Episode 46: STI Risk

How worried should you be about STI risk if you are immunocompromised?

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

Discussion Topic: Why do you think your parents are the way they are? What were the pressures and difficulties they were under?

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Episode 45 – Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you blame your parents for?

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My partner and I have been together and have been mostly monogamous  for over a year – and fluid bonded for the majority of that.  Our deal is that we give a heads up before sleeping with someone else and that we use condoms.  After my partner had a slip up, I realized that despite talking about safer sex practices in the beginning of our relationship… he didn’t really retain much of that information, and we definitely needed to have a deeper conversation about STI risks, safe sex practices, condoms for toys/oral, etc.  I’m also immunocompromised so it’s a little bit of a bigger deal to me than it may be to others.

After bringing up some of my concerns, he told me that he doesn’t think he can do condoms for oral, but he can definitely ask about recent STI panels and condoms on toys. Welll… glad he’s being honest about it.  But… if he has partners who frequently have “oopsie, got drunk and had sex without a condom!” experiences, an STI panel from 3 months ago doesn’t really provide me with a whole lot of reassurance.

So… I feel like my options here are to go back to condoms all the time until he comes back with a clean(sic) STI test (and doesn’t have any other partners at the time) and not do oral… and I guess no kissing either?!?  Orrrr, just deal with the risk and if I end up with something because of his less-than-safe practices, hope that it is something that a quick course of antibiotics will take care of.

Both of us were already seeing other people when we first got together, but we became the only person the other was seeing within a couple of months.  There have only been two occasions when he has hooked up with someone else – the first time was a one-time thing, but this last one (where I didn’t get a heads up and he didn’t use a condom… but he did tell me about it the morning after) he plans to continue to keep seeing. So… that’s another issue I have.

I’m super hurt because I basically feel cheated on.  Our whole agreement was totally “forgotten” in the heat of the moment and now I have to figure out how to deal with him continuing to see a person that, from my emotional perspective, he cheated with.

I don’t feel like I have the right to tell him he can’t continue to see her.  It’s his choice.  I’ve told him how I feel about it.  He doesn’t see things the same way I do.  He just sees it as “got drunk, didn’t plan on having sex, so didn’t give heads up.  Whoops. As long as I give heads up in the future it’s all good.”

I’m really trying not to be too emotional and I’m trying to apply logic and rationality to the whole situation.  What’s your take?

Response:

So I can totally relate to your situation in so many ways. First of all, I’m more or less immunocompromised. I’m not really sure how immunocompromised I am, but I need to be careful about getting sick, and sometimes when I’m sick I can be sick for weeks on end for things that it would take normal people— or people who are not immunocompromised rather. Shouldn’t say “normal”. It takes them less time to get over some things. So I have always always always been very very paranoid about STIs.

And part of that comes from stigma, and I think that that’s something that you kind of have to realise. We are— unless you grew up in a different culture and apologies if you did— but I know that the culture I grew up in has basically terrified me with the idea that STIs are these horrible cursed things. And they do terrible things and they can cause— you know we’re very hyped on all of the horrible things that can happen if we get STIs.

And yes, there are permanent STIs like HPV and like HSV that can be permanent. But even those— and HIV as well— But even those are… First of all it’s different now than it was 20 to 30 years ago, when it comes to HIV, and even in the case of those like such in the case of herpes like a lot of people have it and most people will agree like yes there are drawbacks to it but much of the problem is stigma. So, what helped me kind of cope with this because I also had a partner that was very casual, and we tried to be fluid bonded and we tried to come up with agreements that made me feel better.

I still felt incredibly terrified every time they had a new partner because I was just afraid there was going to be some STI risk, but when you actually learn about— more about STIs and also about the different risks of different acts, and also that there’s some STIs that you won’t know if you have it unless you have a physical visible symptom. Like HPV, for example, a lot of— it’s very very common, but you can have it and it won’t show up on an STI panel unless you have a physical symptom like a wart or you, or HPV, you have a pap smear and it comes back with HPV on it like an abnormal pap, you could otherwise have it.

And it’s really hard not to learn about that kind of stuff and it not freak you out, because I have lifelong disabilities. I am really scared of having another condition to manage. It is a thought, which really stresses me the hell out. I mean even just today. I haven’t had my medication filled that I need to take. I put in my prescription order to the pharmacy 10 days ago. My GP still hasn’t approved it and I’m playing medium between, even in a country where I get free health care, I’m having to call my GP, “Why haven’t you sent me a prescription?”. It’s stressful the life admin of having chronic conditions is exhausting.

If you’re immunocompromised because you have a chronic condition, it’s okay to be like I just don’t want another thing that I have to manage. That is stressful and I get that, but all sex comes with risk. And the thing of it is, even with the rules that you have in place where he always use condoms even for oral. If he’s using condoms and having penis in vagina sex, then you’re still at risk for herpes. You’re still at risk for HPV. You’re still at risk for things that have a skin to skin contact, and sometimes dormant periods, like you say three months but actually some things can be dormant for six months.

Everything just comes with a risk and the thing of it is is, we’d like to think that it’s simple math that the more people you have sex with the higher risk that you have, and even the example that you give of him getting involved with someone who kind of gets drunk and have sex without a condom. The thing is, is— you could have tons of one night stands with someone and never get something you could also have sex for the first time, with someone else, and get something. It just isn’t that simple. STIs don’t care if you’ve had an STI panel or not.

They don’t care if someone’s drunk or not. And some STI that are transferred to skin to skin contact don’t care if you’re using a condom or not. I get that you want to have these barriers to protect yourself. But in my situation, being fluid bonded and having all this like we— We tried to come up with some rules about asking people if they had recent STI test, getting an idea of whether or not they were responsible about their own sexual health, but I still had to come to the conclusion— because originally, what I wanted to do is for my partner, not to sleep with someone the first time they met them or not to have casual sex. I only wanted them to have sex with people that they had known for a few months.

And my partner brought up the the sort of very valid point that whether they’ve known someone or not for a month doesn’t change their STI risk level. Knowing someone doesn’t necessarily change the STI risk level and that was really hard for me to contend with. But it’s really kind of the truth. Either someone takes charge of their sexual health and gets STI checks. And even if they do that doesn’t mean they’re never going to get an STI, or they don’t. People can lie about it. There’s nothing you can do about it/ There’s so much stuff you can’t control.

And in the end, like— you know, my partner didn’t necessarily want to have these overdrawn conversations with every single person. Their level of sexual health risk was different than my level of sexual health risk. And what I ended up doing instead, because fluid bonding doesn’t mean anything emotionally to me and I don’t need to be fluid bonded with anyone. That was just kind of a thing that we wanted to try. I decided, “Okay, how about this? Instead of you using super amount of barriers and protection with everyone else, you just use all the barriers, you can with me”.

And even though maybe that’s less fun, it actually makes me feel loads better. I know that I’m still— like even with all the barriers that I use, I know that I’m still not completely eliminating my risk because there’s just no way. You know, if I don’t want to ever ever get an STI than I just shouldn’t ever have sex, and even then there… I’m not going to go into those situations but there are— there’s still a risk. Like I… you know through sexual violence, I was put at risk of STIs before I had sex willingly so there’s just no way for me to, you know— it’s a risk. Especially if I actually want to engage in with in sexual relationships with people, it’s just a risk that I have to accept.

So I do think that what you might want to consider is thinking about the barriers that you can use on your end that make you feel better, because you’re never going to be able to completely control all the circumstances. People can lie about getting an STI panel. If you want to make sure that you’re as protected as you want to be, then have— use those barriers with your partner, and let them decide what their risk is what other people.

The other thing that’s happened here I can also relate to I’ve been in situations where I assumed that our discussion about sexual health was understood and actually this exact— almost this exact kind of thing happened, except the partner that I was with had oral sex with someone without a condom, and I was like “Uh, I said use condoms” and they were like, “Oh, but I thought that was just for penetrative sex”.

So people do— that’s the problem is that “safe sex” is— Well “safe sex”— completely “safe sex” doesn’t exist, and safer sex is you know— what is safer? It really depends on the person, and what they want to risk. So, you know, your partner doesn’t see condomless oral as a huge risk for that they feel is risky for them. And that’s valid and legit, but you kind of have to you know, you said it yourself. There needs to be a deeper discussion about what specific barriers should be used in specific situations.

So, I don’t— I think it’s hard not to feel as though you were— that you were cheated on because you did have these rules when they were broken. But I think that in this situation, you know his reasoning does kind of make sense. Like, he didn’t know he was going to sleep with someone, so he didn’t give you a heads up about it because he didn’t know it was going to happen. He did tell you the next morning, and he misunderstood the safer sex rules. So, as hard as it might be to like not feel betrayed— like you can feel betrayed but his reasoning kind of does check out, and I think that it’s worth…

You know, I think that the the previous suggestion about you know you deciding what barriers you want to use with your husband or, sorry boyfriend, and then you know that helping you address the level of your risk rather than you know kind of trying to control his behaviour as well and then trying to control the behaviour of everyone he sleeps with, which is going to be really really hard for you might actually solve this problem.

Another thing that I want to kind of point out, which isn’t part of your original question, but one of your rules is, is the heads up rule.  And I think that this is a good reason why that doesn’t that rule doesn’t always work out very well and I think what that rule is trying to do and the reason that you’ve put it in place is because what you want to have this discussion maybe about… maybe you want to know that you have more of an STI risk or maybe, I don’t know why is it that you think having a heads up before he sleeps with someone else changes something for you?

Because, I mean, what if it’s like three o’clock in the morning and he wants to sleep with someone  do you want him to text you? Do you want him to call you and wake you up? Like I feel like this heads up thing is… it’s designed to try and help you emotionally deal with a situation. I could be wrong, but when I had a kind of similar rule it was like, “Okay, I have a heads up so I know. So I can like batten down the hatches and prepare”. But actually, I don’t think that that helps always.

I think that, you know— what you want is you want a partner who talks to you about the new situations developing their life, who doesn’t hide things from you. And he didn’t hide things from you. He did tell you the next morning, but the rule is trying to prevent someone from being dishonest to you but a person who is dishonest to you, isn’t going to care about a rule. So I think you should kind of rethink this heads up rule, and think about okay what am I actually trying to prevent?

Because you could have a bad reaction, regardless of whether or not he gives you a heads up, like… And the thing about this is, as well as that the heads up thing kind of. It’s not an overt rule that says, “I have to give you permission to sleep with someone”, but it does kind of imply that. Because, basically, if he calls you and say “Oh I’m going to sleep with someone”, you can only kind of say yes or no to that situation or you can kind of have a reaction, which he would then interpret as a no.

So, in a way, it is kind of you giving him permission. And the thing about permission is that when you’re forced— when you’re in a position to give someone permission or not in a polyamorous type of setup, you’re going to want to say yes, even when you don’t feel that great about it because you don’t want to tell your part— I mean you don’t even feel like you have the right to tell him not to see a person who you don’t feel great about now. So, you’re always going to be— if you’re going to be given permission, you’re always going to feel pressured to say yes.

And then if you say no, it’s like, okay, then maybe he’ll have resentment? Like it just puts you in a weird situation. It puts him in a weird situation. It’s also, if it is an actual permission situation it’s not really fair for that other person as well. So like, yeah, kind of think about this rule, because if you want a partner who communicates to you and keeps you up to date with what’s going on with them and cares about your feelings, that’s legit and I understand that, but this rule in and of itself isn’t going to create that.  And actually what this rule has done is create more problems for you than it’s actually helped.

Because now you’re in a situation where like well he didn’t give me a heads up but for him it’s like well I didn’t plan on having sex with someone. So now is he supposed to like text you in the middle of the night, if he wants to have sex with someone new? Do you really want to be woken up at three o’clock in the morning? I don’t know I’m saying three o’clock, but it could not be three— but you know what I mean like do you want to be woken up? Or maybe you’re having a really terrible night. Like, one time my partner, wanted to tell me about something, but it was just after the Orlando thing had happened.

And I was so upset and I was so not in a good place. And even though we have a rule of not hiding things from one another, my partner waited until, at least a day after that to tell me something, not because they wanted to hide something from me, but because I wasn’t in the right state at the time, and that would have just been more shit on top of the already shit sandwich, and I was already really upset. So stuff like this, like…

He absolutely should tell you about new developments especially where your STI risk is now more, but now that you’ve created this kind of immediate thing of “you have to tell me before”, it does create this kind of problem, and it doesn’t have to be kind of a problem. And because you’ve kind of set this expectation up, it’s now made you feel like shit because that expectation hasn’t been met when you don’t have to do that. One time my partner made a rule about something that I didn’t ask for. It was just like “I’m not going to do this” and then my partner ended up doing it.

