Episode 44: You Don’t Need 5 Partners

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

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

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

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

Episode 44 – You Don’t Need 5 Partners

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

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, I hope that helps and good luck.

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Trial separation to try polyamory

This content is 1 year old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

My wife and I are 31 and have been married for 2 years but together for 13. We have 2 kids that I love very much and work hard to share all responsibilities and we have made great strides recently with improving our communication and me feeling more comfortable with asking for what I want in our sexual relationship. We have an active sex life and she is my best friend and I feel we are good for each other.

My wife and I met during the summer before going off to college and have been together since, with some issues along the way. I have cheated on my wife twice while we were dating and developed a crush on a coworker that might have resulted in cheating were the opportunity available. My wife was the only woman I had sex with up until the most recent cheating, with a women we will call C. After C, my wife, then girlfriend, and I to split while I pursued a relationship with C.

After phone calls with C and an eventual weekend away, I realized that she was not the woman that I wanted and that I was not in a healthy mental state, and I went to my wife telling her I wanted her back. After a couple more months of separation we moved back in together and 6 months later we got married. I expressed remorse to my wife for what I had done with C but I never owned up to my past transgressions.

About 1 year ago I had a serious seizure, I have a history of epilepsy, and this pushed me to work towards change, but it wasn’t until a therapeutic mushroom trip that revealed to me past trauma that I sought out true change. After that session I told my wife about all the mistakes I had made through our history together and I sought out therapy, which I still go to and it has been very helpful. I had never been good with understanding or conveying my feelings, a result of my childhood, but my wife listened to all the painful things I had to say and we are still together. I have been working to love myself more and be a better husband for my wife and I thought I was past my transgressions.

Recently however I developed a crush on a woman at my work, lets call her D, and I tried hard to resist. Over time the resistance started to fall away and I found myself being more and more drawn towards D, wanting to talk with her and I feel I can sense a mutual attraction even though she too is in a relationship. I have fantasized about a sexual encounter with D and she has been frequently on my mind and in my dreams, but I had no intentions of cheating on my wife, I don’t want to put her through that again. I have also rather recently come to accept that I am bisexual and that this was one source for much of the shame I experienced throughout my life (I grew up with a religious mother with outdated ideas of relationships and brothers who picked on me and frequently used the term gay or fag and shamed me for my emotional sensitivity and I resultantly learned to shut down my emotions and feel shame at attraction towards men and resist it fiercely).

I have told my wife about both my sexuality and about D and my desire to open up our relationship and it has been met with a lot of resistance. She would rather divorce or separate for a year while I “explore” things and try to figure out what it is I want. She feels she cannot be with me if I am with someone else at some point and she is especially uncomfortable with the idea of me being with another guy while we are together, although she is accepting of my identifying as bisexual.

I do not want to separate because I love her and want to be with her and I love the family we have together and don’t want to see it split up, but I recognize the patterns of my attraction to other women, and my past resistance to my attraction to men, and I worry that if we remain monogamous that it will only be a matter of time before this all repeats itself. At the same time I don’t see how exploring for a year will help me in 5 or 10 or more years down the road if we get back together and I have all of these feelings again.

My wife seems very against the idea of a non-monogamous relationship but I also know that I too was against this idea at one point and it has only been recently when I became honest with myself about who I am and what I want that I realized that this could possibly be a solution. I know I can’t force her into this relationship but I have to try and convince her to give it a try rather than just give up on us.

So I guess my question is: What should I do? How do I convince my wife to give this a try rather than be done with us? I have talked to my therapist some about this topic but she doesn’t specialize in non-monogamy and I feel a second opinion of sorts can be helpful for me working through this situation. I appreciate you taking the time to read through this and I am very grateful for any advice you have to offer.

I’m sorry you’re going through this difficult self-discovery journey, but the good thing is that you’re finding this stuff out now rather than repressing it and waiting years and years down the line. I’m going to cover a few topic areas but I’ll start with your first and foremost question: How do you convince your wife to be non-monogamous? And the honest short answer is “You don’t”. But let me explain.

Convincing people

You have a motivation to consider non-monogamy as a viable life option — you don’t seem to be able to function as a monogamous person. Whether that is due to any significant problem you have or it’s just the way you are, it’s something that motivates you to consider this as a realistic and live-able option.

Unless your wife has a history of cheating, she has no real reason to pursue non-monogamy. Just as you can’t convince someone to want children if they have no interest, you cannot convince someone to want non-monogamy if that’s what they truly want. And given the history with your wife and her decision for as trial separation, I think she’s actually showing some very clear awareness of her own boundaries and needs and providing you with what is the most realistic option for her.

Trying non-monogamy as a couple is fraught with problems, especially if there is a history of infidelity. When individuals come to me and tell me their partner wants them to be non-monogamous, I always say that the only way they should try non-monogamy is if they personally — outside of salvaging a relationship — can see an honest benefit in it. There are situations where individuals are monogamous to a polyamorous partner, but these situations aren’t necessarily common.

Your wife is communicating to you very clearly where her boundaries are and honestly, I think it’s incredibly mature and re-assuring. The fact that she has the bravery to provide you with a period of time to explore and is not walking away from the relationship entirely shows a willingness to work towards a solution in the future.

However, I can understand that a year feels like a nebulous time frame which leads me to my second subject matter.

Trial separations

The only problem I foresee occurring with regards to “trying out” polyamory for a year is that, if you do go forward with this with your wife, you will effectively become ‘single’. The chances of you, depending on the community local to you, finding not only another partner but an additional partner to ‘test’ to see if you are actually interested in non-monogamy is more likely than not very slim. A year down the line, you may not find any polyamorous person who is willing or interested in accepting a situation where you may have a ‘primary’ down the line that could potentially come in and cause problems with your relationship.

You could very well date multiple people at once, but I don’t think that’s really the same as being polyamorous and managing multiple romantic relationships at once. I can understand your wife not wanting to be around to deal with the emotional impact of seeing you with others and managing her jealousy — as you may discover through trying out polyamory in a fun and interesting way that it is your exact fit in terms of lifestyle choices she may equally discover through trying out polyamory with you in emotionally challenging and painful way that polyamory is, most definitely, not for her. It is safer for her to allow you to take a break for a year.

