Episode 62: More Metamour Toxicity

Your partner’s partner’s partner doesn’t seem like they’re good for your metamour, but what can you actually do?

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

Discussion Topic: How many of your friends know each other?

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

Episode 62 – More Metamour Toxicity

Your partner’s partner’s partner doesn’t seem like they’re good for your metamour, but what can you actually do? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How many of your friends know each other?

 

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I’m a married, polymorous woman and have been dating a man for almost two years. Our relationship has always been moderately long distance as we live just over an hour apart across an international border — but since COVID, that border is now mostly closed and we see each other much less.

He has been married to his primary partner for 6 years and they’ve been polyamorous about half that long, each having had various shorter-term partnerships (he just with women, her with women and men). Let’s call my partner Shawn and his primary partner Leah.

Leah has been in a relationship with another partner (let’s say Sam) for a year and a half — they have a lot of shared interests and activities that Shawn doesn’t like, so they spend several days and nights a week together. Sam is solo poly[am] and from the beginning has been awful at acknowledging and respecting Leah and Shawn’s boundaries — it doesn’t help that Shawn and Sam have very different interests and personalities, so they’ve never bonded as metamours. Sam has also burned bridges with Leah and Shawn’s friends by being confrontational and aloof at gatherings, so they aren’t interested in spending time with him either.

Despite Shawn’s boundary that he does not want to spend time with Sam (either separately or with Leah) Sam continuously pushes to visit Shawn and Leah’s home without warning, store things in their space and be invited to their social gatherings. He has been un (or under) employed for the length of his relationship with Leah and she pays part of his rent and for most of their date nights and agrees to drive him places because he doesn’t have a car.

Sam has had a variety of short, dramatic relationships with younger women throughout their relationship, and nights out with Leah and other partners has ended in screaming fights, sometimes with the other [woman] partner or Leah literally out on the street on their own, intoxicated, because he has stormed off or locked them out.

Despite this, he is always successful in guilting Leah into continuing to date him and to spend more and more time with him. He has also managed to imply that he isn’t the problem, but instead that Shawn is too controlling and should let Sam come to their home and to their social gatherings whenever Sam wants.

This has been incredibly toxic and upsetting both to Shawn and to me — Leah’s a very smart woman, a feminist, and yet she continues to be dragged through drama after drama with Sam. Not only has she not broken up with him, whenever they’ve had a disagreement she’s only worried that HE will break up with HER and always eagerly resumes their relationship after days of him freezing her out.

It’s the latest development that worries me the most and has taken this from toxic to potentially abusive — Leah has recently met and gone on a few dates with another married, poly[am] woman (let’s call her Susan) who was very stable and pleasant. Susan got along well with Shawn and Leah’s friends and Shawn found her to be lovely to spend time with.

But the first time Leah invited Susan and a couple of Susan’s female friends to hang out with Sam, Sam accused Susan of “yelling at him for just trying to get to know her friend better,” which sounds to Shawn like he made an unwanted move on a   friend and Susan told him to back off. Sam got so angry that he refused to speak with Leah for days over this, which was only made worse when Leah and Shawn hosted a very small, COVID friendly social gathering at their home this weekend, to which Sam was not invited.

He has now made Leah so guilty that she’s been upset and crying for two days and the worst part is, Shawn tells me Leah has now called things off with Susan entirely.

We are at a total loss. Sam is succeeding in alienating Leah from her friends and other healthy partners and Leah will not listen to Shawn’s concerns. I’ve felt just terrible over this all day — Shawn is stuck with this toxic person in his life, is worried sick about Leah and I can’t be with him for support.

Is there anything we can do? Do you have any recommendations for resources that may help Leah more objectively (and not through the lens of Shawn’s dislike for Sam) see that Sam’s behaviour is hurtful and full of red flags? Shawn has asked me not to contact Leah at all about this and I will respect his request. But I’m hurting for both of these people that I care for.

Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

Response:

The long and short of this, unfortunately, is that there is very very very little that you can actually do. The issue with this is it sounds more than toxic, especially if he’s starting to basically tried to alienate her slowly from all of her relationships. That does sound abusive and it does sound unfortunate and very very difficult for everyone around.

Basically the gist of the situation is that the second that you as a person involved in this person’s life began to demand them to leave people or demand that they stop seeing people — and I’m not saying that’s what you would do but anything that seems that way — can easily be twisted and turned by the person who is abusing them exactly as you said, that he says now that Shawn is too controlling.

So it’s going to be very very difficult for you or Shawn to really do anything about this situation. There is a really good book called “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I recommend it all the time because it was really really helpful for me. It’s just a really good breakdown of what goes through the mind of people who are abusive and the narratives that we’re kind of given in society is that people do this and they can’t help themselves and that it’s not something that they are consciously doing.

But a lot of what Lundy Bancroft shows in his book is that it is very conscious. If you can get her to read that that’d be amazing. However, it is something that is going to be very very difficult for you to do because I’m pretty sure he’s going to be furious about her reading that. There is another website that I also recommend called youarenotcrazy.com and it talks about verbal abuse specifically, and how people who are verbally abusive can twist things. So that might be something that she wants to look at.

I would just be careful. I would read “Why Does He Do That?” before you suggest anything to her, and just be careful about the way that you go about it because basically what she just needs is for somebody to be there for her and not abandon her. So against all odds, don’t just abandon her to Sam’s whims because that’s what he’s hoping that you’ll do. And it’s so so much easier for someone who is abusive to continue abusing someone, whilst they are isolated from everybody that they know.

The other thing that you can do and that Shawn can do is, he is absolutely able to set firm boundaries in the shared spaces he has with Leah, and it does sound like he’s kind of doing that. They have gatherings without Sam being invited but that obviously causes a lot of stress, but I wouldn’t encourage him to ease up on those boundaries. I would encourage him to keep them. I would encourage him to be more firm in them. The thing about it is, is that I don’t think that Leah is going to be willing to execute those boundaries fully. As you’ve said throughout the letter that every time he kind of says jump she says how high.

I think that Shawn can just allow himself to be characterised that way by Sam. And for the sake of his own sanity, put down those boundaries and say like, “Look, I don’t want you at my house, and I’m allowed to because it’s my shared space. I don’t want you to keep your stuff here”. And it’s going to put more pressure on the situation, undoubtedly, but it’s really, really important for him to maintain that, because if he starts just letting things happen. It’s not going to make the situation any better.

As much as you might think, “Okay, well we’ll just let him store his stuff here. We’ll invite him so we’ll stop causing all this ruckus”. It’ll just be some other thing because that’s kind of how the situation works. I don’t really like calling it like the frog in the pot thing because I think that that’s a misnomer. But it is very much a case of slowly and slowly turning up the pressure. And basically, someone does something, they flip out, they get mad, they cause a whole ruckus. It’s very upsetting. And in order to avoid that the abused person and the people around them are going to try to avoid that.

But then something else is going to cause and then they’ll just slowly and slowly and slowly back that person up into a corner. And I expect at some point there will be some escalation. I expect at some point that Sam will demand that Leah break up with Shawn. I would expect that. And I would be prepared for that eventuality, but I definitely think that Shawn should not ease up on his boundaries around their shared space. It’s his home too. He doesn’t have to put up with Sam.

Another thing that might be helpful, and I don’t know if Leah is open to getting counselling on her own, but I would also, if there’s a way to do that by maybe Shawn and Leah going to see a polyamory friendly couples therapist. That might be a gateway into her seeing a therapist on her own and realising that these are really horrible behaviours that Sam is engaging in, that they aren’t helping her, and that she feels miserable. I think that that is a good gateway.

Someone who has the ability to help her objectively see the situation isn’t really going to be you. Definitely. And isn’t really going to be Shawn. It’s going to have to be a professional because it’s just not something that — and I wouldn’t be surprised as well as Sam turned — you know said “Oh your therapist hates me” or “your therapist—“ like criticise her credentials — or them or they or he. I would not be surprised for a second if Sam does that. But, at least getting her on to that kind of attract might help but ultimately she has to make that decision.

She has to decide that she doesn’t want to be with Sam anymore. And the thing of it is is that I believe, if I’m not mistaken, I believe it takes people an average of seven attempts to leave someone who is abusive. I believe that that is the average. The average is seven. So, it is very very hard for people who are stuck in the cycle to just break out of it. And as much as it might seem simple to you because you’re seeing it from the position —I think that you get that.

You’re not like most people who are in your situation or a lot of people that are in your situation where they would be like “oh well she just must want this, because she’s tolerating it”. It’s just so much more complicated than that when you’re kind of in the middle of it. So yeah. To sum up, there isn’t very much you can do. This stuff sounds pretty abusive. I’m not going to label Sam one way or another but clearly this isn’t a relationship that is really suiting Leah. It doesn’t really seem like overall the net benefit of this relationship weighs out all of the drama and difficulty it brings to her life.

However obviously she is the one who is experiencing it and, obviously, a lot of people who are this way can make really lovely partners when they’re not being terrible so it’s difficult, but it doesn’t sound like a good situation that she’s in. Unfortunately there’s very very little that you or Shawn can really do about that. I suggest you read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. If you can get Leah to read it, that would be really helpful.

I honestly read it, just before I was probably going to enter a really shitty relationship. I don’t know if he was abusive but he definitely was… Gosh, how do I say it? He was definitely denigrating to me and I put up with it because I guess I just assumed that I was being sensitive. And I would never put up with that now, but at the time I did because, even if you are a feminist and strong and all those sorts of things, you’re still encouraged by society to think negative things about yourself and you’re also, you know — like I said he’s probably not terrible all the time.

So, it’s very difficult to when you have someone who’s —  especially because he has all these interests that, you know, Shawn isn’t interested  in, it’s hard to just drop that. It’s very hard. But, if she can read that read that book, it might help her out. If you can get her to visit youarenotcrazy.com that might be helpful, although don’t be like “Your boyfriend is a horrible abusive person. Here’s a site that will help convince you of that”.  Work it into something else. Maybe if you watch a movie where there is an abusive relationship mention the site… like if there’s a way you can get her to visit it without being like “This is what your boyfriend is”, that would be helpful.

Because any pressure you put on her isn’t really going to help the situation. Absolutely remind Shawn that he is, and should continue to put down firm boundaries, around his shared living space. Obviously you can’t tell Leah to not see Sam anymore, but he can absolutely put down boundaries around his shared living space, and around what things are around, who’s in this house and who he sees, and he should not let up on those boundaries.

