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Advice – Is my bisexual girlfriend polyamorous?

My (33m) girlfriend (26f) and I have been together for about a little more than 6 months and everything has going smoothly between us so far. But there has been something that doesn’t sit quite right with me.

To give you some background, we met on Tinder and after having sex a few times told me she had to break up with the other guys because we’re on the same wavelength. We just clicked. Then she asked me to be her boyfriend after dating for a few months.

We have had a few discussions about our relationship boundaries and expectations in the six months we have been together. We have decided to stay monogamous, but every conversation that we’ve had about the subject has not left me feeling very reassured about our future. For example, she has mentioned polyamory during a couple of conversations but not that she actually wants that to be part of our relationship, she just mentioned it when talking about how well our communication is. I told her that wasn’t something I was interested in and she said she was not either but again mentioned that if it did come up she knows we could communicate. So it has left me confused because she sometimes posts pro poly memes and quotes on her social media and follows a page called poly.land. She says she wasn’t interested in that and that when she was on Tinder dating guys she was sort of already getting that experience.

We had another talk about our relationship recently because I guess I’m not feeling reassured that we’re not going to change away from monogamy. She got a little upset that I wanted to talk about it again since she said we already “agreed to remain exclusive to each other until we decide to change our relationship agreement” and that last part left me feeling confused but I don’t want to bring it up anymore and try to take her word. Another detail is that she is bisexual and has only kissed a woman but never slept with one and I’m thinking she is still open to making a connection with one if she finds the right one. Also, she told me there was a girl she liked while she was with her baby daddy but he was abusive towards her and she wanted to leave. Basically, it all just seems like she is still making herself available to women and our conversations have not reassured me that we will remain monogamous in the future.

Is she open to the possibility and maybe not sure that is what she wants or is she waiting to see how things go with us?

Help Me I’m Frozen, Reddit.
Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Dear Help Me I’m Frozen,

There are quite a few misconceptions around polyamory and bisexuality that I believe that we should first spend some time deconstructing and analyzing before we can get to the meat of the advice.

First things first. Being cognizant of polyamorous lifestyle is very, very different from being in polyamorous relationships. And being in polyamorous relationships can look very different for a person who is more ambiamorous (as in ambivalent about polyamory/monogamy) and for another who is strictly polyamorous (as in cannot ever do monogamy).

And let’s talk more about being polyamorous as compared to doing polyamory. I am a firm believer that too many folks use the identity “polyamorous” to forsake the emotional labor that accompanies ethical non-monogamy. It is a serious problem in the poly-spaces I reside in because that poly label is frequently misused by people who aren’t ethically non-monogamous. It is often a much more fruitful endeavor to ask “Can I do polyamorous relationships?” rather than “Am I polyamorous?” The first question allows us to inspect the context of the relationship landscape as well as pre-existing relationship agreements, whereas the second question often lends itself to a much higher burden of proof. The current exclusive relationship agreement in your relationship does not allow for any non-monogamous arrangements. And since she is clearly aware of polyamory, she is consciously choosing monogamy with you when she agreed to be exclusive with you. And it even sounds like she has continued to reemphasize her stance on exclusive monogamy with you.

Photo by An Nguyen on Unsplash

Another thing for you to consider is that there are positive aspects to polyamory that are absolutely applicable to monogamy as well.

In my opinion, Poly.land is a great blog that talks a lot about poly-specific and poly-adjacent materials that doesn’t just provide value for staunchly polyamorous folks but also for staunchly monogamous folks who want more information on how to improve their own monogamous relationships. And perhaps that is what your girlfriend is doing by acknowledging and celebrating polyamory even if she doesn’t ever want to do polyamory herself.

