My partner's first polyamorous relationship began with a ten day trip to South America. Was this excessive?

My partner came out as polyamorous three years into our five year monogamous relationship. He just returned from his first visit to see a new partner who lives in South America, so my first experience [with polyamory] was him being gone for ten days. It was excruciating. I managed his homecoming and subsequent discussions, but now am left wondering what are reasonable time/frequency asks for future partner visits. Suggestions?

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So, let me get this straight.

You and your partner have been together for five years. Three years in, your partner told you he was polyamorous. Fast forward two years, and he’s just now engaging in his first polyamorous relationship...which is also a transnational relationship...and the first time he spent any time with said new partner involved him going to South America for ten days?

What the hell have you two been doing for the past two years?!

Not only am I genuinely curious, reader, but there’s such a lack of information available here that I’m concerned I can’t give you the quality of personalized advice you’re looking for!

Questions I’m dying to ask you include:

  • What was your relationship with your partner like prior to him coming out as polyamorous? How was your sex life? When you did disagree or argue, what themes or topics repeatedly came up, if any?

  • How did your partner come out to you? Was it under duress, or by his own volition? Where was he in his polyamorous journey? Had he simply heard the word “polyamorous” and felt something click, or was this an identity that he’d been devoting intentional time and energy towards researching and fleshing out? Had he already encountered someone he was interested in pursuing, or was the discussion of future partners purely hypothetical?

  • How did that initial coming out conversation end? Did your partner give you an ultimatum, threatening to end the relationship if it didn’t automatically “evolve” to fit his newly-articulated needs, or was he genuinely invested in working through this as a team?

  • If you both consented to exploring non-monogamy at some point, what did that look like? What boundaries, negotiations, and communication strategies did you decide upon?

  • Do you personally have any organic interest in pursuing non-monogamy? If so, what about it is attractive to you? If not, what are your biggest fears and concerns? Does your partner know about those fears and concerns? Do you have other people in your life who you can engage in open and honest dialogues with regarding non-monogamy, or do you feel isolated and unsupported?

Do you see what I mean when I reference “missing information”? However befuddled I may be, however, it’s not my intention to leave you hanging. So I’m going to make a bunch of assumptions, and then give you my two cents based on those assumptions.

Let’s assume that when your partner came out to you, it didn’t go well. Because it didn’t go well, you both delayed opening up the relationship for a significant amount of time. I’m not sure how your partner met his South American beau, but let’s also assume that for accessibility-related reasons, the only option for in-person interaction was for your partner to visit them (as opposed to the other way around). And he expected you to be cool with it.

Sounds SUPER unrealistic.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The most successful non-monogamous relationships are ones born from a place of mutual trust, security, and stability. They’re relationships that are slowly and intentionally built from the ground up, rather than ones people dive into headfirst with - or without! - the support of their preexisting partner. Non-monogamy starts with baby steps, and traveling to South America for ten days is NOT a baby step. Here’s how things SHOULD have been rolled out:

  • Your partner realizes he has a connection with someone in South America.

  • He communicates this to you in a timely and compassionate way. He encourages you to be forthcoming with your feelings, and does an excellent job listening. You consent to him pursuing a remote relationship with this person, with the goal of signing off on some in-person time down the road.

  • In the following weeks or months, you and your partner spend a lot of intentional time together. A third of it is bonding time (connecting emotionally, physically, and/or sexually), a third of it is mutual research (giving yourselves “homework” while becoming “students” of non-monogamy), and a third of it is time devoted to checking in on the situation between you, your partner, and your now-metamour. Some conversations are more “successful” than others, but you both keep coming back to the mutual love, respect, and devotion you have for each other.

  • You both also work to find non-monogamy community outside of one another - whether it be IRL or within online forums - so that you have alternative resources and sounding boards when you need them.

  • Finally, the time comes to coordinate an in-person meeting between your partner and his South American beau. You negotiate a long weekend to start. You discuss what self care strategies you’ll be utilizing while he’s away, as well as what the communication expectations will be for his trip (e.g. Do you want him to Facetime you once a day and keep texting channels open? Are you comfortable with texting only? Do you want those communications to be full of love and reassurance, information about what him and his partner are up to, or none of the above?).

  • When he returns, you schedule ample time to review how you both felt about the trip, what could be done differently, what worked really well, etc. Based on this conversation, you both decide to move forward, scale back, or pull the plug entirely. (Note: It sounds like this WAS part of your process, so good on you!)

Hopefully you can use the above framework to assist in arranging any future trips with more intentionality and care!