And then I was actually upset, even though I didn’t care about it, and didn’t ask for the rule, but because they set that rule up and because they set up this expectation with me when they didn’t meet that expectation it freaked me out and I was like, “Well, if you’re not going to keep a promise that you set, are you’re not going to keep any promise?” Like, it made me freak out a lot so sometimes when you make these kind of really specific things, they can hurt you more than they help.

It’s not really helping the situation, because you know he didn’t hide it from you and that’s kind of what’s the important thing here you don’t want someone who hides things from you. So really kind of look at that. And then the last bit is in terms of this metamour, or person, I think that it’s understandable to have the feelings you have. Like, obviously this person was introduced to you in a not so great situation.

So obviously you’re going to still have some feelings about that and you may need to have a little bit of time and space away from this person for a little bit until you kind of rebuild that bond of trust with your partner and that’s totally legit and that’s fine, but also remember like you don’t necessarily know how much this person knew, and you don’t necessarily know if— I mean, I hope that he at least told this person that he was polyamorous.

But like, unless he specifically said to this new person like, “Hey, my partner says that I can’t use condoms for— or that I’m supposed to use condoms for oral but fuck it,” like… Unless that specifically happened I don’t think that it’s necessarily this other person’s fault and I think you know that, but it is okay for you feel a little bit of a way about it and you probably will until you kind of rebuild that trust with your partner, but, you know, try to remember that she can’t necessarily— she only goes by the information she knows.

Unfortunately, and, you know, she’s not going to know that that was a violation of your boundary. You know, and that’s not really her fault, in a way. I think sometimes when people that we care about and that we love do things that violate our boundaries or hurt us, and that involves another person that’s sometimes easier for our brain to say “okay we don’t want to be mad at the person that we love, so we’re going to redirect all of our anger at this person because it’s easier because we don’t know them”.

So you might want to be aware that like some of your feelings are kind of bleeding out of it, because you feel understandably frustrated, but you’re also kind of sympathetic to what your partner is saying to you and you don’t want to be mad at him but you’re still upset. So it’s a bit of a redirection in this case, but I do think you’ll feel better later on.

And it’s okay to be emotional is last thing that I want to say to you. Emotions are logical. I really hate— I can’t remember… there’s some philosopher, some terrible person who came up with the idea that emotions are one thing and logic is another and that they are two separate oil and water concepts and ne’er the twain shall meet. It’s not true. Emotions can be a very very logical and rational response to a situation. You had an expectation that something would happen. It didn’t happen the way you expected it to happen.

And now you’re feeling confused and upset and that is rational. That is logical. It is logical and rational to feel things. So give yourself a little bit of a break here. Allow yourself to be emotional, maybe see a therapist. If you have access to therapy, you can get all that emotion out in a safer place. And not kind of use your partner to vent the situation. Talk about it with your friends if you have friends you can talk to us about, But don’t stop yourself from feeling emotional. It’s okay to feel emotional, it doesn’t make you a bad person doesn’t make you unable to do polyamory.

It doesn’t make you… you know. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a character flaw. It’s just you being a human being. You have emotions. You’re not a Vulcan. It’s okay. Sorry for the siren in the background. So to sum up, first and foremost, learn a bit more about a STIs because it’s really really really hard to reduce your risk, completely. It just is. Like it’s just a hazard of the trade. There are lots, there’s— if you’re in America, there’s something called. I think it’s. Jesus. No, it’s not Jesus.

It’s San Francisco Sex Information. That’s what it is. And there’s a lot of information there. There’s Planned Parenthood. There’s a website for teenagers which is called Scarleteen, but it’s still quite good. And they’ll actually tell you kind of like what risks of what STIs you have with different sexual acts depending on what the genitalia configuration is. So you can learn more about like which acts are inherently more risky for which STIs, and there’s skin to skin contact sex with you, even with a condom doing penetrative sex, you’re still somewhat at risk for.

So understanding that might help you— I mean— it’s gonna freak you out. And it freaked me out, but it will help you realise just like that it’s just part of the risk. It’s just part of it. But we have overhype STI so just kind of remember that you’re working in an environment where you were likely terrified about this kind of stuff.  And that doesn’t really help you especially when you’re immunocompromised.

Also, maybe work on itself trying to control everything that your partner does with other people, control what you do with your partner in terms of boundaries. Maybe don’t be fluid bonded. That’s okay. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Like, I think actually being fluid bonded stressed me out more because I put too much emphasis on it. It had this meaning and then once the meaning was removed it honestly felt made me feel so much better.

So like use barriers with your partners. Have oral sex with condoms with your partners. You can have like penis in vagina sex, you can have through like boxer shorts, to lower your risk of skin to skin contact, like there’s other stuff. You can use, you know condoms with toys. Use as much barriers as possible with your partner. And then they can— he can do kind of whatever he wants to, assume his own risk with other people. And that way, you’re protected a little bit more than you know and he’s a little bit more freer to do what he wants in those situations and then you don’t have to worry as much. I think that— that’s honestly helped me loads and I’m in your position, and I feel so much better now.

Now that I— instead of trying to control what my partner does, I control what my risk with my partner is, and that is, it’s so much better, at least from my experience. Another thing to think about is this inform informing rule, and whether or not this actually suiting you or it’s creating more problems in your relationship than it needs to be. If your partner didn’t hide anything from you. And you know his explanation checks out, then maybe you need to think about changing that role up, because it seems like he’s willing to have conversations with you about stuff. It seems like he’s willing to keep you involved. It seems like he’s willing to— he’s not hiding anything from you.

So, just think about whether or not that rules, actually helping you and and what it actually means is a text at 3am “Hey, I’m going to shag this person”… A phone call at 2am, like… is that something you really want to want to do? Is that really going to help you? I think having a better understanding of, yes, you need to disclose find a good time to disclose this to me, you know, and especially like now that I have that rule in terms of, you know, I decide what protection I use with my partner and then that they don’t have to worry so much about what they do with other people, they can assume their own risk.

Now I’m not that worried about disclosure because it used to be that our rule was that if my STI risk changes because you slept with someone new, then you need to tell me right away. But now that we’re using like a lot of barriers between us I’m like okay, it’d be nice to know if there’s a change in STI risk in general but I’m good. I’m as protected as I can be and I still want them to get regular STI checkups and they do anyway.

But if they were the kind of person that didn’t care about their sexual health, me forcing them to do it isn’t going to change anything so like if your partner didn’t care about talking to you about stuff, then this rule isn’t gonna force them to. So, yeah, think about that rule. And then last but not least thing, again, like, oh yeah, there was two things. One thing. It’s not the metamour’s fault that that she didn’t know that that was your barrier and you’re kind of misdirecting the anger. It’s okay to be uncomfortable for a while.

Give yourself permission to be a little bit uncomfortable with her but again kind of realise that maybe you’re misdirecting some of that anger. And then last but not least allow yourself to be emotional. It’s not bad to be emotional, just know… try to understand how your emotions affect your actions, and sometimes when you feel really really anxious and really really scared, just like you know I’ve had obsessive compulsive disorder in the past. When I felt anxious I felt the desire to compiles, a desire to control the anxiety by acting in some way that I think will control it, but actually just feeds into the anxiety.

And I think a lot of times when people are in these kind of relationships, they get a compulsion when they feel all this anxiety to do something, to create a rule, create a boundary, to change things, to close things up or do whatever in order to try and stop all that emotion because they don’t give themselves permission to feel it. They blame themselves where they think that they’re bad or they’re irrational or controlling… Let yourself feel things just realise when you’re when your motivations for something or to stop those feelings or to get rid of them because that’s not helpful and find a healthier way to express your emotions.

Like don’t make your partner your therapist. Find a therapist, if it’s affordable to you. And, yeah allow yourself to have it  because you’re not going to be able to get rid of anxiety. The biggest obstacle in my personal experience with anxiety was punishing myself for having it. And so the thing that I try hard in my relationships to do is to just give myself permission to have the feelings. Don’t beat myself up for it, and experience it. Because sometimes you just have to go through it, come out the other end and “Okay, that was bad, but here I am, I survived 100% of my worst days, and I’m okay”.

Sometimes you just have to go through that, unfortunately. It sucks but it’s kind of a thing that sometimes has to happen. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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When your partner isn’t satisfied

CW: This week’s column discusses mentions of weight loss.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly five years now and over the last year I’ve put on some weight, I’ve always been a little chunky but now it’s become a real issue for him. He says he no longer finds me attractive and describes our intimacy as ‘vanilla’.

He’s now brought to light that he’s curious about sleeping with other people but doesn’t want to leave me, he’s added that he has always been interested in this lifestyle change but because I’ve always been a jealous girlfriend he’s never shared that.

I can not pull myself away from this anxiety of the entire situation.

If he’s willing to sleep with other woman what’s stopping him from starting a new relationship with another woman?

Now knowing I’m vanilla, I feel far more inadequate. He’s asked if we could do things together with other people but I don’t think I would be able to control my jealousy.

How do I separate sex and our relationship?

How do I contain my jealousy and appreciate that he doesn’t want to have a relationship with anyone else(yet)?

I’m really struggling not to take this all to heart.

Any advice or experience would be hugely appreciated, thank you.

There is a huge difference in my mind between wanting to open your relationship because you as an individual do not feel satisfied with monogamy (regardless of who you would be partnered with) and wanting to open your relationship because you do not feel satisfied with the individual partner you are with.

In the case of the latter, I feel like, while I understand why people want to keep their partner around, especially if they are in love, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to not only tell your partner that you want to open up because they are, essentially, inadequate for you, but also it’s going to be that much harder for them to overcome a very valid feeling of jealousy and inadequacy because they’ve basically had that confirmed by their partner. That’s painful.

There are some situations where I see this kind of thing working if one partner is otherwise incapable of meeting their partners needs due to circumstances out of their control that could be acknowledged easily by them but… I have extreme doubts about this situation.

First and foremost, bodies change throughout time. While your boyfriend may have body preferences, generally speaking, people’s bodies will not always remain the same through a long term relationship and it is incredibly likely that most people will gain weight over their lifetime.

There’s so much here I could write about the incredibly problematic aspects of specifically a man telling his girlfriend that she’s basically too fat and he doesn’t find her attractive anymore that I just don’t have time to dive into it. I can’t honestly tell if your husband has a preference or if he’s fatphobic but… generally speaking given the society we live in conditions us to believe fatness is ugly and shameful… I find it hard to believe that he’s living in a vacuum outside of the culture he lives in.

And, to put it bluntly, it’s horrible as hell to ask your girlfriend for permission to have sex with others because you don’t find her attractive anymore — for any reason. Even if he’s losing his attraction to you, there are so many ways he could have had a better conversation — and, by the way, none of those conversations, for the record, include demanding you lose weight.

The second issue here is that it’s valid for him to want to have kinkier experiences but if he hasn’t even tried to do them with you, it’s hardly fair. It’s okay if you are more vanilla but we all are capable of at least giving a few things a try for our partner so long as they are inherently triggering to any issues that we’ve dealt with in our lives. So why not at least give that a chance before selecting to open the relationship?

There are deeper issues here that I’m worried for you about considering your boyfriend’s behavior. Someone who decides that a relationship is worth keeping around for their own benefit but not worth devoting any work to is not someone who is going to give you a good experience in monogamy OR polyamory.

If you had written me to say that your partner said he found his attractiveness waning and was honest about that but you had tried to do things that spice things up, including the kinkier things he wants, then I would have said that maybe it might be worth opening your relationship because he’s demonstrated a willingness to both respect you and valuing your partnership enough to make it work between the two of you.

But he’s not. To put it bluntly, he’s being incredibly hurtful and lazy to boot here. If he was always interested in polyamory or opening up, he could have said so from the beginning. Or maybe he could have kept making you feel inadequate out of the picture and just asked to have different experiences. I’m not encouraging people to lie about everything they feel, but also need to be understanding about the ways that our truths can impact others. There’s a guideline I’ve heard about whether or not to mention something to somebody about their physical appearance and it goes: if they can fix it in five minutes or less, let them know. If they can’t, keep your mouth shut.

There’s a way to handle situations like this that would be more respectful of your feelings. The fact that he seems to value his wants and needs over yours doesn’t spell good things for any type of relationship with this man. If he can’t value and appreciate you as an individual and put work into doing some things with you or improving your relationship, why on earth should you be a the third wheel in his threesomes?

Honestly, I think you need to reconsider this entire relationship. If he had been more considerate from the start of this exchange, I would tell you that feeling jealousy is inevitable and you have to learn to cope with things and part of that is reassurance from your partner. But something tells me that it’s not going to matter how well you can cope with the situation if you have a partner who clearly lacks a basic amount of consideration for your feelings.

I know you’ve been with him for five years, but it’s not worth your sanity and your self-esteem to basically sacrifice all of your feelings and needs just for the sake of letting him have some extra sexual experiences — especially if you personally don’t get anything out of this. All of your questions are about how you can change yourself for him when he is demonstrating so little willingness to change for you. Think about that.

