I’m in my first poly relationship and it’s long distance. My partner was saying how they feel like I’m only their boyfriend when I’m in town and how they feel like we aren’t friends. I want this relationship to last. What can I do? I’m so new at this

It sounds like both of those issues are primarily stemming from the long distance, not necessarily the polyamory. 

If your partner feels like you’re only their boyfriend when you’re in town, it sounds like they need more from you during times when you’re apart. Being long distance can be hard, because the foundation of a relationship is often build on the shared little things - knowing the names of each other’s classmates or coworkers; little chats when you’re leaving in the morning; all those small shared moments.

The best thing to do would be to ask your partner for specifics about when and why they feel this way. What are they missing from you? What would make them feel like you’re their friend? Their boyfriend? What is their best-case scenario? Then, ask yourself whether you can provide that, or whether you two just need different things. 

They might have more of a focus on ‘slow burn’ things that keep a relationship alive in the day-to-day rather than the big bonfires of exciting visits. Things like:

  • If both of you have smartphones, sending each other photos of neat things you see during your day
  • Sending links to articles you enjoyed & discussing them
  • Texting them little details about your day
  • Asking them little details about their day
  • Mailing them letters, postcards, or care packages
  • Calling or video chatting once a week (or on whatever arbitrary schedule works for you two)

If you’re really not the kind of person who likes to keep up this daily chatty shared-life thing, then you can either:

  • A.) set up things like reminders on your phone to send them a text, set up rituals like texting them when you sit down to lunch, etc. or
  • B.) let them know clearly that this is not something you are willing or able to do, and that dating you long distance means seeing you during visits and getting as much boyfriend-type attention during times apart as you are willing and able to give.

Both choices come with pros and cons, as do most choices in life. If you choose A, it comes with the risk that this will frustrate and burn you out, if this is really something you’re not emotionally equipped to do, and you may feel resentful if meeting your partner’s needs feels like a chore or a demand. On the other hand, if they are worth the energy and you genuinely enjoy it, problem solved!

If you choose B, your partner may decide that they cannot be in a long distance relationship with you under those terms, and that’s their right. Or, you two might figure out a way to be together with different expectations now that that’s out on the table. I was actually just in a very similar situation with one of my long distance partners, which ended with me explaining that I needed more from him, him explaining that he could not give me more, and me making the hard choice to end things.

Good luck!