How do we honor our serious commitment when marriage isn't an option?

I am married and have been poly since we started dating 10 years ago. In general, everything is very smooth and works well between us. Almost two years ago I started dating someone else who was a bit of a game changer - I've dated other people, but this has turned into a deep, serious long-term relationship. He has always been monogamous but was willing to explore poly to be with me and has taken to it wonderfully. My question is not so much advice about how to manage my multiple relationships, but if you have ideas of a way to acknowledge my other partner with a significant gesture or in a major way when we I can't legally marry him. We've discussed the fact that, in a different situation, we would have approached marriage by now, and while we both are content with the fact that we can't, I would like to do something tangible to demonstrate my long-term commitment. I know it will have to be something that is meaningful to both of us, but I'm struggling with even gathering ideas in the first place at this point!

Congrats on having found two deeply loving, committed relationship! Some ideas:

  • Saving to go on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that you'll enjoy together
  • Matching tattoos or an investment in high quality, daily-wear jewelry like rings or watches
  • A "commitment ceremony" that is not a legal wedding but includes traditions and people who are important to you
  • A joint project, like fixing up an old camper van, starting a chicken coop, organizing a community event/meetup, etc. together
  • Adopting a pet together
  • Moving in together
  • Working together on a new term for your partnership (spouse, partner, lifeshare, etc. also, you can say 'husband' even if you're not legally married.)
  • Legal name changes - a blended last name, adding each other's last names as middle names, etc.

Do you have thoughts or ideas for this letter writer? You can leave them in the comments on the main blog,

FAQ: My partner wants to try polyamory, but I don't. What should I do?

I often get questions from people who are monogamous and trying to handle their partner being or coming out as polyamorous.

If you really don’t want this:

If you’re in a situation where you are swallowing feelings of abandonment, shame, jealousy, loneliness, anger, betrayal, or something else while your partner dates other people, consider leaving or changing the terms of the relationship. You do not have to be, and should not be, in a relationship that makes you feel unhappy. There is a time and a place to compromise or sacrifice for someone you love, but never compromise or sacrifice your own mental health. 

It is okay to tell your partner that you don’t want to be in a polyamorous relationship. If they are not willing to be in a monogamous relationship, then you two are at an impasse. It sucks, but relationships break up every day because partners realize that they are incompatible or simply want different things out of the relationship. That’s the point of dating - to learn what you want, what you don’t want, and how to find it!

If you’re unsure or uncomfortable, but willing to try it:

If you feel that you could be satisfied in a polyamorous relationship once a certain situation was resolved, or you are trying to work through a specific issue, concern, or fear that is holding you back from being happy, healthy, and fulfilled in a non-monogamous relationship, think about steps you can take to meet that need. That could be life coaching or therapy (individually or with your partner), taking concrete steps to get introduced to the poly world, setting a schedule of dates and check-ins with your partner, etc. Take the time to identify what you need to be okay with this change, then communicate that need to your partner.

If you feel ignored or pressured, or like your partner refuses to work with you after you identify your own needs, it may not be a healthy relationship to stay in. Remember that being poly is not an obligation you have to your partner. It is not a better way to be, or a more “enlightened” state you could definitely reach if you just listened to the right arguments and did enough self-work. It is okay to have a hard time, and it is okay to decide that polyamory isn’t right for you.

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