Episode 105: Becoming Monogamous

Therapy can’t make someone monogamous who doesn’t want to be and it can’t make someone non-monogamous who doesn’t want to be.

Therapy can’t make someone monogamous who doesn’t want to be and it can’t make someone non-monogamous who doesn’t want to be.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What were your earliest misconceptions about therapy?

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This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use my affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over a year now. I love him very dearly and I truly could not imagine my life without him.

However, I have always been a non-monogamous person. I’ve had open relationships before and they have always been my preference.

This has always been something that bothered me, and I finally brought it up to him and how I feel about it. He’s made it very clear it’s not something he’s interested in. I have not tried to push it since because I understand it’s not for everyone.

Now I am dealing with a lot of negative emotions. I feel like I’m giving up a part of who I am to be with him, and I know [that] was my choice to do so. I just don’t know how to deal with all of my negative emotions.

My boyfriend said that the idea of seeing me with someone else makes him upset. And if he knew I was sleeping with other people he would feel jealous or insecure.

Otherwise our relationship is fine. He’s very kind and sweet, and I love him more than anything. The last time we spoke about this, he felt like it would be best to break up even though we love each other so deeply.

I am just not sure what to do. I’ve considered going to therapy to see if that would help me cope with how I’m feeling. But I wasn’t sure if there would be any other options or things we could try.


A lot of people kind of assume that like the most important thing about whether or not you can “do” polyamory is whether or not to handle the idea of your partner sleeping with someone else. And I actually think that that's kind of a false way to look at it. The measure of what I think means that someone can “do” polyamory, or non-monogamy or whatever— even if they are monogamous to a polyamorous person — is whether or not they had any personal interest in it.

Like that's a big thing. That is kind of the anchor that I talk about in my books— or in my book rather. What the hell am I talking about. There's one book. Not many books— yet. I don't know what's gonna happen. Anyway. That's not the point. The point is that I think what makes a good anchor, what makes a good thing to kind of keep someone within the situation in a kind of stable way is having a personal interest in it. There are people who are monogamous to polyamorous people.

That is the thing that happens. I feel like there is a personal interest in some way in the situation. Maybe they are loners. They like to have their own independent time. And in the same exact way — and I make this comparison all the time that, you know, there are sometimes monogamous relationships where you don't see your partner a lot of the times. Either they are military, they have time intensive careers — not every monogamous person can do that.

And so there has to be something there for that person to say “Okay, it's worth the sacrifice of not having this person around to stay in this relationship”. And I feel like he doesn't have that. Luckily, he has kind of told you and thought about it and said, “Honestly, this is not for me”. We could sit here and psychoanalyse these reasons. We could be like, “Yeah, but you can work through your insecurity and blah, blah”.

And I'm sure there are probably like lots of polyamory resources that kind of encourage people to do that. But I feel like actually, this is a benefit. This is a good thing to be fair, because what I see some people do and what happens to some people is that they don't want to lose their partner. They try non-monogamy, even though it's totally not for them, even though they have a personal interest in it, to save the relationship that they have with their partner. But fundamentally, they can't save it just like you can't you know — if you're expecting a in person relationship to be identical to a long distance relationship and you go into a long distance situation with that expectation, you're gonna be disappointed.

I think that a lot of people just cave into the pressure and decide to like, “Yeah, let's try it because I don't want to lose you.” But actually, your partner is like quite top quality in this way. Like he's told you he's not into it, and he's even suggested breaking up and I know that seems more painful. But actually the other kind of thing of “let me just give up what I think that I want to try and save this relationship” is a lot more painful for a lot of people in the long run.

If you maybe had never had a non-monogamous relationship before, if you had been together for longer and you were curious, then maybe I would probably be a little bit hesitant to say “Okay, just kind of separate because you're incompatible”. But you have been in non-monogamous relationships before you know that it's something that's important to you.

