Emotional sharing in polyamory

Reading Time: 5 minutes

My husband and I have been open for a little over a year now. We closed for a period of time because he crossed multiple boundaries. I was the one to bring up being open. My issue right now is my partners unwillingness to really communicate. He claims he’s not going to bring it up if he believes I’m in a bad mood, which I partially understand, but that just feels like an excuse to not really be open with me. He’s planning on spending his first night away with a woman he started talking too not long ago.

I of course am anxious, but this whole thing has gotten easier with time. Last week he had a breakdown over a “what if” situation, and thought I would leave. I tried to be there for him, help him talk through his feelings with no luck. So I was pretty blindsided when I saw he had downloaded dating apps again (he willingly deleted himself) when we didn’t even actually get to the source of the problem. I’m frustrated, feeling like I’m putting in most of the work, while I’m not really enjoying being open because I’m so worried about him.

I encourage him to write about his feelings since he says he can’t really verbalize what he’s feeling, but I don’t see that going very far unless I’m constantly reminding him. Part of me wants to do the same to him, to get him to see my frustration but that doesn’t seem healthy to me.

I want to enjoy being open and have more sexual experiences like my partner has been doing. I’ve been with one other person to his 6. Not that that’s an issue, but I feel like I’m putting in the work, grown as a person, and really embraced the Life style while he’s scraping by doing the bare minimum and still getting his cake and eating it too. How do I move forward when my partner isn’t exactly the most open when it comes to communication?

I want to add that I ask for the most basic information. Where he’s going and if he wishes share what he’ll be doing. Not detailed just me wanting to be informed of his plans. Which to me is the bare minimum, and it’s still like pulling teeth.

I assume that a big part of you wanting to know his plans are beyond just the physical aspects of wanting to know about cooking or shared plans, but also because there have been some boundary violations in the past and it seems as though he’s not really willing to address what happened. In fact… it seems like you closed for a period of time and he just downloaded the dating apps again with little to no conversation about it? That’s not the greatest thing.

While I’m not necessarily a fan of closing a relationship to solve a problem because I doubt the effectiveness of that route, it would have been at least a good sign if you two had explored why this boundary violation happened. It’s one thing for him to have a more detached style. It might be that solo polyamory is more his style, but it’s another for him to be unwilling to give you very basic details such as where he is going.

However, I do think you are involving yourself a little bit too much in his own emotional processing when you actually don’t have to. His feelings are his to process and his to work out. And he may not work them out or process them in the same way you do or he may not necessarily want to share that with you — and that’s okay. He doesn’t necessarily have to walk you through his emotions or make them external so that you can be comforted by the fact that he’s dealing with his own life. You have to let go there and understand that he’s an adult and, unless he’s specifically asked you to help him work through his feelings, that’s not really your job.

If you are insisting that he express his emotions in the exact same way you do then that might be one of the reasons he doesn’t want to communicate. If bringing something up will result in you deciding you need to take charge of how he expresses things or works through things, then I can understand that he may not want to do that.

For you, polyamory may be a journey and be part of overall personal growth — but it doesn’t have to be like that for everyone. Perhaps you are embarking on something that you feel has awakened you or changed an aspect of you and you want your partner to also have those same feelings… but he might not. For him, this may just be something fun. It may not have a deeper meaning. It may not be a “lifestyle”.

You say you want him to communicate more… but what is it that you want him to communicate, other than the bare minimum of where he’s going to be and when (which he could add to a calendar)? It sounds like what you want is for him to take part in this sort of… emotional journey, the “work”, and maybe what you’re actually wanting is some reassurance? But maybe the reassurance you actually want is hearing that polyamory is emotionally challenging for your partner… but that may not necessarily be the case for him.

Even if he does have jealousy or other emotions about the dates you have had, he’s not necessarily obligated to process that with you. I absolutely do know that men have a significant challenge being in touch with their feelings because of the way men are typically raised in most cultures. But… he’s got to handle that himself. You cannot force him to become emotionally mature if he’s not. And you can’t force him to do “work” he has no interest in doing.

It’s fair for you to ask where he’s going. I don’t think that’s an absurd thing to ask. Especially if you have a shared living space and you share meals or other household responsibilities. Just like you would want to know if a flatmate was planning to spend a weekend away, it would be nice to know if he was also. But if you’re expecting a partner who is going to go through these emotional journeys with you, then it’s possible that you may not be compatible. Or if you require more discussions about the violation of boundaries, then you might need to work that out with a couple’s counsellor.

If you can release yourself from the responsibility of managing his emotions, trust him to be able to communicate a need when it arises, and he can also treat you like an adult and tell you regardless of your mood what he needs to tell you, then you can actually be free to do what you want to do. He’s not asking you to worry about him and some part of you definitely needs to let that go, whether you stay with him or not, because that might become a bigger issue down the line.

Right now it seems like there’s not a foundation of trust between you two. He doesn’t trust that you can hear his truth without getting upset and you don’t trust that he’s able to deal with his own emotions and let you know if he needs help. If you can find a polyamory friendly couple’s therapist and work on addressing your lack of trust in one another and rebuilding that, I think you might be able to go somewhere. If he’s unwilling to go to a counsellor with you then you have to look at what you have and ask if it’s something you want in a relationship.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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