FAQ: I want to try polyamory, but my partner doesn’t. What should I do?

II would say that the most common question I get on this blog, by far, is a variation of this: “I’ve been dating my partner monogamously for a while now. I care about them very much, but I’ve realized that I want to try out an open or polyamorous relationship. My partner does not want to. I don’t want to leave or hurt my partner, but I also don’t want to stay monogamous. What should I do?”

In some cases, the monogamous partner’s reluctance stems from a specific issue that can be addressed. In those cases, I try to give advice about how to address that specific issue with gentleness, honesty, and growth in mind.

In some cases, the person writing to me hasn’t ever broached the topic with their partner, but just assumes their partner wouldn’t be okay with it. In those cases, I advise them to communicate their desires and hopes with their partner, then take action based on the partner’s response rather than an assumption.

In some cases, it is the appearance of a new potential partner that has spurred someone’s interest in polyamory. My advice there is to be very careful about keeping desires separate: “I want to date this specific person” and “I want to have the opportunity to date polyamorously” are very different things. Conflating them and assuming that pursuing one goal means pursuing the other as well can cause serious conflict. Identify what your specific desire is, and work from there.

In all cases, it is an unfortunate fact that sometimes, relationships just don’t work out because you discover that you want different things. It is okay to leave a relationship to pursue something else. It is also okay to stay in a relationship that isn’t perfect - sacrifice and compromise are often required of us when we love someone. Whatever choice you make, it’s important to make it with clear eyes and a commitment to making it work. You can always change your mind, of course; but don’t live with one foot in and one foot out. Don’t lie to yourself and pretend your partner may “come around in time.” Whatever you’re doing at the time, do that with your whole self.

It is never okay to pressure or badger someone into doing something they don’t want to do. If your partner doesn’t want to try polyamory or an open relationship, they can say no. And no means no. It is not your fault for failing to explain it to them correctly; it is not a matter of finding the right argument to convince them. Looking for the secret magic trick to changing your partner’s mind is not the way to go about it. It is okay to ask them why they don’t want to try polyamory and to discuss together whether any of those reasons can be overcome, but that should be a mutual process, not you trying to push them into a place they don’t want to be.

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