Episode 60: Temporarily Open

Can opening your relationship temporarily work to address an incompatibility?

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

Discussion Topic: How do you prefer to be broken up with?

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

Episode 60 – Temporarily Open

Can opening your relationship temporarily work to address an incompatibility? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How do you prefer to be broken up with?

 

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 boyfriend and I have been in a long term closed relationship for almost 6 years. Recently he brought up the idea of wanting an open relationship. Neither of us have been with other people ever or have been in an open relationship before. We decided on this after multiple occasions where we both felt we weren’t having certain needs met. My boyfriend is a very sexual person and I am just not as physical. We’ve talked about if we want this to be temporary or not and as of right now we want it to be temporary.

After listening to many podcasts of yours, we had in depth talks about boundaries and things we should establish for this transition. I am open to the idea but I don’t know the best way to go about this without someone getting hurt. I am not a person who enjoys having casual sex, but I feel this may give us both chances to explore.

We both do not want to break up, as we love each other very much and we want a life together. I guess I am just asking for some advice on how to transition and other tips you may have with combating the fear and anxiety that goes along with this transition.

Response:

In response to your question, I think that the first thing that I would do… I don’t always think that opening relationship to address unmet needs is a bad thing, but I do think that sometimes people rush to that as an option, before considering other options, You say that this is about unmet needs. But it seems like it’s a very one sided unmet need. It doesn’t seem like there is a need that’s being unmet on your side. It seems like your boyfriend is more sexual than you, and maybe wants different types of sex or wants sex more often than you. And so opening the relationship is the purpose of doing that.

I don’t think that that that’s necessarily a bad thing. But the thing that worries me about this is that when you decide to have a non-monogamous relationship temporarily or long term, specifically for the purpose of addressing an issue that is going to be a very big and valid reason for you to feel jealous and scared and it’s not to say that you can’t overcome that or it’s not to say that can’t be addressed. But when there’s a specific issue where— and it depends on how you feel.

You may be a person who’s like, “Look I’m not very sexual, I do not feel emotionally bothered by the fact that you are more sexual and you can have that with somebody else”. But it will be a scary thing and I think that that can happen regardless of whether or not you open a relationship or a relationship begins that way. A very good example of this, which I’ve talked about in the podcast and the columns before is that I am more of an introverted person and my partner is more of an extroverted person (the partner that I live with) and very early on in our relationship, I was very very worried about the fact that they really loved going to parties and I didn’t really like it so much.

And I was very worried that they would find someone who would love to go to parties and I would basically be replaced by someone who they had more fun with. And over time, they did kind of explain to me “Even if I did find a partner who was interested in parties in the same way I am, you are the partner that I want to live with. You have a place in my life. It’s not like I’m going to switch you out or something like that”. Now obviously that helps reassure me but I still have that fear.

So I do think that when you do open, specifically for the purpose of addressing a need, it can kind of make you,

understandably, feel very anxious about being replaced and feel very anxious about the fact that somebody else can give your partner something that you can’t. I think that the very real reality, especially in a culture where this kind of toxic monogamy — not just monogamy — but this… if you’ve lived in the same culture as I have and maybe you haven’t. But if you have, then you have learned that one person should meet everyone’s need and that is what true love is and that if you’re truly in love with someone then you’d never feel anything for anyone else.

This person is perfect and amazing — you learn that stuff, and you do start to believe that stuff. And for a lot of monogamous people learning that that isn’t necessarily the case, but they can still love and care about their partner, and they can still feel connected to their partner and they still have a strong love for their partner is really challenging. So, if you literally have a need that you can’t meet for your partner, getting to a point where you’re emotionally comfortable with that can be quite difficult. So the thing that I have to wonder is can there not be compromises made here?

I’m sure that you may have already tried some stuff like that and it’s not that I necessarily think that you should have sex when you don’t want to. That’s not what I’m saying. But I don’t know as that you need to go into a full open relationship mode, especially when it’s clear that like, it’s something you want to try temporarily, which means that polyamory really isn’t what you want. Because if you were polyamorous you would be looking for actual other established relationships with other people. And while it’s not to say that all relationships have to be long term to be successful.

Generally speaking, most people — a lot of people aren’t necessarily wanting a relationship to have an end date basically when — especially when like a couple more or less are going, “Yeah when we feel tired of this we’re going to end it.” That’s not an enticing scenario for a lot of people who are polyamorous. That’s not going to be a situation that they necessarily want to get involved with because they will get hurt. So, you know I’m wondering if — and since you don’t necessarily enjoy having casual sex, it seems like you’re really going to struggle to find any benefit in this situation for you.

There isn’t really a benefit for you and the one thing that I encourage people to do … there’s an article I wrote called “Thirteen mistakes people make when trying polyamory” which I think you should check out. And the first thing that I encourage people to do is think about an anchor that will keep them sort of understanding when they’re in the difficult spots that this might bring to them. It helps them ground themselves a little bit and what their anchor generally is is the reasons why they chose to do this that don’t have anything to do with avoiding breaking up with their partner.

And that’s really, really important. Because, understandably, everyone like doesn’t want to break up out   of a relationship that they’re in. But you can’t let that prevent you or lead you into doing things that you don’t want to do just to avoid a breakup because that will end up hurting, for a lot longer than just breaking up would. And I know that that’s like incredibly difficult and I don’t think that the vast majority of people are going to make a clean break. I think most people are going to try and save something before it ends and I get that.