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 45: Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker?

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

Discussion Topic: What do you blame your parents for?

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

Episode 45 – Sex Work and Polyamory

What resources are available for someone who asks about dating a sex worker? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you blame your parents for?

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I’m wondering if you have any advice or experience with this.  My partner does sex work, and it causes me a lot of anxiety.  They were doing it prior to us getting together, and have been great in talking to me about it and trying to assuage my anxiety.  In looking for resources online, everything I can find deals with either polyamory or non-monogamy, where both partners are exploring with other people.  I’ve found a few things speaking about situations where one partner is non-monogamous and the other is monogamous, but my situation doesn’t really fit any of these.

Response:

So first and foremost, I will fully admit at this point that I haven’t dated a sex worker, so I won’t know exactly the kind of things that you might be feeling. However, I think that what might be helpful is for you to talk about what causes you anxiety about this because there’s lots of different things that could be causing you anxiety, and some things you can look into with regards to, let’s say you have anxieties about STI fears or things like that. You can actually do more research about STIs.

You can talk to your partner about the barrier methods that they use with clients. You can you know research a bit about sexual health because there’s actually a study that they did recently that shows that sex workers — and I don’t think they use that term unfortunately — have, well in that study they found that the sex worker group they studied versus the swinger group they studied— the sex workers had a lower STI rate.

That isn’t to say that having an STI is a shameful thing and that’s kind of what I feel is kind of implied by that study. But still if STI fears are your worry, then you can do more research about STIs. You could also consider the fact that STI risk is always there whether or not you’re dating a sex worker or not. So I do think sometimes that’s kind of like the first thing people jump to, if they were thinking about dating a sex worker.

So that might be something to challenge within your brain like, you know, you have no idea if you meet someone, unless you personally take a sexual history of every single person you sleep with, you don’t necessarily know how many people that they’ve slept with and I don’t know how many clients your partner has. Literally like, it could be the same level of risk, but you don’t think that it’s the same level because your brain has said “Oh a sex worker is inherently going to have a lot more risk” when actually a lot of sex workers are very responsible about their sexual health. And some people who aren’t sex workers aren’t. So there’s a lot to unpack there about STI shame, about, you know, sex work shame that could be going on in that anxiety.

Or maybe you are having anxiety because you come from a more traditional conservative religious background and the idea of sex work has always been really, you know, you’ve sort of been taught to be ashamed of it. And so you’re kind of worried about that. I mean I kind of assume if you use the word “sex work” that you are more aware than most people might be. But you still might have that kind of… causing that anxiety.

You could also feel a very understandable concern, where, you know, if you have a partner that is in a job that you know— any job. Doesn’t have to just be sex work. You could have a partner who— I think one of the most dangerous professions in America at least is like working at a gas station or working at an oil rig. You know, I think you can ask yourself, obviously there are very specific dangers with sex work that aren’t involved in working on oil rig. There’s lots of dangerous jobs, but you might be worried about your partner’s safety and that’s understandable but that’s also something you know, to talk with your partner about.

It’s not really clear what kind of sex work your partner does. Maybe they can talk to you about what’s involved. I also think you kind of— You don’t want to put all the burden on your partner as well to like make you feel better about their profession, because it’s not really fair on them. So I think that having some basic conversations so that you just understand a little bit more about their work might be good for you to kind of take away and deal with on your own. But it just, it really depends on what’s causing your anxiety.

In terms of resources. I think that you need to find a sex worker rights group in your area, and you should do volunteer work and contribute to that organisation in order to make sure that,  throughout that process you will understand more about sex work and the different sort of challenges that sex workers have in your local area. Because it really depends on your location.

Are you living in an area you know where being a client is criminalised? Are you living in the area where the entire process is criminalised? Are you living in an area where street work is criminalised but doing it at home isn’t but then doing it at home with other sex workers is? Like it’s very complicated, and it will be very dependent upon the area that you’re in.

If you were aware, I am in the UK, then I would tell you to check out SWARM. So people who are in the UK can check out SWARM, I think that even if you’re not in the UK, SWARM has some really great resources. It’s swarmcollective.org. They’ve got a whole resources section. Specifically they have a zine called “Ho Lover” about dating and befriending sex workers.

Just to note on the word “ho” — it’s not something that other people who aren’t sex workers should call other people, even though it’s kind of— some people do use it colloquially, that’s considered a specific word for sex workers. But this zine is about how to be a friend and partner to sex workers, and it says “Many of us carry internalised biases and whorephobia. We can bring those things into our relationships. This zine helps us unpack that baggage and create considerate and caring environments for those we love who do sex work”.

I’m only familiar with some of this stuff because I have tried to unpack my own biases, but it’s hard for me to be able to tell you whether or not your anxieties come from those biases, they come from concern about your partner in general, or from combination of all of those. But I think that really sex worker activist groups are the best places to find resources about sex work in general.

Your specific local sex work activist group may not have something like this where it’s a zine specifically for people who are dating and friending sex workers, but they could have just resources about sex work and the local things that are challenges. And I think in general if you care, then you should just care about it in general. You should try and be more educated as you can be as possible about what’s going on around you and what kind of barriers that your partner might be facing and what kind of situations that you might be able to help with. Just understanding it in general will be better for you.

I think it’s really important to kind of want to re-emphasise not fully relying on your partner to kind of get rid of this anxiety. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing that. But I do think sometimes like having some of these discussions can turn into a little bit of a therapy session for you and it’s just— it is really important that— you know you can ask questions about stuff and see what they are comfortable telling you and ask questions about you know barrier methods if you want or ask what barriers they’ll be using with you or things like that.

But it’s just really important that you do the work, to understand what sex workers go through in general as well as the specific things in your local area that they will be faced with, so that you can just have a better all around understanding the issue. That’s kind of my best advice. It’s kind of short because I’m not a sex worker and I haven’t dated sex workers so I don’t necessarily— I’ve been involved in some amounts of sex worker activism and in general I’m quite a sex worker positive person.

And I believe in full decriminalisation and I believe that sex work is work and sex workers should be respected. And not treated the way that society treats them. But I can’t speak with any education about it and if I’ve fucked up in this episode in any way and anyone who wants to tweet at me. Or tell me or send me a message to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com and say, “This thing you said was whorephobic. This thing you said was wrong”, Please, please do, because I will write a follow up episode. I will release something else, because I’m not necessarily knowledgeable about this whole thing.

But I do want to use this chance for people who listen to me to understand that those resources are out there, and that if they—  even if they’re not dating sex worker and they’re just interested in seeing a sex worker, please care about these issues and locally reach out to those organisations. If you can’t give time, donate to them, and do your part to help out in the situation as much as you can help out. Yep, that’s my advice for this specific situation.

I hope it helps. Try and find a local organisation that can help educate you about this. Take charge of that. Don’t put the whole burden on your partner to educate you. Have some conversations with your partner about stuff that concerns you but be very very wary of trying to make them be forced into a position to reassure you. Especially like if you think about it and you think, because we’re kind of socialised to believe that sex work is, like— people don’t make it as a job like any other job, you know.

There are dangers to a lot of jobs. And some of those things I this may be coming from that. And if you think, “oh, what I’d be sitting down and having this conversation if my partner had a different job”, you know. And you might. You might like, you know, if I had a partner who worked late nights in petrol station, I would be a little bit worried about their safety. I’m also kind of generally paranoid about things. But just try and kind of self examine that a little bit and just make sure that you’re not basically just assuming what their job is like when you don’t necessarily know. Do you know I mean? All right, I’m blathering now.

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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Consent and cuckolding

I am a widower of 2 years, I was married for 31 years and the last 10 years I was a cuckold to my wife. In the last two years I have been listening to podcasts and reading blogs on the subject of cuckolding (sometime called “Hotwifing”) and one question I always ask when given the opportunity is, “If your partner asked, would you quit?”. Keeping in mind these are not swingers and these are “one sided” relationships where the wife is playing and the husband is not.

The question is posed to both husband and wife. In every case (20 or 30 I have asked) the husband always says yes. In many cases the wife says no. I have had wives interviewed in separate venues and they sometimes gave contradictory answers. The most recent being a wife who on “Keys and Anklets” said she would honor her husbands wish to quit if he asked then on another blog (I think it was called Cuckold Consultant) said that if she didn’t have her husband’s consent she would cheat.

My question to you is, if consent is not needed can this be called in any way, shape or form “ethical non-monogamy”? If consent is not needed is this just a form of psychological abuse akin to the old tradition of men “sleeping around” on their wives where the wife knows, but due to family and financial considerations is forced to tolerate it?

Are some men trapped in a bind where considerations of financial well being, staying in their homes, having access to their children or even having any form of companionship outweigh the involuntary tolerance of their wife’s sexual activities and as a result they put on a brave face and “play the game”?

Consent is always needed. For everything.

There are always nuances to 24/7 style relationships. People who expand concepts of domination and submission outside of the bedroom may want someone who will basically be able to tell them what to do or “force” them to do some things. I have heard of 24/7 relationships where a Dom/me/x has control over the life of a submissive to the point of being able to encourage them to take care of themselves better.

And, not gonna lie, I’ve seen the appeal in having an authority figure who you have to be accountable to. Some people even incorporate aspects of punishment into this where punishment isn’t something that the person wants. So you can, in effect, have someone punishing you without you wanting that to happen at all.

However, I still believe there is a basic level of consent here that still applies. No one actually owns anyone and any Dom/me/x who believes they do and any relationship where a submissive (or a cuckold in this case) cannot say “Nope. I’m done with this. This ends now.” does not have a relationship. It’s effectively abuse.

And this applies for any kind of relationship which doesn’t include kink elements. Obviously, breaking up with a partner is never an easy thing for anyone to do and it is easier said than done in many, many types of relationships. But if you truly, truly do not have a choice or feel like you could not leave without being physically or psychologically attacked — that is a problem.

In my opinion, there is nothing ethical about cheating. It’s not for me to tell someone in a cuckold relationship whether or not they should continue to stay with someone who has effectively admitted they would cheat on you. I know I wouldn’t. But I feel quite confident in saying that consent is always needed.

And anyone, regardless of the type of relationship they’re in, who cheats or who does something against the consent of their partner — that is cheating. I don’t know if I would stretch so far to call every incident of cheating “psychological abuse”. People who may be psychologically abusive may also cheat, but they aren’t necessarily one in the same.

Additionally, I would say that one does not necessarily have to be a cuckold to feel like you must tolerate behaviour from your partner that you object to because you either do not have the financial means to go out on your own or you worry about the effect a split might have on children and whether or not you’d be able to see them as well as a fear of losing a companionship. That’s a very common concern for a lot of people.

And in all cases, kink based or not, I would always advise any adults to not put their eggs in one basket so to speak, to always have some level of their own independence or a way out and to not tolerate someone’s behaviour, if they find it truly objectionable or against their consent, merely because a current relationship is more comfortable or at times preferable to being alone.

Lastly, I’d like to address the fact that I feel like there’s a comparison here that, on a macro-level social scale, doesn’t really match up. Historically, women have been overwhelmingly subject to not only being sold as property to men, but also being treated like property. In the US, marital rape wasn’t even considered a crime until 1987. There is a very, very long history of women being forced to marry men (outside of considerations of married love) and not because they actively chose to enter into that kind of a relationship.

They had no agency. They had no options other than being cast out of their communities or potentially killed. The history of the way women have been used as essentially breeding stock and the way women are still used that way today is extensive. And I feel like it’s not really adequate to make that comparison because in the situations you have proposed, these men have willingly and with the full rights and privileges as men, agreed to be in cuckold relationships from the start whereas many, many women throughout history did not have the same privileges.

But, to summarise, cheating is not ethical. Consent is needed in all relationships. You can only willingly give your power to someone if you have it in the first place.

And, on a personal level, I think any individual who is interested in a relationship where they do not have to care about the consent, wishes and needs of their partner is an asshole and not worth anyone’s time.

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 44: You Don’t Need 5 Partners

What happens when you struggle to find partners but your domestic partner does not?

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

Discussion Topic: What often impairs your decision making process? Lack of confidence, impatience desire to please, overexcitement…

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

Episode 44 – You Don’t Need 5 Partners

What happens when you struggle to find partners but your domestic partner does not?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What often impairs your decision making process? Lack of confidence, impatience desire to please, overexcitement…

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My partner and I have always been non-monogamous and we’ve taken on the…role (is that the right word?!), of each other’s primary partners. Ever since the start of our relationship, my partner has found it easier to connect with people and has always had multiple partners at any one time. He’s a dominant, hetero, cis male who’s very physical. I, on the other hand, am a submissive, pan, cis female who requires a much deeper, emotional connection with people before anything sexual.

