Again I want to thank you for sharing your story. I think itís easy for the poly person to get so caught up in having their needs met that they can easily forget their monogamous partner has needs to. I also believe a number of things that fit your situation: that some of us are hard-wired poly or monogamous and simply canít be happy Ďbeingí one or the other, that if we are unhappy we cannot function to create happiness for others, and that we must ensure that our own needs are met. Self-sacrifice for someone else at the expense of our needs might work in the short term, but eventually bitterness creeps in and that -need- for the needs to be met overcomes.
And there isnít anything wrong with needing our needs. It isnít selfish at all, as much as people might feel their needs are selfish, most of the time they are not. In your case, in your SOs, in mine, we all had times we were sacrificing our own deeper needs for someone else and in the end it leads us to make choices that donít benefit anyone at all.
I did want to go through these, because Iím certain my husband went through them again, and maybe talk about them from the poly side. Iím addressing these things for the monogamous community in general, not to you specifically, and not assuming that you do/donít know these things already or that you need to know them. Iím addressing them because there may be other monogamous readers out there who are in one of these stages and I want to provide some understanding of the poly side of those feelings.
First came the self-blame. What did I do wrong? How did I mess up? Maybe I wasn't attentive enough, or maybe I didn't make her feel cared for correctly. So I tried different approaches. Being more careful, more kind, sweeter, more understanding. Saying yes more often, saying sorry more often, trying to be "better". That didn't work.
Most definitely the monogamous partner needs to know they didnít mess up. They didnít do anything wrong. That itís no different that if your partner ends up bisexual and you cannot suddenly become the other sex. You canít be multiple people. You canít provide that need to form new relationships, build new bonds, share the self with more than one person because you canít be more than one person.
I feel like because monogamous people struggle to understand what a poly person is thinking/feeling/needing, because itís so foreign to them, there is a misconception that if they do a better job at the relationship, the poly person will Ďcome back to being monogamousí. There is a thought that itís a phase because the partner isnít meeting their needs, and if they met needs better things will Ďreturní to their Ďnormalí state.
Except that for the poly person, they are finally experience their Ďnormalí state and once experienced, poly people finally suddenly feel complete and happy and able to express themselves and there is no Ďgoing back.í I could say that if a gay person finally felt free to express that need and be with a same sex partner they wouldnít Ďget over that phase and go back to being straight.í They werenít ever straight. Itís the same with poly people. We werenít ever monogamous. We were Ďactingí in a monogamous fashion because we either didnít understand or didnít feel free to openly express our true nature. We hide in our closet as well, burying our needs and feigning our outward happiness because we are supposed to be happy in monogamy.
Second came the paranoia. The creeping, needle-in-the-back-of-your-skull sensation of what is she doing... right now. Where is she? With who is she? What are they doing right now? Is she safe? Is she happy? Is she... making love to him? Or her? ...Is she even thinking about you in any way, shape or form?
I think even poly people go through this. Insecurity in a relationship is common for everyone when things are changing, whether monogamous or poly. Change is difficult for people because the future is unknown and we dwell on all the things that could happen - usually the bad. Itís like weíre programmed to think about all the horrors in order to plan out our self preservation.
Was she thinking of you? Do you think of your SO when youíre at work? When youíre gaming? When youíre eating? They come in and out of your thoughts throughout the day as time passes and your focus changes and conversations and actions and events spark memories. When poly people are with other partners itís no different. We think of our work, children, friends and other partners the same way we always do. And we want our partners to be thinking of us too, even when weíre not with them and they are with others or working, eating, gaming, driving, etc.
If your partner is out with her BFF or at work you think about them, hope they are safe and maybe wonder if they are happy or having fun, but because we assume that we know the outcome of going to work or hanging out with friends isnít going to change
our partnerís relationship with us, we arenít insecure about and we donít worry about how it will affect our future, even if everything will affect our future.
So here is the thing. Will a new relationship affect your current one? Yes. It will. Because everything new affects the current. If your partner gets a new job, joins a new club, picks up a new hobby (Mint plays Wow nowÖ and thatís a time sink I swear!), thatís going to affect the time they have spend with you. That doesnít mean it changes how they feel
about you. Just because I play Wow now and have less time to focus on other activities doesnít mean I love my husband any less
. Or my children. And just because I have a boyfriend and girlfriend who take up my time, doesnít mean I love my husband or children any less
And that is the uncertainty - the insecurity - that as poly people we have to ensure we let our monogamous partner know. Thatís the part they have to understand. That meeting and being with someone new doesnít change the fact that we love them. And I can openly say that when my partner talks about flirting with someone new that it does shake that same paranoia tree, and those fears fall like apples and I have to pick them up and deal with them. And thatís ok because thatís normal because change is uncertain. But change is also a part of life. Everything changes. And we are adaptable creatures who can face that change head on, pickup our apples, keep the ones that have purpose and toss the ones that donít.