However, there are other options that don’t aren’t necessarily a full open relationship like is seeing a sex worker option? Is this situation where your partner could see a sex worker, and that sex worker would be a professional. And I think that that would. I mean, depending on how you feel but I think if you became more informed about sex work and how it worked. I think that that would be something that in a way would be a little bit less scary for you in a way because the sex worker — I’m not saying that people can’t fall in love with sex workers.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen that a sex worker falls in love with a client or something like that. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but generally speaking, it is a professional relationship and so there is less of a reason for you to worry there because if you see a sex worker that has had clients before then they will have had this experience of seeing someone. And knowing that they’re with someone and, you know, they will understand those boundaries and so that might be an option.

I think that there may be— I’m not sure. Again, I don’t want you to necessarily have sex when you don’t want to have sex, but there might be things that — you could work it out in some way. It just depends whether you know, there are things to work out. I don’t know the finer minute details of the sexual in compatibility so it’s hard for me to say. But I do think you should at least try to exhaust those possibilities before you completely open everything.

I think that there are swinger communities. That might also be something that your partner might look into. It might be a lot harder for if your partner is a straight cis man. It might be harder for him to go into a swinger community and find people who are willing to swap with him. Usually it’s a very couple based thing and I don’t think you would probably be comfortable in a swinger situation. You might. You could try it. You can kind of form a relationship with another couple and swap. But, it depends.

I think that, barring all that, regardless of what you choose to do, I do think that there are a couple of things here that make me worry. And the first thing is that you deciding it’s definitely temporary. I think that the thing that I worry about that is that  who gets to decide when it’s not temporary? That’s the thing that you have to kind of really worry about because you know if he starts to fall in love with the person that he’s with and maybe he doesn’t want to admit it to himself and but you could kind of see the signs and you start going “Well now its ended now because I’ve said so. We said it would always be temporary and now it’s temporary. Now it’s ended.”

He’s not going to want to break up with somebody that he has feelings for and understandably that person he has feelings for also is a human being who shouldn’t just be discarded because you guys aren’t working things out together. So that temporariness is a little bit of a concern for me. I don’t know if it’s realistic. There are some people who — and this is one of the things I address in the article that I recommended to you.

There are some people who are very self aware and can have casual sex with people without falling in love with them, or who can experience a love for somebody, and not feel like that has to mean that they have to enter a relationship with them, or know themselves well enough that if they are having casual sex with somebody and they start feeling something that is a little bit more— well, I don’t want to say more.

They start feeling a kind of romantic attraction that isn’t allowed within those boundaries can pull themselves back before they get into a situation where they feel like they’ve gone too far. I don’t know as that most people are that aware. And the thing is that the biggest mistake that a lot of people make when they try polyamory, when they open the relationship, when they try anything, it’s making the rule that I won’t fall in love with anyone else. And I think that that is a unrealistic rule. It’s just unrealistic.

You can’t control that. And you can make yourself aware of how you’re reacting to somebody and you can separate yourself from them so that you don’t continue to have those reactions. But you can’t stop yourself from falling in or out of levels with somebody. If you could, the world would be a lot less complicated, so I don’t think it’s realistic to try to agree that you won’t fall in love with somebody else you or your boyfriend.

I just think that that isn’t going to work. What you need to decide to do, is— what will happen if your boyfriend does fall in love with somebody else? Can you imagine a situation where your boyfriend has maybe one other partner that perhaps is more sexual than them? How would that work with the life that you have now? How would that change the life you have now? And think about like the physicality of it. Maybe your partner is gone, your boyfriend is gone for two nights a week or on the weekends or something like that. How would that change?

Because you say you don’t want someone to get hurt, but easily in this scenario, the person that generally ends up being hurt, is the person that is discarded when the couple wants to save their relationship over others. I know you don’t want to break up and you want a life together, but the other people that your partner may or may not see also have rights. They also have their own life that they want. And it’s important to consider that. There is a whole guide you can look up on “unicorn hunting”. I don’t really think that that’s what you’re trying to do here, but it’s always good to understand the way that people who are often kind of sought out in a little bit of these kinds of scenarios, it’s important to understand their perspective.

And even if your boyfriend is having casual sex with somebody that doesn’t mean that they can’t be hurt. Because as well even if you’re having casual sex with somebody, you could still be friends with that person. And a friend isn’t someone that you just kind of chuck aside and never talk to, again without that hurting them. So, it’s also important to be aware of that as well. I think sometimes when people make these kind of sex only agreements or I’m only going to sleep with these people, they often kind of forget that friendship is also a thing. And just because, you know, you might still be friends with that person and just suddenly cutting them out of your life would hurt, even if you didn’t have romantic feelings for them.

Those are things to think about. Just to recap, all of the things I’ve gone through here. I think first and foremost exhaust all of the possibilities of you being able to be somewhat sexually compatible. Again don’t force yourself to have sex if you don’t want to have sex. That’s not what I’m saying. But depending on what kind of incompatibility you have, is there any room for, you know, some compromises to be made at some points? Just make sure you’ve exhausted that possibility before you necessarily jump to fully opening a relationship.

Think about other ways to open, but not necessarily have a fully open relationship. So like, allowing your partner to see a sex worker is one option that you can consider. Maybe going into the swinger community, again with the caveats about the swinger community that I’ve given. And then the other point is being realistic, both with your wanting it to be temporary and also with your— Basically you haven’t explicitly said that you have a rule against falling in love. But it kind of seems like that’s what this is basically because it’s about casual sex and it seems like it’s more about casual sex than it is about forming another relationship.

But just make sure you aren’t doing that without saying that because I think that is really an issue. Definitely challenge your kind of assumption within this dynamic that, or at least make it very clear to any person that you or your boyfriend does get involved with that you do have a hierarchical dynamic so they know if they want to get involved in that or not. And again be realistic about whether or not you may fall in love with somebody. Consider talking about what will happen if that does happen.