And for some reason, you decided to sacrifice that for this relationship. And I'm a little bit concerned here because it kind of seems like you want therapy to be about like emotional suppression. Therapy will probably give you actually the strength to leave if you need to, which I don't think it's a bad thing. I definitely think that you should go to therapy. I think everyone should go to therapy. I think therapy is great. I think— you know, well, I mean, I won't say that all therapists are great, but I do think therapy as I thing is good.

And I think that the thing that therapy might help you with is actually the side of you that wants to sacrifice what you want to keep someone around. Because you haven't been together for a long period of time. And I'm not saying your feelings aren’t genuine. And I'm not saying that you don't, you know, have a good connection. But there's part of you that is afraid to lose that to the extent that you're willing to kind of — this almost seems like conversion therapy is what you want in a way which I think that is something that you need to address. Because actually that kind of inclination, which is a very understandable inclination, I don't think you should feel ashamed about.

Alot of people— we're relational species, we want to have love in our lives. So we are sometimes very willing to go along with a lot of things that we don't like to keep people around who overall can kind of give us love. However, that inclination is actually not gonna be very helpful for you in non-monogamy either and I think that that is something that you should actually look at with a therapist. I do kind of feel like you and your partner are incompatible. And I think he also feels that too. Maybe he's just kind of hesitant to actually make the break.

But I feel like if he has no personal interest in it, and he's quite sure about that, and even if honestly like in an ideal world, if he could, you know, go to therapy himself and spend a long time deconstructing everything, like— we can all say that about anything in our lives, and I just feel like unless he wants to do that, unless he has a desire to do that, there's no point in it. Because he's not personally motivated or personally interested in it. And you can't make someone personally interested in non-monogamy who isn't. So I do think you're at a base level incompatible here. It really sucks. Sometimes that happens.

And honestly, if you both were non-monogamous, that would be the end of the compatibility testing. You can both be non-monogamous and both have very different ideas of how you want to be non-monogamous. Being non-monogamous in and of itself isn't a fully compatible thing. So there would still be hurdles for you to consider or think about even if he was interested in non-monogamy but he's not. So I feel like, yeah, I don't think there's anything you can try.

And the same way that if you wanted to have children, and he didn't, there really isn't anything you can try. Yeah, I guess you could get a dog but that's not the same thing. So I just think that if this is not something he's interested in, if it's making you unhappy, overall, that unhappiness is just going to grow and grow and grow. And even if you do have like a lovely relationship, now, there is a chance that you won't have that in the future.

So breaking up amicably can actually be better in a lot of instances than just sitting in allowing the resentment to grow and grow. And then *that* breaking up your relationship is not really great. And then that inclination within yourself to suppress your emotions, to suppress your needs and wants, to save something to keep it around — that might be something you actually do want to talk with a therapist about, rather than talking to therapists about how to cope with the fact that you're unhappy in a relationship, because I think most therapists would— I don't know, I'm not a therapist, so I don't know what most therapists might say.

So I'm just kind of totally guessing on that. But I — based off of what I've seen I just think that in general, trying to force yourself to be in a situation where you're not happy, isn't really going to work in the long term, even if you're happy now, and that's why it kind of sucks, right? Because you're like, your brain is kind of like “Yeah, well, we're happy now. So why — don't stop this happy feeling!” But like, it isn't going to be that way over time if this is something that you know, that you want, and you've already had a non-monogamous relationship so you know that you want that.

So yeah, I'm sorry, I wish I had better things to kind of give you in terms of trying it. Maybe if he was like unsure but slightly interested then that would be something there. And maybe if you had never tried non-monogamy then you know we can unpack your reasons for wanting it but you have tried non-monogamy. You want non-monogamy. He does not. And he is very sure about that. So you're not really much else to try there.

But I do think you should see a therapist and that's not a bad thing. Hopefully don't feel judged by that. I think almost everybody should see a therapist. I think the inclination to want to save a relationship because you enjoy being in it. You know, even though there's this kind of looming unhappiness, you're still getting some positive stuff out of it. I think that makes sense. But yeah, overall it just doesn't seem like you're actually compatible. I hope that helps. And good luck.

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