As your girlfriend noted, one of the things that polyfolks seem to do well is in communication. Many polyfolks I know do intensive monthly check-ins similar to the RADAR model from Multiamory to address relationship conflicts, engage in each other’s vulnerabilities, and keep each other accountable for necessary personal developments. And it sounds like she wanted to celebrate the communicative strength in her monogamous relationship with you, similar to what she has read about in polyamorous relationships. And instead of acknowledging that bid and diving deeper into how your communicative chemistry is on par with those of polyamorous relationships, you immediately jumped to reject polyamory and get defensive about some underlying insecurity that you might have.

See how that is ironic considering she initially approached you to celebrate your communication skills?

If you dig deeper into why that feels so sore and so sensitive, you might find that there is an underlying fear of the unknown. Specifically, it is a fear that she might change her mind about monogamy. In a later comment, you mentioned that you would like your girlfriend to be upfront and clear about any future intentions to be non-monogamous. And it sounds like she already has. She did exactly that when she said she “agreed to remain exclusive to each other until we decide to change our relationship agreement.” It could be that you aren’t hearing what she has to say; that even though she knows about polyamory, she is choosing monogamy with you.

Photo by Miska Sage on Unsplash

Even your internal dialogue and subsequent projection about her own bisexuality is rife with misunderstanding and reflects on your deeper insecurities.

I wrote a column about the intersection between bisexuality and monogamy in this post from a year ago. And in that post, I specifically talked about how bisexuality can and often does exist in the same space as monogamy. Bifolks need not be in multiple relationships with people of different genders in order to be a card-carrying member of the Bisexuals. Bifolks who are in a monogamous relationship with same or opposite sex partners are still bisexual. In a more recent column from about a month ago, I wrote about how the number of same sex partners do not define bisexuality; bisexuality is justified in the mere virtue of its existence. What I am trying to say is that she is still choosing to be with an opposite sex partner – like 84% of the bisexuals who end up in opposite sex relationships. And her choice to be with you does not diminish or reflect negatively on her bisexuality.

You say that you think “she is still open to making a connection with one if she finds the right one.” That is completely contradictory to both what she has agreed to with you and what she has shared about her sexuality. Consider that straight folks have crushes on opposite sex friends and coworkers too. And crushing on people is natural. Exclusivity does not mean that you won’t have crushes on other people. Exclusivity just means that you will develop proper boundaries to avoid indulging in those crushes. In the same way, just because she is bisexual doesn’t mean that she can’t make close connections with people of genders that she happens to be attracted to. And part of building upon a relationship is to develop that trust that your partner will honor all the relationship agreements even when you aren’t omnisciently present in all of her personal connections.

It is deeply problematic to override her own experience of bisexuality into how she wants to experience her romantic relationship with you.

How you have internalized her bisexuality is not at all how she herself experiences her bisexuality. It is not your responsibility to comprehensively understand what her bisexuality means for her. It is however your responsibility to acknowledge and accept her sexuality as she experiences it.

Photo by An Nguyen on Unsplash

It is time to fix the broken bucket.

There is a popular Korean proverb that goes like this –

안에서 새는 바가지 나가서도 샌다.

It strictly translates to “A broken bucket that leaks inside will also leak outside.” And in the same way that a broken bucket will never hold water, all the reassurances your girlfriend can possibly pump into you will hold no water as long as it leaks through the fundamental holes that are your deeper inner insecurities.

Consider all the information you have in front of you. You say that you don’t feel reassured. But it isn’t really your girlfriend’s responsibility to make you feel reassured. It sounds like she has already done a lot to make you feel reassured. But that relationship anxiety that you feel is very likely coming from deep inside of you, a part of you only you can alter and make changes to. It is manifesting in the insecurity you feel about her potentially changing her mind about monogamy. It is also manifesting in the way that you envision her bisexuality to mean something else. Take time to acknowledge these as growth opportunities that you need to work on either by yourself or with a trusted therapist.

As you have experienced, continuing to revisit and re-trigger these conflict points with your girlfriend will not go well. The remaining work is yours and yours alone.

You say that you want to take her at her word. So take it.

Good luck!

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 teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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