Can you see yourself living in a situation where you don’t get all of the time? I mean I do think if you’re agreeing to an open relationship, then you are agreeing to, maybe not fully polyamory but you’re still agreeing to allow— you’re agreeing that neither one of you will spend all of your time together in the same way that you would monogamously. Some of your time is going to go to other people. So, what if that wasn’t temporary like and what is that it was somebody that he did have a love for or that you have a love for?

And then last but not least check out the “Thirteen mistakes people make when trying polyamory article” that I wrote. I think that has a lot of stuff about grounding, a lot of stuff about the kind of rules that people make without realising it, sometimes realising it, when they first start polyamory and that might help you out a little bit there. I hope that helps and good luck.

Rejecting someone slowly

So my best friend is polyamorous, I’m monogamous, and (I’m 99.9% sure) my girlfriend is monogamous. (We’re all girls by the way) My best friend Just told me that she has a crush on my and my girlfriend, we’re all best friends. I don’t know exactly how to react, I’m not gonna cut off ties because she likes us. But I’m not interested in a polyamorous relationship. I don’t think my girlfriend is either. My best friend only told me (so far) so I’m not going to tell my girlfriend yet. Cause she’s probably not ready to tell her if she hasn’t already done it. But how do I let her down slowly? I’m so confused and stressed, how long has she felt this way? How’s my girlfriend going to react? What if she *does* want an open relationship? What if my best friend isolates herself because I don’t feel the same way? I’m in shock, and I can’t believe this is real. (I don’t mean to sound rude or disrespectful in any ways, I’m just not very educated on this subject.)

There isn’t a way to prevent someone from feeling disappointed or even hurt by you rejecting them. And the only other alternatives are completely ghosting her or going on with a relationship that you don’t want. You just have to be honest and say something like, “I appreciate that you felt comfortable telling me this. As you know, I’m monogamous. I don’t have any interest in a polyamorous relationship and I don’t feel that way about you. I’d like for us to continue to be friends.”

If she has become your best friend because she feels romantic toward you, she may not be so close with you after you tell her this. Unfortunately, there isn’t very much you can do about that. At the end of the day, your best friend started to have feelings for yourself and your girlfriend and decided to continue having those feelings and putting herself in situations where those feelings might continue most likely knowing you are monogamous. Had I given advice to her about this situation, I would have told her not to expect that a big confession would help the situation and to maybe ask where you stood on polyamory and, if you said you weren’t interested, to drop it.

If you don’t want polyamory, do not try it for the sake of trying to keep your best friend in your life. If your girlfriend is interested in dating her, unfortunately this might also mean ending your relationship with your girlfriend if she definitely does want to be polyamorous. I don’t mean to make light of how serious that is and it would obviously be upsetting to you, but I feel like if the alternative is pushing yourself to be polyamorous and you have no interest in doing so… then that is a far more painful alternative than it might seem right now.

So, to sum up, I think you should just tell her, not slowly, but up front and honestly. You cannot completely control her emotions or feelings. Obviously, don’t be a jerk about it, but being honest and straightforward about your feelings is important to do regardless of what relationship style you have. Speak to your girlfriend about it. I wouldn’t wait for your friend to tell her. If your girlfriend does want to try polyamory, make it clear this isn’t what you want. I’m sorry that this had to happen this way, however. I think that suddenly telling you this isn’t really helpful. You don’t have to cut off ties with her, but if she doesn’t respect your wishes and wants, then it might be best to regardless of how she does her relationship.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Not satisfied with secondary

Not too long ago I met my ideal man, but he has a girlfriend I know he loves very much. But as of our second meet he told me she is asexual and they are trying for a “open” relationship because of his personal need for intimacy and physical closeness. As our following meet he explained his rules, or more so the rules his girlfriend gave him. No emotional connection (though he doesn’t believe in sex without a bond). There’s an understandable time constraint as well. The girl friend apparently doesn’t want to know anything about his other partner or what they do, to keep it completely separated from their lives.

This made me feel like I was doing something i shouldn’t be although i can understand her reasoning as her being asexual, it being relayed that she doesn’t want to be put on the back burner, but neither do I. I don’t get the girlfriend title and my previously mono mind hates it. He says that I would be important in a “different” way, but has a hard time explaining it. How can I feel important in a dynamic where I’m not allowed to emotionally connect? I know i’m not meant to be a “sex only” partner as he was offended at me giving him that title. How can he show that I’m important to him? What other ways can we connect? We have a great time when we hang out (no sex until everything is clear) And if I’m not a secondary girl friend….what am I?

There is a lot going on in his other relationship and none of that isn’t anything you can control. What concerns me the most is that he is not taking ownership of his own choices. If he is with a woman he loves who is asexual and he has agreed with her that he is allowed to have purely sexual relationships with others then those are the rules he has agreed on. They are his rules just as much as they are hers.

The problem is that he doesn’t want that. He said himself he doesn’t believe in sex without a bond. So he can’t give his girlfriend what she wants and, instead of being honest with her about that, is now doing exactly how you felt — something that she clearly won’t be comfortable with. He’s insisting you won’t be put on the back burner and that you’d be important in a “different” way, but can’t explain it. If he can’t explain it, he likely can’t show it.

