Can you make enough rules to prevent your partner from leaving you?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Check out the Patreon for the discussion topic.
Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.
Discussion Topic: Which better describes you? When my partner disappoints me… 1. I go cold, tend to withdraw and like to be alone… 2. I feel panicked and explode into rage with them…
Can you make enough rules to prevent your partner from leaving you? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – Which better describes you? When my partner disappoints me… 1. I go cold, tend to withdraw and like to be alone…
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.
My name is X and I’m from Brazil. Now I’m living in United States for like a month already, and I’m gonna be here for 1 or 2 years for an exchange program. I have a girlfriend called P, we’ve been together for almost 3 years and she’s in Brazil. I started to have conversations with her about non monogamy relationships at the start of our relationship, like, in the first year (because I always loved the idea of those kind of relationships) at the beginning she didn’t accept the idea very well and she didn’t show interest about those conversations.
Then she began to accept better the idea, and we always talked about it, like, it would be good for us if we could see someone, go out with someone and stuff like that, but nothing happened and everything was just a theory, but we kept talking about this, and reading stuff online, seeing videos, etc to understand better everything. So, everything started this one day we were at the LBTQ+ parade in Brazil and we met this girl, L.
We were enjoying the party and we looked at each other and we said that we wanted to kiss L. So we kissed her, but separately. and everything was really cool, we enjoyed it very much. After that day of the parade, we went out with L 3 more times, and we had sex with her, it was a new experience for all of us; I liked it, but I was a little bit scared and uncomfortable and I can not be totally comfortable with the sex itself, and my girlfriend loved everything and wanted to continue seeing L.
After this third time, I realized that my girlfriend was enjoying a lot more than I was, and I didn’t enjoy the sex, like “the best time of my life” you know? I liked it but it was not one of the best experiences, I just felt weird after that. So I talked to my girlfriend and told her that I was not enjoying having sex with L and that I thought we should stop going out with her because we could end up creating some feeling and everything would be a mess because I was afraid of hurting L.
She’s much younger than me, and she never dated anyone; anyway, I was afraid to continue and make her create expectations that my girlfriend and I could not keep. And when I talked to my girlfriend about it, I was already creating a very emotional connection with L, I forgot to mention the fact that I’m demissexual, haha, continuing, I was beginning to have feelings for her, and I did not know how to deal with all this, mainly because I already knew that I would move to the United States at that time, so everything would be very confusing for us.
I told this to my girlfriend she agreed that we had to stop, but despite agreeing she did not want to. then I proposed to her, that if she wanted to, she could still see L, but she didn’t want to. then we stopped to see L, and we became friends with her, we decided that our relationship would be open, but soon after I changed my mind, because I was very scared and afraid and with a thousand things to solve in Brazil so that I could come to US and I didn’t want to deal with the problems of open relationship in the midst of a lot of things going on in my life.
My girlfriend was always very understanding but I thought it was very bad this attitude that I had, like, to open and close the relationship very fast, I think a lot in things, I rationalize a lot and I change my mind very fast LOL my zodiac sign is Gemini (just so you have an idea) Anyway, we decided to close the relationship and we were fine with that. Before I came here, we talked a lot and thought it would be best to keep the relationship closed. that’s when all that idea came back again, I’ve been here for more than 1 month and this weekend me and my girlfriend had a talk, she started the subject in fact, that she was in the mood to go out with other people, because she was feeling needy, missing me, and missing have sex.
I agreed with her, because I miss all these things too, and after spending hours talking we decided to open the relationship again. the first time we tried and I soon gave up, we put rules like: not being able to get emotionally involved with other people, and not having sex with other people if we could not be together, but how we closed the relationship two days later, nothing happened, we didn’t know anyone and we didn’t have to apply any rules.
This time we decided that it won’t be any rules only regarding sex, for our sexual health care, we will try to avoid oral sex, we will ask people if they have been tested, etc. I’m very paranoid and worried about our sexual health, 6 months after we had sex with L (without protection, because, protection for lesbian sex in Brazil is almost non-existent), my partner and I did the tests, and everything was okay with us, but I was freaking out all the time before taking the test, I always have anxiety when I think about it and I believe it has messed me up too during sex with L because I did not feel safe at all, in fact, these questions about STI haunts me and torments me, sometimes I wonder if I should continue in a closed relationship than having this stress every time a new person comes along.
