Episode 135 - Long Distance Avoidance

You’ve done all the studying but still can’t shake the negative feelings when your partner dates others and you think you may be monogamous by nature.

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

Episode 135 - Long Distance Avoidance

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Podcast transcript

I have a very loving and committed husband who is polyamorous by orientation. However, he didn’t come to this realization until last year, after 8 years of being together (4 married). For me, polyamory is more like icing on the cake — would be nice, but I don’t need it — whereas he feels he really needs it to be well. We opened up a few months ago and I have been really struggling, even though I was the one who brought up non monogamy two weeks into the relationship, and have read a bunch of books and listened to podcasts and even took a graduate course on non monogamy.

I don’t understand why it hurts me so much for him to pursue romantic relationships with others. I myself continue to harbor romantic feelings for past relationships and I dream of meeting someone new. But right now he is the one dating his crush while my dating has gone nowhere (and felt a bit icky since I was only doing it to cope with him). I wonder if I am just monogamous by orientation? (This is silly but one reason I think I might be: even though I LOVE all cats, I’ve only ever had or wanted one at a time because I like to focus my affection.)

Right now, I keep pulling away and closing him off whenever I start feeling bad about our open relationship. So he can’t be happy while I do that, but I feel that I can’t be happy while he’s seeing other people. It’s hard not to feel that this is a zero-sum situation.

Complicating all of this is that we are long distance, with no real prospects for being together and I really eventually want to be in the same place as my partner. I also feel like polyamory would be easier for me to handle if I got to be with my partner on a regular basis, though I can’t be sure. Right now, moving to be with my partner would entail giving up my dream job which I am very, very fortunate to have.

Further complicating this is that I was recently diagnosed with bipolar type 2, which is already very bad for my self esteem and makes it hard to want to keep dating.

When it comes down to it, I just don’t know if I really truly want to be polyamorous or not. My head says yes it all makes sense, but my heart keeps hurting without reason.

My partner doesn’t want to separate and I don’t either, but I don’t want one of us to be constantly unwell. So I’m just wondering… should we break up after all based on incompatibility? Should I give it a trial period (for how long?) and then either break up or ask to close up? Or should I give up my dream job and move to be with him and try polyamory when we’re together? I feel so pulled in different directions; any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

The audiobook of The Anxious Person's Guide to Non-Monogamy is available in the UK and is now available worldwide!


So you say that there's no reason for you to feel this way but there's actually huge reasons and the main reason that I feel like you have to be this way is that your long distance with no firm plans at all to get back together again, and that's a lot. That's a lot. A lot of people can't do long distance monogamously. A lot of people can't do long distance even in polyamorous situations. Long distance is a deal breaker for a lot of people.

And I don't know why it is that you haven't necessarily had a discussion about that. I know obviously, like you say you have a dream job and you don't want to uproot yourself from that dream job. But there's a big kind of elephant in the room that needs to be discussed, which is that you basically have like this nebulous, unknown future so of course, you're going to feel a little bit shit when it comes to the fact that he's dating other people. Of course. That is to be expected without anything else here like without like, “Okay, I've been diagnosed with bipolar”.

I'm not saying that doesn't affect it. But this whole situation where you’re long distance with no firm plans of being together has a huge impact on this situation. And it doesn't seem like you've discussed like how being open— I mean, maybe you have. If you've taken a graduate course in non-monogamy. Which like, wow, I didn't even know that existed. But, and please send me a link because so I can see who's teaching this.

I'm very, very curious to know, like, have you had a discussion about how polyamory would fit in your life if you did live together? Because I'm not so sure— I think it would be easier. Long distance definitely adds a wrench to the entire process.

Like I've said in my other — I think you could probably look up episodes about long distance and there is a category on my site NonMonogamyHelp.com for long distance because it's such a separate topic, but there's an aspect of long distance that’s just shitty because you can't like— and that you're going to have jealousy because someone else basically gets to spend time with your partner physically that you can spend. So of course you're gonna feel like shit.

There's an aspect of that that's even more difficult I think, then I mean, you know, relationship difficulty, as I've always said is dependent on the people in it, but like long distance definitely adds a serious, you know, not problem but like, it definitely adds a complication to the matter. So please give yourself a break for a second about that. The other thing that I kind of want to address here is that being monogamous isn't necessary like being— the difference between being polyamorous and being monogamous isn't necessarily that you feel hurt when you're partners with someone else.

That's not a benchmark that I think you should use to decide whether or not you're polyamorous or not because a lot of polyamorous people who are genuinely polyamorous still have a lot of feelings and emotions when their partner is with someone else. And sometimes could — in especially in a situation where they’re long distance — could experience a lot of pain in this situation.

