My lover just told me he or she wants other lovers. If your partner says that he or she wants other partners, your first impulse may be to feel attacked or rejected, and if the time comes when your partner does take another partner, you may feel that person is attacking you simply by existing. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to let go of it. Any relationship in which the people involved have different goals and expectations will not be an easy relationship.
Making any relationship work requires a dedication of time and effort, and there are never any guarantees; a relationship in which one partner is monogamous by nature and the other partner is not is particularly difficult, and fraught with peril.
Compromises will be required from everyone involved. This may especially be true of the monogamous partner, who will have to learn and adapt to a completely new way to approach romantic relationships that may seem at first to fly in the face of everything you understand about the way love is supposed to work.
There may be times when you will feel insecure, jealous, and hurt; this does not mean that your relationship is failing, and it is not wrong, bad, or irrational for you to feel this way.
If you can find a way to confront and defeat them, then your relationship will definitely be improved. As the poly person, it is up to you to do everything in your power to help your partner feel safe and secure. This may mean you must move more slowly in new relationships than you want to. It may mean that you must give up relationships that your partner finds threatening. It may mean that you must negotiate boundaries that are narrower than what you might otherwise want. The place where it gets tricky, though, is in doing these things while still being compassionate and respectful to any new person who may join your relationship.
A relationship where the people involved have different expectations is already under stress; even seemingly trivial infractions can easily be magnified to the point where they jeopardize everything you wish to build together. Consider the needs of everyone involved! It may not seem obvious why this is necessary, but it is, not only for the sake of that person but for your own as well.
Think carefully before you do this, and understand that hurting your partner may have consequences in your relationship. It does get easier over time. As your relationship progresses, you will find it easier and easier to feel safe with your partner, and to build a foundation that can make both of you happy. Why am I not enough? If you are wired for monogamy, that can be a very difficult question to answer in any way that makes sense. Many people seem to be naturally inclined, whether by learning or by hard wiring, to need only one person in their life.
Such people experience a drive to seek out romantic companionship, but once they have found that romantic companionship, that drive disappears. For other people, this is not the case. People who are poly by nature experience the same drive, the same need to seek out intimacy and romantic relationships, but once such a person has found a partner, that drive is not switched off. A poly person is still driven to seek out intimate romantic relationships. Monogamous people can be happy sharing their lives with one and only one other person.
Polyamorous people can not. My wife can be. Neither of us is right or wrong; we are simply different, and we must acknowledge and accommodate those differences in order to be successful together. It does not mean he or she does not love you. It just means you have different drives and different needs.
The world is not composed entirely of fair, ethical, and honest people. Such people can usually be spotted fairly easily. Cheating and polyamory are not the same. A successful polyamorous relationship rests on a bedrock of trust, compassion, and love. Again, a successful poly relationship requires a commitment to trust and integrity. Security comes from the knowledge that your partner loves you and respects you, and can be counted on to treat your needs and your feelings with deference and compassion.
You cannot feel secure if you cannot trust your partner to keep his or her word. They do not remain within negotiated boundaries. It is important that anyone in any relationship, traditional or no, do this; a person who violates the rules of a relationship does not make a good relationship partner. Any relationship, even casual relationships, exist within a framework of parameters that allow the people involved to feel that they can know what to expect.
It is especially true of romantic relationships, and absolutely critical of romantic relationships between someone who is poly and someone who is monogamous. I cannot stress this enough. A relationship between someone who is monogamous and someone who is polyamorous requires compromises on both sides. You absolutely, positively must be willing to remain within the parameters you negotiate, and follow through on the things you say you will do.
Without, this, the fundamental trust that is a prerequisite to the success of the relationship is broken. They do not consider your needs. The monogamous partner in a polyamorous relationship faces a considerable challenge.
It is natural and reasonable to expect someone in this person to feel insecure and frightened from time to time. These feelings are completely reasonable. Your need for comfort and for understanding is very important.
I can handle the physical stuff as long as my partner loves me the most…how do I do that? But relationships are fluid, dynamic things; there is no way, once you have introduced any significant change in a relationship, to make things be the way they were before.
My partner has cheated on me. Can we make a poly relationship work? Yes, though it requires a lot of work. But people cheat for a wide variety of reasons, most of them having little to do with being polyamorous. Such a person is not likely to make the leap from cheating to polyamory. A cheater who cheats because he feels compelled to seek out or maintain multiple romantic, loving relationships quite possibly can make the leap to polyamory, if he can learn honesty and unlearn the structures of monogamy, and if he can learn to treat his partners with compassion and respect.
Making the transition from cheating to polyamory requires a lot of work. You have to deconstruct the ideas you were raised to believe and build a new set of structures that allows you to have outside relationships while still preserving honesty and trust—and you have to do this from a foundation of broken trust to begin with.
Can it be done? Sure, provided all the people involved—including the partner who was cheated on—choose to make it work, and are willing to invest the effort it will take to do so.
Put most simply, it means that you have a say in what your lover does, even if your lover wants other partners. Being poly does not mean that your lover gets to run around having sex with all kinds of other people.
You have a say. Talk to your partner! Make your concerns known. You are being asked to compromise some elements of what you want from a relationship; there is no reason why that compromise has to be one-sided.
Many people in the poly community will tell you that love is infinite—if you love someone else, you do not love your first partner any less. Love may be infinite, at least in theory, but time and resources are not.
This impulse, as natural and understandable as it may be, is very likely to muck things up but good. They have feelings, and they deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. More to the point, they can enrich your life.
When your partner is happy, your relationship with your partner benefits. The one lesson here that I think is more important than any other is this: The second most important lesson here: Make no mistake about it: Ultimately, everybody has limits, which, if crossed, make it impossible for that person to be happy. Many people in the poly community advise others to steer clear of a monogamous partner. Having a partner whose fundamental wants and needs from a relationship differ from yours is extremely painful—not only to you and to that person, but to anyone else who becomes involved with you as well.
Love, of and by itself, is not necessarily enough. Love does not always triumph over all. There may be many reasons that a relationship simply cannot work, in spite of how much the people involved love one another.
Everyone has limits of some kind: You cannot be anyone other than who you are; to thine own self be true. Ultimately, you do have to honor your own beliefs.
And when it comes to crossing your own non-negotiable boundaries, you do not have a choice. You cannot be happy if your non-negotiable needs are not met.
December 2, Buy My Books.