Episode 34: Afraid of Loss

Your partner is interested in polyamory (and so are you) but they are afraid of losing you. How do you move forward from that?

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

Discussion Topic: Over the last five years, how do you think you have changed?

Listen below. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers.


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


Me and my wife have now been married for 3 years. It's a very loving and happy relationship. About a year and a half in, my wife brought up the topic of polyamory and at first I was kind of taken aback just because I've always felt polyamorous but didn’t think it was normal because of societal norms. I didn’t want to feel like the typical guy just trying to be a player.

I did some research and come to find out many people are actually doing this. So we get to talking about it and it's not something she wanted to try right away. Two years into the relationship and I bring it up again if she wants to give this a try. She wanted at first for us to be a triad then later decided we should look for our own partners which I was ok with. About 3 months down the line she no longer wants to continue doing this for fear of losing me. And myself being her husband did not want her to feel uncomfortable in our relationship decide we would stop and go back to being monogamous.

Three years in and in the back of my head this is still something I want to do and want to be part of my life. I don’t know how to bring this up to her and without her feeling less than of herself or even that she has to choose this or leave because I love her very dearly and don’t want to lose her but at the same time I want to express myself and be who I am.


So the biggest thing here is the fear of loss.

I think that a lot of people have this fear that… for an understandable reason, opening their relationship is going to make them lose their partner. From a certain logical perspective, this makes a lot of sense. Because you would think that if you allow your partner to sleep with other people or have relationships with other people, then they might sort of get wooed away from you.

And to a certain extent that could happen. It totally could happen. Like, her fear of this— even if you feel like quite honestly like it's never gonna happen in your mind, her fear of this is very, very valid and makes a lot of sense, especially with all the narratives that she's grown up around. You know, you say that you were afraid of being polyamorous or you felt that way but didn't want to go that way because you didn't think it was normal, and you thought that it was just about being a player.

And that whole societal narrative kind of gives you this idea that exclusivity means love. That in order to express love with someone, or for someone, you have to be exclusive with them. And it also kind of encourages the idea that being jealous of who your partner is attracted to when you're with them, or showing that kind of thing is a sign of love as well. There's a lot built up around that.

And I think the society we’re also surrounded with, encourages us to see the result of a relationship as a win, competitively. So you know, you can't sell things to happy people who are happy with themselves and happy with what's going on in their lives jenerally speaking. You can create a kind of demand by you know, making people feel scared. And I think that we grow up in a society that tells us— unless you grew up in a very different society, and apologies for assuming— but the society I grew up in at least tells me that if I want to find a partner, then I have to be the best at everything.

I have to be, you know, amazing. I have to look this way. I have to do this thing. You know, it gives you a lot of messages about what you should be, so that you can find a partner. But the truth is that we don't pick partners because they're the best at everything, because nobody is the best at everything. And in fact, there are billions and billions of people on this planet, and guaranteed there will be somebody who's better than you at any given skill that you have. So if your partner's fear is that you're going to find someone who's better than her at something, you probably will. But that's not why you're with her.

You're not with her because she's the best at every single thing that she does or that you do together. So sometimes what I encourage people who have this fear to think about is that you know, to reframe their perspective that they have to be the best of everything.

The other thing that I would also encourage your wife to think about is that monogamy isn't going to prevent that from happening. It's totally understandable that she would fear losing you because everyone fears losing people that they love in their life. But there isn't anything she's going to be able to ultimately do to prevent that from happening. You know, if you are going to dump her for some random person, then that can still happen even if you're monogamous.

It happens to monogamous people all the time. Monogamous people in closed relationships, meet somebody else decide that they don't want to be with the partner that they're monogamous with and dump them. That happens. So monogamy isn't going to prevent that from happening. And it's understandable that she's afraid, you know. You're always going to be afraid when you try new things. But there isn't ultimately anything that she is going to be able to do to prevent that.

And even though it sounds quite horrible, you know, especially from your perspective.You're trying to reassure her and trying to say you know, “I’m never gonna leave you. I love you”. You know all that kind of thing. The truth is that, you know, there isn't anything either of you can do even being monogamous to prevent each other from leaving, if that's what you really want to do.And trying to prevent that puts a burden on your shoulder to save and keep your partner by your actions when you can't actually prevent that with your actions.

So I think if this is something that matters to you—I mean, you've only been… you said you've been married for three years. I don't know if you've been together for longer than three years.