That's not necessarily an indicator that you're not polyamorous. So I don't think you should use that as a yardstick. The cat example like it's... Far be it for me to tell you how you should identify and how you should see yourself and how you should interpret your own behaviours. Like I'm not going to tell you that you're inherently polyamorous or that you're not or whatever like that is up to you to decide ultimately, but I don't think necessarily like with all due respect, I don't think necessarily wanting only one cat also makes you monogamous.

I don't think that that's at play here. What I think and what I usually say to people, one can you be in a situation — in a monogamous situation where your partner doesn't spend 100% of their time with you? So that's kind of like the first step because there are lots of people who maybe don't even mind if their partner sleeps with somebody else, maybe don't have any kind of emotion or difficulty with that at all. But they still would like to have the vast majority of their partners time or they don't want to be with someone who has a time intensive career.

And that's absolutely fine. There's a lot of people who who want a lot of time with their partner. That's really important for them and that's fine. But I think if you're the kind of person that is absolutely fine with that, then the next kind of thing you have is like what your personal investment is in polyamory and it doesn't seem like you have that. It kind of seems like you did date. Like you said, it's like icing on the cake, but it's not something that you like seek out and it's hard to say if like if you were in person if this is something that you would be interested in.

Maybe you like to like have nights to yourself or things like that, like it's hard to say. But I think either way, the first thing that you kind of need to address here before you kind of decide whether or not polyamory is for you or you're incompatible is your future together. Because that's really, really important to you. Clearly you want to live together. You're kind of at a stalemate when it comes to your job.

And I don't know if you've talked to your job and done any kind of like, can you work from a different office or can you work from abroad? I don't know what you do. So I don't, you know — but explore those options because like, you're never gonna really — it's kind of like saying, “I don't know if living the city is for me”. Meanwhile, when you're living in the city, your car's broken down so you can't go anywhere or like you can't — like you're in the city but there's like a major construction going on in the bus stop next to you that you know.

It's difficult for you to assess fully whether or not this is for you when there's such a big aspect of the situation which is going unaddressed in which I think you maybe wouldn't have so much emotional turmoil over. Because quite obviously like you're having this threat that your partner may meet somebody else and decide like okay, they're done is a lot to process and that is what a lot of people come into contact with whenever they open their relationships.

So that is something you're coming into contact with. But you're also coming into contact with this, in the context of the fact that you and your partner don't have a stable future together. You don't have a shared vision of your future together. Because the other thing that I encourage people to do when they're feeling a lot of anxiety is to think about the physical realities of polyamory.

How much time will you spend together? How much time you spent apart? A lot of people who are couples and who have been married for a long time, don't actually schedule intentional time together because they think that time that they spend anywhere in the vicinity of each other living together, counts as time spent together. And it doesn't actually. And it's actually really important to schedule time as a couple.

And then I would encourage people to start spending separate time even if nobody has any dates to like, have separate, you know, activities so that you kind of get used to spending time apart. And there's a whole process for that here. You have like, you don't even have that process. You're already apart. So you're already like — even if you don't necessarily feel it. I think polyamory just kind of brings it to the surface because it's sort of like a double threat. It's like your partner isn't there with you.

You don't have any kind of set goals for the future together. And then on top of that, you have this understandable fear that you're going to be replaced and even though technically anybody can be replaced at any time. And monogamy doesn't guarantee that you won't be replaced. It's still a scary thing to have to confront. And it's something that people have to confront in polyamory in general anyway, so to have to confront that on the top of the fact that you kind of don't have a shared future agreed upon. It's a lot. It's a lot. It's really a lot. So like, give yourself a break.

Understand that this is like you know, this is a serious thing that you do want to discuss with each other and figure out solutions for because it like clearly, maybe you can do long distance for a while, but it's not something you actually want. And that's kind of like the big elephant in the room that you're not discussing right? Is that you want to be together, physically together. So how do you make that happen? And and what's the goal there? Like?

Let's just think about that first, before we decide to polyamory is really right or wrong for you. And in that same context, I could understand why your partner — maybe there's some aspect of your partner that — I'm not denying that they feel inherently polyamorous, but maybe there's also a part of your partner that's like, “I can't deal with long distance without having other options. Because otherwise I might not be able to—”. I don't know what the agreements were when you went long distance, if you started long distance or how this happened, but I think that needs to be addressed.

So yeah, I mean, you got married. So I assume that there's some type of shared goal there because people don't typically get married unless they have like, a concept of some type of future together even if they're polyamorous and they don't necessarily ascribe to the same like, relationship escalator stuff. So yeah, I think like that's the crux of your problem. In my opinion. I don't think you should make any big decisions about whether or not you're compatible or not compatible without having this discussion about, “Hey, we are separated, we're long distance, how are we going to get back together? Like how are we going to physically get back together?”