So while I’ve tried, I’ve struggled to find anyone else that I’ve wanted to go on more than a first date with. Now whether that’s because I’ve just had bad luck or because I’m content with my current partner, I don’t know! But I really wish I did.

I should mention that, like you, I have anxiety, amongst other mental health problems, which have all been rearing their ugly heads as of late. As such, I’m beginning to feel very insecure over the number of connections he has, and how easy it seems to be for him, versus the lack of connections I have. I understand it’s not a competition however it’s becoming clearer to me that I’m someone who needs a lot of emotion and support, which he’s currently having to stretch over other partners, plus work, family, friends etc. I have support from friends and family as well, although am wary that I may have been using him as a crutch, however irrespective, I feel my interest in wanting any other relationships may be dwindling.

We spoke and my partner asked if my overall view on non-monogamy had changed, or if this was just because I was feeling lower than usual at the moment, and therefore more insecure – and I couldn’t answer him. It’s like I started having an internal argument with myself, my anxiety making it impossible to work out what was real. I started contemplating different boundaries and rules that would maybe make me feel better, but that’s just unhealthy control. I then started to guilt myself for not being able to be as understanding as him, as he never worries when I have been on the odd date – but maybe that’s because he’s got so used to it never amounting to anything more? He’s never really experienced me not having the capacity for him.

I fear there will always be an imbalance between our respective partners, and while I‘m learning to control my anxiety, I know it’s not going to leave overnight. How I wish I could just wake up and magically feel secure! So, I guess I’m just at a complete loss as to where the heck do I go from here…

Response:

So first and foremost, this is actually going to be pretty short. Because You’re overthinking it. To put it lightly.

You’re really overthinking, the situation. I wouldn’t consider myself to have any interest in dating. I don’t actively date. I don’t try to find other partners, because dating sucks. I don’t like it. I don’t enjoy the company of the vast majority of people. I don’t really like people. The entire reason that I personally have chosen to do non-monogamy isn’t because I like so many people that it’s hard to choose or whatever. It’s because I like so few people that if I do find someone that I like I want the chance to pursue something with them.

I’m kind of at the opposite end of that spectrum, and it’s partly anxiety. My anxiety absolutely contributes to it, but I also just am not that interested in it. And I’ve experienced something very similar. Like I have had to accept that no matter what kind of relationship I have, if I have a domestic relationship with someone, they’re always going to be dating more people than me. Like, generally speaking, unless I find someone who is exactly like me, they’re going to be dating more people than me. And I’ve— it’s taken a while, but I’ve pretty much, you know, just given up on the idea that I need to be out there pursuing dates all the time.

And for a long time I felt like I had to do that in order to be polyamorous or be non-monogamous. I had to have multiple partners, and that pushed me into doing a lot of things I didn’t really want to do. To go into a lot of places that didn’t want to go, and to just being in situations I had no interest in being. And it also pushed me to feeling quite jealous that you know because I assume that other people— my partner having more connections may somehow must be that they’re better than me in some way and, you know.

It’s hard to work through those feelings but— You could spend the rest of your life never, you know, finding another partner, other than the person that you’re with. It doesn’t make you any less or more polyamorous than anyone else. Like you’re going to feel a lot of pressure and you probably are putting a lot of this pressure on yourself, especially because like I totally understand feeling like my partner’s kind of the only person I have to really go to. And they also have these other people and I feel guilty about that. But, you know, it is what it is, and at any given situation somebody might be in the exact same situation with like a best friend or somebody else.

And as long as you’re like having a dialogue together about it and as long as he’s able to tell you, like, “Look, I’m not able to provide you with this support right now”. And, you know, you said you had friends. You said you had other people, so you’re not completely and utterly alone. I think that it’s just about keeping that in mind and having that dialogue and it doesn’t have to be this big thing that’s weighing over your head, you know, it’s kind of like— Think of it if you were in a monogamous relationship, and you both—

You were with somebody and you both owned a house and you had a mortgage and all this other sorts of stuff and then your partner lost a job, and then you had to be the primary breadwinner for a while. Like, you’re going to acknowledge that that situation isn’t obviously ideal, or that you know your partner may be relying on you economically more than is maybe something that you want, but it doesn’t have to be a relationship ending thing and I think as long as you are kind of conscious of it. And as long as you are willing to give your partner space if he needs it, you know and understand that he might be a bit over capacity, then I don’t see what the big issue is.

It seems like you’re able to have discussions. It seems like you’re able to talk to one another, you know and mostly it’s just you beating yourself up. Mostly it’s you— because you’re having this kind of internal argument with yourself and you’re trying to be like, “Oh, should I you know create these boundaries and rules and make—“ and then realize like that’s not going to fix the situation, but then you’re still beating yourself up and guilting yourself. And you know, “he’s has no problem with everything and I need all the support you know”. It is what it is.

Different people have different constitution sort of things, and, you know, human beings are an interdependent species. Contrary to what — and I’m assuming you grew up in a similar culture to me and if I’m wrong, then I apologize — the culture we live in— we live in a culture that encourages individualism to the point that so often, especially if you are a woman, especially if you’re told by society that or, you know, you get the message from society that you shouldn’t— you can be too needy. You can have too many needs. And we sort of think that we need to be these individual islands where we don’t rely on anybody and we never need to ask anybody for help. That message gets really grained into us.

But we we’re an independent or, sorry, interdependent species.  There is a reason why solitary confinement is a form of torture. Because we need one another. We need to talk to people. We need to be in communities. We need to be, you know, cared by others. That’s— it’s a human need, and that’s okay. And he may not need that much support from you right now, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or wrong with him or wrong with the situation.

I have kind of just accepted at this point in my life like… if I find another partner… I mean I’ve had dates and things but like, you know, I’ve got one domestic partner and I’ve had some chances that things but nothings really stuck. And, you know, I do want to like— I want to have another live-in partner. That’s like my ideal situation, but it may not happen. I may not find another person. I’ve had situations that I thought were going to turn into partnerships that didn’t. But it’ll happen when it happens. But I’m not going to like think that I’m less suitable or less capable or there’s something wrong with me or, you know.

I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where someone has been attracted to you who was a lovely person who, you know, there’s nothing wrong with them you just don’t feel anything for them. And that’s okay. Just because you don’t get so many connections doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you. And it might be a— you know my domestic partner right now connects with all sorts of people; finds it really, really easy to connect with people, and it could be because maybe I’ve had more trauma. You know all of these horrible things that have happened to me and I don’t trust people— and I’m working on all that.

Like I’m trying to work on, you know, not being so nervous and scared of new people and not seeing them as a threat and partially kind of like, I think why I don’t connect with people as easy as my partner does, is because of some of that, but I am where I am. I’m in the situation that I’m in. And, you know, it’s not even necessarily about security. It’s just about, you know, just. You can’t fix everything overnight. And it might be partially because of kind of the stuff you’ve been through or even your situation, you know, being in a less marginalised position in multiple ways may make it a lot easier to find connections with people.

I feel like with my domestic partner— I feel like when we started our relationship, there were probably, you know I feel like I’ve kind of corrupted them in a way. You know I think they’re less able to deal with some of the shit that they would have dealt with now— they’re less able to deal with it now, so maybe they would, you know… You make connections with people and sometimes like they say horrible shit like… that’s my experience you know. I’m interested in dating someone. They say something terrible. I’m just like “Ugh”. You know that sometimes can happen a lot to me. Some people can write that off. Some people are fine with that I feel like— like I said my partner is probably less fine with that now.

You know, I’ve kind of brought them over to the grumpy side of it. But, you know, you are kind of just overthinking it and beating yourself up a little bit when you don’t need five partners to be polyamorous. You don’t need 10. You don’t need two. You by saying “I’m polyamorous and that’s”— or “I’m non-monogamous, and that’s how we want to live my life”. That’s enough. There is no test. There is no license. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody and if anyone wants to come along and say “Well you don’t have another—“ they need to mind their frickin business. Mind their business. Are they the polyamory police? Mind their frickin business.

So, you know, try and if you have access to polyamory friendly therapy please try to find it. You can absolutely find it out there even, you know if there’s no one around in your immediate area— look at Skype therapy. Look at phone therapy. Just try and be a little less harsh on yourself and you know for all the virtues of your partner. Yeah, he’s— like you said like he’s being real understanding now but maybe he hasn’t had a lot of situations that have threatened his jealousy. So maybe that has a lot to do with it, but just, you know, trust that your partner is going to be able to tell you when they’re not feeling up to things.

You have to be able to extend that trust to him as well, and trust you have good enough communication that even if bumps do occur in the road, it’s not going to throw everything off course and you’ll be able to cope with it. Because you never know when something happens and you never know when, you know, life has a— can be unpredictable and something could happen, and all of a sudden someone needs your support, someone needs your help, and you have no idea like what’s going to happen in the future.

So try not to overthink it too much. Give yourself a little bit of it, and screw anyone who has something to say about how about partners you have or how often you date. You don’t— you could give up dating right now, and you’d still be just as polyamorous as you were if you didn’t— if you continue trying to find a partner. You know, my position is this let it happen. And maybe, adopting that position will like— it’ll take some of the pressure off of your shoulders to find somebody else so that you can have someone else to rely on or whatever like just… it’ll happen when it happens, and just let it happen.

Okay, I hope that helps and good luck.

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Polyamory as a last chance

My marriage of 13 years is about to end due to my wife’s infidelity. She cheated in 2010 and this past summer in the wake of my brother’s suicide she dove into an emotional affair with a long-time friend of both of us. This experience has fractured numerous friendships and relationships. It was almost like she detonated a well-placed bomb right in the middle of everything in my life that I cared about.

Now I am watching every relationship shift. From my relationship with my 3 children, to the security in my marriage, to family and friends. My wife’s first affair was with a person who lives a life of polyamory. She has definitely been interested in this sort of thing and it is something that I have known about. I have not had any interest in this sort of thing.

My parents have been together forever and that is the history that has generated my perspective of these sorts of things.

Her parents went through a 7-year divorce when she was young. She watched her dad have multiple affairs and experienced things like receiving gifts that were given by her father’s affair partners. This has constructed her perspective on some of these things.

My question is this, is opening up my marriage going to be a good thing regarding some of our deep-rooted differences. My biggest problem right now is her blatant betrayal and inability to give me the respect that a partner deserves. After reading your article I certainly have my doubts.

We got married very young and have been together since we were 15. I definitely love her and I believe that she loves me. My biggest concerns about opening our marriage are:

A) I am not sure how I will react to it. Having been betrayed by her multiple times (and honestly, there are probably things I don’t even know about), I don’t know how I will be able to do something that I am not strictly comfortable with while at the same time dealing with some of the emotions such as jealousy when it comes to an open marriage.

B) Her history of betrayal. It concerns me that I would be doing this in order to let her really express herself in the hope that she could really be honest with me about herself. I want the intimacy that I signed up for and just have not been able to achieve with her.

A big part of me wants to just end the marriage but at the same time, why wouldn’t I try this as a last ditch effort at finally achieving the level of intimacy that I have always wanted. Ending the marriage would be life-changing in a lot of really big ways for everyone. I just want to know if exhausting this option is even worth the time and emotional effort that I would have to put forth given her track record of being unable to treat me with open honesty and respect.

Sometimes when infidelity happens, people can try polyamory or non-monogamy as a last ditch effort because they want to save their relationship — and sometimes that can work. Even if one of the people doesn’t have any interest in dating or sleeping with anyone else. But I think that, regardless of interests or the history involved, the biggest key to success in this working is that there has to be some interest or some benefit you get — other than keeping someone in your life — from non-monogamy or polyamory.

Fundamentally, agreeing to a polyamorous or non-monogamous relationship at it’s core means that your partner will not be spending the vast majority of their available time solely with you. As I’ve said in other columns, this can also be true for monogamous relationships where you marry someone who has a time intensive career, hobby or is someone who needs a lot of alone time. It’s not unique to non-monogamy.

That has to be something you’re fundamentally okay with and for a lot of people, that’s not something they want. They want to have a sole partner who they spend most of their time with and it doesn’t have to be that they feel jealous of any other partners, just that they want more time with their partner.

Secondly, you have to see some type of benefit in non-monogamy for yourself. This could be getting to date others, getting to sleep with others or just getting more time for yourself. Even people who are monogamous to partners who are polyamorous see some type of benefit out of it. I think for a lot of people they assume the benefit is keeping their partner around — and this may be a good benefit — but if the first issue means that your partner isn’t *actually* around in the amount you want, you may find that this isn’t actually a benefit you get. If you become non-monogamous, your relationship will fundamentally differ from the way it is currently set up. So you can’t go into a non-monogamous agreement based on the benefit to you that your partner will stay with you if that hope is based on the idea your relationship will somehow remain the same — it just won’t.