He should absolutely keep them going. And do not give up on them even if Sam continues to throw fit into these column names all this nonsense. And last but not least, if there’s some way for Shawn to get Leah in with him in some polyamory friendly couples therapy that might help her begin some type of internal exploration about this relationship. And what it’s doing to her. A therapist is going to be the person who will have the most objectivity, but also be fully, fully prepared for Sam to disregard the therapist, to trash talk the therapist, to encourage Leah not to see the therapist, etc and so forth to even see this leap to therapy as another sign that Shawn is controlling.

So, just expect all of that. That will happen. You just got to be there if you can for her. Don’t give up on her. Don’t allow her to be isolated, because she is going to need — when she finally realises that this isn’t a good situation. If the entire time, you have been like “He’s bad, he’s bad, he’s bad, he’s bad he’s bad, he’s bad,” and she’s going to go “Well I don’t want to go to that person who said that because they’re going to say told you so”. If you can, be that person that is supportive to her and friendly to her and do the best you can, then that’s really— that’s going to help her out more in the long run. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 61: PTSD and Polyamory

A previous abusive experience of a polyam relationship is causing floods of emotions on your second try. Should you stop?

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

Discussion Topic: If I knew I couldn’t fail in my professional life, I would like to try to…

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

Episode 61 – PTSD and Polyamory

A previous abusive experience of a polyam relationship is causing floods of emotions on your second try. Should you stop? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – If I knew I couldn’t fail in my professional life, I would like to try to…

 

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 first relationship with poly[amory], I was 19 years old and very inexperienced, during that first relationship I was emotionally and sexually abused. I was in that relationship for 4 years and it has been over for quite a while.

I am in a very healthy relationship now and we have slowly been working up to poly[amory]. At first I was excited about starting it and trying it out in a healthy setting but I started to notice that I get triggered when my primary goes out with someone.

I want to be clear I do not have an issue with him and someone else, but when I have to face the fact we are in a poly[amorous] relationship head on, I start having a lot of flashbacks and feelings of fear. I become very afraid of losing my autonomy again and I get stuck in the depressive mindset I was in when I was in that abusive relationship.

My primary is very patient and does whatever he can to help. We maintain complete transparency in our communication and try to work through any issues that come up, but he is not a mental health professional and I understand his ability to help with this is limited.

I have a therapist I go to and what’s always gotten me through things most is exposure therapy which is very difficult especially with this. When he’s out with someone I don’t want to interrupt them, I think it would be unfair for his partner if he was focusing a lot of attention on me while they were together.

I also don’t want to burden a fun night with all the emotional pain I am going through, when there isn’t much he could do short of coming home to physically be with me. I would actually feel worse if he did that since I would be to blame for ruining a nice night. I try to distract myself with friends or really anything, but nothing seems to help.

I also don’t like the idea of going back to monogamy for a lot of reasons. I like how open the communication is now because we both know if we slack in that area things fall apart, so it really forces us to be conscious of our feelings and how we communicate them. While I tried to act on poly[am] for myself at first, I soon realized I personally am not in a mental state where I can pursue something between my PTSD and a very busy schedule.

I would like to have good experiences with poly[amory] I see a lot of value in it, but my past haunts me. I also hate the idea that I cannot enjoy something because of my ex, it feels like he still holds power over me and that idea makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have been slowly getting through these feelings and understanding them which helps me move past it, but it is a slow and incredibly painful process.

Additional Details: Previous relationship was polyamorous relationship involving a “one penis policy” and kink. You also had a previous upset period with your current partner that caused him to back out of a relationship.

Response:

So the first thing that I want to say to you here is that even if you hadn’t been through that previous abusive relationship, you might still feel this way. Your fears are very rational. And I feel like I know for myself being a person that has had problems like this — I haven’t been through that kind of abusive relationship that you described. But I have felt those fears. And I have felt that intensity of emotional pain. And I know kind of what it’s like when nothing can distract you, when you just feel so much fear and it feels like a lot.

And it feels like there’s nothing that you can do. And when you have anxiety and when you have mental health struggles, it can often feel like you’re being irrational. And that’s kind of like the thing that I want to fight back when everyone says that about themselves and also about other people. “Oh, it’s irrational, I’m being irrational, I’m being irrational”. Anxiety typically is a rational response to a previous environment that you’ve been in.

And that makes a lot of sense. It’s your brain trying to survive. A lot of my anxieties are health related. And when I’ve talked to my therapist about it, and I said, “You know, I will feel like literally like  I can’t breathe, something’s closing down my throat, things like that”. I’ll just fear the worst. And my GP will probably tell you how many times I’ve called him and been like, “What is this weird physical thing that’s happening to me?” And my therapist said, “You’re rationally looking for the reason why you are so anxious”.

You’re feeling a huge amount of anxiety. And so your brain is going “Well, if I feel this anxious, there must be something really, really wrong”. So that makes a lot of sense. And I think that the first step for dealing with the intensity of these feelings is a little bit of self compassion — a lot of compassion, actually. But give yourself a little bit of compassion here in that you’re not being irrational. Nothing about what you’re afraid of is silly. Nothing about what you’re being afraid of is out of touch.

And it can be so hard because I know that when you have these feelings, you think, “Why do I not believe that my partner loves me will stay with me? Do I not trust them?” And I all the things that you said about… I don’t want to ruin that night. I would feel worse if he came home because then I would have ruined it. I can’t tell you how much I relate to that. And I haven’t even gone through what you’ve gone through.

And what you’ve gone through, especially the details that you told me, you have literally every reason to be afraid of losing your autonomy. This is directly— especially if that was your first polyamorous experience. You’re going to be directly triggered by this because the first experience that you had was so bad. And that makes total sense.

And by the way, this isn’t your ex having power over you at all. This is you actually having power in that your brain is trying to help you survive. Your brain is saying, “Wait a minute, we’ve been through this before. No, no, no, no, don’t think so. This is bad get out”. And that is frustrating and that is difficult. But that is… that is your brain trying to help you. And that is one thing that helps in trying to address the situation.

I wrote a lot about this and I don’t know if you’ve checked it out yet. I wrote an article called “13 mistakes people make when they are trying polyamory” that goes through about how to identify your anchor, about how to hold on to that when you do have these experiences. There are options. You can be fully honest with your metamour about the situation. And I think that it depends on  how they feel about the situation.

But I know that if I was dating someone and they were like,  “Look, I have this other partner…” and it doesn’t have to be full honestly. You don’t have to even give them the details you gave me. If I were your primary — and if that’s how you want to do things, and make sure that you explain that to someone — But if I were your partner, and I was going on a date, I would probably say to them, “I have a partner right now who this is their second experience of polyamory. Their first experience was extremely abusive. They are going to really struggle while I’m out. Could I take about five minutes, just to call and check on them?”

I don’t think that that’s too much to ask. And I don’t think that that is going to suck the fun out of the night. I don’t want to compare it— this is a little bit of a bad comparison. But for the sake of of helping to understand it. If you were their kid, like and I know that that’s not great. But like, if they were a parent, if they were somebody, or even if they had someone they were caring for like an older relative, it wouldn’t be out of touch, or it wouldn’t be bad, or it wouldn’t be it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them in a date or the night out to say, “I just need five minutes to call and check on somebody”.

That is okay. That’s not a bad thing. If that sucks the fun out of their night completely, I’d be a little bit worried about your partner and their boundaries. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case with your primary. It sounds like they fully—  you already had an issue where, and that— you had a lot of emotional pain. And they backed away, I can understand why they did that. I think that that kind of in a way it kind of works against the situation.

I’m not trying to say anything bad about your primary. I’m not trying to say anything bad about you. But sometimes the only way to get through this emotional pain and get through this anxiety — you know it if you’ve had exposure therapy. You have to sit through it. You have to sit through those nights and you have to see your partner come back to you and know that you can trust them and know that it’s safe. And it is like exposure therapy, because you are going to have to — the first couple of nights that the partner that I have and that lives with me, the first couple of nights, they didn’t even go on a date.

They didn’t even— they literally just went to a party, not even a date with anybody else. But the first couple of nights they spent out of the house and they weren’t even staying out all night. I couldn’t sleep. I was an emotional wreck. I have that same reaction in other relationships that I’ve been in. And over time, as we’ve established trust and established  a connection, I’m less worried. Now I can sleep fine. I’m happy to have the whole bed to myself now. It’s no problem.

But those first couple of nights were really, really hard because I had a very understandable fear that they were going to leave and I didn’t even go through what you went through. So not only do you have that understandable fear from the society that’s around you that says, “Hey, the best… the truest love is exclusive romantic love yada, yada”. You have all of that on top of you as well. So it’s going to be hard for you to just snap out of it.

You’re not going to snap out of it. And then on top of that you have this previous relationship that you had, which was really horrible. And sounded incredibly abusive and put you in a lot of really uncomfortable situations. And I think that it makes total and complete sense for you to be afraid. So don’t beat yourself up too much about that. I do think you have to sit through the pain and a little bit.

You can try to distract yourself. That has honestly helped me sometimes. One weekend, I think that my partner was at like a weekend long convention or something. I went to Sweden to visit my friend. That was helpful. I still felt a little bit shit. But like that was much more helpful than sitting at home all by myself. So it does help to do stuff like that. And don’t expect yourself to feel 100% happy. But it will distract you a little bit. But you do just have to over time, learn that you can trust again, learn that you’re safe again.

It’s going to take a long time for your nervous system basically to get back to a calm state. Just because you’ve been through a lot of really horrible things. Give yourself a little bit of credit. I think when it comes to meeting your metamour, and meeting the person that he’s interested in, I completely understand your hesitance to do so. I think that one thing is important to remember here when it comes to both meeting your metamour and when it comes to feeling all this fear — what’s helped me — and I wrote a little bit about it in the article that I mentioned, which I do think you should check out. But what really helps me is to absolutely face my fear in terms of how much control I have of the situation. And this is something that has helped me generally with my anxiety.

It doesn’t mean that my anxiety goes completely away. But sometimes it has been something that has really, really helped me. And the fact of the matter is, is that there is only so much that I can control in these situations. If my partner decides that they don’t like me anymore, falls out of love with me, I can’t control that situation. I think in the past, because of the things that I have been through, I have felt like— I’ve been in a lot of really bad situations, and part of my brain that helps me survive has taught me, “Oh, if we do X, Y, and Z, then we can control the situation”.