The question is, now my relationship is open; my partner and I agree that we will be able to stay with whoever we want if the opportunity arises and even stay with someone we have stayed [with] the past, there will be no rule about it. and we agree about having a emotional bonding with people, not just for sex. But everything has been tormenting me because I’m afraid of my girlfriend falling madly in love with someone else and ending the relationship with me, I’m afraid that the open relationship will end everything we’ve built together, I’m afraid of losing it, I’m afraid of when I return to Brazil, she [won’t] want to be with me anymore.
I don’t know if we will continue with the relationship open when I return, is it just a phase? Once you have a non-monogamous relationship things change forever? I do not know how everything works out in practice, because in theory things are pretty simple for me. I know that all these things I’m afraid of, can happen to me being in a closed relationship too, I know that. But I still feel stressed, scared, and anxious. This year is being a very different year for me because I am dealing with huge changes, different culture, different language and there is so much going on that I don’t know if I made the right decision to open the relationship in this phase of my life that already it’s being crazy.
But I wanted to be able to continue with the relationship open, because I want to meet people here, etc. But it’s very hard, OMG!!! That’s it, thank you so much for reading all of this, I really appreciate it! I just need some advice because I don’t know what to do, I think my brain will explode in pieces.
So the very first thing that I see, which is like really really common with people opening their relationships, is… Rules and boundaries are good but if rules and boundaries are made in order to prevent something that is not preventable than that rule or boundary is kind of pointless. You’re creating a lot of rules and boundaries to prevent things from happening, to prevent your fears. You know, you’re afraid of your girlfriend finding someone new, leaving you, et cetera and so forth. And you do say that you realise that you can’t prevent that, even in a closed relationship, but you are still trying to prevent it.
You know, all these rules that you’re having about— the ones you spoke about that you had before about not falling in love with somebody else or even not been willing to have sex with someone unless you both were there— all of these are done to try and… because you’re afraid, to try and grasp some type of stability. And in the end, I think that these only delay the inevitable. These only make it more difficult for you to actually deal with the stress of being afraid. Because you’re going to be afraid. It’s very very logical to be afraid.
I can only speak for the countries that I have lived in and grown up in so I don’t know if this is necessarily true for you. I’m assuming. But… you know, we live in a society or I at least have lived in a society that’s told me that monogamy is the norm. It’s the standard. And it’s not only the norm and the standard, but it’s you know— being exclusive is the way that you show that you care about someone and that you can only show that you care about someone by promising to only be with them. And so you’re kind of flipping the script on that.
So you’re going to be afraid. It’s not completely illogical to think “If I let my partner sleep with other people, they may replace me”. You know, it’s not a completely illogical fear. That’s a very, very logical fear. However, it is helpful to continue to reframe that, and I’ll speak a little bit more about this in general. But alongside reframing, it’s going to help you cope with it better if you don’t try and prevent yourself from feeling it. In my experience with my anxiety, the more I try to prevent my anxiety from happening, the less it actually helps me cope with anxiety.
And especially with anxiety in particular, it’s kind of like you give it an inch and it will take a mile. The more you sort of go, “Okay, well I get anxious when I eat rice, so I won’t eat rice” and then you think you’re fine with the anxiety but then something else to kind of triggers it and okay, now I can’t eat, you know, beans. Now I can’t eat this. Now I can’t eat that. It just grows and grows and grows and I do very much feel like, you know, the more rules— “Okay, we can’t fall in love with someone else. We can’t do this. We can’t do that”. The more you try and prevent it, the more it just… it puts that responsibility on your shoulders and the more it actually just makes you more anxious in my opinion.
So even though you don’t have any rules right now, you’re still… you have opened and closed, and opened and closed, and opened and closed… because you still are under the belief that closing it is going to make things easier and it just isn’t necessarily going to make things easier. It will make things more familiar for you because that’s where your comfort zone is, but it won’t necessarily make things easier. And it isn’t necessarily a guarantee to prevent the things that you’re afraid of. So definitely think about any rules from here on out that you put in that you enforce.
