mean they’re healthy or good for the people in them or outside of them. Your structure is ethical if you agree on it. Is it fair for the people who come into contact with your partner? Probably not. But they can choose not to engage with your boyfriend based on that. I think to pretend like what you have *isn’t* a veto power is, to be blunt, lying to yourself.

You want the structure you want because, to put it simply, you want to matter more to your partner than other people. A lot of people don’t see this as an ethical choice because it’s not really what polyamory is about and you can’t matter more without others by default mattering less. You’re focused a little more on what this means for you without really thinking about what it means for the other people involved. You’re assuming that more time spent with you makes you mean or matter more, which isn’t necessarily true. And the deciding factor of this all hinges on whether or not you feel he’s spending too much time with other people, rather than his own desire to choose. He’s doing it because you want it, not because he wants it. Which means it’s ultimately your decision and based around your comfort, rather than his. Even if he agrees to go with what you want, that doesn’t mean that it’s not based on your decision.

It might be worth you considering why it is you want the structure you want. You don’t mention a specific desire to buy a house or have children (which you don’t need to do to build a home together), which would be a reason to want to make sure he shared in those goals and was willing to put forward towards them, especially given how the division of labour in households tends to be unequal, but you specifically want his other relationships to mean less than yours. You assert this isn’t a rule, but… let’s be real. It is a rule. You want hierarchy and you probably want it for an understandable reason – you’re scared of breaking up. Will this intention/rule actually prevent that from happening? If monogamy doesn’t prevent people from cheating or leaving their partner, this intention or rule is not going to be able to stop your partner from leaving you, if that’s what he wants to do.

This is ethical if you both decide you want to do it and if he is honest with others about it… but that doesn’t mean it will prevent you or anybody else from heartbreak. You can request limits on your partner’s relationship with other people and they can accept those limits, but I think it’s worth asking if that will prevent what it is that you think it will prevent. I think you’re being a bit naive in assuming that coming to him and saying, “I have a problem with the fact that you’re spending time with this person more than I’d like” isn’t going to be seen as a request for a change of action. Already you’re coming to him with a “What do you think about prioritising me above others?” and he’s going, “I don’t want to do that, but I will for you!” Already he’s sacrificing what he wants for what you want. It stands to reason that would be a pattern that would continue.

Even if you don’t outright demand he leave someone else, if you’re demanding that he spend a certain amount of time with you and not others… then you are kind of demanding that. He’s making this decision for your comfort and not the other way around. I don’t know if it’s fair to call it “control” because he is consenting to it but… it’s not really going to matter for the person that ends up being at the receiving end of this. Whether you call it influence or control, whether you call it a rule or a limitation, whether you think you’re executing a veto or not… it’s someone else who basically gets to have their relationship decided for them. If they agree to that, then that’s fine. But a lot of people wouldn’t for an understandable reason.

Relationships “fail” for all sorts of reasons. There isn’t going to be a magical structure that’s going to ensure the survival of your relationship. Even if your partner wanted monogamy and never wanted to sleep with anyone else, that wouldn’t mean your relationship is built for “success”. Monogamy won’t even necessarily ensure you have the majority of your partner’s attention or even their agreement on a shared goal in life.

I think what you need to do is consider the reasons you want other relationships to mean less. Consider exactly how much time you want from your partner. Consider whether your rules/intentions will actually solve what you think they will solve. Consider the feelings of the other people who might be interacting with your partner. Consider whether if time spent with you is the only way your partner can show to you that he is intending to build a home with you and what that means. Consider whether your assumption that building a home with a partner means hierarchy and that non-hierarchical polyamory means not building a home.

If he is happy to have flings and casual sex with others and that works for him, then it can work for you both. But I wouldn’t just hope that he doesn’t have feelings for others and that you don’t I would assume that it could happen. And what will happen if he doesn’t want to just dump that person because you’re uncomfortable. Can you commit to the idea that your partner may not spend the majority of their time with you? And is he already compromising by agreeing to a hierarchy if that’s not what he actually wants? It might be worth talking through this with a polyamory friendly therapist in the end and thinking about how you both manage conflict so you can address these situations when they come up.

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 70: Half Ghosting

Reading Time: 10 minutes

What happens when your mutual partner ghosts you, but not your partner? Rejection sucks, but this feels a bit different.

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

Discussion Topic:

What happens when your partner and your best friend don’t get along?

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

Episode 70 – Half Ghosting

What happens when your mutual partner ghosts you, but not your partner? Rejection sucks, but this feels a bit different. 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 – What happens when your partner and your best friend don’t get along?

 

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

So, what do you do when a mutual partner ghosts you but not your shared partner?

My long term partner and I were both singularly and severally involved with a partner. The partner just completely ghosted me but kept talking to my long term partner.

They said they had a lot going on in their life and I totally understand that, but I also feel like, if they had enough time to keep talking to my long term partner, they had enough time to say something to me. Even a ‘hey I’ve got stuff going on’ or a ‘I don’t want to see you anymore’ is better than what I got. And what sucks even worse is that they kept talking and I didn’t know. I thought they had ghosted us and not just me.

