Hi there! I’ve been seeing a guy for 1.5yrs. We are sexually and emotionally intimate. We know its more than casual sex, and we have discussed a “relationship”, but he says he can’t give that kind of commitment. In my mind, what we have is already a form of relationship and commitment. Perhaps it is just monogamy he doesn’t want? I identify with being poly, which he is unaware of. I don’t think he knows what poly means. Would bringing up the idea of a poly relationship help clear things up?

You might be completely right that it’s monogamy that he doesn’t want, and his skittishness at “committing” is really an unwillingness to give up the ability to sleep with and/or date other people. In that case, bringing up polyamory would be a great way to test the waters. Or, it could be that he sees “commitment” as a signal that you two are projecting a future together, almost like signing a contract for a set period of time vs. entering an “at-will” agreement. Or, he could be feeling skittish about something else that falls under the umbrella that is his definition of “relationship.” You need to find out his definition of relationship before you’ll know any of this for sure.

I think suggesting polyamory would be a good first step to open up this conversation, but simply giving him permission to date or sleep with other people isn’t a complete solution to your problem, which is fundamentally one of communication rather than unmet requests. It┬ástruck me that though you two have been together for so long, your lines of communication aren’t open enough for you to share your poly identity. You don’t say why, so I won’t speculate - but I think this lack of openness between you is at the core of the issue.

The issue here is this: You aren’t getting your needs met. You want a defined relationship, but he’s refusing. And the solution is this: communication. Explain to him what, exactly, you want that you’re not getting. If your relationship makes you perfectly happy as is, except you just want to call him your boyfriend, discuss that. If you want to take things “to the next level” and get things from him that you don’t currently, explain clearly what those things are.

Then invite him to communicate back: ask him what his definition of a “relationship” is, and what kind of “commitment” it includes that he doesn’t feel ready for. That allows for a productive conversation where you can both lay your cards on the table and figure out truthfully whether you both want the same thing, where compromises might be made, and what the healthiest forward direction can be. Terms like “relationship” and “commitment” here are so nebulous that you two first need to figure out what you’re really talking about, and where your definitions differ, before you can start making requests or promises to each other.

Good luck with this conversation! Remember to give each other space to speak without judgment or expectations, and stand your ground when articulating your needs. Hopefully you can take this relationship to a place where you two can openly recognize and further cultivate the connection you’ve already established.