I've been hoping my girlfriend and I will 'graduate' up to monogamy

When I met my girlfriend she was "experimenting with non-monogamy" (her words) I held onto hope that the experiment would end someday. I started as one of her 3 partners, now I'm her boyfriend, and they aren't. We do more than have sex; we've met each other's friends and family. But she still sees them occasionally. They are poly as well, so I know that I am the only 1 truly committed to her. Going from partner to boyfriend is clearly progress in the right direction. Will I ever be enough?

No, no, nope. I am sorry, letter-writer, but you're going about this in a way that's wrong-headed and will ultimately cause you a lot of pain.

You went into the relationship from a place of denial, hoping that your partner wasn't serious when she told you something about herself. You latched onto the word "experiment" and told yourself that it would end. But that's not what she meant, it seems. Sometimes "experiment" means temporary - sometimes it means "checking out a hypothesis." If her hypothesis was "I'll be happy in a non-monogamous relationship," and the experiment showed her hypothesis to be true, then maybe the experimental phase is over, and she's now in "acting on the information gathered during the experiment - living my life as a person who knows she's into non-monogamy." Your first assumption was that the non-monogamy was a temporary phase, and this assumption was wrong - you're acting on an incorrect assumption, and that won't end well. 

You also have this idea that them being polyamorous means that they are not "truly committed to her," and that means that your feelings for her are somehow deeper or different. That is not true, it is not how polyamory works. Your second assumption is that these other relationships she has are lesser, less committed, less threatening, less real. That is also an incorrect assumption that you're working on. You're also assuming that you are "not enough" for your girlfriend, and are interpreting all of her choices through a lens of projected monogamy that is warping how you understand what's going on.

You also have a sense that your relationship is going in "a direction" toward monogamy, which is "the right" direction. That is also not how these things work. You do not grit your teeth through the 9 stages of non-monogamy, then present your stamp-card for Level 10, Monogamous Boyfriend. Your girlfriend probably doesn't see it this way - you two need to have a serious talk about this. Assuming that this is just a natural, inherent progression in your relationship is a dangerously incorrect assumption, and people will get hurt if you continue on this path. 

It sounds like this is not a healthy relationship for you to be in. It's build on assumptions, denial, and expectations that show no indication of being fulfilled. Your first step is to have a serious talk with your girlfriend about her perspective - and to really listen and understand what she's saying, not filter, interpret, argue, or push her into concessions. ("Could you maybe see yourself with just me, someday?" - If she says yes, she might be thinking, I guess I can't predict the future, there's always 'a chance' of whatever but you might be hearing more of a promise.) After that conversation happens, you'll have a better picture of whether this is a relationship you should stay in, or whether your hopes for the future are just not on the table. 

I want to be with a polyamorous guy, but I am mono and I'm not sure it can work

I am a monogamous girl and fell in love with a poly guy. I am a very insecure person and it hurts me just thinking about him being with another girl but on the other side, I understand this is who he is and it doesn’t make his love for me any different. I want nothing more than to be with him, but is it truly possible for a mono and poly person to be together? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

The world is a rich tapestry and almost anything is possible. Could *a* mono person and *a* poly person be happy together? Entirely possible. Could *you* be happy with *this* poly guy? Sounds a lot less likely.

It sounds like intellectually, you understand how his polyamory functions; but emotionally, it causes you a lot of pain. That's okay. There are a lot of instances where we 'know' something but still feel differently. It may be that you can't logic and reason yourself out of being monogamous and really needing a monogamous relationship to feel happy and safe. If being with someone "hurts you," then you probably shouldn't stay in this relationship. Incompatibility sucks, but it happens. 

If you want to try and work on this, consider moving out of the framing of "I am a very insecure person" to "I struggle with insecurity." It's not an inherent part of who you are, it's a feeling you have that can be sat with, worked on, interrogated, etc. Ask yourself where those feelings come from, whether they reflect reality, whether they are serving you, and what alternatives might there be. (Even if you don't decide to work on this relationship, that sort of reframing will serve you well in all things.) 

But honestly, it sounds like a core part of who you are and what you need in a relationship conflicts with a core part of who he is and what he needs in a relationship. Don't do yourself the disservice of trying to silence and ignore your very real feelings and needs with over-intellectualizing and excessive sacrifice. If it's hurting you, let go of it. 

 

Hey, so I’m poly, and I really want to have a poly relationship, but my partner is not comfortable with it. (Well she says she is and then flip flops and we get into huge arguments about it and she accuses me of just wanting to whore around.) I was “closeted” for months because I didn’t want to upset my partner by asking about it but now it’s out in the open and I feel like she doesn’t trust me– and she doesn’t want a poly relationship. What should I do? She doesn’t respect that I’m poly…

You have three basic options:

1.) Stay in this relationship with the understanding that monogamy is a requirement in this relationship, and be willing to make that sacrifice or compromise to stay with your partner. Many relationships do include such sacrifices or compromises, with one partner setting aside a desire that is incompatible with the relationship. 