It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, like I’m not good enough. Rejection sucks but I’ve been through it before. This sucks way worse though I can’t explain why.

Response:

There’s a lot going on with this particular situation. Because the thing that I’m wondering… the long and short of it is that if you were to go with the option of confronting this person, as much as you could possibly confront them… I’m not sure what the logistics are. Does this person live really close to you both? Do you live with your partner, your long term partner? Is this person going to be physically coming over? Is there COVID stuff that’s happening with this? Since when we’re recording this, this is still in the midst of COVID. 

So I don’t know if it’s likely that you’re physically going to run into this person or if you have to go out of your way to run into this person, and generally speaking I think you could confront them, but I’m wondering if confronting will get you the answers that you want. So I think it’s worth thinking about what is the answer that you want from this? Because I do think that, you know it’s… for some people rejecting people outright is a really hard thing to do. And I’m not saying that makes it totally okay to ghost someone, but to say they said they had a lot going on in their life, that sort of reads to me as a little bit of a rejection.

If not a direct one, and it could be possible that to them, they didn’t ghost you. They told you they had a lot going on in their life. And that was the end of it. There’s a variety of different reasons why they might decide to continue talking to your long term partner — and I don’t know if by talking that means that they’re dating or they’re romantically involved — and not to you but it may just be that they get along better with your long term partner than they do with you. 

And considering the fact that I’m assuming that they know that you’re dating your long term partner, perhaps, they feel just as awkward about it as you do. So I don’t know what it is that you would get from a confrontation, because they may just tell you like, you know, the reasons in particular that they feel they’re not compatible with you, or they may tell you something that you don’t necessarily want to hear. And that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful for you. I think that the thing that I’m wondering about this is that, you know… you say rejection sucks. You’ve been through it before, and it sucks way worse — what wonders me about it is it does it bother you…

Is their rejection bothering you or is it actually that your long term partner is continuing to engage with them? Even after knowing I assume that your long term partner knows that they ghosted you. And maybe that’s the issue. It’s not so much that you know that they’ve ghosted you and rejected you or whatever but that your long term partner is now continuing to talk with them, and maybe you feel awkward about that and this opens up a different kind of can of worms. I think that one of the things that’s interesting about non-monogamy and polyamory is that we get to see the choices that our partners make.

And it’s quite easy especially within monogamy and especially within the way that we’re encouraged to practice monogamy to think that our partners have chosen us because we’re really special or we’re really good at something, or, you know, that we stand out, or that we are particularly good. And that’s kind of the narrative that the society that we’re in encourages us to believe. Right? That they’ve chosen us because we’re better in some way. And so, the funny thing about polyamory is that you can see the people that your partner choose and you can be less than impressed about that. 

And in this particular situation it’s less about like— that you don’t like this person but it’s that your partner’s sort of choosing someone that has kind of been rude to you, and you don’t really know what to make of that. Because, you know, on the one hand, some people operate in a very compartmentalised way. And I’ve struggled with this a lot too. Some people are like “This is what has happened in between you two, and we are separate”. And I can see the validity in that and if that is how people can emotionally operate, then that totally makes sense. 

On the other hand, I can also see the problem that you can have if you know someone’s been really… Well not *really* rude — I mean they just ghosted you. That’s not nice. But someone’s been not nice to you and your partner has gone, “Okay”. In a way. So have you talked about it with your long term partner? This is really tricky because it — and I’ve been in situations like this before with friends and not even necessarily with just partners. It’s like, I have had friends who have been nasty to my partner and me go, “You know what?” Even though, yes, this isn’t—  We aren’t a unit, and I don’t really like to be in that kind of a unit. Like I don’t operate as a unit. I operate as me. 

It’s kind of hard for me to be friends with people who are mean to people that I care about. I can’t ignore that or separate that. So it might be that this is less about that person and more about what’s going on in between you and your long term partner, because I assume that you meant you were severely involved with the same person. And the fact that you thought that that this person had ghosted both of you, and then you suddenly found out that wasn’t the case— that is really awkward. And I just think that, you just need to talk it out a little bit more with your long term partner. And it’s really important not to use your — and I’m sure you know this — but it’s really important not to use your long term partner as a way to get answers from this person.

Just say like, “This is how I’m feeling. What do you feel about the situation?” It could be that your partner feels just as awkward about it. I would really hesitate to encourage your partner to make any decisions about the relationship they have with that person purely based off of the way that they’ve treated you. Because here’s the thing about ghosting. I have done this before, in friendships. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but for me personally, I have resorted to what people would call ghosting when I have felt like having a direct confrontation with the person was either not something that I could do at the time, or if I felt like it would not result in anything beneficial.

There was someone who I was friends with for ages and I just… I didn’t have —  my expectations of them we’re not really fair but I didn’t know how to have a confrontation. I’m not generally very good at healthy confrontation. I’m very good at unhealthy confrontation. I’m very good at, you know— I can easily like get mad at somebody. I can easily like— if I have to really put my foot down, I’m very I’m very fine with doing that, but to be vulnerable and to say, “Hey, this hurts, and this is how I feel”. That is really really hard for me, actually. 