You could have just been married for three years, but then you were together for maybe five years before then. I don't know how old you are. I don't know if you have kids together. Those are all things to consider when it comes to this. But if this is something that you really feel is part of who you are, and it's something that you really want to explore, you know…

Obviously, you don't necessarily want to twist your arm into it, but at the same time, you know, if you were all of a sudden massively interested in golfing, and you desperately wanted to you know, go on a golf tour… And if you didn't you feel miserable. You know, there's all sorts of things in life that could come up that could be incompatibilities between you, that just won't be able to be negotiable.

So I mean, even having kids, you know, if one of you does want to have kids, the other one doesn't. I mean, there's only so much you can negotiate around that. So if this is something that's really, really important to you, and it is something that she showed an interest in, she's just afraid of. I think that you can bring up a subject in order to kind of say, “I realized that you know, you didn't want to try it, and you weren't comfortable with it because of these fears. Can we talk about these fears?”

So you're not really saying like, “I definitely want you to try it. I definitely have— you have to do this or I'll leave”. It's about talking about her fears. And it might help to even ask her to listen to this if that's helpful for you, because… all of these fears she's experienced. are totally normal. They're exactly what people often experience when they open their relationship up and when they try polyamory for the first time. And I think if people could think back on, on what they thought when they actually entered in their first monogamous relationship, they would find that they were probably just as afraid.

But the difference is that with monogamy, you have these cultural scripts. You have everything in society telling you like, “this is how you do this relationship. You know, first you go out some dates, and then you, you know, become an item because you become exclusive”. It has all these milestones. There's a thing called the relationship escalator that's worth looking up. It has all these milestones that allow you to feel comfort, and security. And you don't really have that with polyamory, because it's not, you know, it's not considered normal in society, or people don't really talk about it.

So you don't really have these norms. And sometimes you kind of have to create those norms. So you're going to be terrified and you're going to be scared, you're gonna be worried about losing, you know, one another. You may not be as worried as she was, but you're both going to be scared. You're both going to be anxious. That's very, very normal. And maybe if she kind of thinks about these fears— it's less about trying to get her to agree to be polyamorous and more about thinking, you know, how can we address these fears? Because when you mentioned— you mentioned that she wanted to try to be a triad and then later decide to look for your own partners, which is good. I think that out of fear, a lot of couples initially think that a triad is safer. And so they go for that, but actually, you know, finding one person to love you, in general is hard enough.

Like expecting a third person to come in and love you both in a way that isn't threatening is impossible. Like it's just a very tricky situation. And people always think that it's somehow an ideal situation because they think it's the situation which is less likely to end in jealousy. But let me tell you, I had somebody I knew who was in a triad relationship, and she was dumped by both of her  partners on the same day and ever since then, I've never really felt that triads were very safe. For me, I'd never had that illusion.

It's seems like a nice thing. Like, obviously, it's nice if everybody likes each other. And, yeah, it's nice if you both have— if you all have the same amount of love for each other, but I think people don't choose that, because they're trying to create a certain lifestyle, I think mostly they choose it out of fear. And so I do think that your wife has been making some decisions out of fear. And she's the one who brought up the topic.

So I don't think— you know, as long as you approach the situation, and you say, “I’d like to discuss with you the fears that you had”, and you know, what you might be able to find in your area, or maybe even via Skype, a polyamory friendly therapist who can sit down and have these discussions. And then you know, because there's all sorts of other things to think about. You may both want to try polyamory, but maybe you both have a very, very different idea of how you want to structure your life and relationships. You know, lots of people are you know, have a basic interest in being polyamorous, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they have the same type of goals in terms of what kinds of relationships that they want. So, you know, that's not even necessarily half the battle.

It's important for you to think about things like that. But I think just starting off, you know, just approach the subject in a way that's like, you know, “I know that you express the fears. I'm not trying to say we have to do this. But I'd like to talk about those fears, and introduce these ideas”. I've written a few columns about the fear of being replaced, which you can find, if you'd like, and just see what she thinks, you know, it doesn't have to be an either or situation.

Later on down the line. If you really feel like this is really, really part of you. And you can't, you know, you can't say no to it, and you can't pretend all your life that you're fine not doing it, and you desperately desperately want to do it, then you're going to have to really think about the situation unfortunately, But that happens. And it's not necessarily polyamory’s fault. Sometimes people just have different priorities and different things that they want to try. And I think you know, you only live once. And if this is something that you really, really want to try, then you should go for it.

I think, in the meantime, you know, I don't think you should go full tilt right now. But you can have some discussions about her fears, and see if that changes her mind. And you know, find a polyamory friendly therapist, if you have the opportunity. Maybe that person can also like talk about— find a good way to bring up this subject. And, and you can talk about it, and you can work out what you want out of polyamory and what she wants, and maybe she'll be less afraid. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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