A lot of people who’ve been through trauma have that feeling. And that is because it’s a lot better in the moment for you than total helplessness, total helplessness and feeling “well, there’s nothing I can do”, especially if you’ve been through — if you have CPTSD. And he’s been in a situation where you literally can’t stop, you know, what’s happening on a continuous basis. And it sounds like that might have been situation that you’re in.

But you you think, “Oh, if I just do things better”. And it’s the same kind of philosophy behind victim blaming. It’s the same kind of philosophy behind, “If I just don’t wear this skirt, if I don’t wear this thing that I won’t be attacked”. It’s a philosophy that helps us deal with being an under constant duress, because it’s way more empowering than just going “Well, there’s absolutely nothing I can do”. That is disempowering in the moment. That doesn’t feel good.

And in the moment that can be really, really hard to mentally cope with. The problem with that is that in that time it served us. In that in the time when I was under a lot more duress and a lot more threat and danger and harm, it served me to believe that I could control the situation if I did x, y, and z. It distracted me from the harm, it distracted me from a lot of things. But now that I’m not in that situation, what this actually tells me is that all of the things that I have experienced are my fault, because I didn’t do x y z.

And that’s the problem with this mindset is that when you believe that you can control whether or not your metamour likes you, whether or not your partner loves you, all those sorts of things, later on down the line, you are going to be in this constant vigilance state where you are looking out for anything that you can do wrong, looking out for any mistakes that you can make, and you’re unable to enjoy actual facets of life. And that’s what anxiety is.

It’s like the constant worry that somehow I’m going to make the wrong decision. And that will ultimately cost me the situation. Now, obviously, you can be a total jerk. You can insult your metamour. You can insult your partner, and they’re less likely to want to be around you if you’re a jerk. But there is only so much that you can do to control whether or not they are in love with you. If your partner is the type of person to meet someone else and chuck you out the window, you can’t control that by being a good partner.

You can’t. And the problem with this whole philosophy that’s going on in your brain is that — I see it illustrated in when you say you’re frustrated because it feels like your ex still has control of you. So it’s like you feel that you can stop this if you do X, Y and Z. And that’s not to say that you should go into total helplessness because I think that’s also sometimes a response. But it’s to accept what you can’t control. Because once you do that, the burden that you face, like a lot of this distress that you’re going through is “This is a dangerous situation, I need to get out”.

It’s a fight or flight, nervous system response. And it can be hard to transition to a calmer state because you think you have control over the situation. If he comes home, then you will have solved that situation. And in the process, the emotional pain I think also comes from — it blames you. It puts so much weight on your shoulders to prevent something from happening to you. And that causes a huge amount of pain. In the past and now when I’m trying to face my fears — And I’m not saying I don’t get anxiety because it’s still I still get it.

I still worry. But it helps me to go “How much of this can I actually control? What can I do right now in the moment that is going to change even the worst outcome that I think will happen? So if I’m sitting up at night and I think, “Oh my god, I have a pain somewhere. This must be something terrible wrong with my health”. Yeah, I’ll still be anxious about it but the constant kind of push to have an obsessive reaction —  obsessive compulsive reaction which I have had in the past. To stop the compulsion reaction, I could go up, I could sit up all night looking on Web MD. I don’t do that because I go, “Okay, if there is something truly terribly wrong with my health, how much can I actually control about it in this situation?”

You’re just still going to feel like shit.  I would just prepare for that. Batten down the hatches, you’re going to feel like shit. But recognising how much you can control of the situation can remove the burden from your shoulders of being so constantly vigilant to find some sign that your partner is leaving, something you’re doing wrong, some little mistake that. Because we all fuck up.

We all make mistakes. And it’s not to say that you can’t make a mistake that really messes up your partner. But you need to have a reckoning that this constant vigilance over that isn’t necessarily going to prevent you from making a mistake. So that’s been something that’s really really helped me. Other things that have helped me during these times… I honestly used to write love letters to my partner when they were out with other people or at parties or things where I was just feeling so I would try and focus on that.

That was one of my anchors, in addition to wanting to be in a polyamorous relationship myself and wanting that freedom. Another one of my anchors was thinking about all the positive stuff that we had together. And, and just gratitude — being grateful for some of the things that we shared, being grateful for some of the ways that they were able to understand my anxiety. That also really, really helped me. You should still expect to feel a little bit shit.

But being a little bit more grounded in the situation by focusing on what can I control about this? Over time will really, really help you. It’s explained a little bit better in “13 mistakes people make when people—“ look, I can’t even say it right. It’s on Non-Monogamy Help dot com if you scroll all the way down. But check it out. That will help you learn how to find an anchor, learn how to hold on to it, and also be a little bit more compassionate with yourself.

It’s really hard when — the biggest problem I have with a lot of intro to polyamory stuff, and just all of the things is that it just makes it seem like you should just become a Vulcan. And just have no emotion and that if you have any emotion then there’s something wrong with you and having any feeling but love and happiness and compersion for what your partner’s doing means that you’re a terrible jealous controlling wench.

It’s very dichotomous. It’s not really helpful. I definitely think you should check out the work of Clementine Morrigan. Clementine writes a lot about trauma and polyamory. In fact, I think Clementine has a workshop about it. And I’ve really appreciated reading what they write, and a lot of things they talk about. The nervous system response. They have an Instagram, which you can check out. They also have a Patreon. I definitely think you should check out — go to their Instagram. Just read through a lot of things that they have.

I don’t have their Patreon, so but there must be more things there on trauma and polyamory that’s super helpful. And I think that would also really, really help you. I think you might want to also think about working out some agreements with your therapist about boundaries, about texting out of hours and things like that. Because I’ve never had a therapist that allowed me to text them out of hours. I have had partners who have had therapists that allowed that.

You know when your partner is going to be having a date and you can plan to have your therapist — just say, “Can I text you during these times just in case I’m going through a lot and I need someone?” And reach out to your friends — hopefully your friends who are polyamory friendly, and have the you know — they should be there for you too. They should be there to help you. So reach out to them.

That is basically my advice in this situation. To kind of sum up, please be kind to yourself. Your feelings are very rational. You’ve gone through a lot. And understandably you wish you didn’t have to feel all these feelings. You said it yourself in your letter about, you know, how you’re kind of— didn’t feel it for a while and now you’re kind of being forced to reckon with some of that. It’s triggering a lot. This kind of trying another polyamorous relationship is triggering a lot for you. And that makes total sense. Be a little bit kinder to yourself. You’re allowed to fuck up. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re not a terrible person and you’re not a horrible person for feeling all this.

You’re not irrational. Try to remember all that. I think that there are things that you can do with your partner to help you feel a little bit grounded. Writing love letters or gratitude letters to them, seeing if they can take five minutes out of their date night to give you a call. One thing that I still like my partner to do is even we’re away I’d like for them to say goodnight

to me. That’s a nice thing that I just like. If they’re really busy

and they are out partying or whatever and can’t and that’s fine, but it’s something that I like.

And I think actually Clementine Morrigan literally has a post on Instagram just a few days ago about needs and requests like that, which is really great to check out. But think about things that your partner can do. One call to you for five minutes isn’t going to ruin their night. And it really shouldn’t. I think that you should also remember that your ex does not hold power over you. This is not your ex still controlling you. This is a trauma response to what you’ve been through. And this is your brain trying to help you.

And then also, again, to remind you, one good thing is just to face those fears. Recognise what you can and can’t control, check out that article that I mentioned that is on Non-Monogamy Help dot com. Check those things out to figure out like what your anchors are and how you can deal with that and cope with that.

Last but not least, you’re going to have to sit through some of the pain. And you’re gonna have to go through some of the difficulties and see that your partner is still there for you, in order to basically learn slowly that you can still trust in the situation. And give yourself a little bit of kindness and compassion around that. See if your therapist is available for you to text. Reach out to your friends. Yeah, all of that. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 51: Conversion Therapy

What happens when you’re done with polyamory and want to seek therapy to convert you to a monogamous person?

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

Discussion Topic: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?

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

Episode 51 – Conversion Therapy

When you don’t want to be polyamorous anymore and you’re considering therapy to convert yourself back. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?

 

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I don’t want to be like this anymore. I just want to be a monogamous person.  My partner can’t deal with it and I can’t lose my entire family.  Is there conversion therapy for people like me? I really really hate being like this.

Response:

So first thing that I have to say is, I’m sorry, I’m sorry that you are going through such a difficult period. It’s hard, because your letter so short, to really understand what it is that’s happening, but I can understand that you are going through a lot of things right now. And, yeah, I just… just plain basic empathy just… I’m really sorry that you’re having to deal with this. And that you feel like everything is about to fall apart.

To answer your question in a really short answer… no. Conversion therapy doesn’t work for the things that it’s supposedly supposed to work for. So, as far as I know —  and I don’t know the history of conversion therapy so I could be wrong —  but conversion therapy started as a way to supposedly make people be less gay. And that doesn’t work. It never has worked. It’s traumatising and there’s a reason why it’s banned and a lot of places because it is… You cannot force somebody to do something that is against their nature.

And I’m not going to argue about nature and nurture… because I think that it’s so much more complicated than we give it credit for. But I do know that like on a basic level, the thing that I always compare sexuality to, and you could equally extend to how we choose your relationships, is taste. So I really really like salmon. It’s my favourite food. I really really hate capers, I’m not gonna like capers more if someone shoves them down my throat. If someone forces me to eat nothing but capers, that’s not gonna make me like capers any more.

In fact, it might make me hate capers more. It might make capers truly traumatising for me. So, unfortunately, there is no thing— if you really really want non monogamy, if you really really want polyamory— whatever it is that you’re hoping to find… you really can’t force yourself to want something else. Equally if your partner isn’t wanting polyamory, you can’t force them to want it. You just can’t. Unfortunately that’s just not how things work.

What I would say to you is that, I did write something… I wrote something recently called “13 Mistakes That People Make When They Try Polyamory” and I do think— I was going to record the entire article as a podcast episode I still may do that one day on a break. But I would say that that might be something that you might look at, because I do think that— I don’t know anything about your situation. I don’t know if you’ve tried it. I don’t know if your partner’s tried it or if you’ve just suggested it and your partner’s been like “Hell no”.