Third came the anger, which is often in the passenger's seat of the paranoia. She dosen't care. She's just using this "polyamorous" bullshit as an excuse to go cheat on me. To go fuck around with whoever she wants, however she wants, and get away with it. And I'm sitting here, on the couch, stupid weak little cuckhold that I am, while she's out wining and dining and doing whatever she damn well pleases.
I definitely think my husband went through this and it wasnít a fun time for either of us. And Iíve mentioned before the stigma to poly that people give it, ďItís just an excuse to cheat.Ē
Poly isnít cheating. Poly people can
cheat, but poly itself isnít cheating. Cheating is being with someone else without your partner(s) knowing about it. Cheating is hiding things because you donít want to tell your partner. Cheating isnít the act of being with someone else, itís the act of lying
about it. Itís the omission of information that could change your partnerís decisions about being with you. Thatís what cheating is.
If you have been given all the information and still choose to remain with your partner while they are out with others, youíve made that choice and your partner isnít cheating. I want that emphasize that strongly, because the poly person most definitely felt like they were honest with you about what they were doing (and trust me, that isnít easy
for us at all. In fact Iím going to talk about that in the future, that fear of opening up and whatís that like for us.)
For the poly person, we donít understand your anger. We donít understand why youíre mad at us when we told you what we needed and what we were doing and you accepted it. I highlight that here because:
She immediately countered herself, trying to defend herself. She told me that I had accepted this, and that I had accepted her all that time ago. That this was a part of her as much as all the other parts of her that I had accepted and chosen to love. In mid-sentence she choked up and stopped speaking, moved to sit down next to me and told me she was sorry, that she didn't mean to hurt me. But that this was who she was, deep down inside. That she loved me but that she loved him. And her, too.
When weíre told weíre accepted and then we have anger thrown at us, we donít feel accepted anymore and we donít react well too it. That isnít to say that the monogamous person shouldnít/canít get angry, because feelings are feelings and we must acknowledge our feelings, but this stage ends up feeling like a betrayal to the poly person. ďI was told you accepted me and loved me for who I am andÖ basically you donít.Ē And it can hurt the poly person to feel unaccepted for who they are. Itís not an easy time for poly/mono relationships and I can promise you I both said those words and felt those betrayals many times.
We end up feeling like you love us for who you want us to be and not who we really are.
And I understand you feel betrayed because
I told her that when we met and began to be together, there had been a tacit understanding between the two of us. That it was the two of us. Her and me. No third party or fourth party involved. That we were together and this was our relationship
And the sudden need for others in the relationship feels like a betrayal of that understanding.
The problem for poly people is that we often enter monogamous relationships because we donít know/understand weíre poly, we donít even know the option is out there, society tells us we must
find our one true love and marry them and live happily ever after and that we arenít good people if we donít commit ourselves to that one person. We enter these relationships denying who we are from the start. We betray ourselves first and foremost, often unintentionally, placing ourselves into a situation where we are doomed to never be happy. Some point we are Ďenlightenedí - someone talks to us about poly, we see it on the internet, we figure it out - and we start to understand our needs better.
But weíre already in a monogamous relationship. With someone we love. With someone we donít want to not be with. We donít want to replace them. We donít want to end and start over. Weíve put time, feelings, blood, sweat and tears into building this castle and making it beautiful, and we donít want to tear it down. We want to build ANOTHER castle right next to it, as wonderful and amazing and the castle we already have. And the maybe a third or a fourth, or maybe our second castle will just really expand and be a multi-queen-king castle! The possibilities are endless to our castle expansion.
But our first castle is still special.
I once told her that she spent so much time with him and with her that she barely spent any time with me.
New castles take a lot of effort in the beginning to build. Just like any new monogamous relationship, people often dive in and have that Ďhoneymooní period, where they are really getting to know each other and spend time with each other and build that foundation. I think new poly relationships end up being the same. We have new people, and itís new and exciting and we also have a LOT of foundation to build and a lot of growth to work out and the original relationship does get sidelined a bit. For a monogamous person this probably feels like abandonment and for the poly person we have to focus ourselves to maintain our original castle as well. Canít let it fall into disrepair while weíre building.