But, as I’ve said, there is no guarantee that you will be able to reach ‘polyamory’ essentially in terms of actively managing multiple romantic relationships and knowing that is what you want in a year’s time. And it is a random amount of time to set. How long is your wife willing to wait around while you figure out? Even though she is willing to wait for you to figure your life out, the fact of the matter is that many people in situations where themselves and their partner are both fully ready, willing and excited to try polyamory find that their first year is fraught with difficulties and they don’t necessarily find multiple partners for further years down the line.

Additionally, this trial separation may mean that, even if, ideally, you do find multiple partners and you decide this is the life for you and your wife is willing to try this out as she has done some self-exploration and has her own motivations to try it herself, you will still have a lack of experience in managing the relationship between yourself and your wife along with others as each relationship is individual. You may find yourself back at square one if she is just trying polyamory as well and there seems to be an assumption from her part that you could pick up where you left off when, even if your wife is willing to try polyamory after a year, your relationship will be fundamentally different.

My worry is that this trial separation won’t actually solve the problem that’s in place, which brings me to my next subject.

Cheating and non-monogamy

Frequently, I remind people that very rarely do people in couples come to a conclusion together that non-monogamy is something they want to try. Usually the discussion is prompted by one partner and at times cheating is a method by which this discussion is prompted. It’s not to say individuals cannot go from cheating to non-monogamy, but I hesitate to assume that non-monogamy can solve every single incident of cheating. It really has a lot to do with the motivations of the individual who cheated.

You don’t really discuss why you cheated and what motivated you and that is going to be the key to your answer. Clearly, you feel as though you cannot commit to sexual monogamy and need the freedom and probably want the freedom to explore sexual contact with others outside of this relationship. You need to make sure that the motivation for cheating is enacting a taboo or an avoidance of commitment because individuals who cheat because it’s “wrong” and that’s the draw or people who find it difficult to emotionally commit to one person cannot solve either of those problems by trying non-monogamy.

What is the draw of non-monogamy to you? Do you actually want multiple physical relationships or do you just feel like you want more sexual experiences with individuals? If the answer is the latter, you may not have to pursue ‘polyamory’ in the sense of managing and wanting multiple romantic relationships. You could instead consider hiring a sex worker in intermittent periods with your wife’s consent and good STI preventative measures put in place in order to try things out.

Or, as another option, you could act as a single individual within swinger communities where there are other married couples and less interest in forming romantic relationships and more interest in trying out new things sexually (however, from anecdotal evidence I have heard that bisexual men can struggle in swinger’s communities as most couples are only interested in bisexual, single women).

This isn’t to say you can prevent yourself from developing feelings for people down the line, but if you want to explore those options, rather than a trial separation, you could work on a sort of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell agreement with your wife where you may have the freedom on specific nights to go to these communities or hire a sex worker in order to more or less satisfy your curiosity which may ebb as you age or have other obligations in life which take up your time. This might be something your wife could agree to temporarily to see if this is a solution to the problem.

It’s worth you investing time to find a polyamory friendly couples therapist who may be able to walk you through both a process of self discovery in your motivations for infidelity as well as facilitating talks between yourself and your wife on how to best work through your exploration outside of your marriage, if she wants to do that, in a way that is least harmful. Unfortunately, if your desire stems from an inherent want to explore multiple romantic relationships or complete freedom to do what you want with anyone at any time, this is likely not going to solve that. You may not be able to figure that out until you try something like the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell setup, and it’s worth being honest about that with your wife rather than promising this will be the last hurdle she may have to consider.

Ultimately, if what you desire is total freedom or multiple romantic relationships, your only real option is to fully separate as you are inherently now incompatible and a trial separation in that case would only string her along further than is necessary.

Bisexuality and discomfort

One last thing I want to address is your wife’s discomfort with you exploring a relationship with a man (and in this cause I will assume she may have equal discomfort with you exploring a relationship with a non-binary individual who may be read as a man). The reason I wish to address this is because if you do communicate this to others in any community, you may get a reaction because this, essentially and no offense intended to your wife, is somewhat of a biphobic/transphobic attitude.

However, I do think that when people have this discomfort in heterosexual relationships it sometimes stems from a very real and understandable fear that you dating someone who is a “man” and all that people assume about that (i.e. that the man will be masculine and have a penis), means that they are providing you with something that they cannot personally offer. I think this is something that’s understandable to be intimidated by.

However, there is often the assumption that bisexual people will leave their partners because we’re inherently unfaithful or we can’t commit to one person. In many cases, the underlying assumption beneath that is that men are always a ‘threat’. Bisexual men are assumed to be secretly just ‘gay’ and bisexual women are assumed to be secretly just ‘straight’ — and rarely the reverse.

I would invite your wife to explore these fears and break them down. She probably has them due to the biphobic messages she has heard from society. Personally, I find it a bit of a relief when one of my partners is dating someone who doesn’t have the same biological configuration I have because then there sometimes, not all the times, is less to directly compare myself to. But it can be hard for people to fully engage with that. Also, you might find that there are assumptions that a man will always have a certain genital configuration which may not be the case and that’s an assumption that’s worth challenging.

In summary

The initial suggestion of a trial separation from your wife isn’t inherently a bad one and it demonstrates a willingness on her part to continue to be committed to a relationship with you but it may not achieve the aims she is thinking it will. In order to really get to the root of the problem, you need to identify what motivates you to cheat and figure out if there can be another solution such as entering the swinger community, attending swinger events or hiring a sex worker that could potentially solve your problem.

You and your wife should challenge the assumptions that you can make in either being threatened by you potentially having a relationship with a man and what you assume about what a ‘man’ is all together. And finally, if ultimately you wish to have full freedom and/or multiple romantic relationships, a trial separation will only delay the inevitable and a full separation is probably a better bet in the long run.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Should I date a couple?

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

How do you enter a new poly (triad) relationship and ensure that it can be as equitable/fair as possible? I am interested in a couple but hesitant about them only wanting to play together. It sounds exhausting and inflexible. I am not experienced in this, but two-on-one dynamic sounds difficult to manage for the third if the couple calls all the shots.

We are planning our first date. Any tips on polite questions or recommendations on how to assess their interest in fairness from the beginning?

Also, how do couples add another person in a way where the third person isn’t pressured to follow the couple’s rules? I’ve read about power dynamics, but it’s hard to understand what a good situation looks like especially when the couple says up front that they want a connection but only want to play together?

I was going to begin my response to you by emphasising the inherent imbalance that a person dating a couple will face but acknowledge that this can be overcome with time.