I don’t think that there are always cases where, you know, even if somebody is like “EH!” when they first react to polyamory that it’s necessarily a bad thing. And it’s always worth continuing to have discussions about things. But I do think that you do need to do a little soul searching. It sounds like you’re not the kind of person that can just go to being monogamous unfortunately. But I would try look up “13 Mistakes People Make When Trying Polyamory”. It basically goes through some of the things that— some of the mistakes that people make.

Because I do think sometimes if you try polyamory and you try it with some of these things in place, it  can be just like shoving capers down your throat, it can be a really traumatizing experience and it can be something that puts you off polyamory and it can be something that makes you not want to touch it again. So it could be that whatever you’re doing, might be things that are you know mistakes in a way, things that make things harder. A couple of the mistakes to give you kind of rough examples:

The first thing that I noticed a lot of people do is making rules to try and stop their emotions. When you, when you kind of decide on a non-monogamous relationship, you are deciding on an essentially different relationship structure. And I don’t think that people always get that. I think that people just think it’s like an upgrade to monogamy and they don’t realise that it is a different way of doing things. And so a lot of times when people first start or decide to open a relationship, they’ll make rules that try to reassure their partner like “I won’t love anybody else but you”.

And that’s a very common monogamous reassurance so people feel reassured by that. That kind of thing freaks me out, personally, but it is something that tends to reassure people so that’s tends to be a promise that people make when they open their relationship. There are a lot of problems with that promise. I go into it my article and that is one thing that, you know, doesn’t work and anytime you create a rule, you need to also imagine what your plan will be if that rule is broken. You need to think about what the rule is designed to prevent because so many people make rules that are just designed to stop emotions or prevent negative emotions from happening and you just can’t avoid that.

The second thing is about anchors. So, like I say, and I’ve said in the podcast, my columns, I say it all the time, agreeing to non monogamy means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. And there are monogamous relationships that are like that. There are plenty of monogamous people who have situations with— that are like that. But the thing is is that if you are choosing polyamory then I think that you really need an anchor that is something you can hold on to when things are getting really hard.

And the anchor is usually what polyamory brings to your life. So what are the benefits — outside of keeping a relationship — that polyamory brings to your life? The thing is, if your partner doesn’t have that anchor, if they are holding on to the monogamous relationship you had the no amount of reading is going to change— is going to make them see that it’s different, and want that difference if they don’t want that difference. In the same way, you can’t force yourself to want monogamy if that’s not what you want.

That is another thing. I think that people also don’t expect they’ll be afraid, which is a huge thing and they— you can’t reassure your partner out of anxiety if your partner has anxiety so that’s another thing. There is an assumption that all polyamorous people are inherently compatible when there’s all sorts of different ways of doing polyamory. So even if you want to do polyamory or, you know, even if your partner didn’t want to do polyamory you may want to do polyamory in a fundamentally different way, which doesn’t help so that that is also a thing.

The other thing is, assuming that unhappiness is a failure, which may be contributory to maybe some of your partner’s feelings about things, if they assume that they would suddenly be happy about everything and polyamory and, you know— they have that expectation of non-monogamy when that expectation doesn’t exist for monogamy. So that’s something e to think about. Trying to form a triad. If the first thing that you tried to do was open your relationship only a smidge to include one other person that’s a very common first time mistake and there’s a lot of reasons why that doesn’t work.

Another thing that people do is they give their partner permission, so they will put themselves in a position where before they do anything they have to get their partner’s permission for it. And even though that sounds like a good idea because they’re trying to check in and reassure their partner, there’s a lot of reasons why that’s a double edged sword. Doesn’t always work very well.

Another thing people do is forcing themselves to mingle with metamours and get along with metamours, which you don’t have to do. And it can create more problems and it helps. I think the other thing people do— another first time mistake is trying to like emotionally weather everything and they basically ask their partner to tell them everything about their other relationships because they kind of think that they can sort of…

It’s almost like herd immunity. It’s like… they think that they can become more strong by hearing all of these details that are excruciating like to somehow be able to conquer non-monogamy by knowing all the intimate details about their partners goings on and sometimes that doesn’t help. You don’t need to put yourself through the emotional ringer to be a polyamorous person.

The other thing people do is they make it into a competition. Usually one person and a couple, if they open, one person will always get more dates than the other. That’s quite normal. And that creates a struggle, you know and it creates a lot of tension and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile. The other thing that people do is, when it doesn’t work thinking that closing it will fix that. Or vetoing another person, another partner will fix everything, when that isn’t going to fix everything. Basically if you have to close a relationship, a polyamorous relationship in order to fix it, then there’s some deeper problems going on there that need to be addressed.

And then, yeah, I think, ignoring inherent power imbalances… if you brought a “third” into your relationship and it didn’t work out… there’s sometimes people who bring “thirds” into the relationship ignore the power imbalance that the couple in the relationship has over the third person, and you just— it’s not to say you can’t ever have a triad, or anything or that you can’t both be the same person. But it is— you have to acknowledge the power imbalance there.

And then the last kind of mistake people make is punishing themselves for feeling things. So I think, like I was saying before like it… A lot of the times when I’m giving advice to people it’s mostly that they should let themselves feel their feelings. Because a lot of beginner polyamory resources overhype jealousy and make it seem like jealousy is a character flaw that they have to rid themselves off and not a legitimate emotion to have, in a lot of situations. So, that is a thing— like you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings.

There’s also some other things I talk about when it comes to polyamory and starting like— starting from cheating is the thing that happens a lot. When they sort of feel like their partner is pushing polyamory because there’s a window of opportunity like maybe they’ve always been interested in this person and then now this person has broken up with your boyfriend and they’re like, “Oooh!”. That can be a thing that can put a lot of pressure on things.

Dating exes or coworkers is another thing that people often do. But the last thing that I always say and what I think that you should do: Find a polyamory friendly therapist and talk through this. Find a polyamory friendly couples therapist and talk through this, because I just think that… I just think that like, if you’re so desperate and you just want all this to be over with I totally get that in terms of just wanting to change and be monogamous, but you really can’t force yourself to be monogamous, you just can’t.

Unfortunately it’s just not how things work. It is understandable for you to fear losing your family and fear losing this relationship, but there is a such thing as a sunk cost fallacy, which is the idea that you, you know, the more you kind of dig this hole, you think “Well I have to keep digging because I’ve dug so far”, and you keep putting effort into a situation that isn’t actually helping you because only for the reason that you’ve already put so much into it.

If you have kids, I can tell you from personal experience,

kids are better off with two separated parents who are happy than with two people who are together and miserable. Unfortunately, that is the case. Having separated parents isn’t the end of the world. It is kind of difficult to deal with sometimes and it is a change but it’s not the end of the world and you shouldn’t stay together “for the kids”. Speaking as someone whose parents tried to do that, please don’t do that, because you are setting the example as a parent for your child of what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.

They do catch on to certain behaviours even without them consciously thinking it. They will kind of see what you’re doing and then go, “Hm, is that what I should be doing in a relationship?”. And you don’t want to give them the wrong message about what they should be looking for in a romantic relationship so being separated is sometimes much better for that and also like you won’t— you never lose your family in terms of your relationship with your children, unless your partner is threatening to, you know take away your custody in which case you should talk to a lawyer.

But you won’t lose that. You will always have that, and you shouldn’t also stay with your partner just for the sake of keeping the family together. Your relationship with yourself is pretty damn important. Staying true to yourself is pretty damn important. You only have one frickin life and you can’t spend it doing shit that you’re just going to regret and feel miserable about later on. A better parent and a better person in general, is someone who isn’t filled with regret and frustration and anger because of the choices that they’ve made. So I hope this helps and good luck.

Torn in a triad

My primary significant other(Girl A) and I have been together for nearly six years now. Two years ago we decided to open up a little bit, and that developed into a triad (Boy A), and he even ended up moving in with us.

Roughly one year ago an old friend from my teen years admitted she has had interests in me for..well, it’s been almost fifteen years since we first met, so quite a long time, so she became part of the group..now at four(Girl B).

So then this happened: Girl B told me that she didn’t really feel anything when kissing either me or Girl A, but did when kissing Boy A, and genuinely feels terrible about it. I, of course, am heartbroken.. I’m crazy about her. But I’m more concerned with Girl A, since she is also crazy about her, and can also be very possessive and jealous.

I’m at a point where I don’t know what the heck to do. Girl B has been a wonderful addition to our group..or so we thought. Girl A would never allow Boy A and Girl B to date separate from us, and I fear that she’d force a choice between her and Girl B. I’m honestly scared. I love all of my mates dearly..even if one of them doesn’t exactly return the sentiment…and I want to know how I can help this, without destroying myself in the process.

This is the inherent problem that comes with forming a relationship that makes it seem like all of the people involved have to have the same level of attraction to one another.

We would never expect this with a friend group. If we hung out with three or four people, we wouldn’t be holding a microscope over how much more we felt friendship with one person over the other. But because this involves romance and there is a paranoia around everyone being included, it becomes almost like a competition between everyone else.

Fundamentally, I don’t have a problem with triads, quads or any other different formation of relationships where people all date each other. But, seeing it as a triad or a quad instead of individual relationships among three, four or more people creates this inherent problem where everyone has to have a relationship with each other or it all falls apart — and it doesn’t have to be that way.

(For the sake of this discussion, I’m using Woman instead of Girl and Man instead of Boy since you’re all adults. :P)

The issue with this as well is that you just added people into this dynamic without addressing an inherent power balance of you and your primary. If this were truly an equal quad, your primary, Woman A, would not get to decide who dates who. And it’s likely because this quad was “started” by you and Woman A, she feels she has the power to dictate whom dates who. With all due respect, she doesn’t.

You’re going to have to decide if having someone who dictates who you can or can’t date is something you want to put up with. It’s understandable for your significant other to want everyone to date each other and feel scared if basically she loses a relationship and might be afraid of being replaced — but she can’t address these fears by controlling people and actually her attempt to control the relationships to protect herself from harm is only further damaging things.

I’m not sure what Man A thinks about this, but it’s very possible that he would also not appreciate being told by your partner who he can date, especially if you never explicitly said this triad was a closed one. If she demands that no one date Woman B, she is going to alienate herself from all of you, even if you begrudgingly go with it. It’s worth considering working with a polyamory friendly therapist who may be able to help her address her fears and concerns.

You can only encourage your significant other to seek help for her fears, but you can’t fix them for her if she’s unwilling to work on them. So eventually you may have to decide whether or not you want to tolerate being told who is or isn’t allowed in your life and understand that your other partner may also decide that he’s not willing to be told by your partner who he can date and may go with the person who isn’t forcing him to do something, which is Woman B.

