Picking polyamory because you don’t politically agree with monogamy doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t experience any negative emotions.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Can you remember your first ever date?
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Note: Author has flagged English is not their first language.
I've been in a great relationship with a girl for 2 months now, both of us had at least 3 long monogam[ous] relationships before and decided to have a non-monogam[ous] one because its something that was always on her mind.
From my side, I started questioning the politics of monogamy a while ago and never really agreed with that. I was able to experiment [with] non-monogamy as well and thought it would be something great to have a relationship without the things that monogamy brings into it, but this never really was a need for me. I used to say that I would be ok with a monogam[ous] relationship too because I don't feel that need to see other people when I’m love with someone (and this lasts for years during the relationship). To me it's more from the political spectrum of non-monogamy, patriarchy etc that I don't agree.
The point is, I’m in my NRE period with her and I thought that she was too, but 3 weeks ago she said to me that [she] has flirted with some guy from instagram that made [her] curious. They talked for a day or two and nothing really happened but this broke me apart. When she told me that, I felt a level of anxiety that I’ve never felt before. We have really great communication so I told her that and we talked about it. I said that I’m afraid of not being able to deal with the fact that she sees other people.
That is something that I wanna do. I wanna feel compersion and want her to not feel guilty to have any dates, but I can't deal with it right now. She also told me [she] was not that interested in seeing that guy and that she didn't like him that much. It was just a curiosity of hers. So, a couple of days ago she said to me that this guy asked her out and she was considering having a date with him.
At this point, my anxiety levels are so high that I can't feel anything else. I told her that this is ok, I want her to do that and have this experience but I don’t feel that I'm going to be ok with it. We talked for a while and the feeling that end[ed] the conversation for me is that, I lost all of my NRE for her. I lost the will to kiss her, have sex with her or even stay with her. I know she hasn’t cheated on me. I know that she did everything that is possible for her to do. She is the greatest girlfriend I’ve ever had but this idea of dating [her] someone else so quickly is annoying me.
I'm going to therapy, trying to deal with that. She and I also talked a lot about our relationship and we have a great one, but the idea of being jealous, that I can't deal with her seeing someone else, that I can't deal [with it all] right now…
Is it possible to learn how to deal with it? Or is it the case that non-monogamy is just not for me? Is it expected that she [would] wanna date other people that quickly? Is it normal that I feel no interest in her right now?
First thing that I want to say is that monogamy is not patriarchy. I understand what you mean. And the language barrier may also be an issue. But I feel like it's very, very important to point this out because I feel like this is very common. Your experience. To make it clear non-monogamy is not an inherently anti-patriarchal. A lot of societies practice non-monogamy and they do so in an incredibly patriarchal way. Polygamy is technically non-monogamy.
Non-monogamy is purely a relationship that is non-monogamous. So it is not necessarily a political philosophy or an ideology. So please don't get stuck in the trap of believing that people who are non-monogamous are inherently anti— like non-misogynist or anti-patriarchal. That is not the case. I can guarantee you that that is not the case. I understand why you think so.
Quite a lot of people, when they start to challenge the ideals that society puts forward through patriarchy, through sexism, racism, everything else that society does, that's really shit, when they start questioning this sometimes part of the assumption of monogamy that society encourages, they also question and I don't think that's a bad thing. I think that questioning that society gives us one road that we're supposed to go down.
That we're supposed to get married, we're supposed to live in the house with 2.5 kids— like all of that I think is worth even monogamous people to question because a lot of the things that society tacks on to monogamy are not very good. Just like a lot of the things that society tacks on to gender are not very good. That doesn't mean that identifying with a gender means that you agree with the way that society tells you you ought to be that. So if you identify as a man, that doesn't mean that you believe that men shouldn't cry or any of that other bullshit.
So it's really important that you understand that monogamy isn't in and of itself a bad thing. And the reason why I'm pointing this out and I think you know this, but I think the reason why I'm pointing this out is because a lot of times when people start questioning some of the not so great relationship things that society gives them, they get a very rose tinted— what we call “rose tinted glasses” in English, which basically means that you start to see polyamory as this thing that's beautiful, and it's freedom and it's so wonderful and so great because it’s— you’re breaking down all the barriers of patriarchy.
