“I have been questioning whether I was truly poly or not for sometime. So I started dating someone who has a personal history with polyamory to gauge that orientation for myself. I really enjoy our relationship and my metamour very, very much. However, I also started dating a second person but have found I have much deeper feelings for. Let’s call him the second (not hierarchical, just because chronologically he happened secondly). I’ve found now that I do want to continue a monogamous relationship with the second, but I am worried about how this will affect the first, as well as our shared friends.
I’m not usually the one to dump people (I usually get dumped) so I’m not sure how to go about this in the first place. Let alone doing it with the added modifier of being poly.
Really, there is nothing wrong with this guy. He’s amazing and I try to be friends with all my exes, as it would be great to still be friends with him too. He is very understanding and calm, but I still don’t want to hurt him in any way. Especially because to me, I worry that it looks like I’m just ditching someone who had ‘first dibs’ in a way, for someone else. I don’t want him to think it’s because he’s not good enough, or anything like that.
I think I have the ability to be poly and can very much enjoy it, but that I also find benefits from focusing on just one person. As well as my anxieties about having a full home life in a poly situation. While I may like poly dating stages, I don’t think I would like to live married (i.e. forever) in a house with multiple people. I like one-on-one time, and it seems there wouldn’t be enough of it with the first person. I’d rather just focus on the second person, with whom I’ve bonded with more closely and feel more of a connection to.
But geez… how in the world do I explain that?”
Dear Fennix 32,
It sounds like you gave polyamorous relationship orientation an honest and conscientious try. And as you said, there are sides to polyamory that monogamy cannot satiate much like there are sides to monogamy that polyamory cannot satiate. I’ll add that different people love very differently. And his model of polyamorous relationship just might not be compatible with what you’re looking for (i.e. married with multiple partners in the same house). There are many solo poly or relationship anarchists who maintain their own living space without any cohabiting partners. And there are also many married polyfolks who date other married polyfolks and maintain a perfectly full home life without enmeshing living situation all together. Only you can be a master of your own domains, and that includes your own romantic headspace. That also includes whether or not you are making a mindful decision on whether or not you are monogamous with someone, not as a default choice. Lastly, I’ll add that polyamory vs monogamy is not a binary end-to-end; it is much more of a spectrum with many congregating toward one end or the other. You are simply making a more mindful decision to pursue and focus on one romantic connection for yourself.
I don’t think that there is any way to break up with someone that guarantees that it’ll be painless. Pain originates from mismatching expectations. And there will be some mismatching expectations here. And it’ll be a really difficult road to traverse here for several factors. He could feel that you utilized your connection with your first partner to determine that poly really wasn’t going to be a forever-thing for you. He will likely experience some sense of loss and grief over the expectations of future romance with you. Then there is that actual poly modifier to carefully tread to make sure the causes for breakup was about polyamory, but not necessarily about him specifically. Pretty thorny, yeah?
Sometimes, the best way forward is the only way forward.
And the most compassionate way to break up with him could be by de-escalating your relationship. I wrote a previous column about the PLEASE method for de-escalation. De-escalations are a good poly-specific way to end a romantic or sexual engagement with someone without losing them as a friend. And since you said you would like to remain friends with your partner, this could be a viable transition for this particular relationship so that you two may continue to be involved in each other’s lives, albeit in a different context. Instituting a brief hiatus in your connection while you each heal – for the soil to be revitalized – is something I’ve implemented in some of my past de-escalations as well, to assist with the transition.
If you decide to de-escalate instead of flat-out breaking up, you also have to recognize that your partner could decidedly not take that well and break up with you anyway. It is important for you to embrace that his pain is his pain. And if you’ve done your best to be compassionate and feel that you spoke impeccably & honestly, that is all you can do. You’ve done your best and the rest is in his hands now. Regardless of what happens, be prepared to give some time & space to your partner, your metamour, and all the friends you’ve newly connected.
I have found that my polyamorous relationship orientation have allowed me to expand my patience and allow for a belief that we are no way settled in any one state for too long. You are not necessarily choosing your second partner over your first. A better way to reframe that mindset might be to reimagine that you want to stabilize and focus on this one partner regardless of where you lie on the poly-mono spectrum. This particular bridge need not burnt. The foundation is still sound, and the materials are still quality. Maybe you can assemble a new fort with what comes out of this de-escalation / breakup.
Regardless, the joie the vivre is in the journey of self-discovery.
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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