Lastly, unless there is some big aspect of the quad you have left out that might have contributed towards your significant other’s feelings on this, understand that there’s not really much you can do if your partner has decided to do this and won’t listen to anything you have to say about it.

Unfortunately, when people force other people to dump someone or not see someone, the situation doesn’t usually end well. There are always other ways to deal with that feeling of wanting to veto something and that’s either by addressing those fears or any inadequacies or realising there’s incompatibility that can’t be changed.

Either way, I hope it works out for you and good luck.

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Episode 49: Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. What do you do?

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

Discussion Topic: What is one behaviour that you never tolerate?

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

Episode 49 – Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. What do you do? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website.

 

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

When I met my current primary partner, they weren’t available for an emotional relationship as they had a primary partner (and that was a boundary of the relationship). A month or two into us starting to date, the relationship with their primary partner ended. And as that relationship ended ours became more connected and intense.

From the start we had irresistible chemistry, they would text me daily (almost excessively), the sex was amazing, and the energy was there. Once their other relationship came to an end, there was no longer a boundary to stop us from spending more time together, becoming more emotionally attached, and ultimately becoming primary partners.

During this time, there were red flags. I was concerned that they were not doing the work to let go of their ex, release the anger, and trauma they had from the end of the relationship. We started to spend almost every night together. I didn’t understand how they could have the (literal) time to process the end of a huge relationship while spending all their time with me, working, and keeping 2-3 other relationships going (while love can be infinite time is finite). I was not shy about bringing my concerns up to them, they continued to reassure me, and I trusted them.

We had big conversations about how our relationship was changing, what the future could bring and how excited we were. My partner brought up monogamy as a possible desire of theirs, and at first, I was concerned about this (was this a trauma response due their most recent brake up/ was this something I wanted). My past few relationships had been poly[am] or open, and while this relationship was so exciting and intense it was also very new. After thinking about it I expressed interest in exploring monogamy with them but asked that we come back to this further down the line.

Months passed and my partner brought up monogamy a few more times (more casually) and I took these as confirmation that their mind was still on monogamy. I started to watch and analyse my relationships with monogamy in mind and concluded that this is something I’d want to try with my primary partner. This is when things got complicated.

I wanted to let my partner know how I was feeling about monogamy and brought this up to them (this was about 6-9 months after our initial conversation about it). I let them know how I was feeling and asked for them to do the same. What I heard from them was a huge surprise and I’m struggling to adjust to it. They basically let me know that they could never identify as monogamous and weren’t interested in practicing it either. While they did have some conflict about it, and we’ve talked plenty about it I still feel a bit shocked.

I now understand that when they mentioned monogamy, they were not thinking about what they wanted or what kind of relationship they wanted with me. They were thinking about their ex. While I’m available to help my partners hash out what they want, work with them so all of us can get past relationship trauma, I feel as though my partner (maybe not deliberately) gave me a false representation of what this relationship was, could be, and is.

This is what I was concerned about in the beginning and I trusted their response and now I feel as though I shouldn’t have. I feel as though they came to me with a desire (that had to do with me and our relationship) and then changed their mind without telling me about it while I carried on with only the information I knew.

Now I feel lost. I feel like trust has been broken with my partner and I’m not sure how to get it back.

I now have this desire to explore consensual monogamy and my partner doesn’t want that. This brings on a whole other onslaught of questions for myself; will I want consensual monogamy with other people? Could I even find someone that is interested in monogamy (almost every queer I know isn’t)? Why do I feel shame about wanting consensual monogamy? Why am I now feeling extra sensitive to my primary’s other partner? Would this relationship have become so serious if they never brought it up or told me when they were no longer interested? Would I still be wanting this if they never brought it up?

I know [your column] is all about non-monogamy and as I’m in a non-monogamous relationship I think this can belong here. But I’m hoping you could also help be shed some light on the desire to be monogamous, and not in a that’s just what society expects kind of way. But consensual monogamous, in the “I’ve thought about this and want this” kind of way?

Response:

So, the first thing here is that like your sense of kind of like feeling that your trust has been violated is really understandable. I mean, you don’t say that your partner came to just with the general subject of monogamy and wanting to discuss it. You literally say— and maybe you didn’t mean it so literal or maybe you didn’t realise what you typed — but you literally say that your partner came to you with a want or desire to become monogamous and mentioned it enough that you actually literally said to them, “I’ll think about it. Maybe in a few months”. Like they came to you with the thought that this was their desire. Like it wasn’t just

a random discussion topic, it was something they put forth as something they wanted.

And now they’re saying they don’t want it at all and that is incredibly confusing. And, like, I don’t know if they’ve really addressed that with you. Have they really talked about that with you? Because I’ve at least found with myself like when the subject kind of starts with monogamy or the thought of monogamy comes up, I will start to see it as a competition in a way, and that is really— it triggers all sorts of horrible anxieties within me.

And, you know, I don’t like the idea that there’s like this one space for this, you know, there’s one spot and you have to basically compete with others to get to that spot and it’s… Yeah, it’s just it doesn’t bring up very good feelings for me. So I can imagine that it makes a lot of sense that you would all of a sudden now start to have problems with, you know, and start to have feelings about their other partners because basically they brought up this idea that they may want monogamy or they may want to try monogamy, and they’ve chosen you for that.

And then now all of a sudden they’re saying that they’re not but then you always have this fear in the back of your head. You’re like well, maybe it’s because I’ve done something wrong and now they don’t want to try it with me but they’re talking to other people and saying the same thing they said to me, which is that they want to try monogamy, and maybe they’re just not going to choose me. So, yeah, of course, you’re gonna feel anxious and scared and all of these feelings. Like that makes 100% total sense. So, yeah, of course you’re going to feel that.

I think that what you need to have are more conversations with your partner about how you discuss things because you kind of hit it right on the nose where you’re like I’m okay to like help people hash out stuff but you need to be told that that’s what the conversation is. And it may not be that they did it intentionally but to present this as like this is what I want when that is not the case is just is lying. It’s dishonesty.

And your partner really needs to figure out why they did that and why it is that they didn’t communicate, if they did feel that way why didn’t they communicate? That’s a really big change. You know, I mean it’s sort of in a way to kind of comparison that I always make is that like people wanting kids. Like wanting kids is a very big life changing… If you suddenly decide that you want kids it’s kind of really important and you’ve always agreed with your partner that you’re not going to have kids — if you suddenly decide that you want them. That’s kind of something you should discuss with your partner and not just wait one day to spring it on them.

Or equally if you decided you don’t want them. That’s also something that you need to discuss and you can’t just avoid that, because you don’t want to have that conversation so you need to, like, maybe work with a couple polyamory friendly therapist

to work through like— pick apart kind of why that happened and how you can prevent something like that from happening in the future. Maybe some boundaries around conversations?

I think if your partner had said and acknowledged like “Hey yeah I said that back then, but I don’t really feel that way and I changed”. You know if they had given you a little bit more explanation maybe you wouldn’t feel so anxious about it? I just feel like there’s more conversations to have. I think that all of these conversations about you wanting monogamy like… I mean I can’t tell you that if this conversation never came up that you would feel differently. Like no one’s ever going to be able to tell you that, and then it doesn’t really matter anyways because it’s happened you know. It’s happened. It’s there.

You can’t magically make it unhappen so you shouldn’t sit and sort of ponder on “well what if this was never introduced?”. It has been so it is what it is. When it comes to you yourself wondering about monogamy I think that, you know… I always say in my columns and my podcasts like no one can tell someone else if polyamory or monogamy are more right for them. Like that’s something that you kind of have to glean for yourself, but I do think there are some basic things to— like thought exercises to go through in deciding whether or not polyamory is even or non-monogamy is even an option for you to consider.

The first thing that I usually say to people is, you know, agreeing to a non-monogamous or polyamorous situation means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time focused on you. And there are some monogamous situations where that does happen, where someone has a time intensive career. Then they may— or a partner who has like a really intensive hobby. Just anything like that where there aren’t going to be situations where monogamous people agree to a relationship with somebody who can’t devote their time 100% to them. And there are another plenty of people who can’t do that sort of thing.

Like there are people who can’t do long distance. There are people who maybe could not date a lawyer or doctor anyone with like a really intense long hours style career. And that’s legit. So I think that’s the first thing to think about like… are you actually fine with a partner who doesn’t spend their time with you? I think that you sound like you are, because you have had other open and  polyam relationships but it’s kind of up to you to really think about.

Because the other thing that I’ve said and I actually I think I just said this in the discussion question but I can’t remember. My memories terrible, but polyamory is about, and I say this a lot — polyamory should be about finding multiple fulfilling relationships, not about finding a bunch of halfway fulfilling relationships that kind of makes you okay. I think that’s easier said than done because like, when we’re with somebody we don’t want to just break it off. You don’t want to just throw away a partnership that you’ve just put together so it makes a lot of sense to not want to throw that away.

But if a, I don’t think— like we say “Relationship broke, add people” doesn’t work. Opening up your relationship to solve problems in your first relationship, adding another person to that equation isn’t necessarily going to fix anything so that is something for you to think about. Is this relationship fulfilling? That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do polyamory. It just means that relationship isn’t fulfilling. So anyway, yeah. The first thing is about time. I think the second thing is about, is there a benefit to polyamory that you see, just for yourself?

So when I kind of talk to people and usually like nine times out of 10, people don’t arrive at polyamory when they’re not with somebody. Usually they’re with somebody. Usually someone suggested it. Most of the time I’m answering questions for people who aren’t the ones that suggested it. And all of a sudden they have to like decide if this what they want to do. And so that’s pretty normal. Generally speaking in those situations I always kind of tell people to think about if they can see a benefit to non-monogamy that is purely selfish, because so many people I think try non-monogamy because they don’t want to break up with their partner and the problem with that is that basically they’re trying to save a relationship that doesn’t really exist anymore.

They’re trying to save the monogamous relationship they had with their partner, when they don’t have that anymore. Like that, that ship has sailed. So they can’t really save that because they have to realise that their partner isn’t gonna spend the same amount of time with them, isn’t going to remain focused on them all sorts of things. So like, can you find what I call an anchor, which is something where you see a benefit to it that is completely your benefit and isn’t just keeping this relationship? And I think that it sounds to me quite honestly that you have been kind of pushed into really considering monogamy because this relationship has been so intense and has been really great and you don’t want to lose that.

