I’ve been dating my partner for almost 1 1/2 years. For most of it, we have been completely in love. Big plans for our future. Starting bands together. Lots of time spent with family. Making plans to move together and leave the country. We have the same values, same cultural background, as far as men go I never thought I’d find one so perfect for me. We even lived together for some period of time. Through it all, communication has been what I thought we had as our strength.

Some issues came up when someone asked him out and asked what our boundaries were. They were in an open relationship and were trying to be respectful and considerate. We had discussed specifically that being open wasn’t best for us but that’s not what my partner conveyed to this new love interest. He didn’t cheat but still broke a bit of trust. It took time but I got over that. A few months ago he moved in with and became surrounded by some people that identified as poly[am], a situation that gave me some anxiety but we communicated and he assured me that he wasn’t just going to get up and change his mind about our relationship and boundaries all of the sudden.

After a few hectic weeks there, he said he needed space, while I was in the midst of a personal crisis. After some time we met up and he assured me that everything would be okay. Nothings changed. Just time apart. Slowly but suddenly lack of communication grew and finally one drunken night at a party he broke up with me. In a week he pursued many women and wasn’t treating me too well, without going into too much detail. We ended up talking and deciding that we loved each other enough to try to do this the right way and continue communicating and trying to be mindful and preserve our love.

But it makes me fearful, he was able to treat me very badly, worse than I thought he ever would. Now it’s being non monogamous that’s going to fix it? I pursued a few people but didn’t find anyone who I liked enough to be intimate with or even hang out with again. I’m very good in monogamous relationships, they’re all I’ve ever known. I’m the intense “love at first sight” hopeless romantic it takes a lot for me to open up to someone in any way.

But I’m also open minded, I identify as queer and there’s a whole world out their I haven’t experienced (relationships with women). I want to try this out and it makes sense to do it with someone I love so deeply, but I feel like I was kind of forced into it. And if my partner can manipulate me like that (even without meaning to) how can I get over that and trust them this deeply so soon? I think I can do this. I want to. But it hurts me seeing him go on dates in the midst of my mistrust and emotional turmoil. I feel like I got the short end of the stick. Like I am making sacrifices while he gets everything he wants (even though he has made changes and been treating me well).

Is their any advice on how to rectify this imbalance? I have expressed that I feel like it’s either his way or no way and he says that’s not true. He says he’d be respectful of any boundaries but now says he wouldn’t trust himself in monogamy again. Can open relationships with such a shaky foundation be rectified and one day be healthy? How can I best move forward? I proposed having a one sided open relationship, letting me figure out if I could do this while he stayed within previous set boundaries, but it felt weird because I knew he wanted other things and I didn’t meet a single person who spiked my interest. I’m trying to preserve things, but don’t know where to go from here.

First off, I’m sorry that you’re going through this right now. It’s sounds difficult and painful and I can see why this would be confusing.

The crux of your problem really feels like your inability to hold your partner to account. I’m not one to really tell you how you get to define cheating, but your partner demonstrated to you from very early on in your relationship that he valued what he wanted to do over any preferences you had. Whether or not you want to define it as cheating, it pretty much spells out very clearly that any bond of trust that you have with him is going to be broken if he wants what he wants bad enough.

Then, you move in with a bunch of other polyam people and he swears with the same mouth he swore an open relationship wasn’t suitable for you all, he promises that he won’t abandon you for anyone else. He constantly promises to you that everything is okay and then… it’s not. He breaks up with you. And then you get back together, but what essentially has changed?

Non-monogamy or monogamy will not fix his behaviour and I’m not very convinced that there is anything that you can do to fix his behaviour and yet, you’re putting it all on your shoulders and you know it and feel it. It’s now your responsibility to be able to cope with non-monogamy? It’s all very valid that non-monogamy doesn’t work for him, but that really doesn’t excuse his behaviour and it doesn’t seem like he’s really owning up to it. Blaming your behaviour on an inability to do monogamy is not owning up to one’s behaviour.

In all of this, you’re not really sure if this is even something you want. You’re just doing it because, as you’ve put it, you don’t really have any other choice. And just because you’re queer doesn’t mean non-monogamy is right for you. Is it right for you? It’s one thing to be interested in pursuing other relationships, but it’s another to be put in a position where you have no other choice and you really don’t have any other choice.

If you had been dating your partner for longer, I would have suggested maybe working on re-building what you have together, but I’m wondering if it’s worth it if you can’t even be sure that your partner is serious about actually keeping his word to you. It’s going to take an enormous leap of faith and a lot of anxiety on your part to be able to trust him again and the only way out is through. The only way for you to build up trust again is for you to trust and have that trust be tested, come out of the other side and see if he’s kept his word. There’s nothing, even a relationship setup where only you are “allowed” to date other people, is going to quickly build that. You just have to build it up again.

I would ask yourself if this is really worth it, especially if you actually might be interested in pursuing relationships with other people. You don’t have to do non-monogamy to do that and you’ve got plenty of time to do that. Think really hard about whether non-monogamy is what you want and if it’s worth trying with someone who, even if you love, has proven to you time and time again that you can’t trust his word.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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

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