And it's you know, you get this really, really messed up way of looking at polyamory. Like I do think that it's messed up and this is exactly why I exist, and why I write what I do, why I say what I do, because so much of the information in the polyamorous community, the information that's churned out is this rose tinted nonsense. And it's not because I believe that polyamory is bad. I don't, but I don't like the fact that within polyamorous communities, everything that gets put out about polyamory is very much all about the good aspects of it, all about the positives.
It's almost like toxic positivity to the point where I feel like people in your situation happens so often. People just hear all of this wonderful stuff about freedom and liberation and love and then they try it and they feel shit. And they're not prepared for it. And they end up with their hearts torn out. They don't know why and they think something's wrong with them. And there's nothing wrong with you. It is 100% normal for you to live in a society that's told you your entire life that monogamy is the way to go. That this is how you do things.
This is how relationships work. Ever since you were a child, you've seen monogamy. You've seen it in your fairytale books. You've seen it in your parents relationships, and you as a human being have thousands of years of evolution in your brain that has taught you that being connected to a social group is important. If you look at studies about how the human brain works, we are wired for social connection. It makes sense that when you are doing something that you have never seen before, that you have no models for in your life, that you would freak out no matter how much you have logically agreed that this is the more freedom way and the more liberated and cosmopolitan.
I'm not saying you're saying all this but like no matter how much logic you apply to this situation, emotionally and from the perspective of your brain, whose job it is to protect you, whose job it is to keep you safe. It makes complete sense that the idea that your partner is interested in someone else would freak you the fuck out. That is not abnormal. That does not mean you can't do non-monogamy. That doesn't make you a bad person. And it makes 100% sense.
Now NRE, new relationship energy for people who are a little bit new, is a phenomenon that people experience when they find someone new they're interested in. They get kind of like, super interested. It's exciting. It's bubbly. It's you know, it's all that and it's fun. That doesn't necessarily mean that somebody has no interest in anybody else. That would actually be quite bad for polyamory if every time your partner found someone new and was interested in them that they then had no interest in you. I feel like there's a little bit of your expectation here that being in NRE “means that you have no interest in anybody else”.
That's not what it means. It is very normal for people to be interested in dating other people if they're polyamorous, if someone flirts with them, and I feel like she's probably downplaying her feelings a little bit to try and make you feel better. But it's very understandable that they would be like, “Oh, someone's flirting with me. Someone's giving me some attention. I want to explore that and see what that's about”. That is pretty normal. It's also understandable if you have lost your interest, if this has killed your NRE and your interest in pursuing this relationship. That could be from a combination of things. It could be because you're not used to dealing with this.
It could be that you're in a relationship that's two months old and you're just starting to build your foundations of trust together. And it's hard to build foundations of trust and also be trying this brand new thing, no matter how much logically you've decided that this is the better way to go. This is a new thing for you. Consider the opportunity to like— consider the possibility of your brain deciding “Hey, logically, it's better for me to quit my job and go into this new job”. And then you expect yourself to have no feelings about it.
Imagine that logically your brain goes, “Hey, I would be really interested in moving to another city”. And then expecting yourself to have no feelings about that. Expecting yourself not to miss your other city, expecting yourself not to have any sadness when you leave. This is kind of what you're expecting of yourself. And I feel like that's probably also not helping. You are expecting yourself to go into non-monogamy. No emotions that are “bad”, no “bad” emotions, no unhappiness, no fear.
“I’m just supposed to be happy for her” and you're putting so much pressure on yourself. “I have to be happy for her. I have to be okay with the situation I'm getting annoyed but I have to—“ like your expectation is one that it makes the situation a lot more difficult. So of course you're not interested in this situation. Of course your brain is going to be like, “Why are we doing this? Why? We feel like shit. Let's stop this”. It makes perfect sense. So I think that there are a couple things you can do.
One, I think you need to find your reason you're interested in polyamory, like the real reason. Not because you think it sounds like a better idea. Okay, like imagine if you applied the same sort of rationale to having children. Like if you sat down and you said “Well, if I have children then I'll have someone to take care of me and my older age, so I'm going to have children because the sounds like a good idea for that reason”. That's not really a good reason. Thinking that it would be logically better to have children so that they can take care of you in your older age will not prepare you for the emotional realities of being a parent.
And in some ways, you're never kind of fully emotionally prepared for such a brand new reality and I don't think you're necessarily going to be so prepared for polyamory that you're not going to have any negative feelings. It's understandable for you to have negative feelings. But you need an actual anchor.