If you agree to this, you’ll either be volunteering for a situation where you can and will be tossed out the moment his girlfriend realises he does actually have feelings for you or he will dump his girlfriend eventually for you but this incredibly rocky start will demonstrate that he has the capacity for dishonesty. It might be less of an issue because you may be compatible together more than he is with his current partner — but if he can’t realise that and do the right thing and instead drag this out… it just doesn’t bode well.

Your ideal man is not someone who plays around with you like this. Whether he intends to do this or not… it’s what he’s doing. People avoid breakups because they’re painful and that’s understandable. And people can absolutely have a positive open relationship even if they are incompatible in some ways, but the fact that he’s not “allowed” to have feelings but can and will… doesn’t bode well. He’s not communicated well with his partner and if he can’t do that with her… he’s already showing he can’t do that with you.

Don’t stay. Find someone who has a clearer idea of what they want. You deserve that clarity.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

The definition of love

So I’m monogamous one hundred percent I want no one else but my man, he thinks monogamy is not natural, and sex is sex and primal and you can be in a relationship with one person and fuck someone else and that’s ok. Well to me it is not ok. It makes me feel less than, like I’m not good enough, like I’m being replaced. It makes me sick. He says he doesn’t have the desire now but I don’t think I can be ok with it. I want to be the only person he is with etc. Can someone help me understand how the term ethical non monogamous? Really those words are a contradiction. He doesn’t want to date anyone else. He’s talking about sex and only sex so what exactly is it?? I think it’s cheating. I think he must not love me….

There are billions of people on the planet. To say that either monogamy or polyamory is suitable for all of those people with their diversity of lives and needs is ridiculous.

As far as “natural” goes, I’m pretty sure that vaccinations and antibiotics aren’t “natural” either and I’m pretty sure that plenty of deadly poisons are. While evolution in terms of the way that human societies have worked in the past may influence some of our proclivities today, human beings are such social creatures and we don’t know everything about how our brain forms and develops.

We speak of “nature” and “nurture” as if they were oil and water but personally I believe these two things meld — because they have had to. Humans, like most other organisms, are adaptable, mutable creatures because we have had to adapt to certain environments to survive. We are also extraordinarily social and learn through social bonding — which is why solitary confinement is torture and why neglecting children in developmental stages can be catastrophic. Trying to pull a “natural” version from our “nurtured” version simply doesn’t work because they are meshed together. I always find it funny that we’re absolutely happy to regard things like monogamy “unnatural” and not… you know, misogyny. But, hey ho.

Regardless, you know yourself better than your “man” does. For him, perhaps sex is “primal” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). Perhaps he is capable of being in one relationship and having sex with multiple people without it having to mean something. But sex means something to you within the context of a relationship and that is valid.

And it also makes perfect sense you would feel sick or replaceable. While I think it would undoubtedly be beneficial for you to question the narrative that a monogamous centric society has told you is true — because it’s wrapped up with a lot of other misogynistic and other problematic concepts — monogamy itself as a practice isn’t inherently a problem. And if it’s what you want, that is valid.

The key word in “Ethical Non-Monogamy” is the word ethical. Polyamory or ethical non-monogamy is about all of the people involved being informed and consenting. You being told that you should allow him to have sex with others because it’s “natural” and he has no problem with it… I wouldn’t necessarily call that ethical. People involved in this dynamic want to have this dynamic. It doesn’t sound like this is what you want and my guess, from the pop evopsych bullshit your boyfriend is trying to pull, it’s unlikely he will see it as okay for you to have sex men other than him…

If this is not something that you want, then that is valid. You don’t have to understand ethical non-monogamy. And even if he doesn’t want to date anyone else and just wants to have sex with others, you don’t have to accept that or want that. Follow your heart. If what you want is a monogamous relationship where neither you nor your partner has sex with others than go for that. Don’t force yourself to accomodate someone if it’s not what you want.

I hope that 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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Episode 54: Sacrificing Too Much

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

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

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

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

Episode 54 – Sacrificing Too Much

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

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lapsed desire

When my wife and I first started seeing each other, our sex life was great. It was new and exciting, if not slightly more subdued than to what I was normally accustomed.

After we moved in together, it seemed like our sex life became far less active than before, and I attributed it to a combination of external factors; she’d just returned from her last semester of her degree studying abroad, we’d just moved into our apartment, she was trying to find work, and deciding what she wanted to do next in life.

A residual dichotomy from my repressive religious upbringing is that even though I was very active and comfortable in my sexuality, it had been very difficult to openly discuss sex. Because of this, it wasn’t until about a year into our relationship when I was finally able to broach the subject, and we began a dialogue. Initially she was very alarmed, as she told me how when many of her past relationships had ended with this situation as a contributing factor.

After many more discussions, and much more reading, she explained how she had learned of asexuality, and that is how she now came to identify. Specifically, she’d realized that although she enjoys sex, once she begins to develop a strong emotional attachment or bond, her interest in or desire for sex declines.

We’ve now been together over 5 years, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary a few months ago. We try our best to make sure the other is happy and fulfilled, and though I still struggle from time to time, our sex life and communication about it is the best it’s yet been.

We currently remain monogamous, but we both have had open relationships in the past, though hers admittedly more casual than mine. Since very early in our relationship, we’d discussed non-monogamy conceptually, but also theoretically for ourselves. As of late, these conversations have suggested the potential for me to have my sexual desires fulfilled, and for her to explore her as-of-yet unexpressed bisexuality, but still I have my misgivings.

In past relationships, I’d felt generally confident and secure in all aspects of the relationship, physical, emotional, or otherwise. I believe that helped me to only very rarely have any difficult or negative feelings. On the contrary, I’ve sometimes sought out or introduced individuals in whom I thought my then-partner would be interested. But things seem very different now in my marriage, and it seems to come down to 2 quandaries, and the interplay between them:

1) Even though I have no doubts that my wife loves me and wants a future with me, and that she enjoys the sex we have, I don’t know how to handle the thought that she no longer experiences an enthusiastic, excited desire for me that she would with a new partner.

