/u/polyq55555 on /r/polyamory writes…
“So.. I’m just looking for any advice, input, or maybe reassurance. My wife and I have been in a mono relationship for 6+ years, married for two. Have kids, mortgage, etc. We are both late 20s.
Recently, we’ve been exploring the idea of polyamory. My wife seems more interested in it than me. I’m interested in the idea, and it sounds good in theory, but the reality of it seems daunting. I tried this morning to read more about polyamory but I ended up with more questions than answers. My wife isn’t sure if she wants just sexual relationships with others or if she wants something more romantic. She has said that she feels like it’s possible to love more than one person at a time. I’m not sure how I feel though. Is it possible for me to be mono while she is poly? Or I can work my way towards being poly as well? Or is this destined to fail?
A little more info.. She went on her first sort of date last weekend. I encouraged her to go. She was skeptical about going because of a prior bad experience. I reassured her that the person she was meeting seemed nice and she could go off and have a good night with them. We have been open for a while and she uses tinder etc to meet local or international friends/connections. So when she left I told her I am okay with her kissing, cuddling, hanging out with this guy and whatever. Anything further we should talk about and explore. So I sat at home and made a bumble profile. I swiped endlessly and came up with no matches. This just made me feel worse and like it’ll be much harder for me to find outside relationships. It’s very easy for my wife. She’s already got tons of guys who would jump at the chance to hang out with her. So, this made me a bit insecure. I ended up deleting my dating profile and just got drunk, watched tv, went to sleep.
The next day she was so excited and giddy to tell me about making out with this guy, and all about their awesome conversations etc. She talked about how attractive he was and how she can’t wait to have sex with him etc. This made me feel awful and I’ve been questioning all of this since. I asked her to please not use those kinds of details for now. But I know we have to be open and honest for this to work. It just made me feel quite bad tbh.
So, any tips on how to resolve my feelings or decide if this type of arrangement is right for me? My wife and I have agreed that our relationship is primary and will be preserved above all. But the more I read about poly, I am not so sure. I want to have an awesome poly relationship but I’m scared of losing my wife. And the idea of her being sexual with someone else sounds cool in theory, but also makes me quite insecure. Sorry.. this has been a long rant so any responses are appreciated. I’ve just been anxious about this and not sure how to proceed. Thanks guys.”
Welcome to polyamory! These are really exciting times for you and your wife. I am sorry to hear that you are having some difficulties dating. But I think it is really important to keep in mind that dating comes with challenges for everyone.
There is quite a lot to unpack here! So let’s get started.
I want to first tell you about a recent experience I had. I have always been really interested in baking. Back in high school, I used to bake a lot of cookies for girls I was interested. This is really embarrassing. But I would ask my crushes what their favorite types of cookies were, look up recipes on how to make that cookie, then gift them bags of cookies after a couple trial runs to make sure the recipe was sound. Fun side note, that is how I discovered I fucking loved white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. My first batches would never quite turn out right. I might have left my butter too long in the microwave, or I might not have used enough sugar, or the balance between nuts & chocolate might have been off, or used the wrong kind of flour. (Seriously, wrong kind of flour.) It was only after several trial and error runs through various types of cookies that I learned that I really liked baking, and I could be good at the recipes I was familiar with.
Like how I had difficulty with baking cookies, I think it is important to mention here that polyamory too is full of trial and error. Sometimes, your partner might share too much sexual details at a level you do not feel comfortable with. Sometimes, your balance in managing not just the different relationships but also maintenance and self-care might be off. Sometimes, you might have set unfair expectations early on. Sometimes, you use the wrong kind of flower (to express your love). Fact of the matter is that both you and your partners will make a lot of rookie mistakes when you first start out in polyamory. So give yourself and your partner a break and go slow. Be patient as you definitely won’t have all the answers you or your wife needs. Don’t rush into making any broad assumptions like whether or not mono-poly would work for you and your wife, or what kind of tools and methods you need to develop to deal with your jealousy and insecurity right at this moment. Instead, just try different things out and see what works for you. You’ll find that there is a lot that won’t work for you. So learn to forgive yourself (and your wife) for making some really bone-headed mistakes. Hopefully, y’all can laugh about it a year or two from now.
You and your wife might benefit from a previous column I wrote regarding different variations of non-monogamy. It should give you a better overview of the kind of emotional entanglement you and your wife might want to have in your respective non-monogamous relationships.
I also want to spend some time discussing the gender imbalance in polyamorous dating in this modern age.
As you quickly recognized, there might be some major differences between a woman’s experience in polyamorous dating and a man’s experience in polyamorous dating, as in your female-bodied partner will have much more options readily available. And while it is true that there are some major differences, neither gender experiences are better nor worse than the other. Here is what I mean by that.
I have found that while it is categorically true that women will have many, many more options available to choose from, most of them will generally suck. Both straight and bisexual women will match with a ton of actually-incompatible people with whom they won’t really know to what degree is their incompatibility until they’ve spent one or two dates unpacking and dissecting those matches. It can be really difficult to go on dates where you hear, “Oh I’m totally cool with non-monogamy,” and three days later you hear them get possessive/jealous over a pre-scheduled date you had with your primary/nesting partner. They might also spend the first couple weeks just going over the basic, elementary stuff, especially if you come from a vantage point with previous experience. And that’s not fun. Bisexual women in particular have to dispatch countless Unicorn Hunters who are looking for unencumbered, attractive, bisexual woman/third to add to their relationship. So yes. Your wife might have a lot more matches. But she will have to go through a lot of dates before she can find one that is actually compatible with her. Maybe she got really lucky with her first match. But my colloquial wisdom among my female-bodied connections tell me that there is a high likelihood that she might not be in for such a good time.
As a male-bodied person in the polyamorous dating world, I too have found that it is really difficult to find matches. For me, it was common to go days, sometimes weeks, without a new match. But compared to my female-bodied partners, most of my matches have been incredibly high quality. Majority of the women who matched with me knew exactly what they were signing up for. They’ve already done the research regarding polyamory/non-monogamy, and we could immediately dive into establishing rapport and chemistry instead of doing Polyamory 101 for the fourth time this week. And I also didn’t have to go on bad dates. Instead of spending third evening out with someone I felt very lukewarm about, I could stay in in my pajamas, chill out with Taco, and sink into my latest literary fancy.
What I am trying to say is that instead of working against the obvious differences, why not just accept that there will be differences and choose to work with those differences? You are in your twenties. You can clearly manage long term relationships. Based on your post, you are clearly eloquent and thoughtful. Your wife clearly sees something in you. You are dependable, caring, and a responsible father. Those can all be incredibly attractive attributes that you can play to your advantage. So play to your outs instead!
The last thing I want to emphasize here is that you and your partner should go as slow as you need to. Remember. Polyamory is a subset of consensual non-monogamy. If you need your wife to go slow, then it is in your wife’s best interest to continue to have your buy-in. I don’t imagine she is doing anything to intentionally hurt you. She has a mortgage, kids, and a marriage with you. She probably does not want to upset any of those. So re-emphasize with her what your own comfort level is, communicate with her when there is anything you don’t feel feel excessively comfortable with, and work on those issues together as a team. If you need an extra week or month to work through your insecurities and jealousies either by yourself or with a help of a poly-friendly therapist, it is still only one extra week or one extra month. It’ll mean very little in the grand scheme of things. So take that time to learn more about polyamory and become more comfortable in the identity of your own skin.
Polyamory is fun. You won’t have all the answers right away. And neither will your wife. It’s chaos. Be kind.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
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