Despite the bad reputation that comes with couples seeking “a third”, I do believe that there can and are good examples of two people creating a new triad relationship and doing so in a way that doesn’t alienate the person who has less experience dating both of those people. There is a way to lay the groundwork.

The problem? You’re not the one who has to lay it.

What worries me about your question is that you’re the one reading about power dynamics, you’re the one doing the heavy lifting, and you’re the one doing the groundwork — and not them. All they’ve indicated is that they “only want to play together”.

You can’t do the heavy lifting for these people. There is a way they could bring you in in a fair way, but if they have no intention on doing so, then there really isn’t going to be anything that you or I can say or do to prevent that from happening.

My honest advice to you is, as Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. They have not said to you that they have an interest in creating a new relationship. They -only- want to play together, and that doesn’t sound like something you want or have the energy to entertain. They can want a connection all they want, but until they’re willing to put in the research that you’ve already done, my guess is that they will not be likely to find it.

You can point them towards websites that explain what unicorn hunting is and why it’s a problem. I don’t agree with the use of the word “couple’s privilege” in how people apply it to these situations, but you can point out to them that there is an inherent power dynamic that they can’t just pretend doesn’t exist which they have to address and think about how they’re going to manage. You can do all this stuff for them but… is it really worth it? Is a triad where you actually want to be?

Would you walk into a living situation with someone who told you that they had no intention upon doing their fair share of the housework and no interest in changing that? Probably not, right? But if someone were to say, have a job that meant they had irregular and long hours and might struggle to regularly do a specific type of chore around the house and acknowledged the imbalance that brought but were willing to work with you on a way to make the living situation work despite this and compromise… you might be more willing to go into that situation.

Think about whether or not they’re putting in the effort it takes to counteract the inherent issue with the power dynamics and ask yourself if it’s really worth it when you could find someone else.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Episode 15: Fancying An Artist

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Your partner’s not too keen on non-monogamy but you have an appointment with an artist you can’t resist.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 15 – Fancying An Artist

Your partner has never been too keen on non-monogamy, but you have an appointment with an artist you can’t resist.  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

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 am a 30-years old girl in relationship with a guy since 6 years. In brief, from the very beginning I told him I want an open relationship and he did not take this need seriously. I have proposed him to have a threesome, to have other partners, to go to nightclubs but he cannot stand with all these things. He conceives these kink opportunities only with his friends and not with “the woman he loves”.

Only after 6 months he asked me to be monogamous. I did my best while trying to make him pro polyamory but 2 years ago I cheated him and he discovered my wild affair. This destroyed him emotionally and he lost his trust on me. Now 2 years have past, we are fine and he knows that I need to have some sexual space outside him. So far I have never met someone who fascinates me, but soon I will get a tattoo on my thigh and I have realized the tattooer really makes me horny. So that’s my question: what is the best way to tell my boyfriend I want to have sex with the tattoer?

Response:

So… there are few things here. Like I really really hate it when my best advice in a situation is breaking up, but honestly… In this situation, I kind of feel like you’re very incompatible and you kind of knew you were incompatible from the beginning. I’m not really sure why you’ve continued to be in this relationship for 6 years.

From the beginning, you’ve told him that you’re non-monogamous and that’s what you want and he doesn’t want that. You’ve tried for 6 years to make— to get him to be interested in some form of non-monogamy, whether that be doing things with you in a threesome way which some monogamous people, even though they are monogamous, are still open to. It sounds like you’ve tried a variety of things and he’s still not into it.

And then you’ve also cheated and that really really upset him and really really hurt him. I don’t know why you’re still with him. You might be quote unquote fine right now but you’re basically not fine because you’re not getting what it is that you want in the relationship and I really don’t think there is a best way to tell your boyfriend that you want to sleep with the person who is going to tattoo you.

I think that the… honestly… and I really really don’t like this being my advice because I feel like it’s such a hard decision. It is a kind of last resort decision sometimes. For some people, you want to do your best to salvage the relationship that you have and I totally understand that but I really, really feel like you’ve put 6 years into this relationship. You’ve both been together for 6 years and you clearly have a basic level of incompatibility.

I totally understand that you might have very strong feelings for one another. You may love him very, very much but you’re at a basic level incompatible and there are certain incompatibilities that can be worked around. There are certain things that you can disagree on and you can meet in the middle or you can give a little get a little, but this is the kind of thing where it just doesn’t seem like there is any compromise to be had.

The only thing that I could *maybe* suggest and I would really, really would advise you do this with the help of a polyamory friendly therapist, is may be considering if he would be open to allowing you to have some exploration with other people in a “don’t ask don’t tell” situation.

I know that a lot of people don’t like “don’t ask don’t tell”. And if you’re unfamiliar with “don’t ask don’t tell”, it’s basically where you can do what you’d like and he doesn’t know about it, but he’s fine with it because he’s kind of agreed with it beforehand. So it’s not cheating because he has agreed with it but he doesn’t want to know any of the details and maybe, like, for one night a week he knows you’re out and that’s all he knows.

That is a situation that does and can work for some people. Usually I would suggest or think about that kind of situation for people who have been married for decades, who have children, who have lives tied together that would be very, very difficult to untangle and for all intents and purposes have a fantastic stable relationship outside of it. But I just feel like you know, you’re 30. You’ve been with him for 6 years. I don’t know how old he is, but why waste your time?

I just feel like him… you know, the sacrifice he is going to make by agreeing to a “don’t ask don’t tell” type of situation might potentially be really hurtful for him. When you did cheat on him in the past, you said it destroyed him emotionally. If he is at a base level monogamous,  why I continue this? Why continue torturing both yourself and him by being together when it you’re just at the base level not compatible? Wanting or not wanting to have kids is another one of those things that’s just not compromise-able… or I would really not suggest someone who really doesn’t want kids to compromise by having a kid because it’s… yeah. I wouldn’t suggest that.

And this is a kind of same situation. If he wasn’t emotionally devastated by you cheating on him, if he kind of was able to cope with it better and could maybe not necessarily come around to being polyamorous himself but still be ok with you doing things, that would be one thing. But it just doesn’t seem like that’s the case. And you’ve been together for 6 years already. You both knew from the start that you were incompatible on this basic way.  I just think why continue to keep digging this hole? I know you might feel like “Well we spent 6 years together. We have to keep doing this”. You really don’t. You really don’t have to keep going. And it doesn’t sound like you have kids. It doesn’t sound like you own property together. It doesn’t sound like you have things that would tie you together in a way that would be difficult to pull yourself apart so I really, really think that in all honesty the best thing that you can do is break up because you just are not compatible.