Is it really about avoiding? Is it going to prevent something from happening? Like sexual health rules are a little bit more, you know, well placed because they are designed to prevent, you know, STI transmission and that is a kind of not always clear-cut. Like there’s always some risk but it is a bit more clear-cut. Whereas, if you could come up with a rule that’s like “We’re not going to fall in love with anybody else” there is… How are you going to even measure that? You know, you can’t take a test about whether or not you’ve fallen in love with someone. So it’s a very nebulous rule that’s really only designed to try and prevent you from falling in love with someone else or prevent your girlfriend from falling in love with someone else because you think that if they do it automatically means that they leave you and you’re afraid of that. So just be aware of that.
I think that the other really big problem that you are both having is that you are not operating as individuals. You are operating as a couple and if you think about the way that you’ve treated L in this, it’s not really fair. Even though you’ve tried to like prevent feelings from being hurt, you… I mean I can’t speak for L. I don’t know how L feels but it’s not really fair to L. Like you are deciding upon things as a group without consulting L. Deciding that “Okay, we’re going to close the relationship now because we don’t want to hurt L.” And this is “we” and L is separate from that and you’ve kind of created a system where L has no say and L is just kind of a pawn in your game and it’s not really cool.
You know, you are inherently separate now because you are in the States and your girlfriend is in Brazil, but your approach to this needs to be individualized. There are some people who date a couple and I think, if you want to date as a couple, then you need to present as “We are dating as a couple and we are looking for someone to be interested in both of us”. I think that’s very very hard to find— and especially like, when you present it that way, because, if you consider it from the point of view of someone like L, who isn’t in a couple, it can already be monotonous and scary to be involved in a single person relationship, let alone be in a situation where you feel like you have to fall in love with two people in order for this to work at all.
You didn’t have to break it off with her because you’re so afraid and you needed to act as a couple. You could have you know… You said you were fine with P, your partner, dating L on her own. And that would have been fine, but because you’re so acting as a couple as another form of protecting yourself from something terrible happening, you’re not really behaving in a way that’s going to be good for other people in the long-term— or be good for you because you’re so focused on protecting the mothership that you are treating other people like crap. And you shouldn’t do that.
So I think you need to start seeing other people not as additions onto your coupledom, but you need to separate yourselves from each other in your mind. You need to operate as individuals and you need to date individually and not date— You know, not say “We wanted to kiss her”. Like… you both wanted to kiss her as separate people. You need to think of yourselves as individuals and stop this— unless you’re going to fully present as a couple dating, looking for a third, which I don’t think you should because I think it’s impossible to find. And that’s not an appealing situation for anyone. You really need to date individually. Even though you say that you know that closing— being in a closed relationship doesn’t prevent you from being hurt, you are still operating in a way that as I said where you think that closing your relationship is going to protect you and as I said it may make things mentally easier for you because you aren’t as afraid or as vigilant if it’s closed because you’re luring yourself into a false sense of security and it is also more familiar for you.
So you think “Oh well, we’ve closed the relationship. I don’t have to worry about someone coming in and taking my girlfriend,” but you know logically that is not true. People in monogamous relationships all the time meet other people. You know, whether or not they have permission to have sex with that person or not, whether or not they have permission to fall in love with a person or not, they do fall in love with other people other than their partner. They do break up. There isn’t anything that you are going to be able to do to prevent that and I think you really really need to seep yourself into that.
Like don’t just say, “Oh well closing the relationship won’t stop it.” You need to acknowledge that you fully have no control whatsoever over whether or not your partner remains in love with you. That is just not something that you can control. Now, you know, you can act like a total ass and you can be mean to your partner. That’s pretty much going to guarantee that they don’t want to be around you. True, but that’s a little bit different.
Barring, you know, putting your best foot forward and being as receptive and as understanding as kind as you can be, regardless of that— if your partner doesn’t want to be with you, there is nothing you can do to prevent that from happening. You just can’t. And I think that really owning that is going to help you deal with a lot of the this anxiety. Because the reason you have all this anxiety, the reason you’re so scared and anxious, is because you feel like you can change it. When you think you can change it, either by closing the relationship, creating all these rules or whatever you want to do, you think “ I can change whether or not my partner falls in love with someone else. I can control that by putting in all these rules”. Well, we promised we will wouldn’t fall in love— your brain does not give a solid gold plated chicken fried fuck whether or not you have made a rule about whether you can fall in love with somebody or not. Your brain doesn’t care.