2) I don’t know if we’ve identified the limits of our relationship and are entertaining the possibility of freeing ourselves to have experiences beyond, or if we are approaching non-monogamy entirely wrong, as a patch for the one glaring difficulty in our relationship.

Thanks for reading, any thoughts or input on either predicament, or both, would be greatly appreciated.

First and foremost, I’m glad to hear you have reached a place where you feel you have good communication with your partner.

When it comes to your questions, I think with regards to your first one, you handle those thoughts in two ways: by allowing yourself to experience them without judgement and punishment and also by refocusing yourself on both the “signs” that your partner loves you and the reality of what you can control.

In terms of the latter, it’s helpful for me personally whenever I’m worried my partner may find someone who is “better” than me (or even when I’m worried a crush I have might find someone “better”) to realise that there is no way for me to control who my partner falls in and out of love with and that part of this attempt to control it is my brain trying to help me survive. Most of my anxiety is about convincing myself that I can control things I can’t because, in a traumatic situation, it is more comforting for your brain to believe you can change the behaviour of people through your actions than to realise there’s little you can do.

Monogamy and the promises people make within it don’t stop them from finding or meeting someone “better” and deciding to dump their partner and be with them. Ultimately, if that’s the sort of person my partner is and if they think so little of me that they would “replace” me… I cannot control that and I probably wouldn’t want to be with that person anyway. Now, obviously, you can be a total asshole to your partners and no one would blame them for dumping you. But outside of doing your best to treat your partners with respect and love, you can’t do something to make them not “replace” you if that’s what they decide to do.

And that’s where this fear is coming from: a combination of you wanting to have that desire between the two of you and not having it but also a fear that her having that desire with someone else will mean something more. Reminding yourself of the ways your partner has shown you love during those moments of fear might help you refocus on what’s important.

I’m an introvert and the partner I have who lives with me is an extrovert who is very social. I used to worry heavily they would find someone who was “better”, who could go to parties where I had no interest in doing that. While they were out at parties, I used to write them long love notes and cards so I could refocus on what our connection did have and what we meant to each other which would then make our differences seem smaller.

Lastly, when it comes to your first question, you need to also just allow yourself to have these feelings and not judge yourself for them. A lot of beginner polyamory advice makes it seem like you’re a bad person for not being over the moon that your partner is with someone else. But sometimes, you’re not happy about it. Sometimes there are real differences here, such as your partner feeling more sexually energised by new connections than longer ones, that are going to understandably spark those feelings.

Letting yourself experience these feelings, sitting with them, and realising your partner is still there in the end and still loves you will help out loads in the long term. Even without your differences, I would tell someone who is starting out in polyamory to expect to feel miserable when their partner is with someone else because you can’t just grow up in monogamy-centric society and expect to be fine and happy and dandy when you’re doing something like polyamory. Emotions are going to come. So will fear. And the more you accept those will come and learn how to cope with them instead of pretending you can fight them off by being “strong” somehow, the better you will be in the long run.

Allow yourself permission to feel shit and learn how to take care of yourself in that moment. In my experience, ignoring or trying to ignore your emotions just causes you to act frantically to protect them which may mean calling your partner when they’re with someone else or feeling like if you don’t “do something”, you will lose them. In my experience, as my partner has gone out and been with others, I have had less and less fear because I know that they are likely to come back to me and that I can’t control if they decide not to. I also realise that going back to monogamy won’t solve this problem because a monogamous society gives people the perception of security but not a guarantee because of the way it is socially endorsed.

In terms of your second question, this is a quick one. You’re not approaching it wrong from what I can see. You both have an individual personal reason to want to try non-monogamy. You’re communicating well and are trying your best. There isn’t one right reason for trying non-monogamy, it’s just the reasons that work for you. I address some of the polyamory pitfalls you might find yourselves in in my introductory polyamory article which you might find useful.

Otherwise, to sum up I think that you will have these scary thoughts and feelings but re-framing them into both an understanding of what connection you and your partner do share as well as understanding what you can and can’t control will help enormously as well as giving yourself permission to feel like shit and knowing how to cope and soothe yourself when you do will also be really helpful for you going forward.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

With or without permission

Me and my wife we both know each other from 2015 and in September 2019 we got married.

Now she’s in Canada and for her studies and I’m in India waiting for this pandemic to be over so that I’ll be able to be with her.

Well the real question is that we are very broad minded when it comes to sexual needs and we love to try new things with each other. We the only issue right now is that I’m alone here and it feels weird when she talk about open relationship.

She said she want to feel other body not want to do sex. But I’m not ready to share my wife in any manner right now. I’m emotionally unstable and want us to be with each other. We have spend almost 3 months after marriage and after fighting for each others she had to go abroad.

What should I say to her about this? A bit of tensed conversation has been done and sometimes it feels like the person is changed or I’m not the priority.

I have told her that I want to begin our lives together first and then we will explore another Cosmos of that particular Era. In short I just want to remain with each other, her way of letting me know is that she want to do it anyway whether it’s fine or not for me.

If I say something she’ll be like I’m bounding her. Things have gone somewhere separation. That’s why this thing makes me vulnerable. Help me figure this out. I want her to wait for me. I don’t want her to participate alone. I want us to be in team form. Thank you and pardon if it’s complicated. Looking forward to see your reply.