You’re going to be able to find someone who is interested in doing all these things with you. I don’t really get what he’s saying and I’m not sure what you mean by “he conceives of these kink opportunities only with his friends and not with the woman he loves”. Maybe that’s how he does things and you know what? That’s fine but that’s still clearly not what you want so why keep this going on? It’s just gonna torture to you both. Even as much as you’re in love or you might care for one another, if you do really care for one another then pick a situation that will bring you both the most happiness which is honestly you guys not being together.

As shitty as that sounds and I’m really really sorry because I do wish that there was a way I could see you to save this relationship but I just feel like you are at a base level incompatible and unfortunately sometimes the best thing you can do is break-up. And that’s the healthiest and most desirable and the solution that will bring you both the most amount of happiness is breaking up. So that’s kind of what I’d advise.

There’s another thing here that I really, really want to talk about. So you are going to get a tattoo on your thigh and you really like the tattooer or tattooist. When you are with a tattooer or tattooist, sorry… you both have to be together for at least an hour if not longer. On both sides, I would really advise people not to do anything that would make that other person feel awkward. Because the thing of it is that once the tattoo is started… unless you know you want to get it finished by another tattoo artist, it’s going to be pretty difficult for you or that tattoo artist to walk away if they’re uncomfortable about something.

I don’t know if you know for sure if this tattoo artist is interested in you or not. You may have already planned this, but I would really, really advise you either say before the tattoo artist starts the tattoo or after the tattoo is finished rather than in the middle because it’s not really fair. If that tattoo artist has absolutely no interest in you and you express interest while the tattoo is going, it’s going to make it really really awkward for them to finish the tattoo and if they feel uncomfortable enough they may just stop doing your tattoo and tell you to get it  finished by some else if they feel awkward enough.

And it’s just not really advisable in a situation where you know… like if you have someone who’s a waiter, if you find them attractive like you’re allowed to find people attractive, but if someone is kind of in a position where they’re forced to be nice to you or kind of forced to be around you because it’s their job you really, really don’t want to do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable. Especially when it’s going to like put them at conflicts with them having to earn a living vs them being nice to you. It’s just not cool to do.

And I don’t know like I’m not assuming that you’re going to be creepy or anything I’m just trying to address that because having been someone who has been tattooed and knowing quite a few tattoo artists and hearing quite a few really terrible client experiences from tattoo artists… If you find your tattoo artist attractive that’s fine, but I would just honestly advise you to wait until the tattoo was done with to actually tell them. Just because you absolutely want to make sure that they don’t feel uncomfortable.

Because it’s not wise is for you either. If you’re getting something permanently drawn on your body the last thing you want to do is make the person as drawing it feel distracted or even if they do like you back. Honestly, just don’t distract the person who is going to draw something that’s going to be on your body for the rest of your life. Generally good life advice there. Again not saying that that’s what you plan to do but just wanted to put that out there for you and for anyone else who’s listening who might be attracted to a tattoo artist. Wait until your tattoo is done and then tell them that you’re into them. Wait till it’s done completely and then tell them that you’re into them, if that’s what you want to do.

To sum up my advice, I’m really sorry. I wish that there was… even though “don’t ask don’t tell” situation might work. I really really think that you know… You’ve been together for 6 years. You’re 30 years old. You can find someone else who is more suited to what you want and equally your partner can find someone else who is also suited to what they want. It’s just not worth continuing to hurt each other. If you really do love each other and care for each other sometimes the best thing you can do honestly it’s just to end the relationship as unfortunate and not great as that sounds.

I do unfortunately think that’s the best option in this case. Just find someone who really wants you to have all these opportunities and who wants to do threesomes with you or who just will allow you to go out and do it is that you want to do. And equally he can find someone who shares his perspective on things and who is monogamous. And you know you’ll both be happier in the long run. It’s just not worth it. You know, life is short. It’s not worth spending years and years and years in a relationship where you’re both at a base level incompatible so yeah… I’m sorry. I really 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.

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How to find a unicorn

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Hello: my wife and I are a very loving couple. And, we are very much in love with one another. We are also interested in other women for a polyamorous relationship. We have successfully managed a treeium three times now. However, we were both wondering if there is any type of jewelry or anything that we could wear that signifies our devotion to a polyamorous lifestyle. It almost seems like there would have to be something that would let a potential unicorn know that it is okay to approach us. or, for us to approach her in a safe and nonchalant manner. Ideas???

Wow, there’s a lot to say here.

First and foremost, it’s really hard to say if what you want is actually polyamory or a long term sex partner. I totally get why monogamous couples open their relationship and think it’s “safer” to do it as a couple, but if you actually put yourself in the position of a single person who is approached by not just one person, but two people that expect you to not only feel the same about both of them but also might get rid of you if things don’t work out the way the couple expect — does that sound like a enticing situation? Not so much.

It’s a lot of pressure on one person. And because you mention “threesomes” and nothing else that would indicate your primary interest is relationship based, rather than sexual, it further makes me suspect that you both aren’t really interested in a relationship. And in general, I wonder what research you have actually done on polyamory at all, because if you had done some, you’d know that a “unicorn” is not a compliment — although I can’t fault you for being 100% honest with everyone about what you want.

People call them “unicorns” for a reason — because they don’t exist. If you want to show your “devotion to a polyamorous lifestyle”, you should start by doing enough reading to know and understand that dating as a couple and expecting a person to be interested in both of you is very unlikely for a lot of important reasons.

That said, if what you want is a regular connection with the same person who would be perfectly happy to come in, have a good time with you all and not be hurt at all if you decided to stop having sex with them, I’d honestly suggest you consider becoming a regular client of a sex worker — after you do much more research on how to be a good client for a sex worker. A sex worker could and can come in, understand your boundaries as a couple, have a good time with you, and then, if you decided that there was an issue, they wouldn’t be hurt personally if you decided to stop being a client.

If you were looking for something more like a friendship, you might consider going to the swinger community and finding some couples to swing with — but even then you are less likely to find a single woman all on her own looking for a couple. You’re more likely to find another couple you can swap with, who you could swap with regularly and have a closer more intimate relationship with.