And so you’ve been faced with this real threat that you may have to, you know, consider the benefits of monogamy in order to save this relationship so naturally you’re considering the benefits of it. Almost in the opposite way that people— you’re kind of like doing the opposite and the way that people will consider and try polyamory so that they can keep their partner. And there isn’t really a benefit in it for them but that’s their benefit. I think that in a way that you’re doing a little bit with monogamy.

Like you’re sort of seeing the benefit of monogamy as it applies to this relationship. And I think that maybe you should just think a little bit more about that, like, what are the only selfish benefits that, not keeping any relationship— You know, if you were single what would you choose? I think that will help you get to a realisation of what it is that you want to choose. But essentially it’s something that you know it’s honestly something that you have to tell yourself. I won’t be able to tell you that. I won’t be able to tell you what works best for you. I think that there are totally people who can do both monogamy and polyamory. I certainly felt like I could do both for a long time.

I feel less and less like I could do both, as time has gone on, but for a short time I didn’t feel like — you know there are some people who feel like polyamory is their orientation in terms of how they want to do relationships or is unchangeable. I don’t personally feel like it’s always unchangeable for everyone. I think that for some people they can do both. So you could be one of those people who do both. And you just have to decide what it is that you want to do. I would really really really really hesitate to do any kind of relationship with someone who presents to you like a want that they have and then changes their mind about it.

Like I just feel like that’s really— or even, like, the thing is is that, no matter which way you cut the situation that’s bad. Like, whether they— whether it was never something that they wanted and they just told you they did — not great, or if it was something that they wanted, and then they changed their mind and are now going “I never wanted that” — that’s also not great. So you kind of, no matter which way you cut that, it’s kind of not great. So you kind of just have to think about, okay, you know, is that— that really needs to be worked through.

Because I just think that there needs to be— there’s more to that story, and you need to find out what more there is to that story and why they decided to— if they didn’t lie intentionally like what’s going on there? Because that is definitely a red flag for any kind of relationship, monogamous or polyamorous. Somebody who communicates in that way… it’s not great. So, yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Slutshaming and polyamory

I identify as non monogamous, all my partners know that about me, and I feel very sure about this lifestyle for me.

I’m currently closely dating a man who also claims that he is non monogamous, the last month we have been living with each other and I haven’t actively been pursuing other partners or dates out of my own volition. But in a few weeks im going to Europe with one of my best friends, she and I are bother hyper sexual and can sometimes encourage each other to get rowdy sexually (with other people, not each other) so in preparation for this trip I wanted to check in with my partner and re talk about boundaries and clarity.

It turned into a disaster, he got very insecure and started questioning why I have the desire to sleep with randos, why I’m even non monogamous, and giving me shit about past experiences of random frivolous sex I’ve had…( I consensually had sex with an Uber driver, and in confidence I told my partner, who later threw it back at me with such lines as “I don’t get why you wanna just fuck every taxi driver you see…”) I don’t know if that’s necessary information, it just got elevated and unnecessary.

Anyhow, I feel confused by this, he also has had other partners and I support him in that, though currently none of them are pursuing him because I’m in the picture, not my choice , theirs. And he knew that random hookups were of interest to me before we started dating.

I feel like his aggressive behavior is unnecessary, and it’s putting a strain on our relationship. This is where I stand, I do not want monogamy, I want autonomy to participate in safe random hook ups if I so desire, and I don’t know how to explain to him why that is a desire of mine.

How do I add clarity for him? How do I Help him with his insecurities so I can keep on as a non monogamous autonomous person? And am I valid in being upset that he’s upset?

The bigger issue underlying all of this is that you have a partner who has absolutely no problem with shaming and guilting you for your choices. The intent of this is to make you feel ashamed and it is, fundamentally, emotional abuse.

We all have different ways of expressing our sexuality. I’m not the type of person who does random hookups, generally speaking. That in and of itself isn’t a judgement towards anyone who does. It’s just not something I’m interested in. When I had a nesting partner who did do random hookups, it was a difficult thing for me to work out and I can’t say I had the best reaction to it.

This wasn’t because I felt like they were being irresponsible or because I had any feelings about it but more because sex represented something different to me, it was hard for me to put myself in the mindset of someone who wanted to do hookups. I still don’t know if I can put myself into that mindset. And sometimes I still get scared I’m not “enough” when new hookups happen. But I cope with these feelings by talking it out with my partner and, even though I have said things that have made them feel judged about their choices, I have apologised for that and have never meant to make them feel like there’s something wrong with them for wanting to have hookups.

And I’ve certainly not taken one hookup and threw back at my partner not only that they hookup with *everyone*, but also encouraged further shame. I’ve never questioned why they are non-monogamous to begin with either. I have definitely expressed genuine confusion by their choice and it did take me awhile to understand that I didn’t *need* to understand this for us to work things out, but to go as far as what your partner has done throws up some serious red flags.

He’s allowed to feel insecure and scared, but he’s not allowed to encourage you to feel shameful for your own choices in the way you describe, especially aggressively. You’re never going to make him understand your want for random hookups if he doesn’t get it but he also doesn’t have to inherently understand it to be respectful of you. I don’t know why my partner likes pineapple on pizza but I certainly don’t go on about how disgusting it is in a way that’s supposed to stop them from doing it or make them feel bad about it.

Personally, I would find it hard to stay in a relationship with someone who did this kind of gaslighting (extrapolating that because you had sex with ne Uber driver that you have sex with every single one) and emotionally abusive behaviour towards me. Still, I can empathise with the fact that it’s possible he’s lashing out because he’s insecure and doesn’t know how to handle it. We’re all capable of acting in an abusive way when under duress, especially if we have experienced that from caregivers.

But, if this is going to work, then some things need to happen. First, he needs to acknowledge these instances where he has encouraged you to feel shame, apologise for them and commit to stopping that. Second, he needs to commit to, if it’s accessible, seeing a therapist to work out how to better regulate his emotions so that he doesn’t lash out at people when he is feeling insecure. Third, you need to explain, unequivocally that, regardless of the current state of partners, your relationship is and always has been non-monogamous and you can and will be having random hookups if you want. If he does not like that or does not want that to happen, he needs to break up with you instead of trying to shame you out of having them.

And last, while I am more than willing to understand that people say things they don’t mean in times of stress and trauma, you need to exercise your ability to walk away or immediately stop any conversation with him that leads back to these ways of basically abusing you over things you have done in the past. Do not entertain that type of discussion ever again. He’s absolutely allowed to be scared and insecure — that’s pretty much a given. But he needs to be able to discuss it without shaming you about your choices.

Finally, you’re valid in what you’re feeling. You like random hookups and that’s legit. Even if someone else doesn’t understand it, there is no good reason why, so long as you are doing it for fun and not as a form of self-harm, anyone needs to question your reasoning for doing it. Your partner could have valid concerns about why you’re interested in random hookups and maybe there is or could be some larger issue (or not) — but that’s for you to handle and explore on your own and it’s certainly not going to be solved through shame and abuse.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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When your partner isn’t satisfied

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I separate sex and our relationship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope this helps and good luck.

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An ex wants to make it right

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.

I was at this relationship that ended badly last night.

I only had a few flings after deciding that monogamy wasn’t for me, but I studied a lot, and still do. So I met this guy through some friends in common, he was a non monogamist too, and a month after chatting online we started dating.

At first it was very nice, a few problems but everything seems overall ok, and I was pumped by the fact that he was everything my prior dates weren’t: Completely honest, eager to talk about his feelings, and apparently very emotionally responsible.

The “the talks” began. He simply couldn’t stop talking about his prior mono relationship, and how traumatizing it were. He alternated between being pissed with the relationship, talking about clinically and showering himself in self pity for not being able to make things alright. And by “making things alright” he meant, or at least he said he meant, that he just wanted to be friends with her again, despite the abuse, manipulation and that constant fighting he accused her of performing.

And then the situation escalated quickly when I got my job back in his town all of a sudden and didn’t have a place to live. At first I would stay there some other day, so I didn’t break myself financially with transport fees, but his family and the other people in the house really seem to like me and I ended up staying full time at his house.

“The talks” became more and more frequent, and I was feeling a bit drained. I wasn’t supposed to be his therapist, he kept saying that he could never be in a monogamous relationship anymore, that he didn’t want a relationship. So after some time I snapped. I told him “Look,as much as I respect this ‘no relationship at all, let’s just be together and whatever’ thing, that’s not what I’m looking for.

I need compromise, I need affection, I need to have my feelings at least at some degree reciprocated. I want to fell wanted and desired, and you are no giving me that, so it’s best if we break up this thing we’re having”. I moved my stuff to other room in the house and that didn’t held up not even 6 hours. He came to my door, not knowing what to say, wanting to talk, wanting to be “ok” with me. But I already had feelings for him, and we ended up just where we started.

And that was the first time I tried to “get away”, after that came over a dozen. It was completely crazy boomerang! I knew in my heart that was so wrong, especially after hearing for days about his prior relationship going the same way, but I couldn’t help it, not living in the same house. I told that I heard that he wasn’t ok with committed relationships, that it was ok if that was not for him, bit for me it was.

And he would say he wanted to try with me. I started telling him that if he was decided to stick with me, he would have to do some effort to change a few of his trauma behavior, going completely mad and pissed at anything that resembled romance (even holding hands had some mischievous meaning behind it), giving me attention, not treating me like I wasn’t there when he was with me, validate me, for God’s sake. I didn’t ask to be talked to everyday, or to cuddle all the time, or that he made public displays of affection.

And things would be good for a day or two and then everything turn back to point A.

I was becoming very overwhelmed by my job, apartment hunt, and then the moving process that went horrendously. I was having two other relationships, that was way superficial, and ended up terminating then for lack of time and emotional energy.

While I sorted my things out, he grew more and more distant, but still, everytime I mentioned we should split, he would state that he didn’t want that.

Everything was an excuse for my “neediness”. I was overwhelmed by work, or the problems at my new apartment were stressing me out, and he hoped that he could help. And I would say “I don’t need help sorting this things out, that I can do on my own! I just, please, need some comfort, some affection, some security!”

And he say that he would try, and still I never felt appreciated or loved. He said that he had a different way of expressing his feelings.

He would start talking about emotional responsibility, or insisted we go to non monogamy reading groups, I think in an attempt to make me less “committed”, or less demanding of affection.