There are so many stories like this on polyamory forums and it makes me genuinely sad because, if not for the behaviour of the person pushing polyamory, this would actually be workable.

It is fair for someone to tell you what their needs are. She is not a bad person for wanting to open your relationship or for feeling lonely, especially during a global pandemic. Equally, you are not a bad person for wanting to be in a more stable situation before doing something which is definitely going to challenge you emotionally. It’s fair for you to want to wait until your relationship is not long distance so you feel more secure. It’s also fair for that to be too long for her to personally want to wait and for her to feel trapped by that situation and controlled.

What isn’t really fair is her basically telling you that she is going to do whatever she wants, with or without your blessing. No one should have to give up all of their wants and needs in a relationship, sure, but relationships, especially if you have taken the step to marry, are about compromises as well. You have to be willing to work with one another. If you reach a point where there is nothing to be compromised and you want to do what you want to do, knowing it is a hard limit for your partner, I feel like the adult thing to do in that situation is to be the one to pull the plug.

Instead, she’s just telling you that she’s going to do what she wants to do, adding the emotional leverage onto it that you’re binding her if you object, and not doing what she should which is fully breaking up so that she can do what she needs to do. As a complete aside, during a global pandemic, the last thing she should be doing is seeing new people anyway so I’m really confused as to what the rush is necessarily at this point. But you also seem unwilling to negotiate any type of “sharing” in any form, so she may just want to have the freedom to flirt with and establish romantic connections with others.

From your perspective, I think there are also a few things to consider, even if her behaviour isn’t exemplary. I think that you need to reconsider the idea that you have to open your relationship “as a team”. I’ve covered dating as a couple in a previous column, but in general I don’t recommend it. People should date as individuals, and if you will only allow her to see other people “with” you, I can see why that would be untenable for you.

Secondly, while it does make sense to want to be more stable before opening your relationship, this could be somewhat a delay of the inevitable. We go through periods of stability and instability in our lives and, even if the pandemic were to end and you were together, that does not mean you would not face another emotional hardship. A family member could die or something else could happen that would throw you off. When people put the condition on their relationship being open on their mental stability at any given point, that runs the risk of you wanting to shut things when you don’t feel great, which isn’t realistic or fair to anyone.

Thirdly, it’s understandable that you aren’t ready, but you have to be willing to face a certain amount of discomfort to try something new and, while it’s fine to want your partner around to have that reassurance, I think it’s worth also considering how to be more dynamic about getting emotional reassurance. Because, even if you were physically together, sans pandemic, your partner would not be available at all hours to provide you with emotional support. If you have that expectation, that is going to kill most attempts at polyamory because you are expecting the level of attention someone would get in a monogamous relationship and that just isn’t really possible with polyamory.

Overall, I think you need to consider if you are willing to be more flexible or if your needs are ultimately not matched. It would help, as I mentioned in my intro to polyamory article, to think about your anchor and the reasons you’re interested in opening your relationship and then consider both of your ideals. Two people can be interested in a polyamorous or open relationship and still be incompatible. It might be that what you actually want is swinging and what she wants is a more relationship anarchy type of situation. You need to find that out.

It’s also worth bringing up to her that this attitude of “I’m just telling you I’m going to see other people whether you like it or not” is not really okay and if she feels that way and she is unwilling to compromise or work through this with you, then she should do the right thing and break up with you rather than basically forcing you to do it. If you have access to therapy, you can still see a couples therapist together digitally, and that might be something you want to consider to work through some of these issues together.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Episode 50: What is Love?

What happens when your partner keeps hinting that they want monogamy but you’re not even sure if you’ve ever felt love at all?

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

Discussion Topic: If you were to get a job offer in another country, how would your relationships change?

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

Episode 50 – What Is Love?

Your partner expects you to commit to monogamy eventually but you’re not sure if you’ve ever been in love. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – If you were to get a job offer in another country, how would your relationships change?

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 think I am polyamorous, but it is hard to say due to several complicated factors. I have been dating my boyfriend since college, and I met him when I was at a pretty low point in my life, and I had very low self-esteem. He was my first… almost everything. But I met him on a break, and when I went back to school pretty far away, we decided to keep dating long-distance.

However, pretty soon I started regretting it when my really good friend/crush admitted he had liked me for some time. My boyfriend said I could kiss him if I wanted, but I felt nervous and confused about it, and when we got a little too physical at some parties (holding hands/cuddling), he got really upset and jealous, and we had a big fight.

Since then, we have been opening and closing the relationship at different times. There have been three major phases of non-monogamy. The first was when I studied abroad and dated someone so seriously that I considered him my boyfriend. My first boyfriend was very upset by this, and I was upset at how he was talking to me… We ended up in couples counselling, and it felt better.

The second time was right before I graduated, when I said I wanted to try casual dating/sex, and he said I should. I hooked up with so many people in a short time that he got upset, like I tried to get in as many men as possible as soon as I could. It hurt that he said he wanted me to explore, but got mad at the way I did. It ended up not really being for me, anyway. I came out of it with 1 more person that I felt pretty serious about, and we still talk sometimes, but rarely see each other.

The third is when I moved abroad soon after graduating, and we negotiated a new agreement where I could do whatever I wanted with whoever. He was going to trust me and our relationship more. I met up with a few of my established people a few times, and he was fine with it. But the main problem is when I don’t see him for a long time, I stop being interested in physical stuff with him for a while until I have warmed up to being around him again.

This isn’t really the case with others… more chemistry? Shorter relationship, so it feels more exciting? I am not sure. But it causes my boyfriend to get really paranoid that I am going to leave him for someone else, especially with the distance between us right now. We have had brief stints of living together though, and I enjoyed them and felt happy with the relationship.