If we could control who we fell in love with, I probably wouldn’t have a column. Nobody would be writing to me for advice if people could easily control who they could fall in love with. It just isn’t something you can easily control so you have to really radically embrace that because– and it seems kind of contradictory but actually in my experience with my anxiety, the best thing that helps me deal with my anxiety was… I had to stop feeling like I was pushing this boulder up a hill, up a hill, up a hill and the second I had a panic attack, the ball rolled back and I would have to push it up and up again. I was continuously beating myself up because I kept feeling like anxiety made me a failure.
I kept feeling like, if I had a panic attack, it was a setback. If I had anxiety, it was a setback. If I had any kind of emotional breakdown or anything like that, it was a setback and I did something wrong and I wasn’t handling it right. And you can’t heal yourself if you’re too busy beating yourself up. So you cannot actually deal with all the this anxiety, if you’re putting the entire burden of this on your shoulders. And you are putting that burden on your shoulders. You say you know that it’ll happen if I’m in a closed relationship but you’re still putting that burden on your shoulders and you need to take that off of your shoulders.
And realise that opening and closing, opening and closing, all these rules— nothing is going to prevent it. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and you will survive. You won’t die. I know that— I mean you’ve been in this relationship for 3 years and it feels intense. It is intense, but people have survived it and it sucks. Like I’m not going to be like, “Oh yeah breaking up is no big deal”. And I know like I always kind of encourage people not to feel like breaking up is always like a failure or that you know a relationship isn’t only a success if, you know, no one makes it out alive. You know, as Dan Savage says and I don’t really like Dan Savage but that quote is fine. Broken clocks.
The point is that, you know, it does still suck. Even if it isn’t a failure, it is sad and it is a loss but you cannot prevent it. You cannot… you know putting all that pressure on yourself, is probably what’s making the most of this worse and the fact that you think that you can prevent it when you do open your relationship… there’s all this stress on you. That’s like, “Ok I’ve got to be vigilant! I’ve got to make sure that this—“, You know and you’re just putting so much pressure on yourself so please try to steep that— Get that really solidly in your mind that you cannot ultimately control this and closing it is not going to fix it. Closing it will not fix it. It can only delay the inevitable. You’re only temporarily relieving yourself of anxiety for a short period of time.
You know, you say that— I get that you’re in a new country. It’s complicated. There’s a lot of stuff going on. But there’s going to be a lot of stuff in life going on. If you spend the rest of your life with this person, with P, you know, when you have a baby— if you have a baby. If you decide to adopt or have a baby, that’s going to be a new change. Someone in your immediate family that you love very much could die at any point— that will be a huge change. You know, there’s all different kinds of things in life that are huge monumental changes and you can’t prevent that from happening and you can’t put your entire life on hold all the time for what is a little bit of change. It is more difficult. Like, I’m not gonna deny that dealing with this while you are in a new country and dealing with all that stress is a little bit more difficult but, you know, what you need to do is focus less on trying to prevent that difficultness from happening and more on strengthening whatever foundations you have with P.
Which also kinda brings me to my next point which will help ground you a little bit more. You know, you have introduced this idea of non-monogamy within your first year and she’s kind of slowly taken to it and she has kind of fully embraced it but it doesn’t sound like you really thought about what you want from non-monogamy. Like, what is your ideal situation? This is kind of something that I reiterate and I tell people all the time because it is kind of a grounding exercise. We have to remember that when you live in a society where monogamy is the norm, where polyamory is not reflected in any form of media, were you don’t see any polyamorous people, you are operating without a cultural script. You are operating without any kind of basic steps into making a relationship feel more secure.
So there’s the “relationship escalator” and if you haven’t heard of it, look it up. It’s really great concept. It’s basically that, you know, the sort of societal script we have where it’s like okay, you date someone and then you move in and then you marry and then you have kids. You kind of have this already hewn path that you can go down that tells you, “Okay when you move in with someone, things are a little bit more secure.” You’re a little bit more committed to each other. There’s these symbolic, you know, stages that we go through that indicate that our lives are little bit more and enmeshed and we feel a lot more secure.
That’s not to say you know, you get married to someone. You’re married for 30 years. They could totally cheat on you and your relationship could end. But because we have all these little rights of passage that we go through that sort of reinforce the idea of security to us, we are less afraid. We don’t angst about it all the time because it’s kind of culturally inferred. When you’re polyamorous or when you have an open relationship, that is not culturally inferred so you have to figure out what your ideal looks like and where, you know, what roll non-monogamy plays in your life. And that can sometimes really help ground you. It can help you figure out who you want to date and help you explain to people what your needs are and just help you get more established as a couple and figure out, you know, what is your ideal situation.