He would try to say things in the most non compromising way when I asked where we were standing in the relationship, like “I care about you.”, “I have been loving you lately”. Never complete affirmatives, always on stealth mode.

And after I moved out, I really thought that he would be more relaxed, but NO! He got even more weird and distant, and we would spent more than two weeks without seeing each other, and he would tell sweet thing over text, that he missed me, and when we finally had the chance to be together, he wouldn’t even kiss me right, just a peck. The sex left me feeling like a doll. I became miserable, started to fight with him daily, and we alternated between long periods of fights and short periods of trying to mend things, until yesterday, after a week of silence between us, he basically told me he was not boyfriend material. While going to a birthday party at a club, with me sobbing furiously on the phone. He was unfazed.

I know that everything is pretty much resolved and that I simply should let him go and never come back, but I really do miss him, the person that was with me the first months…

I’m trying to move on and keep the no contact policy, but he is known for reaching out, like nothing never happened, and when that happens, what should I do?

And most of all, this whole thing left me hating non monogamy as I previously hated monogamy, so I’m sad about relationships in general, ’cause I don’t know how to be that uncommitted and loose about the people I like.

Thanks for reading…

Stop talking to him. No, seriously.

And in the future, in your relationships, if someone is more than willing to verbally trash an ex in front of you very, very quickly, be wary. I wonder if the real problem in his previous relationship was actually his ex, monogamy, or… really just him. Especially given he is so insistent on everything being “right” with her — in other words, he wants her to cosign his behaviour and she probably and rightly refuses to do so.

While it’s hard for me to say if I’d classify this man as abusive, it’s important to understand that abusive people have good and nice sides to them which is inevitably what keeps their victims coming back. Of course he’s nice at first. Of course he has periods of giving you roughly what you want. And then he pushes and pulls you back and forth. This isn’t non-monogamy. This is someone who either isn’t aware they treat people his way or knows fully and enjoys the power of jerking you around.

Regardless, he doesn’t give you what you want either because he doesn’t do emotions the way you want him to, or because he knows that he can play a better game by only giving you a little bit of what you want and then gaslighting you into thinking that you’re needy or that the problem is you.

You aren’t a problem. Nothing about your wants here is out of the ordinary, not conducive to non-monogamy, or even silly to expect or want. He intentionally pretends like nothing has happened because he hopes you will do the same. Don’t. Unfortunately, that means you become another story he can tell to another woman about how sad he is that he didn’t make things right with her. That’s not really your problem.

Get rid of this guy. He isn’t good for you, he’s tainting your life and experiences and he’s not worth this amount of drama and negativity. Even without his hot and cold behaviour, treating you like a doll during sex, or being completely unconcerned with you crying around him… he is not worth it.

Dump his ass.

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 39: Multiple Escalators

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.

Is it possible to find a “primary” relationship and build it with an already existing close secondary relationship?

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

Discussion Topic: If someone likes me a lot, I start to feel…

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

Episode 39 – Multiple Escalators

Is it possible to build a new primary relationship on top of an existing, serious secondary relationship? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – If someone likes me, I feel…

 

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I’m married to my husband of 9 years, and we’ve been polyamorous for half that time. Up until recently, I also had a very serious boyfriend. When I first met him, my boyfriend was solo poly, but we loved each other very deeply, so I became the partner he prioritized most. However, because I already have a primary partner, there were certain needs I couldn’t meet for my boyfriend. So a year into our relationship, he decided he wanted his own primary partner and started building a primary partnership with someone else. Which I wanted for him and wholeheartedly supported. And their relationship grew very rapidly.

However, what followed was several months of the worst poly[am] drama I’ve ever experienced. My metamour could see how much my boyfriend loved me, and it made her feel very anxious. As long as our relationship didn’t grow, she was ok with things. But when my boyfriend wanted to introduce me to his family or travel with me, she’d feel threatened and get angry with him. She had a more hierarchical view of polyamory, and she felt certain things should only be reserved for primary partners. She would repeatedly ask him how he could have more than one escalator relationship. My boyfriend would stick up for us and wouldn’t allow her to limit us. Instead, he tried to help her work through her fears and insecurities. But it all caused a ton of conflict between him and his primary partner.

Throughout all of this, I did my best to be supportive of their relationship. I was patient while my boyfriend worked with his primary partner on her fears, and at times, I compromised what I wanted to help my metamour feel comfortable. I didn’t want to be the reason their relationship failed, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice my own needs and desires. I didn’t try to limit how my metamour’s relationship with my boyfriend could grow, and I wanted my relationship with him to also be able to grow.

Eventually, their fighting got so bad that my boyfriend broke up with her. But then he turned around and told me that he needed our relationship to be smaller. He said that everybody he knew started with a primary partner first and then added other partners. He said he was doing it in reverse. He said he wouldn’t be able to meet a potential primary partner if he continued being so deeply involved with me. He said our non-primary relationship had become too important, and he had struggled with how to prioritize between me and his former primary partner. So our relationship also ended.

This whole situation has left me wondering if it’s even possible to build a primary partnership over top of an existing, serious secondary relationship. Is this type of configuration inherently doomed to fail? Is it possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new if you’re already in a loving, committed, non-primary relationship with someone else? And as the secondary partner in this situation, how much should I set aside my own needs so they don’t threaten my partner’s growing primary relationship?

Response:

So I think that the biggest piece of information in this situation is what your boyfriend said when he said he struggled with how to prioritize between you and his former primary partner. And that’s the key, really. It isn’t so much that it’s impossible for someone to have a secondary but very important relationship with someone and then build a quote unquote, primary relationship that is supposed to mean more or whatever they wanted to find it as. It’s that your partner had difficulty doing that.

And I think that it’s sad because I think that had your boyfriend had a more supportive person that he was dating, it probably wouldn’t have been so hard. I think that it’s understandable for his metamour to be scared, especially if she’s new to polyamory and doesn’t really know. But, you know, they have to come to an agreement of what primary means. And I think that’s the thing here there.

And I’ve spoken about this before. Hierarchies don’t have to be inherently shitty. And I think that a lot of people rail against hierarchies because of situations like this where they’re so prescriptive, or people use them as a reason to control other people rather than them being kind of guidelines for how someone might go about things. I wouldn’t be threatened by my partner meeting a metamorphose parents.

You know, I guess, well, I don’t have parents for my partner to

me. So maybe I’m less threatened by that, because I don’t have the equivalent. But, you know, the whole point of, of the relationship escalator— I felt that the point of that article was to point out that we make assumptions about how relationships should quote, unquote, grow. Not that these are the way that relationships grow. And that’s the only way that relationships grow.

You know, I think that it’s, it’s sad that your metamour was so focused on these little things and thought that they should only be for her, and I don’t know what your boyfriend did to negotiate that with her. I think that It sounds like he didn’t feel like he could negotiate that with her. And he is assuming that there’s a right way to do this and there isn’t. It’s really sad. Like he doesn’t have to break off a great relationship that he has in order to find another one and he is— I’m really… I’m really even caught off guard by his assumption that he needs a primary partner

If he’s solo polyamorous— you know, solo polyamorous people, generally speaking, you know, don’t feel the need to have a primary partner. If they have needs that, you know, if they have things that they want partners to do with them that their current partners can do, they can just find another partner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a quote unquote, primary partner. I don’t know how familiar your boyfriend is with solo polyamory or just polyamory in general, but there’s no configuration that you have to proceed in. And, you know, if if someone is threatened by the relationships that this person already has that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with by him.

And I think that, you— I think that if you’re a quote unquote secondary and someone makes that clear to you, I think that it’s, you know, just like you made clear to him that you had a primary relationship. So there there were things that you wouldn’t be able to do with him. And I think that’s fine. But and I think that as a— you know, you have to kind of accept that if you’re going to accept being in the quote unquote, secondary role. However, that doesn’t mean that you know, just because someone is a quote unquote, secondary doesn’t mean that their opinion doesn’t matter, or that they shouldn’t necessarily have to shelve what they think is an important in a relationship.

Just because, you know, their metamour whoever has the primary quote unquote role has decided that such and such as more important, you know. How people define what is important, or how relationships grow is really up to them. And that’s something that you have to— It seemed like you had a good idea without with your boyfriend, but it seems like the metamour had a different idea of that and it’s seems like rather than realizing that a lot of the clashes in the situation where because the metamour had very specific ideas that he didn’t agree with— you know, he can have a primary relationship, it doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to meet his parents, or that you’re not allowed to travel with him.

That’s, that’s not what— a thing he has to agree to. So it sounds like rather than realising that this is this particular individual’s way of doing it, he’s decided that that is the way that everyone does it, and that he needs to break up with you in order to find the primary person. And that’s just– I mean, it… It sounds like you didn’t say that that’s what he did specifically. You said your relationship ended. You didn’t say who ended it or why but I’m assuming that that was a big reason why your relationship ended. It is possible to build a primary partnership over an existing serious secondary relationship that the— you know, it’s like sort of saying is up possible to have a boyfriend if you have a best

friend.

It’s possible to have multiple strong, serious relationships in your life. It doesn’t even have to be romantic partnerships. You know, now there are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, it’s not always possible for you to spend the same time. You know, it might be that when he does find someone he considers a primary. And they agree with what that means. It may be that he spends less time with you, but I don’t think that means that your relationship is smaller. Like, I really don’t like the idea that spending less time together or, you know, I mean, maybe if he doesn’t want to— if you’re not bothered, like if I had a partner who was like, Oh, you’re a secondary, so you can’t meet my parents. I wouldn’t care I’d be thrilled actually. To not have to… Meeting the parents is a scary thing for me. So I wouldn’t mind that sacrifice, but I know it’s just something that you have to talk out and agree on.

What does it mean? Because you can easily say primary and secondary in all these kind of catch all terms, but people have different ideas as to what primary means. You know, for monogamous people or primary someone that’s the only person that they sleep with, you know, but they still have friendships, they still have other relationships in their life that mean a lot to them and maybe very serious to them. And, you know, it’s kind of bothersome if someone feels threatened by their partner having a serious relationship with someone else.

Yeah, that’s, it just sounds like they disagreed on what primary means. Unfortunately, he took that to mean that that was how all those experiences where maybe he had some other experiences with people like that, and he just, you know, felt like he had to disallow you from doing certain things. But I don’t think that you should sacrifice you know, even if you are quote unquote, secondary, that doesn’t mean that you— you know, what is your idea of a relationship? What do you need in a relationship?

