What if you’ve tried non-monogamy because you cheated, and it’s not working out as well as you thought? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below.
My name is anonymous. I’m 30 years old and I have a new boyfriend since June.
I've always had long monogamous relations, where in some point I start cheating on my bf. My last relationship ended in January 2017 and last almost 5 years, and in that period I systematically cheat on my bf with my best friend for 2 years (no sex involved).
After a long time I realise that I don't think monogamy is the best for me or for a partner because in some point one of us its going to feel attracted by another person. So in this new relation we talk at the beginning about this thoughts and the two of us agreed that we will try an open relationship, keeping the feelings outside and having respect for the love that we have for each other. Later the conversation emerge again and I was scary because I thought that he has already someone. It wasn't the case and we discuss about limits and what I'm able to tolerate. And I was very clear about the point that I never had a non monogamy relation before so I can't tell how I'm going to react if he met someone.
Last Friday he just drop me the new that he met some girl and he would like to date her. That hurt a little. I get paralysed and I didn't know how to handle that situation. I was confuse and upset, I didn't understand why he feels the need of someone else so early in our relationship. He told me later that he felt our relation is strong enough, he loves me and that is enough. I say ok after cry a little bit.
Monday came and I woke up in his bed feeling miserable. I cry almost all day, I figure out later that I was feeling not value. I didn't know what to do. In one hand, rationally speaking, for me non monogamous is a great idea, but emotionally in this moment when I found this men who I'm in love with, discovering that is the very first time that I feel that I am with a person who loves me back and take care of me, in a right moment in my life, know that he is interested in another woman killed me.
I read some of your entrance and I was pretty confidence in my idea of talk with him and tell him that I'm not prepared for this in the moment, but he ask me for more reasons because he thought my reasons weren't enough. I explain that I really want to build something first before adding more people, that I didn't know him so well and keep on that line... I felt during all the conversation very secure and confident about my feelings and his feelings, I don't want to be suspicious and I really want to trust him...so I finally agreed. The problem is that I don't feel the need of someone else. I don't know how to keep this going.
I don't know what kind of boundaries should I ask, I don't want to this relationship become in a sort of lovers parade, I mean I don't want to he starts going around and fooling around with every girl he likes. I'm wrong? Can I ask that kind of things? It is possible that he is manage all this situation to his convenience? I'm really lost and I need guidance. I want to be sure that we are doing this for the right motives. He told me he has trouble socialising and he has trouble with staying more than 4 days with the same person, and that he is doing that because he feels comfortable and save with me and he projects this love for a long time. I don't know...really.
Right, so there is a lot of things going on here.
The first biggest thing that I would say is when starting any kind of open relationship situation, don't make rules against feelings. Now there are certain people who will have a very good understanding of how they operate mentally and they can very confidently say, “I will only love this person and I can have sex and fool around with these people and I will never fall in love with them”. Some people can say that quite confidently and be very right about it. I don't think that's a good thing to make a rule about because you really can't control something like that and also the boundaries between what makes friendship and what makes a relationship, especially if there is kind of a friends with benefits situation involved can be really really confusing.
Especially because they're so individual. Like what what my boundaries are for what I consider friend and what I consider a lover are very very different to someone else. Someone else may do things with people they consider friends that they would also do with lovers. For some people those boundaries are non-existent. They feel just as strongly and just as romantically and will be romantic with friends as they are with lovers. There's really no one right way to have those kinds of relationships. It's really individual so I would really caution anyone trying to start non-monogamy with— and this is a big thing that people starting off try to do because they're when they're trying to open up their relationship that within one relationship they want to try and preserve and maintain that in some way and they think that the best way to preserve and maintain that is to say “I will only love you and I will not love anybody else”.
