“I could provide tons of background info, but I’ll do bare minimum: I (f) am hinge in a V with two partners (m), we are all in our mid 30s. One is a long-term, pretty stable relationship. The other is newer, we’ve been dating about a year and a half and have gotten more and more serious over time. It’s been great! We’re deeply in love and committed to being together long term.
However, as we’ve gotten deeper and deeper in the feelings, my partner is less and less into poly. He was no stranger to open relationships and poly, but this is the first time he’s in REALLY DEEP in terms of feelings/long term planning where there’s another serious partner in the mix. We’ve been talking about it the whole time and he definitely admits that at this point he’d prefer a closed, monogamous relationship with me. However, he also says that I’ve been 100% clear about what my situation is and what I can offer him this whole time, he doesn’t want to harm/break up my other relationship, he’s way happier overall with me this way than without me at all, and he thinks he’s good with what we have in a long-term way.
But! I can’t help but thinking–is this just toxic long-term? Would you ever end a relationship because you know it will never be that person’s ideal? So far I’ve been thinking that, you know, he’s an adult, he’s told me that the trade-off is worth it, so I believe him. But is that somehow selfish? What would you do?”
Dear Poly Help,
A year and a half is a long time. I’d hesitate to call him new to polyamory if that is the kind of experience he has had with you so far. Based on what he has shared, it sounds like he is maturely handling his relationship with you and fully disclosing his concerns with you as a way to communicate with you.
You said that he is new to deep long term commitments in his polyamorous journey. And you’ve shared that this is the most serious polyamorous relationship you have been a part of in a followup exchange. I wonder how much of this anxiety-like feeling that you are experiencing is rooted in your past experiences, social conditioning around perfectionism, and long-term relationship anxiety.
I’ve long held a belief in my personal dating life and in this column that there are two very different aspects being polyamorous. First is whether or not you can date polyamorously. Can you manage the logistics of maintaining multiple relationships? Can you create and maintain space in your relationships for each of them to breathe in? How well can you compartmentalize and manage not just your own emotions but others in your polycule as well? How well does your personal and relational ethics hold in heated situations? These are all about whether or not you can see multiple people.
The second half of that polyamorous identity is whether or not you can accept that your partners can date others. How well can you manage envy and jealousy as your partners explore other romantic and sexual connections? What are some of your ethical and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions? Are you capable of allowing space in your partners’ lives to ensure they can also create and maintain space for their respective relationships?
I think you already recognized the advice you need to receive.
So far I’ve been thinking that, you know, he’s an adult, he’s told me that the trade-off is worth it, so I believe him.
And you are right. He is an adult. And he is making an informed decision by proactively consenting to his relationship with you being polyamorous. So actually listen to what he is saying instead of trying too hard to read between the lines. If you really trust him to be honest in his own words, reflecting on your thoughts might reveal that the fear you feel is not at all rooted in his behavior, but rather your own internal insecurity about your projection of his polyamorous identity. Even if he isn’t interested in dating any others, he is still polyamorous through his acceptance of his relationship with you. Polyamorous, but unavailable.
I also think that this is important to point out.
One of the ways polyamorous relationships are so beautiful is because at the immediate onset, we challenge our inherent relationship programming that our relationships have to be perfect. That we need not choose only one partner to satiate all of our needs. So ask yourself. Why do you feel that your boyfriend needs to have a perfect mindset with you even when he is clearly communicating that he is still choosing to be with you?
If he ever changes his mind about being in a polyamorous relationship with you, then he can make a decision for himself at that point that he cannot be in a polyamorous relationship with you. Until then, doubting his motives seem unfair to what he has communicated with you. Even if this relationship’s days are numbered, why not choose to appreciate it for what it is however long it lasts?
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.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!