If your partner doesn’t want to date L, what does that look like? Instead of thinking about that… even individually and then coming together as you know a unit that’s already kind of established and thinking about how that plays into how you interact. You didn’t really think of a situation where L could coexist and you could have had a situation where you thought, “Okay, well maybe P dates L and they spend Tuesdays and Fridays together”. Whatever. You know, thinking about that kind of thing what is it that you think is ideal for you. First and foremost think about that. Ask your partner to think about that and then come together and have a discussion about it and that will help you feel more grounded.
You won’t feel quite so anxious and terrified about the all these questions you have about what if she change her mind when I go back to Brazil? What if she’s going to be with me? If you kind of come together and figured out what it is that you both are interested in and how you see non-monogamy working in your life, it might you know pull up some things where you’re directly not compatible on and then maybe this entire point is moot because it turns out like maybe she wants five kids and you don’t want any kids. You may have already had that discussion but what I’m saying is that figure out what that ideal is and talk about it and see if you can establish, you know, not necessarily a plan that you have to stick to. You know, it’s not meant to be something… to dictate your future but it’s meant to just give you more grounding because right now you don’t have any grounding.
That’s why you’re so freaked out. That’s why you have all these questions and you’re not sure. You think, “Oh, maybe I should open it, I should close it”. Because when you close it, you have that script more or less even though you know obviously being lesbian or being LGBTQ in society kind of differs from that cultural script in some ways. But you still kind of have a little bit of a script to go by so you feel a little bit more secure in that. So you’ve got to create that script and that will make you feel a lot more secure.
I think that another thing that you should also address in terms of your fears is you need to learn a little bit more about STIs. And the thing that you always have to remember and I’m not sure how it is in Brazil but I know at least in the US, there is a lot of fear mongering and that means that people basically make STIs out to be a lot more terrifying than they are. And obviously there are permanent STIs in terms of things that aren’t curable but you know the way the medicine has developed, depending on your circumstance— You know I can’t say what it will be like when you go back to Brazil. Obviously there might be more things you have to worry about in terms of healthcare. Not sure. But not everything is a death sentence. There is risk with all sexual activity but there are certain acts that you can do that are less of a risk for certain things than others.
There’s great resources in the US. There’s Scarleteen which you can look for online. There’s also San Francisco Sex Information. There are a lot of sites you can find that would delineate what kind of risks are involved with certain sexual acts depending on you and your partner’s genitalia and that can help you figure out things that you’re a bit more comfortable with. But I also think that you need to remember that all sexual activity comes with some risk. You can’t completely eliminate all risk.
And it’s also worth you remembering that the vast majority of STIs are not that big of a deal. People make them way more bigger of a deal than they actually are. Most things are curable and there are some things that are— you know there’s an antibiotic resistance and some issues going on with that in terms of chlamydia and some other STIs but for the most part it’s not— you know, it’s sort of like driving. You know, driving is— I’m not sure again in Brazil if it’s different— driving is a cultural norm.
People think that you have to, you know… especially the US, like you go to school and you learn how to drive when you’re 16. And that’s kind of a rite of passage. Like, I think if I remember correctly and I could be wrong about this but if I remember correctly, most young people… like the highest risk of death for young people is actually car accidents in the US. If I’m not mistaken, that’s like the number one way that kids die and people, you know, when they talk to you about driving they don’t you know show you pictures of people have been in car accidents. They don’t describe to you all of the injuries you could get if your car crashes.
I mean, generally speaking, maybe they do in some places you know. They tell you to buckle up and they reinforce things that will make driving more dangerous. Like driving when you’re extremely exhausted, obviously drunk driving, you know. Not texting while you’re driving. There are lots of different things, but it’s all from a place of accepting the fact that you’re going to drive and trying to protect you and trying to make you aware. And we also don’t blame people like, in general, if someone gets hit by a car. We don’t, you know, we accept that, yeah, depending on the situation there might have been something you could do to avoid it but we aren’t as stigmatizing about that experience as we are about STIs.