These are the best options I can give you. I say this with all the respect I can muster — you will not be approaching any individual in a ‘safe’ and ‘nonchalant’ manner at this point with any symbol you could wear because you haven’t done enough research to know that ‘unicorn’ is not a positive descriptor. Please do more research and consider if you’re actually ready or willing to invite another person with their own feelings, needs and wants into your lives as autonomous individuals and what you’re going to do if it doesn’t work out perfectly.

It’s exactly this type of situation which causes people to be immediately suspicious of hierarchies. It’s not necessarily a problem if you and your partner want to date together and you would both like to date the same person. And… while I wouldn’t say that it isn’t inherently a problem that you both would like to date a woman, I do think it is a problem if you want to be polyamorous, as in truly polyamorous, and your wife cannot date another man (or you for that matter) because only being allowed to date as a couple really isn’t “open” or “polyamory” in the full sense of the word.

If this is what you’re interested in, I get that. But the way you are going about it clearly indicates that you operate as one ‘unit’ and the other person is a secondary and that is going to give the impression that they will be jettisoned the moment there is turbulence in your relationship. And there are very, very few people who are going to be okay with that. Even though I do operate on a hierarchy in terms of how I spend my time, I absolutely do not see this as all relationships, even friendships or family relationships, are not as important as my relationship with my domestic partner.

If you genuinely want to find someone you both want to date at the same time, put some effort and time into understanding polyamory, understanding what it’s like to be a ‘secondary’, understanding the issues that people face. Focus less on trying to put up a front to make someone feel ‘safe’ and do the actual work that will make them safe. I believe once you’ve done this work… well, it’ll still be quite hard to find a single woman who is interested in dating a couple but… you’ll at least be an option for someone who might consider it, no matter how hesitant they are.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Episode 13: I Wanna Ruin our Friendship

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Your best friend’s monogamous and your relationship is close — should you ruin it to try polyamory with them? Especially if you’re used to solo polyamory? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

You should also be able to find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 13 – I Wanna Ruin Our Friendship

You’ve fallen for your (very monogamous) best friend. Should you take the plunge and ‘ruin’ your friendship?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

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’ve been non-monogamous as long as I’ve been dating at all (about 4 years). This has included a lot of ups and downs – good relationships and bad. I identify somewhere between relationship anarchist and solo-poly[am] at the moment – basically my primary relationship is with myself but I put just as much effort into my relationships with close friends and partners and the line between friendship and dating or between platonic and romantic feelings for me is a very squiggly one. A lot of my friendships are very intimate and I have one friend in particular who I’ve grown closer and closer to over the 7 or 8 years that she’s been in my life.

She lives in a different city but I visit often and I’m moving there in a few months. We text or call nearly daily about our lives, about my relationship problems and her mental health and everything that brings us joy or pain – I feel completely comfortable around her in a way that I’ve never felt with anyone before. I realized a few months ago that my feelings are more romantic than platonic and admitted to myself that I’m in love with her and have been for years. On NYE she texted me that she wished she was there to kiss me and has said similar things before but I assume she means them in a platonic way?

She recently had me read her favorite book – The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It has a line in it that says “When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘You’re safe with me’ – that’s intimacy.” The line is in reference to the main character realizing she loved her friend – the whole novel is about forbidden lesbian romance and how love is the truest part of ourselves. My friend and I talked about it for hours and decided to write and mail each other love letters like the main characters did in the books.

There are a few things I’m wrestling with about this situation:

  • She’s an inherently monogamous person and I’ve never been monogamous – I think I could be for her if she felt the same way about me.
  • I’m not her type – she has a very specific type of woman that she’s attracted to and I’m not it.
  • I don’t think she feels the same way – I know that she loves me but aside from mentioning wanting to give me a NYE kiss and this being a very intimate friendship, I doubt her feelings are the same as mine.

So the questions I’m left with are: should I tell her about my feelings? I’ve been working on the love letter but have been leaving it vague enough for plausible deniability. I don’t want to change our friendship in a way that makes us less close. Is it worth it? And do you think that people can successfully go from 4+ years of non-monogamy to monogamy? Do you think it’s reasonable to want to do that for a specific person? How do I deal with this overwhelming uncertainty?

Response:

There are lot of things going on here. I think the biggest kind of question for you right now is can you handle just being friends? I kind of have told people before in episodes of the podcast that just because you have romantic feelings for someone doesn’t mean you have to act on them. And sometimes flirting and that kind of intimacy that you have can be enjoyable on its own and it doesn’t have to actually come to a fruition, if you will, in order to be a good thing in your life.

So that’s kinda like the first question. Can you go on being friends? Is this kind of a difficult or an impossible situation for you? Do you feel pressure? Do you feel like it’s untenable? Are you ok with this going on in perpetuity potentially, I guess maybe until she finds another partner that she wants to settle down with and maybe she sees having other in friendships that intimately as not being a thing she can do? Or, you know, can you handle that? Just being friends in this in very intimate way for the rest of your life? And are you willing to risk this intimacy, to potentially end it to kind of pursue her in a kind of more obvious way?

I mean to be perfectly honest with you, it’s hard for me to say what’s going on inside of her head but it feels kinda like… I’m having a hard time wondering why you think she isn’t into you because I mean… I’m not the one to ask about this cause I really don’t have intimate friendships of this level. Like I don’t do that. Like the line for me between friend and romantic partner or romantic interest is very, very clear for me. I know very clearly when I’m into somebody and when I’m not. There are some times when it’s a bit fuzzier but I know when I’m into someone and I generally don’t like… wish to kiss people not into. And I wouldn’t like… pretend to write romantic love letters with someone that I’m not interested in too so it really feels like for me she is into you. But you know I don’t want to say that and I can’t say that. Because it might be that she, you know, all the caveats you said about… she’s monogamous and so she feels like… well there’s no point in actually pursuing a romantic relationship with you because she can’t do polyamory or non-monogamy and she assumes you can’t either.

So she’s just kind of enjoying this bit of really close friendship you have that’s kind of not accurately or outwardly spelled out. And I don’t know I mean… you say that she has a typed and you’re not her type but like… I have a really hard time… I mean maybe people do. It’s hard for me to say. I’m not that kind of person. I would never be this intimate and romantic with someone that I wasn’t in some way interested in. So I have a hard time thinking that she’s… I have a hard time believing she’s not at all interested in you. She might be interested in you but sees that there isn’t much of a future with you because of the non-monogamy thing, if she knows you’re not monogamous. She might be like, “What’s the point? I’m not going to be non-monogamous” But maybe she still enjoys his flirting aspect.

