I'm in a mono-poly relationship. Is it doomed to fail? | I'm Poly and So Can You
This week’s column catches my poly family and I returning from an absolutely dreamy vacation in Cancun, Mexico, to celebrate my 29th birthday. As such, I took the opportunity - as I will occasionally do - to cull a variety of opinions on this week’s question, all while stuffing our faces full of mediocre food in a suspiciously desolate airport terminal in Phoenix, AZ. Enjoy!
Your poly pundits for today:
Geoff: A 37-year-old queer white cis disabled veteran and activist, Geoff is the reigning “Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017” and recently won runner-up at the International Mr Leather (IML) Competition in Chicago.
Jack: A 31-year-old biracial trans man who steadfastly identifies as “straight”, he is nevertheless happily married to Geoff and spends most of his time working at Mr. S Leather, performing in a popular drag troupe, and recording episodes of his new podcast, “Dicks With Clits”.
Danielle: A 27-year-old queer cis female engineer, motorcycle junkie, catch wrestler, and notorious bootblack, Danielle’s current goal is to cultivate an IRL Themyscira populated by badass muscle babes.
& of course, yours’ truly!
I'm currently in a mono-poly relationship. My primary partner is mono and has no interested in being with other people. We've know each other for 2 years and have been dating for 3 months.
I was already dating my current girlfriend when he and I started dating, and I have also ended a relationship with a boyfriend while we've been together. He says his biggest fear is when I will meet someone new and fall for them, since that hasn't happened - but I know it will and I'm afraid of it happening. How do I stop freaking out about hurting my amazing partner while still being my autonomous poly self?
He says all the mono-poly resources he has found say that they are too hard and don't work out. But we love each - we are each other’s soul bird - and we want to put everything into making this last.
Geoff: In my opinion, this is a dealbreaker-type incompatibility situation. Her partner entered the relationship fully aware of what he was “getting into”, i.e. non-monogamy. She was actively dating two other people at the time, and it sounds like he agreed to the arrangement relatively readily. At this point it’s his responsibility to either bite the bullet, do the work and stick it out, OR be brutally honest about having made a mistake and not being up for the challenges inherent in polyamorous relationships after all. Also, keep in mind that you’re at the 90-day mark. Regardless of what kind of relationship structure you’re operating within, it’s pretty typical for the energy to take either a subtle or dramatic shift around this time. The new relationship energy (NRE) may be starting to wear off, and you’re beginning to be a bit more critical of the sustainability of the relationship. So if it makes you feel better, just rest easier knowing that this kind of “evaluation process” - individual circumstances notwithstanding - is something that most people have to slough through.
Jack: I agree with Geoff in that there is a level of “you knew this going in” with this particular situation. If uncomfortable feelings arose, it was - and is - his responsibility to proactively address them, which fortunately it sounds like he’s trying to do. Kudos to him! My advice to him would be to try not to get overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. Letting your mind run away with you can so easily lead to a self-sabotaging of the relationship before there’s even anything to worry about. Breathe through it, take everything really slowly, and lean on your supportive friends and family members so that you have an outlet for your concerns, questions, and discomfort that ISN’T your partner. I say this all from personal experience, as I identified strongly as monogamous until meeting Andre four years ago. It’s still difficult sometimes, as I’m definitely the least “active” of all of us in terms of dating and playing with outsiders, but it does get easier and better.
Danielle: It sounds like this is the time to have a constructive conflict - emphasis on the “constructive”. I’d initiate a serious sit-down dialogue ASAP, with the “goal” being to make a concrete plan for moving forward, whether that’s separately or together. During this talk, be sure to write everything down, whether digital or analog, and keep it in a secure yet easily-accessed place so that you can both refer to it whenever you wish. It’s crucial to make a record of any negotiations, boundaries, compromises, and/or agreements you and your partner come to. As time passes, our previously-sharp memories become fuzzy, even around topics we hold dear. This way you can both return to this document - to re-emphasize a point, check something off the list, or add something you may have forgotten - organically, and without concern that the other person’s memory is faulty. I’d then schedule regular follow-up conversations, perhaps on a bi-monthly basis, to check in with one another, review your original agreements, and see if there are any updates or changes to be made. Throughout all of it, don’t forget to stay true to yourself and what you REALLY want.
Andre: I actually find your situation quite curious, reader! In my [personal and anecdotal] experience, navigating jealousy around a partner having other lovers is made significantly simpler when the partner in question already has multiple other partners at the onset of the relationship. I find that it’s when two people get together monogamously - or even monogamishly - and then attempt to open the relationship up more dramatically down the road that intense feelings arise. Considering that you already had two partners when you began seeing your primary, AND considering that it only took three months of dating for the arrangement to become unbearable for him? My honest advice would be to cut the cord and move on.
You’re doing the right thing by checking in now as opposed to later; the longer this discord goes on, the more emotionally entangled you’ll become with one another, and the harder it will be to separate. Also, I’d encourage you to take advantage of having another supportive partner at your side. Trust me, it will be easier for you to end things with your primary if you’re feeling the love, comfort, and stability of your girlfriend at the same time. You’ll be less concerned with being left lonely/unsupported/undesired.
Finally, I know I’ve been a naysayer thus far, so here’s a glimmer of hope: It seems like the only two options you and your partner have entertained are “stay together” or “break up”, but what if he simply moved down the hierarchy from a primary partner to a secondary or tertiary partner, either permanently or temporarily? Perhaps you’re just not compatible as primary partners, but could cultivate another dynamic that felt just as satisfying while putting less pressure on both of you to compromise your core relationship needs and beliefs.