Currently I am seeing a new person. It is complicated because he is in my friend group here abroad, and I have to keep lots of secrets from almost everyone I know, as most people know about my boyfriend. And my boyfriend keeps talking about marriage and kids with me, which stresses me out. I want marriage and kids, but I don’t want to lose these other relationships either, and I am very confused about who I want to be that committed to and how it would work.

And I know my boyfriend probably sees it as we are the primary relationship and everyone else is just a temporary thing for fun, but I don’t really like the hierarchy to be so … stiff. These other people are people I want to keep in my life, and they all bring different aspects that I enjoy.

Sometimes my boyfriend gets sad about the distance and tells me things like how he is excited for when we can just be together, the two of us, and it makes me think that he is expecting monogamy, like if we get married and have kids, and it just feels… really scary. That he thinks he can just say the word and expect all this to stop. Or that what I am doing isn’t good in the context of raising children. Or that if I like other people as much as I like him, that I am doing something wrong.

I have encouraged him to date other people as well, because I think he is a person who needs lots of physical comfort and someone to get him out of ruts, but he hasn’t, either because he is not good at finding people (especially since his coworkers know he has a girlfriend) or because he is not actually interested. Of course I wouldn’t force him to be polyamorous, but given my situation I think it would make things a lot better and take off the burden from me to make him feel happy and loved all the time. I have asked him if he even gets anything out of the relationship being the way that it is, or if he just puts up with it for my sake. He has assured me that parts of it excite him, but it is usually hard to predict whether something will excite him or upset him.

Also, sort of related, is I don’t really understand what love is supposed to feel like? My boyfriend says he loves me, and I grew up quite a romantic, so I always thought love meant you only wanted that person and you felt ready to spend the rest of your life with them and have kids. I guess I sort of am looking for that feeling, but have never felt it, so I don’t know if I am doing something wrong.

Something my boyfriend often says when checking in on how my relationships are going is, “sounds great! just don’t fall in love with him” — I always want to say, I don’t know what love even is, and if I did, why would you not want me to feel it? He knows I don’t really feel those lovey feelings the same way he does, so I am not sure what this warning is supposed to mean.

So basically I am just wondering, am I doing something wrong? Should I be doing something differently? Is there a way to keep my long-distance relationship steady and healthy given that it I sometimes feel drained, like I have to prop it up emotionally/sexually? How can I feel better about wanting to get married and have kids in my current situation? ~Is love just a social construct?~ Thanks so much in advance for any advice.

Response:

So, the big thing here is, again, I’m gonna… I said this in Episode 48. I’m gonna say it again. Polyamory is not about finding multiple relationships that are partially suited to you.

I think that a lot of people get into polyamory because they don’t want to break up with somebody and they just sort of collect semi sustaining semi fulfilling relationships with people, until they reach a kind of permissible stasis with people. It just feels like your boyfriend doesn’t actually want polyamory. Like you’re kind of saying, what is— seems like the truth. Like it seems like he thinks this is just a temporary thing. And it’s not a temporary thing for you. Clearly, you have some fundamental disagreements about the way you want to live your lives.

And if it makes you feel any better, this happens all the time with monogamous people. It’s not just a thing with— okay one person’s polyamorous, one person’s monogamous. Two polyamorous people can have this kind of incompatibility as well in terms of just not wanting to live their lives the same way. Monogamous people can have this incompatibility. So for you it’s like, okay, yeah you want to have kids and get married and stuff but you want to be in a polyamorous relationship. You want to have multiple partners. You want to have this freedom.

And there are so many signs that this is not what he wants. He thinks that this is temporary and the whole, like “just don’t fall in love with him”… Eh. I just feel like that’s a very clear sign that someone—  it’s okay— Some people do have an open style relationship where they are primarily in love with one person and that they do have just like flings, and things like that. And if that’s something you both agree on than that’s absolutely fine. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what you want. So you’re stuck in this sort of situation where he has a very different idea of what’s going on than you do. And I think that you’ve been hesitant to get rid of the relationship that you have with him.

Because, you know, it’s kind of a bit what’s called a sunk cost fallacy. I keep saying “sunken cost fallacy” but I think it’s actually just sunk cost fallacy. But it’s basically where because you’ve put so much effort in, you’re really hesitant to actually get rid of it because you’re like “well I put so much in, I have to keep putting into it”. But actually you’re not really doing anything but digging a deeper hole. So, I think that you need to really both sit down and be really clear with each other about what it is that you actually want.

And I honestly like don’t really blame you because if you’ve been dating him… If you’ve been dating him since you were in college, that does mean you are quite young. Everyone’s different. Some people are ready to settle down, more or less like “settle down” when they are 22. Some people are not really ready for that until they’re 32. And if you’re not ready for that, then you’re not ready for that and I just feel like, you know, moving to long distance… it’s funny that we had that discussion question today because it was really apt for this whole entire question you have — but you move to long distance to sort of try and keep the relationship alive.

And understandably you did that because he was your first everything. It’s quite hard to just break up. Sometimes you want to give that a try and that’s okay to give that a try. But that— nothing is going to solve such an inherent incompatibility. Like there are things that can be worked around. There are things that you can negotiate and compromise with and I do think that, you know, especially if you have a relationship where you live together or you plan on living together, there is going to be some compromise.