If you go on my website or you go to nonmonogamyhelp.com/101 or nonmonogamyhelp.com/102. I have 101 and 102 articles that are designed to help people figure out like not only some of the common mistakes that people make, and not mistakes in like “you've done something bad” but like you know, things that aren't helpful that polyamorous advice really kind of drills into you that actually I think makes things worse, but also how to find your anchor.
I also have a book called The Anxious Person's Guide to Non-Monogamy which you can find at nonmonogamyhelp.com/book. And that is designed to help you kind of think about this in a little more deeper way. Because right now thinking about like, “Oh, this sounds like I'm challenging patriarchy, and that's great”. It's not. It’s not inherently a challenge of patriarchy, and you need a better reason for why you're interested in this.
What do you envision your life to be like? What is you know— are you interested in in having the freedom when you get a flirty Instagram message to be like, “oh, I want to I'm gonna see how that goes”? What is your interest behind it? And that will really help you feel less anxious. It's not going to get rid of the anxiety completely, but it will help you feel less anxious. There's also a lot in those articles about kind of letting go of your fears of the things you want to control.
Those will all help you in figuring out if it's for you or not. Nobody can really tell you whether or not it's for you. Just like nobody can tell you if you should have kids or not. Probably people shouldn’t. It's something you have to figure out for yourself. But what I would say is that it is possible for you to understand your reasoning a little bit more, for you to understand what your relationships will look like, what you're looking for.
Those things help it become easier when you experience the fear that you're going to feel when your partner is interested in somebody else. It is not completely abnormal for her to be interested in dating other people so quickly. There might be some part of you that feels that you can keep her around if she is going to not date other people. There's a lot in there that you can break down and think about a little bit more.
But I think that you not feeling interest in her might come from the fact that you have such high expectations of yourself and you're constantly trying to push yourself into a situation that's making you uncomfortable, and maybe you're talking a lot about your feelings but talking about your feelings is not necessarily you feeling your feelings. There's a big difference. And it's very hard because I feel like that's a lot of the advice of polyamory, right?
It's like “talk and talk to each other, communicate, communicate” and like you can only communicate so much. Communicating with your partner is not going to inherently solve your emotions. It's not going to help you deal with the highs and lows of your emotions in every single situation. It's not always going to reassure you. Some part of moving from monogamy to non-monogamy is sitting in the discomfort and in the same way that if you move to a new city, sometimes you're gonna have shit nights where you’ll regret what you did in the same way.
But whether or not it's something that you want to do in the long term depends on a variety of factors, but expecting yourself to not have any emotions or for these emotions to just go away or even that talking with your partner is going to instantly cure these emotions is kind of I think, partially why you have no interest. Now as you go through this, as you read a little bit more and you start to think about whether or not non-monogamy is really for you — not just because it sounds good on paper and it sounds revolutionary on paper — then you might find that you have lost interest because you don't have an interest in non-monogamy.
That may be a thing but it's something that you have to decide for yourself. It's a journey that you have to take for yourself. It's not something that myself or even your partner is going to be able to solve for you. It's something that you have to work out for yourself. But I would expect your— expect to feel like shit. There's a lot of non- monogamy advice that’s very unhelpful.
There's a lot of the way people sell non-monogamy online that's very much kind of trying to sell the shiny bits of it. “Oh, I like being polyamorous— so we're being non monogamous because I feel so free”. And that's great. But I hate that stuff because of reasons like this, because of stories like yours, because so many people— because of all of this and I understand — if you read my book, I go into why like people do this. I understand why they do it. But I feel like the reason it pisses me off so much is because people think that it's just going to be cake or that they will always feel better.
And it's not the case. It's the exact same thing I think sometimes with parenting stuff. Like people always selling the positives of having kids and you know, people thinking — it depends on where you are. Some — it's less that way now than I think it used to be. But I think there are a lot of people who got sold a very positive picture and it didn't prepare them for the emotional realities of the situation. So expect that you're going to feel emotional. Expect that there will be highs and lows.
You're going against the grain of what society has told you your entire life no matter how logically you think that is a better choice. Your brain that is hardwired to keep you alive is going to be a little bit terrified of it. And that doesn't make you a bad person, doesn't mean that you can't do it. It's just a very understandable human reaction to trying something so new and so different than what you've been exposed to for your entire life. So I hope that helps. And good luck.