Thirdly, contrary to what you might have read about polyamory, people do have reactions to their partner sleeping with other people regardless of how seasoned they are. A lot of the literature around polyamory makes it seem like the ideal is to have a positive emotional reaction to your partner sleeping with someone else — and some people do experience it. But some people can and do have negative reactions every single time or only have negative reactions to start out when they are rebuilding trust with their partner or starting a new relationship and find these negative reactions cool as time goes on and trust gets built up. But then, something really bad could happen in your life that makes it harder to cope with this.

It’s during times like this that I recommend people go back to the benefit they get out of polyamory as a sort of anchor that reminds them of why it is they’re coping with temporary negative feelings. Similar to having children — it’s not always a joy all of the time but the benefits for some can outweigh some of the negatives. And this is where, if your only benefit is just keeping this relationship, is going to fall through.

Because the relationship you want to keep and the structure you held onto is fundamentally different. I would be worried less about whether or not you will experience negative feelings because it’s incredibly likely that you will, especially given the betrayal you’ve been through, and more worried about if you have the anchor you need to get you through the negative feelings that will inevitably come.

Lastly, as I’ve said in my other columns, non-monogamy can and sometimes often does come through infidelity and betrayal. It’s very possible your wife is naturally non-monogamous but never knew these were options. What makes the difference in survival of the relationship after has a lot to do with the core reason why the person cheated and their behaviour afterwards. Is your wife apologetic about the infidelities she’s committed? Has she committed them because they were “forbidden” and that was the draw for her? Or is it because she feels like she wants more experiences in her life? Does she actually want polyamory or has her experiences growing up made her feel fearful you will eventually cheat on her so she is feeling driven to do it before it happens to her?

It’s hard for me to answer these questions for you because these are things she needs to explore and talk to you about these reasons and fundamentally you need to come to an understanding together of what it is you both want, how far you’re both willing to compromise on this, and what solutions are available to you both before she either cheats again or you decide to call it quits.

In summary

Fundamentally in this instance, there’s a lot for you both to explore. For you, you need to really think about your wants and that might be hard for you if you’ve only ever been in this relationship and don’t have any other relationships to compare this to. But try and dig deep and ask yourself if you have any curiosities about pursuing relationships or sex with others or if you like to have more alone time and can find another reason, other than trying to save this ship, for having an interest in non-monogamy that can ground you.

For her, she needs to explore more of why she’s cheated. If she’s only done it because it’s a thrill because it’s a secret, even non-monogamy isn’t going to help out in that instance. Can she figure out what kind of relationships she wants? Does she want multiple romantic relationships or is she looking for just other sexual experiences. Once she has a better idea of her motivations and why she’s done things, you’ll know exactly what kind of non-monogamy you’re looking at, how that might differ from the current life you have together and whether or not you want to make that compromise.

I don’t think you should immediately call it quits but there’s a lot to work out here before you really know if it’s worth it to try non-monogamy. Equally, don’t be sucked into a sunk cost fallacy. Just because you’ve spent a long time together doesn’t mean you should always be together. But it’s hard for me to tell you whether or not it’s going to be worth it if you haven’t worked through some of these core issues together. I’d definitely suggest seeking the help of a non-monogamy friendly relationship therapist who would be able to help you both explore these issues and work out whether there is an inherent incompatibility or if there are compromises you both can make that will help.

Lastly, I’d definitely suggest checking out the index of my articles as I’ve got a whole section on infidelity and you might find some other scenarios which are more similar to yours, some options such as sex work and swinging that could address sexual incompatibility that don’t go as a far as polyamory, and some other ways to address this.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 43: What If It Ends?

What happens when our biggest fear is losing our current relationship?

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

Discussion Topic: In your worst fears, what might your colleagues at work be criticising you for behind your back?

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

Episode 43 – What if It Ends?

What happens when our biggest fear is losing our current relationship? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – In your worst fears, what might your colleagues at work be criticising you for behind your back?

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

Drew and have been together for 1 year and live together. We love each other very much. He may be the one. We are both divorced, and I have older kids. My marriage ended because my ex and I opened up our relationship; he broke the rules we had set; and so did I when I unexpectedly fell in love with the man I was seeing during the open marriage. Needless to say, I am VERY cautious about being non-monogamous again. I can also easily fall in love with men if I’m intimate with them repeatedly.

Unfortunately, Drew often brings up his need to be non-monogamous. Before we met, he was in a non-romantic, non-committed relationship with two women. There were no feelings involved. The three of them experimented and even briefly lived together. It was new and exciting, and he misses it.

I’m very open-minded, but I’m scared of the road he wants to take. I fear it will end our relationship. After listening to your advice, I have decided that I need to accept the worst possible outcome, let go of my fears, and give in to his need, no matter what happens. While we previously agreed to wait for 3-5 years, he brings this up so often, that I just want to rip the band-aid off and get it over with now.

He did say that he will suppress this need for me because he doesn’t want to lose me, but that he will be genuinely unhappy if he does so. In short, I know this needs to happen. There is no reason for him to suffer. If I can’t handle how he is, he deserves finding someone who will.

For what it’s worth, I think that for now he is only hoping to have another [woman] join us occasionally. This idea is not as scary to me as others. He is also open to couple-swapping if that’s what I prefer. I’m not against women and previously thought I was bi-curious. But a 3-way situation would hurt me more than swapping. This is because I can’t bear to watch him be intimate with another woman (if I notice his affection/tenderness towards her, as opposed to pure sex), but I can tolerate it better if I’m with the man in the same room. That is… if I don’t slip up and fall in love again. For me, intimacy is closely tied to feelings. On the other hand, I don’t want other men touching me but would rather find a way to enjoy it than be in a threesome and watch Drew and another woman.

For now, Drew insists that he has no desire for us to open our relationship or be intimate with others outside of our relationship. He simply doesn’t want to feel like he has to have sex with only one woman for the rest of his life. At this point in our relationship, I am not so bored or tired of him that I’m ready for the same. In fact, thinking about it still hurts a little. I even think I might be monogamous by nature, notwithstanding all my prior experiences and several threesomes. All my experiences lead me to believe this is a dangerous path. But I won’t deny him who he is.

I am at a point where I think we need to do this for him and the sooner, the better, so that I don’t have to agonize about it any longer. While your advice may be to hold off for now, I don’t think things would change if we wait. In fact, he will only crave this more and more. But I also don’t know if his desires won’t grow into more, like polyamory, etc. once he gets bored with threesomes.

In short, I see 5 possible outcomes: (1) we do this, and he gets hungry for more, which will lead to us breaking up because swapping/threesomes is my limit; (2) we do this, and I will fall for the new guy; (3) he gets bored or jealous of seeing me with other men and will ask that we stop; (4) I will get resentful and leave him; or (5) we do it successfully, without jeopardizing our relationship.

I should add that there is a lot of respect, and we communicate very well. He is not pressuring me. But his needs are what they are. We have gone to sex clubs and had sex there, including interacting with another [women]. But it’s no longer enough because he also wants sex from them. He also likes [BDSM], and I found great ways to enjoy it with him and for him, but that is also no longer fun for him, now that we’ve done it so often.

What do you think about my situation? And, if we are going to do this, what advice do you have to help ensure that we are successful? How can we do it and still we protect our love and our future? Are there safe/unemotional ways for me to give him what he needs and for us to stay together?

Response:

First and foremost, why is it a problem if you fall in love with someone else? That’s really kind of the big thing here because in your previous relationship you had a rule about not falling in love with someone else. Why? I think that that’s kind of something that you need to think about a little bit more, because your assumption here is that falling in love with someone else somehow, puts your other— your primary or whatever other relationship you have in jeopardy.

And it doesn’t. Doesn’t have to. It may be scary and uncomfortable because you’ve— I’m guessing growing up in a society that has told you that you can only love one person or that you should only love one person and that if you don’t love, you know, prove yourself by exclusively only loving one person you don’t really love them etc and so forth. But you can be in love with more than one person at same time. And that can be fine.

So why is that a terrible situation? Why is that so horrible? Why is it something you’re so afraid of? Because the thing of it is, right… It sounds like this guy that you’re with is mostly interested in having sexual encounters, but even so I would never ever ever ever ever advise someone to create a rule that says, “I will never fall in love with someone else”. I wouldn’t even advise monogamous people to do that because you just can’t control that. Nobody can control that. Monogamous people— you could— you could dump this guy and you could find someone else who felt they were monogamous who had no interest in any kind of polyamorous situation or threesome or anything.

You could find somebody like that. And they could fall in love with someone else and dump you like… It’s just an unrealistic expectation for anyone to have. It’s not about preventing your feelings from happening. You can’t prevent that from happening. You can only decide what you’re going to do with it, and monogamous people may find themselves falling in love with other people. They just choose not to pursue it. And they also you know— it doesn’t have to be this massive devastation. It doesn’t have to mean that you don’t really care about, like… you’re putting so much fear around “Oh I’m going to fall in love with someone else.” And what if you do? So what if you do? What— does that mean you don’t love Drew? It doesn’t, so that’s that’s the big thing.

Second thing here is I’m gonna totally admit to you that when you said that you’ve read my advice, let me find the exact… “after listening to advice I’ve decided I need to accept the worst possible outcome. Let go of my fears and give in to his need no matter what happens”. Whoa! Whoa! Put the brakes on that. Put the whole entire foot on that brake and slam it down. That is, yes, people should absolutely think about the worst possible outcome. Giving into his need no matter what happen— whoa, whoa. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no. That is not what I advise. No, just just absolutely not. I would never ever advise you to go into a situation that you had no interest in that you that made you completely uncomfortable, just so you could please your partner. Absolutely not.

If you are really genuinely not interested in non-monogamy then dump him. You’ve only been together for one year. It sounds really harsh, I know. You’ve got all these fresh feelings. He’s clearly non-monogamous and you are right about that. That is inevitable. He is. He wants to be non-monogamous. He doesn’t want to be monogamous. He’s not interested in that. I think that you are probably non-monogamous as well. You just need to work out, or maybe you have the propensity to be in a non-monogamous relationship. You just need to work out all this fear of loving someone else, but if you don’t have any interest in it. You don’t have to.

So, never never never never never just think that you have to put yourself through Hell to please your partner. Like yes, we make sacrifices and we do things for partners, but you need to not let it get to that level where you’re willing to put away all of your feelings and all of your wants and all of your needs, just to satisfy somebody else. Especially, and I’m making an assumption about you and if I am wrong, I apologise— Women are always expected to do this for men. Always. Now he is being nice here and saying you know “Oh, I’m—“ For some reason— I don’t really understand why— he, knowing he’s non-monogamous, is fully investing in a relationship with someone who is not that interested in it I’m confused about that.

But he’s not pursuing it now and he’s kind of being a little bit monogamous for you now, even though you’ve— you’re still kind of trying things. But, you know, women are always encouraged to do this. To sacrifice everything to. To give up everything for their partner. No, no, you don’t have to give everything up just to make him happy. What about your fucking happiness man? Like no no no so. So yeah, no, that’s not what my advice is at all. Yes, face your worst fears, but the thing is is that you’re still in a situation where the most important thing in this equation is keeping you with Drew.

That’s the most important thing— not you being happy. Not you being okay. It’s staying with Drew, and that’s not where your priority should be. Your priority should never be to save a relationship with someone else at the cost of yourself. It should be yourself and your health and your happiness, and people think that sounds selfish because women are constantly socialised to give up everything and be martyrs and whatever. It’s not selfish.  You need to secure your own mask before you can help other people. You need to be able to help yourself before you help other people. So absolutely do not prioritise saving the marriage. Facing your worst fears— facing the fact that you may have to break up. That you may be inherently incompatible. That’s your worst fear here.

Other things are fears but they’re not necessarily your worst fear so kind of readjust that first and foremost. Secondly, I think you need to have a really big deep dive that not just like, “Why are you so afraid of falling in love with someone else?” But what are you actually interested in? What do you actually want? You know you’re both kind of jumping into all these semi non-monogamous situations, but you’re not really talking about more or less your endgame here, like. I mean, it sounds like Drew is interested just in— He’s just doesn’t want to only sleep with one person for the rest of his life and wants to have sex with other people. Is he actually interested in multiple romantic relationships? Is it about just sex?

What are you interested in? You know, before you broke the rule and everything else. Was it okay for you to be in love with more than one person at a time? You know, is that something that you’re interested in? What do you want? Okay we know what Drew wants. We got that message. We got everything. We got a list. We got you know— but what do you want? Do you actually want to be swapping? Like, I get that like being scared and not really wanting to see your partner be intimate with other people. That is something maybe you can work through. That is something maybe you can, you know, especially if you’re, together like for such a brief time and you do still have to build that with each other.