So I have a hard time believing she’s not at all interested in you. But it is something to think about. Are you willing to risk… cause you know if you do say, “Actually I would like to have a romantic relationship with you”. It might be that it kind of ruins the intimacy because maybe part of what makes her feel safe about this is that it’s not defined. So the second you start to define it, it might make that stuff go away. I mean you say that you have intimate friendships with other people so I kind of feel like you know… you can have other intimate friendships. You will have other intimate friendships in your life. So why not pursue something if you think that there’s a chance that it might work out? I kind of wonder if you know…. there’s a discussion to be had if she is interested in you of whether it’s she who tries non-monogamy or you that tries monogamy.

And I do think you need to really ask yourself… cause you say that, “Oh I could totally be monogamous for her.” Is that kind of a new relationship energy talking? Can you really give that up? Because you know… I do think people can and I personally…I feel like non-monogamy for me isn’t an orientation. It’s a choice. I could be monogamous if I wanted to. I just don’t want to. But the thing is… I don’t think I could go back to a relationship where I was forced to be monogamous. I just don’t think… even though I am quite, you know… I’m not non-monogamous because I *must* you know… I feel so strongly for so many people. It’s a kind of the opposite actually. I’m non-monogamous… mostly it’s my choice because I’m so very rarely attracted to people that I want the chance to pursue when in 18 years precisely when the planets align ever so nicely as I commonly say as a joke. I’d like the chance to actually pursue it. That’s my choice and my reasoning for it.

But are you that kind of a person? And what does monogamy look like for her? Is it that you can’t have intimate friendships with other people? You say that the line is fuzzy and that might very well work when you’re kind of not defining what you have with her but once it is defined if you’re willing to go to monogamy, I think you need to… especially because you consider yourself a relationship anarchist, you’re going to have to really think about what that means for you and not just for your romantic relationships, but for your friendships as well. Does that mean that you can’t have those intimate friendships anymore? Are you really willing to get rid of all that now just for the sake of having a relationship with this one person? So I think that’s worth you thinking about like really thinking about. Because I think you’re kind of a little bit clouded by the romance going on here.

Because it is romance. You write love letters as characters in a book. I think that’s romantic me. Far be it from me to tell you what you’re doing and whether or not you should class it as romantic but it would be very romantic for me. So you know it’s… it’s one thing for you to think about. You won’t be able… You might not be able to… It depends on how she does monogamy. It might be that in her version of monogamy she kind of isn’t as strict as some of the other people who practice monogamy maybe. Maybe you can have these close, intimate friendships. It’s really worth thinking about. Because that’s a big… I don’t even necessarily think it’s about like… you know, it changes the way you do relationships fundamentally, and the way you do friendships as well. Because that line is so wobbly for you. So it’s really worth thinking about.

I think once you think about this stuff like… can you handle just been friends for the rest of your life? However long this friendship lasts, can you handle just this being this way until presumably she finds someone else and maybe she can’t have this kind of relationship? Maybe she can. Could you do this for the rest of your life and be happy? That’s a question you going to have to answer for yourself. Is it worth risking this? Can you have this with some other person? You have intimate friendships and I kind of feel like you know… It’s worth the risk. If you feel… If this was like the only person you knew and you were living in a country where you didn’t speak the language and you know… and if this was like, the only real close friendship and you weren’t in a position to make new friends and I would probably be a little bit more hesitant. But you’re in an ok position. You can make new friends. You can have new friendships and you will have new friendships and connections so I think it’s… you know, why not give it a try?

But that’s ultimately up to you to decide. Would you risk this if it meant ending what you have now? If I meant that the you know all this intimate stuff with stop the second you pursue… assume it will. Not saying it won’t cause sometimes maybe you ask and she says “Nah” and then you can carry on. You’ll never know but assume for a second that it would end. Are you ok with that? Can you be ok with that? Can you really go back to a monogamy that would redefine how you do your friendships and your romantic relationships? Can you really do that? Is that something you want to do really?

And then yeah… I think once you kind of answer some of the questions and you think, “Yeah, maybe we can talk about the non-monogamy thing?”. Because she could try non-monogamy and maybe she’s more open to it than you know. I think that’s worth thinking about it. And if you feel like, “I can’t really handle this pressure” or either way you kind of want to go for it because you know… life is short. Go for it. I just think you could start by asking her overtly what she thinks about non-monogamy. You got this book that you’ve read and it doesn’t… you said it’s about falling in love with your best friend but like… there’s like seven husbands in it. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I don’t know if that means that she has seven husbands or she’s gone through kind of serial monogamy seven different men and figured out that that doesn’t work for her but just ask her overtly what she thinks of of non-monogamy or polyamory.

Say you know, “I’ve talk to you about my relationships. What do you think of non-monogamy? Of polyamory?”. I think that’s a good starting point cause if she goes, “I could never ever do it. I could never ever ever do it.” You know, you could start to talk to her about relationship anarchy and say, “What do you think about…  say you have a partner. Would you be… would we be as close friends if you had a partner? Would that…” Because those questions can lead you to… I don’t think you have to overly put it on the table. I think you can ask some of these questions to decide if you want to take that leap. And if she goes, “You know, if I had a partner I definitely… you know we definitely couldn’t be doing this.”  Or whatever then you know… you know your answer as far as what you can expect if you went into a monogamous relationship with her.

So I think you start with those things. And if… you know it’s up to you in the end to decide if it’s worth it for you. If it’s worth potentially losing this to say, “hey” and put your cards on the table and let her know how you feel. I think you are… Overall I think you should because I just think if…  you only live once. I know I just said YOLO but honestly like why not? Why not give it a shot? It sounds really bad. I wanna be like “You can make new friends”. It sounds really terrible but it is the way it is and if you think you can have a really good relationship then why not give a shot?

But I just think the only big caveat here that… the biggest caveat I think that I’m worried about here is not necessarily that you’re gonna ruin your friendship. You know if you ruin your friendship, you ruin your friendship. Something else could happen that ruined your friendship. So many other things can ruin friendships. I don’t think that like… being honest about how you feel and putting that on the line is like worth, “Oh I don’t wanna ruin a friendship”. You can make new friends.