Because there’s always compromise with any adult that you live with, to a certain extent. But there are some things that you can’t really compromise on and like having kids, for example— If you had no interest in having children, there’s no real way to compromise on that. And trying to have children when you don’t know that you’re sure that you want to… It’s… Yeah. So there’s lots of situations here where, you know… I think there are obviously situations where maybe he felt uncomfortable. Like being uncomfortable with, you know— saying okay “go ahead and sleep with whomever you want” and then be uncomfortable.

He might feel uncomfortable when he tries polyamory. When you’re with other people, sometimes when you’re trying stuff out. You have to be comfortable with your partner being uncomfortable and you have to go “Okay, my partner’s uncomfortable”, and instead of stopping what you’re doing, you have to work with him to address that. And I think sometimes when people try out polyamory they go “okay— oh my partner feels uncomfortable stop stop stop everything stop everything go back”. And that doesn’t actually fix the problem. The problem is that they feel uncomfortable and how do they cope with it?

So, there were some situations where, you know, there could have been a little bit more done to see if he really is interested in polyamory. If it would have just been that situation I would have said, okay, you should let him feel that discomfort and work through that, but the fact that he’s saying stuff like “don’t fall in love with him” … I think that your intuition is right that it’s not— it’s not that he is at all interested in polyamory. It just doesn’t sound like he wants… He doesn’t even—  it sounds like he could potentially do a situation where you did have just flings, but that isn’t what you want.

You do want multiple relationships and you don’t want to abandon that for any kind of situation. So I do think that you’re incompatible. I don’t think that you should worry so much about what love is and whether or not you feel it. Having bigger chemistry with newer people or different people isn’t surprising. It might be what’s called new relationship energy which is where you have kind of like you know someone sparkly and new and that’s exciting and you know you have that when you start off in a relationship.

But then when you have a kind of a longer term relationship, it’s not like the spark completely dulls and if you put effort in the spark doesn’t completely dull, but someone who is new and shiny is different and new and shiny. And so you feel like, “ooh”. So you might have more chemistry and you can be in a situation where you have more chemistry with some partners than with others and that isn’t a terrible thing. But you would be— I think you would be less concerned about it if there wasn’t all this pressure on your shoulders to kind of go back to a monogamous way of being, which is kind of what he wants. All of the signs are kind of pointing to that.

All of the signs are pointing to him basically, expecting you go “okay well I’m done”. And I just think that’s a… I mean you could. I mean, maybe one day just like you did when you mentioned how you, you know, had a lot of sex in a short period of time and then you were like “no, it’s not for me”. Maybe you will one day go “no it’s not for me” but he shouldn’t expect that to happen. And he shouldn’t equally pressure you for that to happen. And I don’t really blame him because I think he cares about you. I think he doesn’t want to break up, and I think he’s trying to adjust to the situation, so that you know he can stay with you because he cares about you.

But sometimes honestly when people— Some people can try polyamory and see if it’s for them and know it’s not for them. I think that sometimes when people are so afraid of breaking up, they end up in a situation that ends up being more painful than the breakup would have been. And I think that this situation is probably going— like he’s clearly not going to break up with you. He’s going to try in the hopes that you’re going to switch back to being monogamous. And I mean you could keep putting— could keep digging this hole, but I just don’t think that it’s it’s a good idea.

You feel burdened in this relationship. He’s kind of giving you all the signs that he’s not into opening it for the long term. So you gotta just sit down and have a real honest discussion about what it is that you both want because I just don’t think that this is actually what he wants, unfortunately. And I think he’s maybe just lying to himself a tiny tiny bit, so that he can stay with you. Because, I mean all people do that. I don’t blame anyone who does that, because that’s a very human thing to not want to break up with somebody. But sometimes two people can care very very very very very much about each other.

Two people can be almost compatible in tons of other ways. They can improve each other’s lives and be really really great for each other but they’re just not compatible past that and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s not your fault for being you. It’s not his fault for being him. It’s just, yeah, sometimes it’s just inherently not compatible. You just want different things out of life. It happens. Like if you think about it, it can happen to a monogamous couple if say one of the people in the couple is a doctor or a lawyer or has a very time intensive career and the other person just can’t handle that. That could happen if one person is, you know, has a type of career that pulls them away and makes them travel all the time you know. Maybe one person can’t handle that.

So, that can happen in a lot of different situations. But it’s not really anybody’s fault in this situation. I think probably what’s best to do… I mean you could just kind of break up but I do think, like— I think that it’ll it’ll make more sense to come to that agreement mutually if you actually sit down and talk about what it is that you want out of life, what it is that you— what your ideal situation looks like.

And then you can say, you know— he’ll maybe sit there and say “I want us to be together and be monogamous and wife and kids picket fence”.  And then you say “well I would like to have kids but I want to have multiple partners” and then there’s not many places you can go once you have that discussion. So it’s worth having that discussion and actually getting that out, rather than just prolonging it because dragging it on is… I think it’ll just make it painful for you both. I wish that I had something better to say. I really hate— I hate it when my advice is, you’re not compatible.

If he had said something else, if he had given some indication that he saw polyamory as a little bit beneficial to him— He doesn’t have to date tons of people. Like it’s fine if he doesn’t want to date. I don’t date a lot. I hate dating. So, it’s fine if he doesn’t want to date. That doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t do polyamory. But it’s all the other stuff around that like saying, “don’t fall in love” and “I can’t wait to work together alone”. Like all that other stuff is just a really massive indication that he’s probably not in it for the polyamory long haul, unfortunately.

So have that discussion and it might take you to— Unfortunately, where you might need to be which is not together. Yeah, I’m sorry. I wish I had something better to advise but I do think that that is the best in the long term for you both. I hope that helps and good luck.

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

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!

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.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.