You don’t have much of a foundation and maybe once you’re with him for a lot longer you won’t be so scared of it, but it’s not about just trying to build your resilience for something that’s for Drew’s benefit. It’s about, what are you interested in? Because and that’s really, really important. Anytime someone forces themselves to do non-monogamy just for the pure benefit of keeping someone else in their life, it usually doesn’t work out, and the reason is that when you’re in those difficult situations— because you are— You’re going… this isn’t— All these scenarios that you’ve put forth, you forgot the sixth scenario and what can happen, which is maybe you find that you’re interested in this independently of your own volition, and maybe you try this and you still feel like shit like because you will.

A lot of people who are interested in polyamory who go into it. I started— The relationship, the longest relationship I’m in now, I started being polyamorous. We’re both polyamorous. We started— No one had to introduce it to anyone else. I still felt like shit, the first time my partner went out with someone else. The first time my partner spent all night at a party, I still felt like shit. You’re still going to feel like shit. There is no dream scenario in this situation where you never feel unhappy that your partner is with someone else. Even if you want non-monogamy and when you’re in those situations— the fact that you want it, and the fact that you can go. “Okay. Yes, I feel shit right now but I’m interested in this because of this reason. I get this out of it individually as a person.”

That is what can anchor you, especially when you’re in a new relationship and you can’t anchor yourself with “well we’ve been together for so many years”, you know. When you don’t have that anchor, you can bring yourself back to that situation and back to safety by going, “Okay but I’m interested in non-monogamy because of this”, and then also realising your worst fears can bring you back to safety because even— like I said if you got rid of Drew and you found someone else, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be together forever.

And monogamy creates a type of cultural safety net and the cultural reassurance that you’re going to be together forever because you have all these— as it’s called “the relationship escalator”— you have all these milestones. You have all these ways that kind of infer safety, but it’s not actually safe. It’s not necessarily any more safe because even if you’re with someone in a monogamous relationship for 24 years they might, you know, fall in love with someone else in it or decide they want to be part of a band and travel the world and that’s not what you want. Like… there’s a multitude of things that could go wrong.

But you have to anchor yourself in what about it actually benefits you. What about it are you actually interested in? If you’re only doing this for Drew’s sake, that’s not going to help you. So you need to figure out what it is that you want. If you want this, you know, are you, is it— Are you okay with being in love with more than one person at a time? Why did you freak out so much about it? Is it just because it was against the rules? Why did you make it against the rule? Because you were afraid that your relationship was going to end— and that that’s the thing.

You’re not facing your fears then. You’re creating rules to prevent a situation which the rules can’t and clearly didn’t prevent. So don’t do that. So yeah, to address kind of the steps you need to take: You need to figure out what it is that you both really want. Do you really want non-monogamy? I think it’s okay if you have a little bit of an interest in it and you do sound like have a little bit of an interest in maybe trying new sexual things, being in new sexual situations. You might not be that hungry for it at this point in time, because you still are quite new with each other, but you do have a little bit of an interest in it.

But you need to figure out — okay what does that look like as a relationship, you know? Is it multiple romantic relationships, you know? Think about the physicalities. Do you expect, you know— do you want a partner that lives with you but then maybe goes and visits other people or do you want to live separately? Like it sounds like he had a pretty good setup with the two women that he lived with. Think about what your situation is that you are both happy with and have that discussion with him. Figure out if it’s the newness he needs? Is it actual relationships, you know?

He might not know and and as you said it might be that he tries the kind of new sexual thing and he’s interested in new relationships. Okay talk about that. What would it mean for him to be in love with someone else or for you to be in love with someone else? Is that actually a threat to your relationship? And you need to stop forcing yourself to be part of things just for his sake, and I feel like a lot of people who open their relationships do this. They think, “I don’t want my partner to think that I’m cheating. So the solution is to involve them in the sex act. They need to be part of the threesome. And we’ll just have threesomes and then I won’t be accused of cheating”,

You got to trust each other. And don’t automatically think that just because you’re a part of it that you’re going to be okay with it. Like you may be okay with it now, like sitting here and thinking of it in your head, but thinking of it in your head it’s going to be very, very different to it actually being there, and you might actually find if you’re so afraid of your partner loving someone else, and you’re so afraid of that meaning that they won’t love you. Then, even when you swap, and you’re in the same room together you might interpret something that he’s doing as intimate or loving and then your paranoia and fear is going to kick in.

Like, you need to stop addressing the symptom and start addressing the disease. Your inner fear here is that you or your partner falling in love with someone else is somehow a massive threat, and you need to figure out why is that? Is it a threat? You know, maybe you just need more reassurance. You need to kind of tell yourself. “Hey, actually, my partner being love with someone else doesn’t decrease the love they have for me. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t like me or or that they’re going to love me less”. It’s understandable that you feel this threat and this fear because that’s kind of the way that society has set up romantic love and set up a couple partnership love for you.

That’s kind of the basis and foundation for a lot of love stories is jealousy. “Oh my god she’s with someone else. I really love her”. It’s toxic for a lot of reasons but it doesn’t— It needs to be broken down, and I think that you kind of need to think about that but don’t fix it by forcing yourself into situations that are going to make you uncomfortable. That’s not what my advice is.

Also last but not least, throughout all of this stop putting other people’s needs above your own. Yes in relationships, we all sacrifice things for our partner sometimes. You know when we’re really tired and our partner wants a cup of tea, we go make them a cup of tea anyway. Yeah, there’s things like that. But you need to kind of be conscious of when it gets to be too much. When you’re sacrificing too much and it’s actually hurting you. Facing your fear isn’t facing the fear that you’ll have to do something that you don’t want to do because your partner wants it. It’s facing the fear that your relationship may end.

And that needs to not be the worst case scenario for you. That needs to not be the thing that needs to be saved at all costs, is your relationship with Drew. You need to be saved at all cost. That’s what you kind of need to prioritise and trust me, I find this so difficult. It’s kind of embedded within my personality makeup to be you know— my love language— and I don’t necessarily sign off from the people who have created the love languages but I think that they’re helpful tools— my love language is acts of service. I am the one that’s like “Let me get you something. Let me do something for you”. Oh, you know like, that’s me to a tee.

I have that part of my personality is just kind of who I am, but I have to be very very vigilant. Because I will find myself all the time in friendships, romantic relationships doesn’t matter— I will find myself all the time, giving my time and energy to people who would not do the damn same for me. I find myself all the time willing to sacrifice myself for people who would not piss on fire to put me out to be extremely blunt with you. And so you need to be really vigilant of that. I know it’s a hard line and sometimes you might not know it until you know you’ve realised you sacrificed too much and you either feel resentful or you feel angry, but you kind of have to be conscious of that in that situation.

So yeah, I think if you just you figure out what you want— your partner, Drew figures out what he wants. And you have a discussion about it and you really think about you know what you’re interested in, and you break down that fear you have that either he’ll fall in love with someone or you’ll fall in love with someone, if you want to. I think it’s a useful fear to break down even if you’re going to be monogamous for the rest of your life.

I think that that fear leads a lot of non-monogamous— or a lot of monogamous people into feeling quite toxic possessiveness and jealousy. It’s an understandable fear, but I do think it’s something that you should work on, regardless of what you choose to do in your romantic relationships, and then prioritise yourself more, and and don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary to just sacrifice yourself for other people. All right. I hope that helps and good luck.

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Gender roles and non-monogamy

I’m in a monogamous relationship and I’ve been in this relationship for 4+ years. We’ve talked about non-monogamy but my partner is quite against it. What makes things worse is I cheated on her last year with a man. We slept together twice before I told her and broke it off with him.

I’ve had a hard time in monogamous relationships in the past because I feel like I get put into a gender role box. If I’m dating a woman, im put into the role of the man, and vise versa.

In my ideal world, I would be either in a triad with a woman and a man, or I would be in a primary relationship with a partner of one sex open to other relations.

My partner doesn’t really understand the gender stuff, even though she tries to. She is really good about treating me how I want to be treated, but a big part of it too is how I’ve been raised. I feel like when I’m with her, I /want/ to do the “manly things” because it makes me feel like a good partner. But it makes me sad that nobody does those “manly things” with me.

And, sex has been… sparse. We have sex maybe once a month if everything aligns. (Double periods makes things a bit tricker plus my partner is super delicate and only wants sex when everything is perfect.) For me, this can be quite hard because physical touch is really important for me to feel bonded with someone and feel happy in general. She does like things like hugging, hand holding, and small kisses (like a peck on the lips.) But sometimes it makes me feel undesired when someone doesn’t want more than that from me.

Anyway, I don’t really know what my question or issue is. Right now I’ve pushed aside any thoughts of the relationship opening up because I definitely shot that possibility in the foot when I cheated on my partner, and I’m fully aware of that. And, I haven’t been able to do much to increase our sexy times. These last few months I’ve decided to focus more on solo sessions and not think about sex with my partner and it’s been helping my mood a lot. But I’m still not fully satisfied.

Maybe my main question is, how long should I wait before mentioning non-monogamy again? It’s been about 6–8 months and she’s still quite hurt about it. I wont ever make the mistake of doing something behind her back again, but I also can’t stop fantasizing about having a man in the house. I also enjoy the thought of watching my partner with a guy. It sounds super fun and sexy.

There are a few key issues to address here but first and foremost, I wouldn’t necessarily say that infidelity means a non-monogamous relationship is completely off the table. I assume you live in a culture monogamy is really the only option is given to people and given that, a lot of people find their way towards feeling like non-monogamy is either part of their identity or works better for them through infidelity. It hurts and it’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Therapy to address infidelity

Any trauma or event in our lives that have had a very negative impact us can continue to impact us for years, decades, or even until the day we die. Some things we don’t “get over” and some healing experiences aren’t linear. What’s critical when it comes to being able to cope or move on from something like infidelity is being able to resolve the issue together. You don’t necessarily have to work with a therapist, but I do think that it is advisable if you can access it because there are some other issues here that need to be explored and sometimes a third party can help with that.

There isn’t a perfect amount of time to wait before mentioning non-monogamy. It’s really about whether or not your partner has had the space in her life and with you to work through these feelings. I think that mentioning non-monogamy may come up again if you’re talking with her about the reasons for infidelity.

Sometimes this does kind of feel like an ultimatum because… it can sometimes be and there isn’t anything you can do about it. If your partner has a naturally low sex drive, prefers to perform gender within a couple in a specific way and has zero interest in any form of non-monogamy that could be a compromise you are at an impasse.

However, before we assume that I think there are a few other things that need to be worked out together before non-monogamy becomes your only option — outside of her working on the pain that the infidelity may have caused her.

Therapy to address gender roles

As a non-binary person, I can understand feeling as though you’re being dictated in a relationship to a specific gender role. For me, this can add a layer of misgendering to a relationship. When I feel as though I’m being shoved in to specific activities that are generally associated with a woman’s role in a cisgender heterosexual relationship and I haven’t specifically chosen it… I do get tetchy about it.

However, I do think there’s a wider discussion to be had with a therapist about how you see yourself within a relationship and how to address your want to do “manly things” in a relationship and how you might be a good partner in other ways.

In some ways, I do think this is something we’re socially encouraged to do because we’re used to those tasks, but I do think this is something that can be addressed. If your partner is used to heterosexual relationships with people who are cisgender, it may be that she’s also doing what she’s used to do and things can change.

It might be worth exploring some of that because it seems like it’s not just an issue with regards to sexual incompatibility, but there’s also an issue with roles in the relationship and ways that you can be fulfilled in this relationship that may involve addressing some of your own specific issues and working those out.

Sexual incompatibility

Aside from working through some of your internal inclinations towards roles in relationships and working through your feelings together on the infidelity and resolving those problems, there is a wider issue of sexual incompatibility which is quite frequent in monogamous relationships. There are a few ways to address this.

First and foremost, seeing if your partner recognises that your differing libidos can create some stress and how they feel about it. Just as much as it is difficult to feel neglected or ignored, it can also not help in terms of having sex if you feel a constant pressure to do so. Is the current frequency something she’s happy with? Is it typical in the relationships she’s been in? Is the pressure of you wanting more sex something that makes it harder for her to want it?

If this is about physical touch and intimacy, is there a way she can be involved with your solo sessions where she doesn’t have to do anything but it still meets that need for you? Is that something she’s willing to do to kind of meet that need? You don’t mention what types of sex you’re doing or wanting and it may be repetitive to remind you that penetrative sex isn’t the only type of sex that can be had and many folks with vaginas may struggle to even get satisfaction from that type of sex — so maybe trying different types or focusing less on penetration and more on other things might make things work between you.

If you’ve tried to mix things up that way and it still doesn’t work because there are specific types of sex that you prefer to have that she doesn’t, then you may need to talk about compromises. Depending on the frequency you feel you need, you may not need to have another entire romantic relationship with another person or even a friends with benefits type of arrangement. You could potentially see a sex worker a few times a year, if that was something you found would help satisfy you.