I think the biggest risk for you is falling into this new relationship energy type of thing and going, “Yeah I can totally do monogamy! I think it’s something I want to do!” And it really depends on why you’ve chosen to do non-monogamy. And I kinda really do feel like if you… not just because you’ve chosen non-monogamy but like but you’ve chosen a form of non-monogamy that is really not conducive to monogamy at all. Like you’ve chosen a form of non-monogamy where the line between friend and lover is very blurred for you. You’ve chosen a form of non-monogamy where you are solo polyam, which means that you focus on you and you don’t like… I mean I was assuming. If I’m wrong, I apologise. You know, I’m assuming you don’t have primary partners. You don’t do that. You do a form of non-monogamy that’s least like monogamy and… I don’t know if you’re going to be happy changing completely how you do your friendships and your romantic relationships.

That’s a big ask. It’s not just about you only dating one person at a time. Cause I think if you could date one person at a time but still be solo polyam in that you can… you know still have your primary relationship with yourself, you might be able to do that. But that’s not really… That might not be what she wants in monogamy. Like when people want a monogamous relationship, generally speaking, they don’t tend to want something that looks like solo polyam so I think that’s that’s really the biggest caveat that I see here.

Have those considerations. Have a talk with her about non-monogamy. See what she thinks about it and see what she thinks about relationship anarchy and solo polyamory. Ask her about these specific things and see you know. I think that once you have a good feel for how she thinks about that and if she goes “No way. No way,” then you can decide if you if you want to risk it. But if she kind of seems open to it than you know you can’t… you can never know until you know. You know what I mean. Sometimes you just have to give it a try and see what happens but yeah. I hope that helps and good luck!

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Telling a crush you’re polyamorous

This content is 3 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Hey (sorry, english is not my first language, I’m from Brazil)

After much talk and many opinions being exposed in a clear and sincere way, my boyfriend and I finally agreed about start a non monogamy relationship. But contrary to what I imagined, right now I’m feeling terrified.

Because now I have to face not only a new stage of our relationship (for this part I’m very excited and willing), but things like me and my insecure about myself… Ok, let me explain it more clearly.

I’ve never been a good person to flirt, with the exception of the times when I’m at that stage “drunk and happy”. And although I know we will have to communicate more often as a couple, this fact does not worry me as much as the fear of being judged by some future crush to which I have to talk about it.

I said “future crush” but, right now, there’s this guy from my college… But he’s already seen me with my boyfriend, so he knows, as far as he can understand, that “I’m in a relationship” (with all monogamous weight).

And even though I’ve felt 10% interest from him before he knew that fact, I guess after that he’s been avoiding me a bit (at least that’s what it seems to me). And I’ve been pretty sad about it ☹ We didn’t have anything and he even know that I fell something for him, but even so…

Well, now I’m kind of afraid of try something with everyone and I’m feeling a little guilty for feeling that little desire to try to hide as much as I can that I’m in a non monogamy, at least in the beginning of some future involvement…

What I supposed to do?

It sounds like what you’re asking is at what point you should disclose to people you meet that you’re non-monogamous. If you meet people online, you can easily put this in your profile and I would always recommend telling people as early as possible, mostly to avoid wasting your own time and energy.

I know it feels awkward, but the mistake here you’re making is that you assume you can control how other people will react to you being non-monogamous. While there are ways of telling people that will make them less defensive or less antagonistic, ultimately, there really is no way for you to control how people are going to react or whether or not they’re going to be interested in being with someone who is non-monogamous.

With cases like these, I would just be blunt and honest with the guy. Tell him that you are interested in him and that you’re non-monogamous with your current partner. If your partner is fine with speaking to people you’re interested in, offer that as reassurance in case he doesn’t believe you. Although, I would say that him not believing you doesn’t always bode well in a relationship. Still, sometimes people don’t know what non-monogamy or polyamory is, so they might not believe it’s a thing because they’re so used to cheating.

Find some beginner articles that you particularly like and keep them to send to people new to the concept. You can also send them to the Polyamory Wikipedia page just as an idea. Another good thing for you to do is figure out with your current partner what style of polyamory you want. How do new relationships fit in with your current relationship with your partner? Think about this in terms of tangible things. How much time are you going to spend with new partners vs. current partners? What do you want out of polyamory and why have you decided to be polyamorous?

These are really good grounding things for people new to polyamory and for introducing people to the concept. If they have an understanding of what it means for them to be in a relationship with you, they have all of the information they need to know if they want to try polyamory or not. And it’s okay if you don’t have the answers. Maybe you need to experiment more to see what you want out of polyamory. But if you have a bit of an idea, it can help guide both you and other new people.

My last bit of advice on this is to go easy on yourself. One of the worst things you can do is expect yourself to be happy all of the time — this is true for life in general. No one is happy all of the time. Relationships are difficult and they take work. Trying a new relationship style, even if it’s meant to make things better in general, will cause you stress. That’s okay. If you expect yourself to be perfect, you’re always going to fail because we rarely are perfect. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Sometimes, that is the only way we learn.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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How to find other polyamorous people?

This content is 3 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Thanks for your posts, I’m obsessively reading them after I read the “thirteen reasons”. I am so warm inside after that. Being anxious and having problems to begin relationship (even non amorous or sexual) and sensorial sensitivity, living with my partner and feeling alone.. It’s really rare to have someone who understands that. We recently ‘reopen’ our relationship, now that I’m ok with my mental health, and I am ok with him going out but I don’t feel secure to start engaging into one and at the same time I feel really alone because I end up having no friends without him or other relations because of mental illness. Do you have any advice? We are also moving to another country so, extremely lonely. How can I meet people?

You’ve got a combination of issues going on here and I think what’s overwhelming you is trying to tackle them all at once. It might help if you do two things:

  • Remind yourself of the process you’re going through
  • Break things down into manageable chunks

Becoming non-monogamous

The first thing to remember is that any relationship we form with anyone has a period of uncertainty when it starts out — and that’s any relationship, whether it’s romantic or not. We’re just getting to know a person and we’re establishing a basis of communication and learning to test our trust of them. Insecurity is extremely common in the beginning because we don’t have anything to establish security with. If you already struggle with anxiety, you’re going to experience more anxiety during these times.

In fact, I would say that the process of trying to cope with anxiety is very much about building trust with yourself. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is all about learning how to slowly face your anxiety, sit through the feelings, and then see that you come out of it okay. You begin to build trust in yourself and then when you experience anxiety, you have that trust which allows you to cope with it. It doesn’t stop anxiety all together and you may still have anxiety, but you begin to trust yourself to learn to cope with it and know it won’t last forever.