And then like, I think in the meantime, while you figure that out, what you could do especially since you're long distance is like — I'm not suggesting that you have a Don't Ask Don't Tell situation. But I am suggesting that like, look, if he's physically not around you, and you don't have to physically see him go on dates. Maybe you can have a period where you don't have to pull away but like is he telling you about dates?

Can you like — can you keep it in a separate calendar? If you're looking at a calendar, can he like, filter you out of photos, if he's posting photos like how do you know? Because like I said, I'm not saying I'm not saying have a Don't Ask Don't Tell situation. That's not what I'm saying. But you can make it a little bit more parallel. In that, you know, you don't have to be confronted with that reality. And you can kind of let him do his thing.

And as long as you know, because most of the time when it comes to like informing and disclosing with other partners that has to do with sexual health risk, and that has to do— like I've been in relationships where it's extremely parallel. I don't need to meet my metamours. I'm not that interested. If I meet them fine. If I don't, I don't. It's not a big deal. But I need to know when my sexual health risk situation has changed. And that's the only important thing for me. And so you know, if you're not dealing with that, because you aren’t physically around each other, then maybe, you know, maybe I guess it is kind of like a DADT. But like, you know what I mean?

Like he doesn't have to inform you about every situation every single time or what. I don't know how you know, he's going on dates like, does he tell you? Maybe just like don't tell you for a little bit or give you a weekly recap that you can like mentally prep yourself for what and put yourself in a good mindset. Maybe just before your therapy session, if you have therapy, something like that so that it's just a little bit easier for you to digest because there's no reason for you to like, put yourself emotionally through shit that you don't have to put yourself emotionally through.

You don't have to be an emotional gladiator. That's another thing I talk about is that you know if you —anything to make the situation a little bit easier for you especially since you're long distance like it's to me it's no different than if you were monogamous and you were long distance — let's say you both were really into roller derby, right? And let's say like you used to go to roller derby all the time. And you're monogamous but like your partner went to roller derbying with a friend and has found a new friend who also loves roller derby and is now like going out with that friend and doing roller derby all the time and you feel a way about it because that used to be your thing.

It's not that you have to be like “Don't go roller derbying with anybody”, but they don't have to tell you about it either. If you're feeling a type of way about it, you're already dealing with the stress of being in a long distance relationship. You can also just kind of be like “Hey, maybe for a while you can just like not tell me about these roller derby adventures”, as petty as that might seem or as small as it might seem.

Honestly, anything that can help you deal with the situation, especially while you're trying to figure out like where your lives are going to be and like how you're going to live together, if you're going to live together. I think that that's fine. Like personally, it's depends on your personal boundaries. Maybe you don't like it feels to be dishonest for you. But I would do that. I would be like “Okay, I want to live with you. If we're gonna have a future together. Our first compatibility issue is that we're long distance and that's not something that I want to be so how are we going to make this work? Are you going to come move where I am? Let me talk to my job. Let me figure stuff out.”

Work on that. In the meantime, you can be open but like ixnay on the etails day. Like don't tell me you know — and decide if you if being disclosed — like if you don't want extreme parallel stuff to the point where it's like almost Don't Ask Don't Tell then you can ask for a little bit of a break or say “Can you just like hold off telling me about any new dates until such and such time we'll have like a debrief”. Whatever, either have a debrief or have a situation where you just don't get details. If you don't need them why?

You don't need — do you have for it like — I have friends where I don't know what they get up to. I have plenty of friends where we talk all the time, but I don't know the ins and outs of their dating life. You don't need to know this information. So ask yourself if there's any way you can filter that temporarily while you figure things out in a way that like is workable for you with your ethics and also doesn't put you under so much pressure.

So yeah. To sum up, basically, I don't think your problem right now is polyamory. I think your problem is the fact that you have this undecided future and you need to work that out. And then I also think that just rethink like, whether or not you're inherently monogamous or not. I don't think it's always that simple or that easy. And I don't think being hurt by your partner going out with others means you're monogamous or the cat thing. Like I don't think that means anything.

I think that you should work on one thing at a time. Maybe when you're together in physical realities, you can decide that but like you don't have to decide that right now. And then last but not least, if there's any way you can filter the information that you're getting about his dates, or yeah, his dates, then please do that. And don't feel ashamed of doing that. There's a problem — like as long as you both agree. You know, a weekly debrief or just not knowing for a little while I don't think is the end of the world, especially if it helps you cope with some stuff for a little bit of time.

Like really. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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