I've been seeing A for a couple of months and we've discussed about out interest in non-monogamy from the very beginning, and generally been open about our dreams and hopes and vulnerabilities, and it's been easy to discuss difficult stuff as well.
Things developed pretty quickly between us, and we started spending quite a lot of time together, usually 2-3 dates/sleepovers per week. They have been affectionate and communicative and things have been flowing quite smoothly.
When we had just met, I had a one night stand with another person, let's call them B. A had told me in the beginning that they wouldn't want to know about my other dates, but when it happened I told them about it nevertheless, because it felt like I am not being honest if I am not telling I've had sex with someone else.
They said they're ok about my ons with B, but told me that I had crossed their boundary by telling about it as they had requested me not to (unless it is important STI wise). In the end though, they seemed ok that I told them and we never really talked about it later. Naturally also B knew about me dating A.
Later on, B texted me and asked if I wanted to see them, and I told A about it. I told A that maybe we should have some kind of discussion about our relationship because I also wanted to be clear towards B in case they wanted to continue seeing me.
With A we started the discussion by sharing our thoughts and hopes about relationships in general. We both seemed to agree that we would like to be together but probably non-monogamous. After the first discussion A had talked with their friend about us and non-monogamy, and from that discussion had had the idea that maybe we should start by being monogamous and open our relationship later as had the friend done in their relationship.
We had a long discussion, and I agreed on the idea even though it wasn't exactly the way I wanted to define our relationship as I find the word monogamy quite loaded, even though [at the moment] I don't have a huge interest in dating other people.
After that discussion we had our first proper disagreement about a completely non-related issue, but the disagreement triggered both of us big time. It resulted in them shutting down completely and me getting super anxious and demanding because I felt like I had lost the connection in them completely. We managed to repair, but somehow our conversation got heated again in the morning and finally A basically just left from my place.
After a couple of days A told me that they need distance from me and suggested we don't see each other for a month. Finally we agreed on a two week break. They also told me that they had suggested monogamy, because they felt like it is something that I wanted but they didn't actually mean it and they regret even suggesting it.
They also have told me that they feel anxious and "suffocated" in a relationship and wouldn't be able to give me the commitment that I am asking for (from my point of view I wasn't "asking for" commitment but rather felt like we discussed it together). They told me that they have a tendency for people pleasing and that's why they've said and done things that they don't actually mean, and they are actually afraid of commitment.
I don't know if there is any way to reconnect or restart from here, because I feel like I cannot trust them telling me what do they really need and how do they feel. I am almost certain that after the break they will tell me they no longer want to be with me.
Nevertheless, all this has left me incredibly confused because things changed literally overnight. I feel betrayed but at the same time I don't want to lose them and our relationship, although I do realise there is not much I can do about it if they decide they no longer want to be with me.
While I understand you feel betrayed and find it difficult to trust A, I think it’s important for you to understand that within the context of the story you told me, you were the first one to break an agreement within your relationship.
They requested that you not tell them about other partners and if that was something you didn’t want to agree to, then you should have discussed it further. Instead, you kind of just ignored their boundary and proceeded anyway.
Both of you have gone forward within this relationship agreeing to things you didn’t want to agree with. You agreed to essentially a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell agreement that you didn’t want to follow and they didn’t hold their boundary or re-set it when you continued to talk to them about B.
You agreed to a monogamous relationship that you didn’t really want to have and it seemed like didn’t want it either. It doesn’t surprise me that a small disagreement triggered you, because you were both probably very irritated being in a situation that you didn’t actually want to be in.
You feel like you can’t trust them to tell you the truth but can they trust you to tell them the truth about what it is that you are interested in. There is a certain amount of this situation that changed overnight — probably because A couldn’t continue to lie to themselves — but really this situation has been bubbling over for a very long time.
When it comes to the idea of starting off in a monogamous relationship and slowly opening, I can understand that concept, but I think the tendency to open “slowly” or try to dip into the shallow end of polyamory is kind of like trying to dip into the shallow end of any major life change.
There are lots of things in life we never truly know if they are for us until we actually do them. While there may be some things we can work out from our personality, such as if we don’t like crowds we may not like living in a big city, there is a certain amount of trying that you have to do before you really, really know if it’s for you. It seems like you both had talked about non-monogamy from the beginning so there is something of a hesitance either from you or from A about being non-monogamous and it’s hard to know from your letter which person it necessarily is.
I think both of you need to ask yourselves if non-monogamy is what you want to be and what type of non-monogamy you both want. Because it’s possible you both are non-monogamous but A would like a more Don’t Ask Don’t Tell type of situation and you want a situation where you don’t feel like you have to hide your partners. It’s possible that you were essentially not compatible and you both tried to force staying together because you enjoyed your connection instead of being honest and breaking up.
If you can both figure out if you’re compatible with each other and if you both have a similar style of non-monogamy and you can both get some couples therapy and try and start from scratch with an agreement on how you disclose relationships and to let go of some of the issues that you had together, then I do think you could move forward.
It will be difficult to rebuild trust, but it’s possible I believe if you had the ability to do so as long as you’re much clearer and agree to be honest in the future about what you both want. If you can agree on how disclosure works and how you want your relationship to be structured in the future, let go of the past and work from a place of trust then I think you could build things back up.
I hope this helps and good luck!