And I think it would help if you kind of think of STIs in the same when you do car accidents. Like you know— I think car accidents are even more dangerous because car accidents result in, you know, if not death than some serious injury. But the point of it is, is having that approach of like, “Okay, I’m going to drive therefore there is some inherent risk of that that I cannot, no matter how much I wear my seatbelt, no matter how many times I check my mirrors, no matter how many traffic laws I obey, there is nothing I can do to ultimately prevent being in a car accident”. So I think you should also take that approach with you…
I mean this might be terrible. Maybe you are also terrified of being in cars. I don’t know. But I think it helps that kind of realise that we have been, especially in the US (again, can’t say for sure about Brazil), generally speaking when people teach sex ed in a lot of places, they teach it from the standpoint of using STIs to make people feel afraid to have sex. And it’s just not helpful and just complete bullocks. So try to… learn a bit more about STIs if you don’t already. I mean, you say “STI” so that leads me to believe you do know a little bit more about STIs than most people who continue to say STDs today.
But learn as much as you can. Learn about different things. You know, if you’re in the US now, see if you can get some dental dams or some finger cots if you want. Learn which acts come with what risk and generally speaking, I just don’t think that there are a lot of things that you have to worry about. Especially if you use… if you do have any kind of penetrative sex and you use condoms, you know, some of the things like HPV or herpes, you know, a lot of people— most people have HPV. A lot of people have herpes. Like it is very very common with herpes. It’s like more of the stigma that’s the problem then it is the actual condition.
So just try and keep that in mind. Like, and if you use protection, there are a lot of things that, you know, you are protected from. So if you kind of figure out you know what sort of risk you are risking then you can use that to calm yourself a little bit.
But yeah, just to recap. I think that, you know, one last thing I kind of want to reiterate is that your feeling anxious and scared is very very normal. Even though you’ve been in this relationship for 3 years, you are in a position where a lot of things are up in the air. You’re in a whole new country. You’re now in a long distance relationship which makes things a little bit more difficult. It makes total sense that you would feel scared and stressed and anxious. That isn’t abnormal so try not to set up that expectation of yourself.
I do sometimes think when people open their relationship, especially if they’ve had this— if they’ve done it for a person and they’ve had a really good, you know, good experiences with that person, they get a little bit scared. They tend to think that opening a relationship will always come with more happy feelings but sometimes it does come with a lot of fear. Especially if you’re just starting to open your relationship with one person and you’re kind of— you’re trying something new and you’re sort of going into a different area of trust that you kind of have to build together. So it makes sense that you would be scared and anxious so don’t kick yourself for that is the first big thing.
Again, to recap, stop creating rules to prevent what you can’t prevent. Stop making rules that will prevent your girlfriend from falling in love with someone else, that prevent you from falling in love with someone else. You can’t prevent that. So just don’t make any rules. Whenever you decide to make a new rule, really examine it. Really ask yourself if this rule— what is this rule for? What is it trying to prevent? Will it actually prevent that? Because I think you’ll find that there quite a lot of rules, you know, that you feel like you should put in place to kind of make yourself feel better but in the end if it’s designed to prevent you from experiencing the fear, I don’t think that helps.
Because you’ll just continue to kind of not fully get into the fear. Not know fully what it means to be in a non-monogamous relationship where you don’t have rules and you won’t be able to be prepared for it. It’ll just kind of delay it. It will delay you actually getting used to it.
Again, I you need to see people as people. You need to see— date as individuals. I think now that you’re in separate countries, that’s probably gonna not be such an issue but do keep that in mind when you get back together, when you’re back in Brazil. Like, dating as a couple… if you want to date as a couple, then date as a couple. Again, I don’t think you should do that because I don’t think that’s an appealing arrangement for a lot of people. Date individually. Date as people and don’t consider another person as an accessory to your couple relationship or assume that your couple relationship is kind of like the mothership that needs to be saved at all costs and any other relationship is just, you know, disposable.
Because it really sucks. It really really sucks to be a person who is dating someone and dating two people and having a good time and then all of a sudden you know you can’t do anything romantic anymore or you can have sex anymore because for whatever reason these two people decided that you’re not allowed to have that anymore and you’ve had no say. It really really sucks to be put in that position. I don’t think you’d want to be put that position if you really think about it so try not to put other people in that position. Because especially if you’re going to go out and try and date while you’re back in Brazil and you’re together, you’re gonna really struggle to find people who are going to be receptive to that and you’re gonna… you can potentially really hurt some people’s feelings if you don’t treat them you know as individuals and your relationships as separate. Unless they’ve agreed to date you as a couple and that’s what they expect and that sort of thing. Please date as individuals.
