My partner of 8 years has suddenly decided that she’s poly[am] and (apparently) was the entire time. I’m of the opinion that she’s done irreparable damage to our relationship by even bringing this idea up. The idea of her being with anyone else is completely unappealing to me, do I have any recourse other than to end our relationship?
Maybe I’m making assumptions, but I can tell from the way you asked this question that you’re upset about it. And honestly, you do have the right to your feelings.
Whether or not this has done irreparable damage to your relationship depends on you both taking a long, hard look at your wants and needs and deciding whether or not you’re truly compatible.
Your first comment about your partner saying she’s polyamorous and has been the entire time indicates to me that you most likely feel betrayed. This is understandable after such a long partnership and such a basic issue of incompatibility being brought up now.
I can’t ask your partner questions, so I’m not sure how she came about discovering that polyamory was something she wanted or felt more akin to, but I can tell you that there are a lot of people who feel as though polyamory isn’t just a choice for them, but it’s how they naturally do relationships. While that might be hard for you to believe after 8 years, it’s very, very possible that your partner has been struggling with this for the past 8 years and only recently realised it was a valid choice she could make in her life.
This society tells us that certain types of ways of living are the ‘ideal’ and sells us on the idea that they are more ‘natural’ for us. I’m referring to the two-parent, heterosexual stereotypical family with children. People who seek something outside of that, whether they are not heterosexual, whether they don’t want kids, etc. are going against the grain and face a lot of resistance in their lives for it. Women especially if they don’t want to have kids or want more than one partner.
While I totally understand that you may have feelings of betrayal, what’s really important is for you to understand that coming to an understanding that polyamory is a better choice for a person does and can take time.
Should you try polyamory?
If someone were going to have this discussion with their partner, disclosing that they want a polyamorous relationship, I would always encourage them to really think about how this will change their current relationship and give their current partner all of the information possible so that they can make an informed decision.
Has your partner told you what type of polyamory she wants to try? Has she told you what will change about your relationship? Has she just dropped this on you? Does she expect you to decide whether or not this is what you want soon?
All of these external factors would influence the advice I give you on whether or not you should consider trying it. I think that if you have a partner who drops this on you, offers you zero in the way of emotional support, and just expects you to get on with it is not a person who anyone should date period, whether you’re interested in polyamory or not. Polyamorous people can be arseholes too.
However, I can’t really give you a steer clear on whether or not polyamory is worth trying with this person and my concern for you is that you could try polyamory with your partner and, if your partner is not very supportive or communicative, it would end in pain. And it would end in pain for anyone, regardless of whether or not they were interested in polyamory or not to have a partner who doesn’t support them or communicate. And it’s hard to tell whether your anger here comes from an understandable frustration with such a massive change in your life or from an inconsiderate partner (or both).
What I would say is that if you honestly and truly have no desire to even try a polyamorous relationship, then at this point you are incompatible and your only recourse is to either end the relationship or continue it and allow it to blow up in your face in a much more painful way.
If you have some desire or can see some benefit and your partner is willing to support you, you might find the idea of her being with someone else is only unappealing because of how frightened the uncertainty is for you. You may find that once you have that uncertainty addressed, it doesn’t bother you. But only you can say.
Monogamy is no guarantee
I absolutely understand the frustration you are experiencing and please don’t allow anyone to make you out to be some sort of incredibly jealous and horrible person just because this sudden news has made you upset. Polyamory is a different way of doing relationships and it’s not something everyone wants. And that’s totally fine. To have this be a surprise after putting in 8 years in a relationship is a really difficult thing to work through.
What I would tell you though which I think all people in any relationship style need to remember is that society makes monogamy and long-term relationships out to be guaranteed. In many ways, we get lulled into this false sense of security by thinking that these types of things last forever. And sometimes they just don’t. Being monogamous seems like a ‘safer’ option for people, but it’s really not. There are all sorts of things in life that crop up and change things. We plan for one kind of life, but the only thing constant in life is change.
The reason I say this is because I want you to not see this as an inherent failure on either of your parts. I don’t very often agree with Dan Savage, but at one point when he questioned how we view breakups, I found myself nodding in agreement. I wrote about breakups previously but the gist is that we should really stop viewing a break up as a failure. Sometimes people grow apart and change and with that comes a separation.
It is painful, without a doubt. But it is not something that you can avoid in life, whether you’re polyamorous or not.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Note: I wrote this column in 2017 so I may have shifted or changed my perspective on this. Please feel free to ask a similar question.
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