Although a lot of people are whorephobic or anti-sex work because many societies are and believe a lot of incorrect information about sex workers, this situation could be something that might provide a better compromise than you having another romantic relationship or a friends with benefits situation that could get complicated or seem more threatening to your partner. A sex worker is there in a professional capacity and while I obviously can’t guarantee feelings will never develop on either side in this situation, I feel like that’s probably less likely if you hire a sex worker. And in terms of STI safety, a sex worker is actually far more likely to get checked frequently than other people and know how to use protection well.

If you require something a bit more frequent or a sex worker is out of the question, then you might look into getting involved in swinger communities — however, I generally would advise that, unless you live in an area where it’s an exception, most swinger communities are very cishet focused. From what I’ve seen and read, they don’t necessarily feel like welcoming spaces for non-binary people and specifically I have heard that single bisexual men struggle to find couples or people to swap with.

It’s worth a shot in case you find a couple that has an interest and in a way a swinger community might feel safer for your girlfriend because you will be likely getting involved with people who are already in committed relationships who aren’t looking for other romantic connections and are just looking for sexual hookups.

If all of those options don’t work for you and what you actually want — given you’ve mentioned gender roles are part of a reason why you cheated — is a romantic relationship or the ideal scenario you’ve put out then you may just be at an impasse in terms of your compatibility with your partner.

In summary

I think it’s worth you finding a therapist who is non-monogamy positive and sex work positive and going through the issues of healing from the infidelity, addressing gender roles within your relationship (possibly seeing a therapist individually to discuss your inclination towards taking on a specific role and how to fight against that a bit better), as well as establishing how your partner feels about your sexual incompatibility. Once you’ve kind of addressed these three issues, you can begin working through some compromises in each field.

You can figure out what she needs from you to heal from the infidelity, you can work out compromises you can make together to make you feel like you’re not taking on a specific gender role and work through some ways you can have different forms of sex together in a way where she feels less pressured, if she does feel pressured, and you both are satisfied. If those don’t work out, you could address sexual compromises by looking at options like sex work or swinging and then consider non-monogamy or polyamory as a kind of last resort of none of these situations really help you.

I think you also need to do some introspection. You’ve been with this person for four years and that is quite a long time, but it’s not as if you’re discovering this about yourself after being together for 25 years with a lot of children and a house together. You don’t really state whether or not you have any immediate ties together.

So it’s worth you really thinking it’s worth compromising so much to ensure that this relationship stays alive. Because you could work through all of these issues and find out you’re just not compatible. So it’s worth you thinking about whether or not multiple romantic relationships are the thing you actually want and need out of relationship and whether you want to compromise not having that for the rest of your life.

And again, I don’t think infidelity means non-monogamy is out of the question. A lot of people can and do start from that point — but it is important that you’ve taken the steps together to address the infidelity in a way that allows for healing as much as possible.

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 42: The Dreaded Veto

When you’ve conceded to many rules but your partner demands you dump another, what do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What do you most regret so far?

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

Episode 42 – The Dreaded Veto

When you’ve conceded to many rules but your partner demands you dump another, what do you do?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What do you most regret so far?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I’m in a tough situation and would love your input.

I’ve been in a relationship with my wife for 10 years, we’ve been open for 7, married for 5. I’ll say that aside from sexual intimacy, my life with my wife is beautiful. We have adventures, we have amazing friends, we travel, and we have shared goals. She’s struggled with depression off and on, and the most recent time lasted 3 years. It’s been challenging, and I’ve supported her through all of it.

When we got together, I didn’t know that for my own fulfillment, I absolutely needed to prioritize sexual compatibility. To be happy, I need to feel sexually valued and desired by a partner. A strong, ongoing sexual connection is a cornerstone of a romantic relationship for me.

When we started dating, we had a pretty good sexual connection for about 3 months, but then her interest in sex began waning. Since then, she’s generally rejected me when I’ve attempted sexual intimacy, she’s avoided flirting with me so as not to lead me on, but when I’ve come right out and asked whether she’s attracted to me, she says she is. I’ve asked if she would prefer we take sex off the table in our relationship, and she got angry and said no. I’ve also read a lot on AVEN and asked if she’s noticed anything on the site that resonates with her— and I told her I would love and support her however she identifies. She got angry with me when I asked, and said no.

In the times that we have been sexually intimate, it hasn’t been very fulfilling for me, because it felt disconnected, and she didn’t seem present— for the most part she’s had no passion, no zeal. She’s even fallen asleep during sex on 3 or 4 different occasions. For a while I thought something was wrong with me. After almost 10 years of continual rejection, my self-esteem was shredded and my sexual well-being was impacted in a lot of ways. I’m now working to heal those wounds with a sex-positive therapist.

Because I was young, naive, and in love with her, I always made excuses, expecting things to change. I would tell myself, “Things will be better when x, y, or z happens… (name any and all external factors here).” I tried a lot different things to fix it, but I tried to tread lightly because the last thing I wanted was to make her feel pressured or inadequate.

Over the 7 years that our relationship has been open, my wife and I have had multiple connections with others, and it’s always been a really fun and positive element of our relationship. In fact, she always said she thought it was hot when I had sexual encounters with other people. It was fun for me, and I felt sexual validation from my other sex partners, but I found that I still felt empty and unhappy, because my connections were casual, rather than the sustained sexual, romantic bond that I need to be happy.

My wife and I never defined ourselves as poly[am], and we’ve never gone as far as to have girlfriends or other committed romantic relationships. We’ve had connections that have felt more romantic than platonic, but we’ve always said that our connections would be based more on friendship and sex rather than romance and love.

A year and a half ago, I met someone who I have an incredible, life-changing connection with. (I’ll call her A.) In the time that I’ve known her, I’ve felt more happy and fulfilled than I have in almost 10 years.

Several months ago, my wife started seeing a therapist to work through her sexual and mental health blocks. I’ve been supportive of her the whole way. She’s now in the process of rediscovering her sexuality and is asking me to end things with A so that we can work on our (nonexistent) sexual connection. She says that it’s incredibly painful for her when I spend time with A, because it triggers her feelings of inadequacy— that she couldn’t give me what I needed, so she feels that I replaced her with A.

My wife and I are seeing a poly[am]/queer/sex-friendly therapist together, and even still, the therapy isn’t helping, and my wife is devastated every time I do so much as go to lunch with A.

I don’t want to hurt her, and I don’t want to destroy our marriage, but she says she’s distraught and can’t live like this anymore. I want to be a good partner and continue to support her. And I suppose being a good partner means ending things with A. But just the thought of it makes my stomach churn. It’s so hard to lose someone so important to me. I can’t string A along like this, and she doesn’t deserve to be treated as disposable.

My wife is upset that I’m hesitating to end things with A, and she’s telling me that if our marriage was my priority I’d do it.

I’ve developed strong feelings for A, which is not actually allowed in our version of non-monogamy. But I want it to be, and I want the opportunity to expand into this connection. Despite developing feelings, I’ve continued to respect my wife’s boundaries. To help her feel comfortable with A, I’ve complied with the rules that she’s lain out over these past 18 months. (A is well aware of all the boundaries as well.)

The thing is, the sexual connection with my wife is not there, and I don’t know that it ever will be. When we are intimate, it’s not pleasurable for me, and in fact makes me a little uncomfortable, like being intimate with a family member. I don’t know whether or not this can be fixed. I hope that it can?

I just don’t see a way out. Not one where I can be happy, anyway. If I lose A, then I’ll go back to living the way I was before. Content enough, but never fulfilled, because it means abandoning a big part of myself. If I don’t end it, I’ll devastate my wife, injure our relationship beyond repair, and likely lose my marriage and the entire beautiful life we’ve built together.

The rules I’ve complied with have included: Seeing A a limited number of times per month, a curfew when I do see her, texting my wife every couple hours, including each time I move from one location to another when I’m with A, and setting up times for the 3 of us to hang out. (For a time, I couldn’t spend money or go out for meals with A, so A and I would watch movies or play board games at her apartment, but then my wife changed her mind and asked me not to hang out at A’s apartment. But neither of these last 2 rules are in place anymore.) To further demonstrate to my wife that she’s my priority, A and I paused for 5 months last spring. A was understanding, but it didn’t help my wife, and it only hurt A and me.

My wife has an intense connection with someone I’ll call H. They had (and still have) a close, special bond, but then my wife deescalated their relationship to platonic friendship when we moved out of state 4 years ago. At the time, she told me it was because she wasn’t feeling it anymore. Now, she’s revealed that it was incredibly difficult and painful for her to end things with H, and that she only did it to prioritize me. (I was going through a rough time with the loss of a friend.) I never asked her to do this, and I never would have. Last weekend we were all at a wedding together, and my wife expressed interest in reconnecting sexually with H again. I gave her my blessing, because I truly do want this for her. But when I bring up A, my wife tells me that she can have this with H, because A is “a different situation.”

Response:

So this is an incredibly unfair situation. That’s my first comment about this.

Like, it’s so massively unfair in so many different ways. Like when you first started describing what was happening, and you started saying about, you know, how you basically haven’t been sexually compatible. And that’s the truth of it, you’re not sexually compatible, whether it’s due to reasons that, you know, your wife needs to work through things, or it’s due to her being naturally the way she is, which you’ve also been really, really supportive of, you just aren’t sexually compatible. And you’ve tried your best to work through this. And yet, it’s never enough.

And then you add this bit at the end, where you’ve complied with rules about, you know, you have— you can only see her a certain— see A a certain times number of times per month, and you have a curfew, that you’re texting her when you’re moving from location to location like… And then you’re not allowed to spend money together, and then you’re not allowed to hang out at the apartment, and then you’re not allowed this, you’re not allowed that. You know what, why not, instead of demonstrating that your wife is a priority, demonstrate that you are a priority to yourself?

You are allowed to be happy and you are bending over backwards in all of these situations to make your wife happy. And you’re doing it sacrificing your own happiness. And it’s also impacting A. Like, as you said, A is not disposable, and she shouldn’t be treated like she’s disposable. And given the fact that you know, you mentioned this side relationship with H like.. if anything— Well, first of all, she lies to you and for the re— like she can’t even honestly communicate about it because she knows that she’s making this decision. And I mean, it’s just wild like I don’t even have the words to…

She sacrifices something for you without telling you without you requesting it and then expects you to do the same when when you never talk about it or agreed on it. And the result is that it you know, you are being hurt and A is being hurt. Ahe should know exactly how it feels to just give up a relationship and throw it out the window. But she doesn’t care. Because it’s all about prioritizing the marriage and prioritizing you two and prioritizing her. What about prioritizing yourself? Like, you know, you’ve given up so much in this relationship, to try and make her happy. And it’s not even about the sex anymore.

Like, here’s the thing, like, if you had come to me to ask for advice about rules and starting off, I would have told you to stay the hell away from rules that say, ”I won’t fall in love with somebody” because I don’t think that’s realistic. So it already kind of got off on the wrong foot. But it became— it has now become something where you’re just literally not allowed to have anything that makes your wife feel slightly uncomfortable. And unfortunately, sometimes things make people feel uncomfortable. And I can understand why that freaks people out.

But she’s just kind of like, dictating what you’re allowed to do with other people. Now you can’t even talk about A. You can’t even go out to lunch with A without it being you ripping her heart out. And it’s not fair. Like that’s— it’s just fundamentally so unfair. The situation is… I’m like angry on your behalf by how unfair The situation is. now in this situation, like, you know, if it were one thing if… if she were making the simple request, and there hadn’t been all these other issues about H and about her basically controlling every aspect of your relationship with A and she just wanted to

stop non-monogamy because the reasons that you started non monogamy were because of the sexual incompatibility.

You know, then I might ask you to examine the reasons that you went into non monogamy and be really honest about them. Because the thing is, is that the whole reason for you— you need to get rid of A because A reminds her of her inability to please you. And I just think that you guys need to be really, really honest about this. You did go into non monogamy seemingly, unless there’s something you haven’t included here, because she didn’t want to have sex with you in the way that you wanted. Like, you have a base level incompatibility. And I know that it sucks. And I know that it’s going to be a source of insecurity for a lot of people.

But sometimes people are at a base level incompatible. And the only thing that you can do is either break up, or you can choose to make some compromises. And this is a subject, in terms of sex, you know, where you can make compromises by opening up your relationship. And I don’t think it necessarily has to be about incompatibilities. It doesn’t have to be like your wife wasn’t enough. It’s about the fact that for whatever reason, she wasn’t interested in having sex and rather than pressuring her or, you know, making the situation into something that you would resent, you both agree to something else.