Again, closing a relationship is not protecting you from anything. Even though you kinda say that you know that all of it can happen when you’re in a closed relationship, you are still opening and closing as if it’s going to protect you, so try and really steep yourself into that. Because it will take so much off your shoulders. Like it will take so much of the responsibility of keeping your partner and making sure that you’re interesting enough. It will take so much weight off of your shoulders and I think you’ll find that it will relieve some of that anxiety.
Again, anchor yourself by figuring out what it is that you want from non-monogamy, asking your partner to think about what she wants, coming together and having a discussion about where you see your relationship, where you see, you know, your individual dating going on in your relationship. Maybe think about some physical things like, especially now that your long-distance, those physical things will get really important. Maybe you have a standing date always on Thursday evening that you have a call together and those kind of anchors will really really help you not just in feeling a little bit more relaxed about where your relationship is going but also the fact that you’re so far apart, having those scheduled date times will really help you feel valued.
And especially if she’s going to off dating some other people, what you don’t want is to set up in a situation where you haven’t really established how important that is with each other and so she kind of ends up blowing you off a bit— kind of getting caught up in a new relationship energy and feeling excited about having dates and maybe she kind of accidentally blows you off then maybe you do that to her. That can often happen to people in long distance relationships so try and establish yourself and ground yourself together a little bit by sharing what you kind of want out of this, where you see your future going, what your ideal situation is.
Really think about that kind of stuff. That will help you figure out— As well, you know, if this relationship doesn’t work out, if you have a good idea of what you want from a relationship instead of just being in one because society said you should be, that will help you, in the future if things don’t work out. Because at least then you have a clear picture of what it is that you want and it will help you a lot more in the future.
Last but not least, learn more about sexual health so that you don’t feel quite so scared. It’s ok to be scared. Like, I have a weakened immune system so I am really really super paranoid about STIs as well and it is really hard, but I at least, in my personal experience, like… I had to just you know… know as much as I can know. I did learn as much as I could, but I also just had to go through it. Sometimes with anxiety, the only way out is through. The only way to deal with it is to go through it and come out the other end and know that you survived and you haven’t died and the world is ending and you’re ok.
And I think that in my experience with STIs, when I was fluid bonded with someone, it was… Every time they slept with someone new, it was so much anxiety. So much fear of like… and I just had to like realise that you know me being anxious isn’t going to stop it. You know, there’s nothing… Again it’s about relinquishing that control from your shoulders. Like you know I had to accept the fact that all sex came with some kind of risk and that unless I was going to be you know completely celibate person, I had to just accept that the risk is going to happen.
And just… As time goes on, as you kind of build-up that, you know, stability with your partner and also as you build up more experience in being more exposed to sexual health risk, it will not be so anxiety provoking in the future. But it is something new for now. You’re trying something new. You’re also dealing with a really big stressful thing of being in another country so there’s going to be a lot of things anxiety flowing. And with some things, you’re going to have to just go with it and experience the anxiety. Stop preventing yourself so much from experiencing it just deal with it. Expect that you’ll be anxious and just embrace it and you know see that you come out the other side.
Because it does get better. Like I can… even in the first kind of bits of relationships I’ve had where either we’ve opened up the relationship or I’ve started a new non-monogamous relationship with someone, always wicked anxious with that because it’s just… it’s a different thing. It’s not better. It’s not worse but it’s a different thing. And because it’s so uncommon, you have to kind of build that within yourself. That all those kind of given things that create that feeling of stability, you kind of just have to build those yourself and that’s tough but you can do it. It’s not the end of the world, but you definitely have to just let yourself feel that.
You have to face it. You can’t prevent it by opening and closing things and putting all these rules. It hasn’t helped you because now you’re in a situation where you’re facing that anxiety. You don’t have any rules now. Your relationship’s open and you’ve just got to bite the bullet and go in and deal with some of the fear. But it will, you know, all things change. Like, change is a constant and it will change and things— you will get over it and things will… the anxiety will pass. You will not be stressed forever. Just try and use that as an anchor as well as some of the other things I mentioned.
So, yeah. I really 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.