So in this new relationship, you’re building your foundation together. Once you have that foundation though, it can be really shaken by major events — just like your anxiety can be shaken by major events. Opening up your relationship is a major event and it will and can put stress on the foundations of your relationship similar to adding a new child, losing a job, or a death in the family puts stress on the foundations. And, if you’re already experiencing anxiety a lot in general, when these events happen, it may further exacerbate the situation.

You mention “re-opening” your relationship. I’m not sure if this is an issue with language, but it sounds like you’ve maybe tried to open your relationship before and something happened which caused you to close it and now you re trying again?

Quite often I think that people self-sabotage themselves when they have anxiety by not realising that their anxiety is quite normal. When we have a mental health problem where where we have an abundance of anxiety, we often forget that anxiety is and can be a very normal feeling. It’s just hard to feel like it’s normal when we experience it so much. I personally found that my anxiety was so much more difficult to cope with when I was expecting myself to be completely cured of anxiety via therapy. By setting my goals as “free of anxiety” rather than “coping better with anxiety”, I was completely setting myself up for failure.

I wonder if, when opening your relationship, you and your partner set up the expectation that you would be non-monogamous and be more happy, not less. And then when you began to experience normal anxiety and fear, you thought this was somehow a failure and decided to back away. People can be very confused when they first open up their relationship because they believe it will make them happier and don’t understand that it’s such a big change and all big changes cause some discomfort and unhappiness.

Very few people would expect to be instantly happy when they have or adopt a child. People expect that to be stressful, but rewarding in the long run, so when they don’t immediately feel happy all of the time when a new child comes into their life, they don’t instantly believe they are a failure as a parent. But there is such a lack of realistic information on non-monogamy out there and such a strong expectation for non-monogamous people to prove that non-monogamy “works” by acting as if their problems are small or don’t exist that I find that people often set themselves up for failure when they go about opening their relationship by expecting to automatically be happy.

I think you need to remember that opening your relationship will cause you stress. So will moving to a new country. There are a lot of big changes happening in your life and if you have anxiety, that is going to trigger that anxiety. You might find that you start caring about or being nitpick about stuff that didn’t bother you before. How your anxiety manifests might be very different to mine, which is why it’s important to work with a therapist to understand how your anxiety crops up and how you can manage it better. Finding a polyamory friendly therapist will help you work through this.

Break down things into manageable chunks

Another aspect here that’s probably making your anxiety worse is that you might be trying to do way too much all at once. Generally, you seem to have a problem with feeling isolated and always doing things with your partner. Rather than trying to date and find all the things you want all at once, you need to set yourself smaller goals so that the task you’re looking at isn’t such a large one.

A therapist would be able to help you with this but I’d think about approaching this by trying to reach some milestones. Maybe start by attending an event with your partner but having him spend some time without you so you socialise on your own. I find events where there is a clear task to complete much easier than general get togethers because I don’t enjoy approaching and making small talk with strangers. If that causes you some anxiety, maybe try going to a book club or a board game night — something where there is a clear topic of discussion rather than just a general get together.

If you’re looking for polyamorous communities, try searching online in the new country you’re in. You can always make friends now in that country and even start up an OK Cupid profile in that local area. OK Cupid doesn’t only have to be about romantic relationships. If you answer a lot of questions, you can also find people who are very similar to you who you will get along with.

Don’t expect yourself to be able to go to tons of things by yourself all at once. Start small and work your way into things as and when you feel comfortable. Don’t push yourself and accept that you can, do and will feel anxiety — and doing so isn’t a failure. You wouldn’t (I hope) blame yourself for having a cold, so likewise it is not your fault or a personal failure on your part to have anxiety.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Telling a crush that you’re polyamorous

This content is 4 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

How do I bring up that I’m polyamorous to someone I met outside of a polyamorous space who may or may not have ever thought about polyamory before? It’s a guy who I’m crushing on, who I think is crushing on me, too, but I haven’t let things progress because I feel like he should know about my polyamory before we get too involved… thanks!

I tend to think the best approach to telling a crush is the most direct one. And trust me when I say, you don’t want to wait too long to do this. At least you remember that you don’t know if this person is non-monogamous or not. Because, I’ve been in situations where I misremembered someone telling me they were non-monogamous when they weren’t and… it really wasn’t fun.

There are some people who like to ‘let things develop’ but generally those people aren’t people I tend to work well with anyway, because that feels too restrictive to me. You might think it’s better to keep it under wraps so you can enjoy the flirting you have with him but… it definitely doesn’t become worth it down the line.

I think just tell him honestly. Say something like, ‘Listen, I really like you and I’m interested in a relationship with you, but I need you to know that I’m non-monogamous/polyamorous/only interested in an open relationship. Are you still interested?’

And if he says he is and you get excited, I still think you need to keep things on hold for a little while. A lot of people like the way non-monogamy sounds on paper, but when the reality smacks them on the face, it’s not exactly what they thought it was. As much as he may want to open his mind to non-monogamy, you should accept that he may not want non-monogamy. It may not have anything to do with whether or not he’s keeping an open mind — he just may legitimately not want it.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Edit: I’ve had some people respond to this suggesting breaching the subject of non-monogamy in general and seeing where that goes. I don’t really advise this.

Here’s the thing, when you’re coasting on NRE with someone, the butterflies will make you agree to things you don’t really want all to keep going with someone. If you wait to divulge this, I think it’s more likely that someone who isn’t really all that interested in non-monogamy will go along with it just to keep you in their lives.

My first technical time being non-monogamous was after my first boyfriend dumped me because of our relationship was long distance — but I didn’t care and acted the exact same way as I did when we were together. He found someone new and I still didn’t care. That was how I found out I didn’t care if my partners dated other people. And it was only when he told me that I had to stop telling him I loved him because he was falling for this new person and it was making him feel bad that I actually got hurt. But really, I should have realised when he dumped me that it wasn’t going to happen. But love and the feelings I had for him kept me going, even when I logically knew better.

Love or even new feelings for new people will make you go along with tons of things you don’t want to do. And until the reality smacks you in the face, you just keep going. And if you wait too long to tell someone, you may end up in a situation where the feelings are there and they agree to non-monogamy even when they aren’t sure. They will try to see the bright side, they will do their best… until it blows up in both of your faces.

Save yourself the trouble. It may hurt to have someone not call you back with you being so up front. It may be awkward. But, personally, I’d take a bit of awkwardness over being heartbroken down the road any day.

Note: I wrote this response in 2017 so it is possible I have changed my perception and may answer this question differently. Feel free to ask it again.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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