And she also had other encounters it sounds like not just with H, but maybe with other people. So you know, the kind of trigger for it, even if you don’t necessarily believe she’s completely and utterly, you know, not good enough or anything like that— the trigger for it was very much that you wanted to have sex with other people. And if you revisit that and say, “Well, our connection isn’t really, you know what I need yet. So I don’t want to end my relationships with other people”. And I think that’s totally and completely valid.

And it’s not fair after all of this stuff like I am— quite frankly, I’m surprised that A is still hanging around. Because if anyone asked me to pause our relationship for somebody else for five months, and I was being jerked around like this, and my partner had to like, text someone every time we moved, and then oh, now they can’t spend money on me or we can’t— like I would have dumped you quite honestly a long time ago, because I wouldn’t be okay with someone who’s not involved in the relationship dictating my relationship. So I’m surprised A has held on for this long given given the push pull of this.

So it’s just not fair. Like and and you’ve demonstrated that she’s a priority over you. You’ve already demonstrated that and yet it feels like her level of anxiety— and I totally understand her level of anxiety and I don’t blame her for having it. I don’t think she’s a horrible person. But there’s a thing about anxiety where if you give it an inch, it will take a mile and this is one of the reasons why I really advise people to sit with their discomfort when they’re in polyamorous situations, sit with that and don’t immediately start creating rules around it. Sit with it, go through it know that you’ll survive.

Because if you just, you know, I found it very similar to the anxiety that I’ve felt in other situations in my life when I’ve had compulsions. And when I’ve been like, “Oh, you know, I’ve created, you know, these fears in my head that, Oh, I can’t do this thing or something horrible will happen”. And the minute I fed into that, and I stopped doing that thing, it— just more things will be added to that list. Oh, now I can’t do this, because something horrible will happen. Oh, now I can’t do this because something horrible will  happen. Feeding my anxiety or validating it never made it go away, it only just helped it grow.

And I think that, because you’ve complied with these rules, it’s only just fed her anxiety. She’s only allowed her anxiety to continue to grow. Because it’s just growing and growing like at first, you know, you’ll only can see her a certain number of times a month, then you have a curfew, then you you know, and I don’t know at what point these rules were all in effect, or whether they were all in effect all at the same time. But now you can’t even talk about her. Because, you know, it tears out her heart every time you talk about her, it’s— or go out to lunch with her like… it’s growing and growing. And it’s, it’s not— she’s never really going to be satisfied unless she either addresses this anxiety and learns how to cope with it with whatever therapist she has.

Or until you break up with A. Like, unfortunately, she’s putting you in that position. And you throughout this whole letter, like you’re trying to be a good partner, and trying to prioritise her and you’re— like, it’s so sad, because it’s, it’s she didn’t she’s not doing that for you. in this situation. You know, the only time when she’s actually prioritising you is when you don’t even ask for it. And she’s making herself into a martyr for a cause that no one asked her to be a martyr for. So it’s just— it’s not a fair situation. And unfortunately, I don’t— Unless your wife decides to address her anxiety, I don’t know as that there is a situation where everything’s gonna work out fine.

I think that you need to put your foot down and prioritise yourself. Okay, stop prioritising her, stop prioritisng the marriage and prioritise yourself. You are happy with A. You have this great connection with her. And it’s not so much about choosing A over your wife, it’s about saying to your wife, “I want to be in a non-monogamous relationship, I want to continue my relationship with A. I will not be dumping A at your request. I will not be— and I don’t think you should— I will no longer be allowing you to dictate the time that I spend with A and when I can. Obviously I’ll try and work with our schedules and make sure that I give you enough time, but you will not be dictating to me at what times I can or can’t be with A and I will work with you to rebuild our sexual connection. I will work with you to rebuild our trust. I will work with you to rebuild whatever it is we need to rebuild. But I’m not going to get rid of this relationship to do that, because I don’t believe I need to do that. I don’t believe that A is preventing me or preventing you from actually working through this. You may be feeling insecure about A. You may be feeling challenged about the situation with A and we can work through that. But I’m not going to react to your insecurity around it by dumping someone that I care about.”

And I think you can totally do that. You can still continue to support her and you have supported her. All the times that you’ve been with A you have consistently demonstrated that you care about her even when it has been unfair to you and unfair to A and I don’t think you should do that anymore. But I do think you can say “I’m absolutely willing to stay in this relationship with you. I’m absolutely willing to make sure that I give you the energy that this needs in order to work”. It’s not about prioritising one relationship over another. Because it’s— that’s really just weird.

Like, I mean, imagine if you know, you were tending a sick cousin or something like that, like, would you be thinking about “oh, I have the sick cousin but I need to prioritise my marriage”? I just human relationships don’t work that way. Like and it’s and it’s just weird and competitive to be like, yeah, I need to— I have this other relationship but my wife is more important than anything else. Like that’s just not how humans work. Different— like obviously, like, you know, we care more about the people that we have relationships with than random people we see off the street at certain points, you know, but I just feel like even those cut and dry situations are like, you know, anyone who forces you to choose… That’s not a good thing. And she shouldn’t be forcing you to choose.

And if she’s using exact language, like you described about saying that basically, if you cared about her, you’d dump A. That’s just not fair. That’s absolutely, completely unfair. And whatever couples therapist you’re working with, if she’s saying that while a couples therapist is in the room with you, and the couples therapist is not saying anything about that, then you need to fire that person and find a new one. Because that is fundamentally horrible. I mean, it’s emotional blackmail, like absolutely, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So yeah, to sum up, yeah, this is an incredibly unfair situation. And I’m sorry that you’re in this situation, because it’s really shitty. I think that A is absolutely not disposable. And you shouldn’t treat her like that. And if anything, your wife should know what it feels like to have to— to feel like you have to dump somebody, even though you never asked for that. And the biggest kind of message that I have for you is that rather than prioritising your marriage, you need to prioritise yourself, you need to secure your own mask before you start putting on everyone else’s mask, and figure out what it is that you want.

And put your foot down and say like no, and if that’s not a tolerable situation for your wife, like, I understand, like, you know, yes, it’s going to feel shitty when you know, your partner, and you have a have an in compatibility. I mean, I’ve had similar situations with my domestic partner, where I’m not a big party person. And my domestic partner is a big party person. And it took me a long time to not feel inadequate. It took me a long time to not be scared that my partner would chuck me and leave me for someone who loves parties too.

And I understand that and she’s allowed to feel those feelings. But just because she feels those feelings, doesn’t mean that A needs to be thrown out, you know, and chucked out. Like that’s not how you handle that. You can be absolutely willing to work through her feelings with her, absolutely willing to reassure her. But

I wouldn’t dump A especially not in this situation. And I would actually stop doing all of these things like I would absolutely refuse to allow someone else to tell me how often I could see someone else.

Like it’s one thing if you were going out with A all the time, and she said, “Hey, I don’t see you, as often as I’d like to see you and it’s really hurting me”. That’s one thing. But she can’t dictate to you, the number of times you’re allowed to see someone per month you’re not a child. You don’t have a curfew. And I don’t think you should put up with that anymore, let alone dumping A like, absolutely not.

So yeah, I’m sorry, I’m just— I’m kind of very frustrated on your behalf. It’s just… it just seems like you’ve, you’ve done so much. You’ve bent over backwards for this person. And then they have the audacity to say to you that you need to dump this person or else you don’t care about me like, wow, that’s horrible. Yeah, and I’m really I’m really sorry, again, that you’re in this situation. But yeah, I don’t I don’t think you should get rid of A. I think you should put your foot down, figure out what you what your wants and needs are. I think you know what they are. Put your foot down. And unfortunately, if it makes— if it means that, you know your wife can’t be with you anymore, then maybe that is the way that things should be, unfortunately.

Because you know someone who— is someone who clearly isn’t prioritising you. Just.. I don’t know if it’s worth it. To be honest, even— I know it seems hard because you put 10 years of your life into this situation. But don’t don’t do something for a sunken cost fallacy. And that’s— look that up. It’s basically the idea that like you’ve already put so much into this, you have to keep putting things into it. Like, okay, 10 years, that’s a long time. But just— as I said in the beginning of this episode, didn’t even mean for it to be necessarily related to the letter today. But just because you’ve known someone for longer doesn’t mean that they have your best interests at heart.

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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Do gay men have to be non-monogamous?

I’m a gay man (24) and I’ve never been in a serious relationship, and right away I can anticipate that the advice might be I don’t know what I want yet. But I feel really strongly that I do.

I’ve thought about this since I started dating. I’m certain I’m naturally monogamous. I’ve intellectualized it in every way that I can and now I’m just happy to say I’m naturally monogamous. I find the prospect of an open relationship pretty unbearable. I don’t even feel jealousy just waves of intense sadness. I would be comfortable potentially playing with my partner after a few years together, but I couldn’t handle the dynamic of being with others alone. What really sucks is it feels like the men with whom I have the most chemistry are only interested in non monogamy.

Why does gay dating feel like a never ending parade of casual sex and surface level connections with a next day expiration date that won’t even stop when I’m in a committed relationship? Is pursuing romantic love even worth it? Am I being immature? Is this a hurdle I have to get over in order to be happy? Typing that last question out made me tear up.

Whoever told you that you don’t know exactly what you want until you’ve been in a serious relationship is wrong. You can feel inclined towards specific relationship styles and it seems like monogamy is what you want. You can want monogamy without being incredibly jealous of your partner dating someone else. However, there are some discrepancies with what you’re talking about.

You say that you couldn’t handle the dynamic of being with others alone which sounds to me like you wouldn’t be interested in dating others, but don’t really have much interest in dating others yourself. That is, unless you require a good deal of your partner’s energy, not actually an untenable solution.

Being in a non-monogamous relationship doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to date others. In fact, there are people who are monogamous with a partner who is non-monogamous themselves. It’s more about accepting that your partner may not spend a majority of their time and energy with you than it is about you being forced to date other people. You don’t have to do that.

However, in your next paragraph you talk about the dating scene you’re in where it seems more focused on casual sex and surface level connections that don’t last past a day. I hate to say it but this is something that plenty of monogamous people do.

Having one night stands or flings isn’t necessarily a “non-monogamous” behaviour. Plenty of people who eventually pick a life partner do this before they do ‘settle down’. Polyamorous and non-monogamous people are not a majority and yet… cuffing season exists. And I’m not interested in one night stands, but still am non-monogamous.

I do feel like in the LGBTQ/queer community there is more of an acceptance or norm of non-monogamy but this has more to do with the fact that many of us didn’t have the privilege to choose a life partner and settle down in what is seen as a traditional monogamous marriage. While I think this is probably less true for your and my generations, LGBTQ/queer people do, in my opinion, experience a sort of delay in our relationship maturity/experience.

Unlike straight people who can begin to experiment with relationships that are platonic or just semi romantic from an early age, many of us have to go through a very long process of coming to terms with ourselves, accepting who we are and some of us, even after we’ve done that, do not have the freedom to just date around and experience what our straight peers have experienced. So, once we get away from negative environments or accept ourselves, we get to do in our early 20s what straight people were free to do in their late teens.

So it’s unsurprising to me that many of the people your age within your gay circles are going to be interested in not settling down or committing, having one night stands or flings. That probably also wouldn’t surprise me if you were straight either, to be fair. But, there are also a lot of trepidations many LGBTQ folks may have with forming long term relationships and there is less of an expectation of us to do so with the people we want to be in relationships with.

Being a ‘couple’ can make you more visible in some instances. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people avoided committing to one person or having any long term relationships because of the trauma that can come with not being widely accepted by their family or society — even today.

This isn’t about non-monogamy really. People of all relationship styles can experience a period where they prefer one night stands to long commitments, especially in their early 20s. This might be more about the social circles you’re in, where you’re looking for partners and sometimes just being a bit at odds with the community that surrounds you. As a little non-binary queer person who is also on the asexual spectrum, whoo can I relate to that. It can be hard to feel like everyone else has different values than you do, but I don’t think it’s hopeless.

There are absolutely gay men out there who are interested in serious relationships — it might just be a bit harder to find them right now. Try looking in different places. Maybe go to LGBTQ themed events that are not circled around partying and alcohol (if they exist around you) and see if you can find a like minded guy there.

Be up front in your dating profiles about what you want, that you’re not interested in NSA sex and want a long term monogamous relationship. You may get less responses, but you’ll at least waste your time less.

And last but not least, it’s frustrating, yes, but don’t compromise on what you know your needs are just because the society around you doesn’t seem to make it easy for you. Sure, maybe you could be a monogamous partner to someone non-monogamous, but that’s not what you seem to want. Sometimes in not being truthful to ourselves about our own boundaries, we end up inadvertently doing harm to both ourselves and others. So stay true to yourself and don’t worry. You’re not being immature and you don’t have to be non-monogamous to find a happy relationship with another gay man.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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