But nobody can make that rule I mean even to be honest with you, even in monogamy this rule is bullshit. Even people who are in monogamous relationships were they been married 4 years and they are devoted and they’ve done the vows fall in love with other people all the time. You can not make a rule that you will not fall in love with somebody because that is something that is completely out of your control. I think that what people mean when they say “I won't fall in love with somebody else” is they’re talking about the level of commitment that they might have or they’re talking about you know… “I’ll always come home to you” or “I’ll be emotionally there for you”, “I’ll be emotionally supportive to you”.
I think that that's the message that's lost in translation. But you really need to identify that and not make that rule. I think that's the first missstep in this other aspect but also I think just beyond that… the biggest problem that you have here and this is something that I see often is the assumption that because you were not capable of being faithful in a monogamous relationship that non-monogamy is for you. Because non-monogamy isn't presented to us as a realistic solution. Non-monogamy isn't presented as a valid lifestyle choice and a lot of people going to monogamy because it's the only thing that they think they can do and some people… I mean I don't personally consider myself naturally non-monogamous. That's just not me. Some people are that way. They don't like the idea and don't really operate in a way that makes them feel like having only one romantic relationship works for them. And so when they're forced to be monogamous they end up being unfaithful.
However I don't think that every single person who is unfaithful is necessarily inherently non-monogamous. I think that what being unfaithful is and what it means is really down to the individual and why they're making those decisions and it's something that you really need to explore with a therapist because… you know there are some people that are unfaithful because they love the thrill. They love the thrill of it being secret and non-monogamy will never work for those people because non-monogamy is all about honesty. I just said this on Twitter the other day. I don't say “ethical non-monogamy” because non-monogamy should be inherently ethical. If it's not ethical, it cheating. If you're lying, then it's cheating. Non-monogamy is ethical. It's not lying. It's not hiding. It's not keeping things a secret.
So for those people who cheat because they enjoy the thrill of the secret, non-monogamy will never work for them because it doesn't give them what they seek. So I think you need to figure out why it is that you find it so difficult to be faithful because non-monogamy does require you to be faithful the people. Non-monogamy requires that you be committed to more than one person. If you find it difficult to commit to one person, the solution is not committing to more people. If you want sexual freedom, if you're interested in having sex which— I don't think that's true because you said you systemically cheated on your boyfriend and your last relationship with your best friend for 2 years and there was no sex involved. You need to figure out what it is you're looking for because I don't know if non-monogamy is for you. And I think you came to that conclusion.
Which brings me to the next point: no is a complete sentence. I'm really really bothered by this person telling you that you don't have “good enough” reasons to not want to be in a relationship with them. “I don't want to be in a relationship with you” is a good enough reason to not be in a relationship with someone. You should not have to give him a treatise or a dissertation on why is you don’t want to try non-monogamy. If you don't want to try it that is valid. This is the problem with a lot of polyamory advice, with a lot of the way polyamory is talked about… this type of “oh it's very free and open and it's so much better than monogamy and you just let go of all”. It seems like… especially the way you describe it when you say “keeping the feelings outside” and “having respect for the love that we have each other”. You just met! I mean I don't know if this is… maybe this is someone you've known for a long time but you're just starting out in a relationship. To say you have a great love for each other… I mean you're going to have lots of feelings when you're starting on a new relationship. You’re going to have what's with people in non-monogamy generally cALL “new relationship energy”.
This kind of… you know it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s sparkly and that sometimes is a reason a lot of people cheat— side note: because they love new relationship energy and they just want it all the time and and they don't like it when things get stale but things do eventually get stale because that's life. Anyway the point is that, you know, it feels like you might have been influenced and he as well might be influenced by this kind of new age-y “oh my god polyamory is like the most equitable thing you could ever do” type of talk and that's not true. It's just not true. Non-monogamy and monogamy are both perfectly valid ethical decisions. What makes them in unethical is not the relationship style itself, it's the way people choose to practice it so… you have a good enough reason to— if you don't want to do non monogamy you don't have to. And don't let anyone tell you that you don't have a good enough reason. That's just… when I read that I was just like… what? I don't have a good enough reason to break up with you? like… no. Wanting to do it is a good enough reason and somebody who respects your boundaries will be like— not to say that they’ll be like, “Oh you want to break up with me? Great! I'm so happy about that. That's the best thing I've ever heard. Good for you and your boundaries!”. I don't expect that but I also don't think it's ok for someone to be like “Oh you want to break up? What are your reasons? Hmm. Those reasons that good enough. We’re still in a relationship”.
