I [36M, bi] have been dating my partner [28F, straight] for 3 years. I have known that I’m non-monogamous since before we started dating. It has always been part of our relationship since the beginning, although she would probably prefer a more monogamish relationship. She comes from a pretty traditional background but has been generously open to the relationship style. I make use of my non-monogamous freedoms more than she does, although she does like to flirt a bit with some boys. I think that’s about the most honest summary I can give.Anonymous, /r/nonmonogamy
Oh, also, we are in a long distance relationship. I probably see her once a month for about a week at a time. When we are together, we are mono. When we are apart, we are non-mono.
We often have conversations about our needs and reactions to different things and experiences. She expressed something a few days ago that neither of us can quite figure out. She says that she likes that I’m not jealous or controlling but wishes I were a little more possessive of her. For example, I don’t feel defensive if an attractive man shows interest in her. I have a bit of a hot wife thing. I like it. (If the attention is inappropriate and unwelcome by her, then I do get confrontational.)
I had the thought that maybe there is another way I can meet whatever need she has through some other way. I asked her “What does that possessiveness mean to you? Like what does my being possessive of you communicate to you about my feelings?” She is usually very thoughtful and articulate, but couldn’t very well describe it. It’s an ongoing discussion. I would like to solicit other thoughts.
What could be an underlying need of wanting one’s partner to be more possessive?
On her TED Talk titled Rethinking Infidelity, Esther Perel noted that the act of infidelity as “universally forbidden, yet universally practiced.” The concept of infidelity has been pathologized and vilified to the point of senselessness, and yet we continue to devour popular media that depict this break in monogamous agreement as the ultimate act of betrayal. In a way to adapt and adjust to this immense expectation regarding monogamy, we came to understand possessiveness and jealousy as a positive quality that indicates security and safety in the social institution of monogamy instead of a reflection of relational and personal insecurity.
This is one of the reasons why jealousy and possessiveness is such a heavy topic of disdain in the non-mono space, as development of new and other connections contend with our monogamy conditioning to feel jealous when our partner is with another.
So let’s consider that as a backdrop to what your partner could stand to gain from her partner acting possessive. As you said, she comes from a more traditionally monogamous background. So it is possible that, through the filter of her social conditioning, she perceives her partner feeling jealous and possessive as a way for her partner to display how much they care about her and as a reflection of the security she should feel in her relationship. And when she doesn’t sense that same jealousy and possessiveness when she flirts and connects with other folks, she doesn’t have the same tools to verify the security in her relationship with you.
This can also relate to your current long distance non-mono agreement.
Long distance relationships come with an added challenge of more infrequent connections. We all want to feel desired and sought after in our relationships. But the expression of that need is often delayed, poorly communicated, or misrepresented through distance. Because you two are in a long-distance, non-monogamous relationship, that same sense of security and safety that comes from sharing the same physical space day-to-day is not as present as it would be if you two were closer in proximity.
As such, expression of possessiveness and jealousy could be understood as another form of security and safety from her perspective as well.
It sounds like you two have already started the discussion on what this means for your relationship with each other. That is a great start. My guess is that her inability to link possessive behaviors to the security they appear to provide could stem from a sense of guilt as well. You have been so open-minded and accepting of her exploring and forging other connections, even if her freedom isn’t as frequently realized and practiced as yours. She has to contend with the societal expectations from the twenty five years of her life prior to meeting you that non-monogamy is wrong. That is an unprogramming she’ll have to take on for herself.
One thing for you to consider is that even if you’re not innately jealous or possessive, implementing a jealousy or possessiveness roleplay might not be a bad option for you two, even if she isn’t actively dating. Doing so might help her understand what feelings accumulate through her partner feeling jealous and possessive.
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.