2.) Leave the relationship, because the required terms of the relationship - monogamy - are not a sacrifice or compromise you can make. Many relationships end when one partner realizes that they simply cannot make the sacrifice or compromise the other one needs, whether that’s a move to a new city, having or not having children, etc.

3.) Continue to stay in the relationship and continue attempting to convince your partner to be open to a polyamorous relationship. I don’t recommend this, nor do I believe it will be effective or enjoyable, but it is a choice that you have. If someone has made it clear that they are not comfortable with something, there is not much you can do to change their mind, but if you are okay tolerating the conflict that this continued conversation creates, you can keep pushing for it. Your partner’s response to this may be to shut down, to escalate the conflict, or to leave the relationship.

You can read my FAQ about this here.

I am a mono guy and was talking with a former poly gf about how jealous I would get, thinking about her being together, intimately, with another guy. It really bothered me. I was saying how I need to find a way to deal with it. She said that at the root of my issue is that I view her as “property”. I disagreed. I wanted her to be able to do what she wanted to do and with whomever, but it still drove me crazy. Was I viewing her as property? And do mono guys have the most problem with this?

It can be really aggravating when someone tries to tell you what you’re thinking and feeling, so know that I am present to that frustration. If you genuinely believe that your struggles with her polyamory don’t stem from you seeing her as “property,” well, ultimately you’re the expert on what’s going on inside your own head.

That said, there is a lot to be said for how capitalist and patriarchal ideas worm their way into our minds and hearts and senses of self. Our culture has long liked to treat relationships as economic transactions. You can see it in our language- a simple example like “you’re mine” and “I’m yours” being used as statements of love. There is an underlying assumption of “possession” in many relationships, and what do you “possess?” Well, property.

So, some people who practice polyamory, non-monogamy, or relationship anarchy do a lot of work to uncover, understand, and challenge some ideas they’ve just absorbed through their culture. Your ex may have been trying to let you know that some of your actions and behaviors seem, to her, to have been informed by these ideas, and to encourage you to interrogate some of your assumptions about relationships and possession and how they work. That she did so by making the annoying mistake of presuming to speak for your internal perspective doesn’t mean it’s not worth examining this.

As for your question about whether mono guys have the most issue with this, I don’t know if there’s been any research on that, specifically, but it is true that our culture sends very specific messages to men about “possessing” their partners. That doesn’t mean all monogamous men see their partners as property, just that a monogamous man may be more susceptible to that kind of thinking, even in subtle or unconscious ways.

Here are some readings, if you’re interested!

Of course, you may just be oriented monogamously, and your inability to feel okay in a polyamorous relationship isn’t an issue of philosophy but rather just of who you are. That’s okay too! If talking to your ex is bringing up feelings of guilt and judgment, you’re under no obligation to keep talking to her.

If someone points out something about you that makes you feel challenged and threatened, sometimes the right call is to try and make space to hear and understand what they’re saying and then examine and work on the dark places in yourself that they shined a light on. Other times, the right call is to decide that they don’t speak for you, and their truth is not your truth, and the healthiest thing is to reject their description of you. It can be really, really hard to tell the difference, and mistakes in that area can be pretty consequential, so it’s okay to be struggling with this. 

My spouse and partner of seven years is poly. I guess she’s held it in for years because it hasn’t been much of an issue or a subject of the relationship until she has fallen in love, or at least a strong crush, on another individual. Now she wants to redraw the relationship. I’m mono. Not just that, I have trouble viewing sex casually, or as anything but a deeply emotional and relationship enriching thing. We want to stay together, but it seems untenable. I suppose I’m looking for advice.

It sounds as if you’ve already pretty much made up your mind that you two can’t stay together, and want someone to try to talk you into staying. I can’t do that for you, because only you know what the best and healthiest choice is for you. All I can advise you to do is be honest with yourself about your needs and to talk openly with your partner about those needs, look for potential compromises, and be gentle with yourself and each other through the process.

The only other thing I can tell you is this: polyamory does not mean “viewing sex casually.” We do not cheapen or devalue sex as something that can be “deeply emotional and relationship enriching.” Polyamory does not mean sleeping around, not taking sex seriously, or being immature or irresponsible with our sexual and emotional health. The difference between poly and mono attitudes toward sex is not how flippantly and casually we view sex, but our conception of sex as an exclusive and possessive reflection of a relationship.

If you decide you really want to make this work, you need to re-frame your understanding of polyamorous sex - and polyamorous love, because it’s not all about sex! Your partner is not telling you that she doesn’t see sex as something special and important, but rather that she is capable of having that deep sexual connection with more than one person. Think about the love you have in your life that isn’t exclusive or zero-sum - your love for both of your parents, or all of your siblings, or your multiple close friends - and try to re-frame your model of sexual exclusivity and possessiveness. 

Good luck! You may never identify as polyamorous, or completely identify with your partner’s polyamorous feelings, but you can go a long way toward compromise if you work towards understanding the polyamorous experience of sexuality and do your best to re-frame the preconceived notions you’re bringing to the table. You don’t need to “view sex casually” to be okay in a polyamorous relationship - you just need to view sex as something that isn’t exclusive, possessive, or a zero-sum game.