That's not how it works either so yeah… I think you need to figure it out. I can't really tell you if non-monogamy is suitable for you. Some of these things that you experience… feeling anxiousness at him dating other people, wanting to think about boundaries of “when’s gonna spend this night with who and how”. I mean, people in non monogamous relationships have those anxieties. I have the anxieties. I have really big fear and anxiousness about new people. I get scared. Everyone gets scared and that's something that you might be struggling to find in some of the non monogamy and polyandry advice. Because sometimes it seems like people don't want to talk about the problems they have or they only want to talk about them when they're solved. And they don't really want to admit that these are ongoing problems.
Feeling scared and jealous is a human condition it's not something that will ever be solved by choosing a relationship style. It's just something you're going to feel regardless of what relationship style you choose, so the very very normal that you feel these feelings. I don't know if it's a sign that non-monogamy— whether or not it's for you. I feel like there are deeper issues that you need to address and that is why is it that in all you're monogamous relationships you've cheated? What are you seeking out with that cheating? And once you realise that and understand that then you can begin to see if non-monogamy will work for you or not. You can still go through all of this and still have these super heavy feelings about someone that you have a lot of feelings about dating someone else.
You've lived in a culture… most cultures— or not all cultures because I don't know all cultures and I just can't make that kind of assertion but I can't I know that the culture I've lived in at least very much encourages monogamy as the choice. And monogamy— not just monogamy— but a very unhealthy form of monogamy. The idea that someone being jealous means that they love you. Someone being enraged by you being with someone else is a sign that they care about you. That is one of the worst ideas and one of the things I deeply deeply hate. Not that I necessarily fond of the reverse which is compression which I fucking hate which is just… “Oh I’m totally happy that you're with someone else.” Like if your happy, that’s legit. Whatevs. But some people are just fucking neutral or just like “Eh, I am a little bit sad because you're gone but you know I guess have fun”.
There’s not enough neutrality in this weird, insane— I shouldn’t say insane— but this intense super jealous or really intense super happy… Like sometimes you just in the fucking middle. But you've been encouraged to think that if your partner is with someone else, this is a threat to you. You've been encouraged to think that monogamy is security and stability when it's just as dangerous and unknown as any other form of relationship. So you have all this stuff most likely floating in your head which is going to cause of these feelings but I think that in order to suss out whether non-monogamy is a good choice for you like I said you need to figure out what's behind the cheating.
If cheating is for you about the thrill I don't think non-monogamy will work for. If cheating is about feeling unvalued — because you mention some other bits about not feeling— that you feel really valued by him and you feel all these feelings. Is it that the reason you cheated on your past relationships is that you haven't felt valued and maybe what you actually need is you’re cool with monogamy but you need to be in better relationships. I think there are no right reasons and that's another thing thatI I’m kind of really “Ehh” about him saying. And also you say “I want to be sure you're doing this for the right reasons”. I mean… there aren't really any right reasons to do polyamory or to do non-monogamy or whatever word you choose. The only important thing is that you care about the other person, you care about who you’re with and you’re honest.
I think what worries me a little bit as well is that you know you said, “he told me he has trouble socialising and has trouble staying more than 4 days with the same person”. He's doing that with you because he feels comfortable and safe with you. I mean maybe he needs to figure out why that is. Why does he feel uncomfortable staying more than 4 days. Is it you know maybe he just doesn't like being around someone for that long? And that's that's fine. That's legit. But you know there’s— just because that's how he is doesn't mean that's how you are. And maybe he has, maybe he just likes to date multiple people, he likes to have different sexual experiences. He doesn’t enjoy staying in one place for too long and that’s the right reason for him and that may not be the right reason for you.