For an experienced poly person this is probably second nature. But most people in poly/mono relationships are building their new castles for the first time and have relatively little experience in managing multiple relationships. Itsí new for them too. We donít come into this as pros and there isnít a rulebook to follow Equally, there isnít some guideline on how much time you spend with each partner, just like we donít have rules around how much time you have to spend with all your different friends and if you spend more time with one friend than another youíre doing the other a disservice.
Because life isnít like that way. Life isnít about Ďkeeping it even.í And what and who you need now isnít always going to be the same. And typically, people first discovering poly really need
those new relationships. And the monogamous person really needs
the security from the poly person. That balancing act ends up landing on the poly personís shoulders most of the time, and they do end up very torn about it. In addition, when the monogamous person is angry, insecure or unaccepting in their stance, the poly person is likely to run away
from them toward the new partner who is open and accepting of who they are, which exacerbates the issue - the monogamous person becomes more angry and feels more betrayed.
Itís not a good cycle. I know because I was definitely in this one as well. And finally I was blunt - when you are like that I donít want to be around you. I am not attracted to you. I can understand your emotions, but when you fling them at me Iím going to retreat.
I think I tangented enough with this oneÖ. so
Fourth came the sadness. She saw this more than the other aspects. She was so happy and free, like a beautiful little butterfly fluttering about freely. Free to do whatever she wanted, free to truly be herself.
This one makes the poly person feel guilty. As your SO said, we donít want to hurt you. We arenít trying to hurt you. We arenít out doing these things thinking I hope this hurts my SO, because I want them to suffer while Iím with someone else.
At least for me, as I said, I had hoped my husband was poly. I had hoped he dreamed of other women. I had hoped he wanted other relationships too. Hell, I would have even been ok if heíd cheated on me so that I could forgive him and hug him and tell him I stilled loved him and it was ok and we could talk about it and work it out and the see other people. I felt this way even before I really understood I was polyamorous. And we feel that way because hey - if they want other people too, then I donít have to feel guilty about it. And it will be easy. And I donít have to hurt them. And they will accept me and understand me.
She seemed saddened by this and asked, innocently, if I would like to spend time with him, or with her.
I said that no, I did not care to meet these two other people. I knew of them. She did not hide their identities from me. But I did not want to know who they were or where they lived or what she did with one, or the other.
We would love to know that our monogamous partners - all our partners - accept the other people we are with. And while, I donít expect that every partner ever like, spend time with, or get along with every other partner, there is a hope in a poly personís eyes that they will. That we could all chill in a room as one big happy family where everyone got along and sang kumbaya. #pipedream
That being said, our other partners are part of who we are too. When you are out in life, you talk about your SO - boyfriend or husband or wife or life partner - to others. They come up in casual conversation. ďOh you like hiking? My boyfriend does to!Ē But when our partner(s) doesnít want to hear about our other partners we have to clip our conversations, watch our words, walk on those eggshells, be careful how we bring things up, and conversations become a source of stress because of this added tension.
I was once that person that the polyamourous person opened up to. I was once that individual who tried to be the understanding one, the open-minded one, the one that loved this other person and wanted that person to be happy... But who ended up unhappy in the process.
I suppose one of the things I take from your story, is that just like I feel there are poly people who are hard-wired poly and cannot be happy any other way, there are also monogamous people are so hardwired they cannot be happy unless their relationship is monogamous. Throughout your story, you never mentioned trying to date other people or forming your own new relationships, which leads me to believe in the theory that for some people, monogamy is a must
. That they themselves cannot form multiple romantic relationships. From that, there are people who likely could accept their partner being poly, even if they themselves cannot do it. And there are people who need
their partner to be monogamous as well, and they cannot be happy in a relationship where their partner is not monogamous.
And from that Iíll throw the axiom from More Than Two
out. ďThe people in the relationship are more important than the relationship.Ē
Keeping the relationship at the expense or sacrifice of one person or the other is not worth it. If youíre unhappy, you canít make others happy. You can try. You can fake it. But over time youíll resent that they are happy and you are not. And when you resent, you make bad choices and do things that ultimately hurt everyone involved. I say that from experience. I did that.
ďForcingĒ the poly person to be monogamous is equally as hurtful as forcing the monogamous person to be poly. In the end, someone will suffer and the relationship will suffer. I donít think you should ever feel bad for ending a relationship if you cannot be happy in it, because we must always as people ensure our needs are met and having our needs met is not
I hope this commentary was not seen as negative, because it was not the goal.
It wasnít! I enjoyed everything you wrote, am honored your shared your experience with me, and hope that my replies will help shed light for the monogamous people (and plenty of poly as well) as yours shed light to me on what my monogamous partner was going through.
Thank you <3