And so when people ghost sometimes — I can’t speak for every single person in every single situation. — But sometimes the reason they do that is not because they are trying to hurt you. It might be that they just don’t know how to do rejection. It might be that they don’t how to make it clear. It might be that they thought they made it clear by telling you that they have a lot going on. And that was clear enough, and maybe you’re like, “Oh that’s not too clear.” It’s hard for me to say because I don’t know what — if you’ve sent them a bunch of messages and been like “Hey how are you?” and they’ve just totally ignored it. I mean generally that is what happens with ghosting but if you see that they’ve seen the messages it’s a bit different. But sometimes that’s what people do when they can’t really have a direct confrontation, and I’m not saying that makes it even easier for you, or that it feels nice, but it might be worth thinking about that. 

There are good reasons why they may have— they may want to make time in their life for your long term partner but not necessarily with you. Maybe they’re really intimidated by dating two people who are dating each other, and they feel like or they want to make a decision instead of dating you both. We can sit here and speculate all sorts of reasons. I’m not saying sit here on an endless loop of speculation as to why they did it, but I’m saying that inot to take it personally, that it’s probably not necessarily about you personally.

And even if it is, if they’re not willing to tell you exactly why they’ve done this or exactly why they’re not interested and there’s only so much you can do. But when it comes to how weird you’re feeling, I think it sucks worse just because you know your partner got accepted and you didn’t and that’s really hard and it’s worth talking with your partner about it, or seeing a therapist, if you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist, talking to that and just also allowing yourself to be a little bit, put out by it. 

Rejection does suck in general. It’s always gonna suck. But when somebody you know gets accepted and you get rejected like that sucks and you’re gonna feel a way about it, and that’s okay. Like, it will I think eventually pass, but it might be worth just having a chat with your partner — like no expectation of them to do anything in their relationship but just letting you know that you feel weird about it, and if they plan to bring that person over then you might all have to like acknowledge what’s the big elephant in the room of what’s happened. 

And just, you know, laugh about it. Address it and move on because I don’t necessarily think this is going to be a big deal in the long term. It just feels a little bit weird right now because of the way that it happened, and then the fact that your partner is probably still talking to them and it feels a bit awkward, and that’s okay. So yeah, just to recap, you could confront them depending on your logistical situation but I don’t know if that will be helpful for you I think you do have to kind of just accept that.

It may not have been a very good rejection but it is clearly a some type of rejection, and it is what it is. And, you know, let go of the assumption that having that knowing exactly why they rejected you is going to make you feel better because I don’t think it will. And then the second thing is have a talk with your long term partner about it and try to explore a little a little bit yourself. Like does it bother you that your long term partner is, has, has been accepted or continues to talk with them? Ask what the plans are if this person does come visit your long term partner. How are you going to work this out?

It might be that eventually there is kind of a sit down with all three of you and you just kind of talk about it, and that would probably be really useful to address the situation. But just have a chat with your partner about it but don’t put any pressure on them to make decisions. It’s okay for you to have feelings about being rejected by a person who’s kind of, you know, accepted more or less your partner. But the last thing that you want to do is necessarily make them feel like they have to they have to do something to honour your feelings to this person. That’s not a really fair position to put them in. 

And last but not least, I just think that you have to accept that you feel a little bit shit and be okay with that. You feel a bit shit and rejection sucks but this one sucks a little bit worse and I don’t think it’s going to suck forever. It’s going to suck for a little while. It’s going to be awkward. Embrace that it’s going to suck and be awkward for a while. If you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist consider having a few sessions talking through this, and eventually I think you will feel better. 

But, yeah, I think it sucks, mainly because it’s one thing to get rejected. Like usually when we get rejected, we don’t know who else has been accepted. Now we know who else has been accepted. So it’s easy for your brain to start comparing and contrasting and that’s just your brain trying to like help you out. It doesn’t feel helpful at all. It doesn’t feel in the slightest but helpful at all right now, but that is your brain just trying to, especially if you’ve ever been through any kind of trauma like it’s your brain being a survival brain and going “oh well  if we learn where we made mistakes and then we’ll be able to prevent rejection from happening again!” 

Your brain just doesn’t want you to feel pain again but the thing is that you can’t— And I’ve said this in my columns, I’ve said this in podcast before, and I have a polyamory 101 and 102 articles. And I think specifically I talked about this in my 101 article. Your anxiety is always going to make you feel like if you make different choices then you’ll be able to prevent pain. You’ll be able to prevent the worst from happening, but you can’t accept that and accept the hyper-vigilance without also accepting that everything that has happened to you is somehow your fault. 

And it’s not. The rejections you’ve had before— it’s not because you’ve made some grave error, every single time or, you know, it just happens. And your brain is, in its weirdness, trying to help you figure it out so that it can prevent pain, but, you know, sitting with it and going, “Hey, this happened”, will eventually help your survival brain calm down. But at least if you can see that it’s just your survival brain trying to help you out, then that sometimes makes it a lot easier to deal with it. I hope this helps and good luck.