And regardless of whether you’re secondary or not That shouldn’t have to mean that you are discarded or that your needs aren’t important. So you just have to figure out what what that is and what’s important to you. And I think it sounds like you do have a good idea about that, because you communicated very clearly to your boyfriend that you know, you have this primary partner, that means that there are certain needs that you can’t meet. And I think that maybe, you know, he didn’t have a very good idea of that.

Maybe he has a better idea of that now. And it’s really unfortunate, but yeah, it is, it is possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new even if you’re already in a committed loving relationship with someone else. And I just think that you should never set aside your own needs, you know. There there are things that you— like set aside— you can compromise on preferences. You can compromise on some things, but you need to figure out what what is the bare minimum that you need? And what are the things that you can compromise on, you know/

Maybe meeting the parents is something you can compromise on because you’re like— if you’re like me, and you’re like, that’s a stressful thing. And to me meeting, you know, because I don’t have any parents for my partners to meet, it doesn’t mean that not meeting my parents means I don’t care about them. But it obviously has, you know, for some people that has a lot of meaning. So maybe for you, it doesn’t matter that much, because you’ve already met, I’m assuming you’ve already met your husband’s parents, maybe you already have that in your life, and you could, you know, you don’t need it for the second part.

So just figure out things that you actually really need, and things that are just, you know, things that you can do without and

I think it is quite difficult for him. You know, I— it is quite hard if he’d never had that kind of setup before to try and negotiate that. And I think ultimately, you know, he didn’t know how to prioritise and that ended up causing him a lot of stress. And so he doesn’t reasonably want to face that dilemma again, you know, it might— even if it sounds kind of crappy that he’s he’s been really affected by this unfortunate situation.

You know, I am sad that he had that experience because I do think if he had a better experience, he would have been able to prioritise things a lot better. But I think if he if he genuinely feels like it’s gonna be hard for him, you know, he might come back to you when he has a primary partnership and feels a little bit more solid in  what it is that he wants and what it is that he can give you. But yeah, it is possible.

And I don’t think that you— you– unless you are going out of your way to stop your partner from meeting or talking to other people— and even if you were doing that, it is ultimately your partner that needs to come back to you and say “Nah”. You asserting your own needs doesn’t threaten your partner’s growing primary relationship. You didn’t threaten that relationship. You weren’t responsible for that relationship. That’s your— that’s your partner’s relationship, that he is responsible for managing and dealing with on his own. Like, maybe with your help and encouragement. But ultimately, it’s his responsibility to manage you didn’t threaten that relationship.

That was a situation that had a lot to do with clashing ideas of what primary means. So please don’t feel like in the future that you somehow having needs and existing is a threat to somebody else because it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be if he’s able to manage that situation, and maybe he’s not able to manage it. And that’s why he unfortunately ended it with you. Yeah.

To sum up, yes, it is completely possible. This is a really sad, unfortunate situation. Please don’t blame yourself for it. It sounds like he just couldn’t prioritise, just couldn’t manage. And, you know, it’s really unfortunate for him, it’s really unfortunate for you, but it’s not something that you caused by having needs in the future, try to figure out what it is you need from a secondary and what it is that you can do without and negotiate that, you know, from the beginning of your relationship and don’t kick yourself too hard for any of this because it’s really it’s not your fault.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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Episode 37: Don’t Want to Share

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.

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing.

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

Discussion Topic: List 5 things that are important to you in this life. How much time do you give each of them?

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Episode 37 – Don’t Want to Share

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Please visit @NonMonogamyHelp and view our post here: https://twitter.com/NonMonogamyHelp/status/1267089826492428288

 

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:

Long story short I don’t want to practice poly[am] anymore. And it’s upsetting to my primary (and really only) partner. But i think he understands. But the main issue is the other person we’ve been talking to. I don’t want to hurt her.

What I’m really confused on though is how I don’t want to be poly anymore. I feel like when were with this girl.. I’m pretending, like its just a show.

Or maybe the real reason is I’m being selfish and don’t want to “share” my boyfriend so to speak.

I know this is vague and very short but I would very much appreciate any advice or thoughts you have.

Response:

Okay, the first thing that I’m noticing here is that you seem to be dating as a couple, or I’m not really sure what’s going on here, because it’s a person that you’ve been talking to. And some people, you know… if a person genuinely wants to find and date a couple, fine, I don’t think that that is the vast majority of people out there. And I think that a lot of people who are opening up their relationship and it doesn’t tell me— you don’t tell me if you’ve just opened your relationship or how long you’ve been, quote unquote, practicing polyamory, but I do think a lot of people who open up their relationships think that it’s safer to operate as a couple and so they operate as a couple.

And I don’t think that works for a lot of reasons, because it’s quite difficult and not necessarily predictable to have one person fall in love with one other person. And I think it’s even twice as difficult to have an expectation that two people will be able to fall in love with one person in the exact same way at the exact same rate. And it’s not always fun to like be part of this situation where you go on a date and there’s two people there just… some people really like that and that’s absolutely fine. If that’s what folks want to do.

I just think that it’s probably better for people to try and date individually first, precisely because of what it seems like you’re experiencing here. You know, you don’t want to hurt this girl, or this woman that you’re seeing or that both of you are seeing but you’re clearly pretending. Like you aren’t interested in her and you know, you feel under pressure to, for whatever reason, perform your attraction to her, maybe because your boyfriend was right there.

Like if your boyfriend just wants to date this person, then let your boyfriend date that person. And you need to have a foundation of trust in between the two of you, so that you trust him to not violate your boundaries or to stick around with you. I don’t think it’s necessarily selfish to be in this kind of situation, and not really want to have another person there. I don’t think that that’s necessarily selfish. You don’t really talk about whether or not you have a problem with your boyfriend dating other people when you’re not there.

But I think that if it’s something that you want to do in terms of you want to date other people then you kind of have to sit with the discomfort and learn how to process it. And it will get better over time as soon as you establish that trust with your boyfriend. And know that you can you know, through example, that if he goes off and you know goes on a date with somebody else, he’s still gonna go on dates with you as well.

So I think that’s the first thing is that you all… you need to date as individuals. And don’t be in a relationship, or be on a date that you don’t want to be on. Break up with anyone or break up any relationship that is fake. That you’re not really actually wanting to be and because it’s also not fair for the other person, like, you know, you don’t want to hurt this person that you’re considering dating but you, by pretending that you are attracted to her, are going to end up hurting her.

So it’s better just to be honest about it. And you and your partner don’t have to be attracted to the same person. You don’t have to date the same person. And it’s very, very unrealistic if that’s your ideal situation. I mean, it would be great. If you and your boyfriend like the same person. If you know you could form some type of triad that worked for you all. That would be a really great situation, but that’s not realistic. That’s not likely to happen because if you think about, you know, a single person.

If you were single, like would you want to date two people at the exact same time? Who expected you to love them the exact same way? And especially if like what ends up happening when couples do this is that inevitably they come across problems in the relationship and their first reaction to that problem is just to chuck the third person that they brought in which really isn’t cool for them. So I just think that you need to date individually

In terms of whether or not you want to be polyamorous I think that what might help is you thinking hard about what the reasons you have for being polyamorous are do you have good reasons? Are you just being polyamorous because your boyfriend wanted to date other people? And you decided to go along with it? What do you as an individual get out of it other than staying with your boyfriend? Think about those reasons.

Because I do think sometimes when you are in situations Where you have a lot of emotions, where things seem really tough? It can feel like “Well, why the hell am I doing this anyway?” It can, it can get really frustrating. So what brings you back is just realizing, oh, I do actually have a reason for why I want to do this. And this is the reason. And sometimes that can help out a huge amount with, you know, figuring out what it is that you want and why it is that you want it.

I would also think about what it means to quote unquote, share your boyfriend. What does that mean? And why do you not want to do that? What do you think is going to happen as a result of that? Are you— do you have fears that you’re kind of indulging? And what what does it mean to share? And what are the specific things that you are quote unquote, sharing?

Those are things to really consider. And also like you’re welcome to like, not practice polyamory in air quotes. As much as you want. You don’t have to always be dating someone else in order to be polyamorous. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone around to date. Polyamory communities can be really small and maybe you’ve dated around a lot, and you just kind of ugh. Dating is also really exhausting. Not everyone wants to date all the time. It can be really, really tiresome. And not everyone you know is thrilled to do it. So just because you aren’t dating someone else right away doesn’t mean that you aren’t polyamorous.

So, you know, if you want to put a pause on dating, that doesn’t mean you’re not polyamorous. It just means that you are not interested in dating for a while. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe you can put a pause on dating for a little bit. But I think that the first thing that kind of needs to be worked out in this because it’s not really clear from your letters, whether or not it’s advisable for you and your partner to date the same person at the same time.

You know, it seems like— you’re talking about how when we are with this girl, I’m pretending like it’s just a show. Well, you don’t both have to be with her at the same time. You don’t both have to date or at the same time. You can be interested in the same person at the same time. Like that’s totally fine. And I’m sure plenty of people have had that situation where they’re interested in the same person at the same time. That’s very different from dating the same person as a couple. Like dating individually and it just so happens that you’re together is fine. And that can be a totally non-predatory thing.

But if you are dating as a couple and expecting things as a couple, that is where the problems really arise. And I do think you really need to look at that before you can really iron out any of the other problems here. But yeah, overall, to kind of sum up, I think that yeah, again, you need to date individually. I think you need to think hard about why it is that you want to be polyamorous or did want to be polyamorous at some point. What are the benefits that you get out of it? And really bring yourself back to that when you start getting in these kind of not so great, happy moments.

I think that you need to think about what it means to quote unquote share your boyfriend, and what it is about that that scares you. And when what it is about that, that you have fears around and maybe kind of work out, You know, is there a way that your boyfriend can reassure you about his commitment to you in a way that will make sharing him feeling less scary? And then last but not least, like just because you’re not actively dating doesn’t mean you’re not quote unquote, practicing polyamory.

You can not be dating anyone. And that just might be how you feel at the moment because dating isn’t that fun for a lot of people. So if you don’t want to date for a while, or if you want to just put a pause on that, that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to,

you know, date all the time just to be polyamorous.

And that really goes back to the first question because if you and your partner are insisting on dating at the same time and insisting on dating the same people, that’s this is exactly the reason why people advise people not to do that. Because inevitably it ends up feeling forced for one person if they don’t feel fully into it. And that’s just not a fun situation to be in.

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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