So you don't need to have one right reason to do non-monogamy. All that matters is that you're willing to be honest with people and the thing that worries me about him is him demanding that you have “good enough reasons” because that's just silly. You not wanting it is it is a good enough reason. And I really question why he would… I get that he wants to be with you because if you feel safe and comfortable with you and he hasn't felt that with other people… that's nice but that doesn't mean that you need to write him a 12 page dissertation on why you want to end your relationship with succinct and proven arguments with cited sources. You not wanting to be in this relationship is enough reason to not be in it.
To sum up, don't make rules against feelings. If you try this again, try not to say “I’ll only love you” or “I’ll only have feelings for you”. You can't control that not even in monogamy me as much as… when people get married its “until death do us part”… I don’t know about the wedding vows… something about forsaking all others. You can't promise anyone. Very few people in this world are capable and know themselves well enough to say “I know that…” And even then I would argue that they probably can tell when they're starting to develop feelings and know strategies to stop that or intercede on that. I don't even think you can control… no one can control those feelings so don't make the rules about that.
Just because you have cheated in the past doesn’t mean non-monogamy is the solution. I really think that you need to examine and speak to a therapist about why you’ve cheated and figure out what the reason is behind that. Hopefully you have a therapist who is friendly to non-monogamy. Definitely make sure because you don't want a the just thinking… giving you also further bad idea because some of them do unfortunately.
No is a complete sentence. “I don't want to be in this relationship” is a good enough reason to not being one. And if that's how you felt I think you need to go with that because honestly like you said you don't feel comfortable and you don’t. You're unhappy. And you need to have a bit of time to think about this. Maybe you need some time alone to appreciate yourself and to appreciate… time alone— I really think that every single person should spend some time alone and not in a relationship. The relationship that you have with yourself is incredibly important and that cannot be overstated.
So spend some time with yourself. Figure out the reason behind is cheating. Figure out what you want. Why do you want a romantic relationship? So many people just decide that they should be in a romantic relationship because it's what society tells them they should do. Why do you want a romantic relationship? What do you want your future to look like? And it's ok if you don't know. You might be like, “I don't know” and that's fine but like have a think about it at least. Consider it. Ponder it. Meditate on it.
And then lastly remember there isn't a right reason to be polyamorous. I think the only thing that needs to be right is the ethics of how you practice it and keeping in mind that it involves commitment. It involves honesty. It involves a lot of scary feelings and that's ok. Because you don't have a model for it. You don't have— you know we have all the models for monogamy. There’s a really great, brilliant article and if you, if haven't read it it's called “the relationship escalator” and it talks about how… basically to sum up— With monogamy, we live in a society where were given— this is the steps. You meet, you go out on dates , you become partners and eventually you have more dates, you live together, and you propose and then you get married and have kids. We have this sort of script for how things were supposed to go and that script gives us confidence and reassurance that are relationship is stable and won't go anywhere. When really there is no stability. We don't know.
Even if you get married— as much as it sounds terrible and I'm not trying to be a cynic— you know you get married and you do all that… there's no guarantees in life. You never know what's going to happen and you never know how your feelings are going to sway. You could fall in love with someone else. You could you could leave non-monogamy behind. You could find your perfect human being that you want to be with and you can get married can be with him for 40 years and then… you could fall in love with someone else and decide I don’t want to be with her anymore. It's really fucking scary for people to think about and we don't want to think about it. That’s why we try not to think about it but it can happen. So don't assume that there is stability inherent in any relationship style because there isn’t.
You will come across a lot more terrifying and anxious things when you're trying non-monogamy because you don't have that that sort of framework that backs it up and tells you this is how things should go. I really hope that helps. I hope that it didn't cause any problems— that my english was ok in terms of it not being too complicated. But yeah. I hope this helps and good luck.