What happens when you struggle to find partners but your domestic partner does not?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Discussion Topic: What often impairs your decision making process? Lack of confidence, impatience desire to please, overexcitement…
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My partner and I have always been non-monogamous and we’ve taken on the...role (is that the right word?!), of each other’s primary partners. Ever since the start of our relationship, my partner has found it easier to connect with people and has always had multiple partners at any one time. He’s a dominant, hetero, cis male who’s very physical. I, on the other hand, am a submissive, pan, cis female who requires a much deeper, emotional connection with people before anything sexual.
So while I’ve tried, I’ve struggled to find anyone else that I’ve wanted to go on more than a first date with. Now whether that’s because I’ve just had bad luck or because I’m content with my current partner, I don’t know! But I really wish I did.
I should mention that, like you, I have anxiety, amongst other mental health problems, which have all been rearing their ugly heads as of late. As such, I’m beginning to feel very insecure over the number of connections he has, and how easy it seems to be for him, versus the lack of connections I have. I understand it’s not a competition however it’s becoming clearer to me that I’m someone who needs a lot of emotion and support, which he’s currently having to stretch over other partners, plus work, family, friends etc. I have support from friends and family as well, although am wary that I may have been using him as a crutch, however irrespective, I feel my interest in wanting any other relationships may be dwindling.
We spoke and my partner asked if my overall view on non-monogamy had changed, or if this was just because I was feeling lower than usual at the moment, and therefore more insecure - and I couldn’t answer him. It’s like I started having an internal argument with myself, my anxiety making it impossible to work out what was real. I started contemplating different boundaries and rules that would maybe make me feel better, but that’s just unhealthy control. I then started to guilt myself for not being able to be as understanding as him, as he never worries when I have been on the odd date - but maybe that’s because he’s got so used to it never amounting to anything more? He’s never really experienced me not having the capacity for him.
I fear there will always be an imbalance between our respective partners, and while I‘m learning to control my anxiety, I know it’s not going to leave overnight. How I wish I could just wake up and magically feel secure! So, I guess I’m just at a complete loss as to where the heck do I go from here...
So first and foremost, this is actually going to be pretty short. Because You're overthinking it. To put it lightly.
You're really overthinking, the situation. I wouldn't consider myself to have any interest in dating. I don't actively date. I don't try to find other partners, because dating sucks. I don't like it. I don't enjoy the company of the vast majority of people. I don't really like people. The entire reason that I personally have chosen to do non-monogamy isn't because I like so many people that it's hard to choose or whatever. It's because I like so few people that if I do find someone that I like I want the chance to pursue something with them.
I'm kind of at the opposite end of that spectrum, and it's partly anxiety. My anxiety absolutely contributes to it, but I also just am not that interested in it. And I've experienced something very similar. Like I have had to accept that no matter what kind of relationship I have, if I have a domestic relationship with someone, they're always going to be dating more people than me. Like, generally speaking, unless I find someone who is exactly like me, they're going to be dating more people than me. And I've— it's taken a while, but I've pretty much, you know, just given up on the idea that I need to be out there pursuing dates all the time.
And for a long time I felt like I had to do that in order to be polyamorous or be non-monogamous. I had to have multiple partners, and that pushed me into doing a lot of things I didn't really want to do. To go into a lot of places that didn't want to go, and to just being in situations I had no interest in being. And it also pushed me to feeling quite jealous that you know because I assume that other people— my partner having more connections may somehow must be that they're better than me in some way and, you know.
It's hard to work through those feelings but— You could spend the rest of your life never, you know, finding another partner, other than the person that you’re with. It doesn't make you any less or more polyamorous than anyone else. Like you're going to feel a lot of pressure and you probably are putting a lot of this pressure on yourself, especially because like I totally understand feeling like my partner's kind of the only person I have to really go to. And they also have these other people and I feel guilty about that. But, you know, it is what it is, and at any given situation somebody might be in the exact same situation with like a best friend or somebody else.
And as long as you're like having a dialogue together about it and as long as he's able to tell you, like, “Look, I'm not able to provide you with this support right now”. And, you know, you said you had friends. You said you had other people, so you're not completely and utterly alone. I think that it's just about keeping that in mind and having that dialogue and it doesn't have to be this big thing that's weighing over your head, you know, it's kind of like— Think of it if you were in a monogamous relationship, and you both—
You were with somebody and you both owned a house and you had a mortgage and all this other sorts of stuff and then your partner lost a job, and then you had to be the primary breadwinner for a while. Like, you're going to acknowledge that that situation isn't obviously ideal, or that you know your partner may be relying on you economically more than is maybe something that you want, but it doesn't have to be a relationship ending thing and I think as long as you are kind of conscious of it. And as long as you are willing to give your partner space if he needs it, you know and understand that he might be a bit over capacity, then I don't see what the big issue is.
It seems like you're able to have discussions. It seems like you're able to talk to one another, you know and mostly it's just you beating yourself up. Mostly it's you— because you're having this kind of internal argument with yourself and you're trying to be like, “Oh, should I you know create these boundaries and rules and make—“ and then realize like that's not going to fix the situation, but then you're still beating yourself up and guilting yourself. And you know, “he's has no problem with everything and I need all the support you know”. It is what it is.
Different people have different constitution sort of things, and, you know, human beings are an interdependent species. Contrary to what — and I’m assuming you grew up in a similar culture to me and if I'm wrong, then I apologize — the culture we live in— we live in a culture that encourages individualism to the point that so often, especially if you are a woman, especially if you're told by society that or, you know, you get the message from society that you shouldn’t— you can be too needy. You can have too many needs. And we sort of think that we need to be these individual islands where we don't rely on anybody and we never need to ask anybody for help. That message gets really grained into us.
But we we’re an independent or, sorry, interdependent species. There is a reason why solitary confinement is a form of torture. Because we need one another. We need to talk to people. We need to be in communities. We need to be, you know, cared by others. That’s— it's a human need, and that's okay. And he may not need that much support from you right now, but that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you or wrong with him or wrong with the situation.
I have kind of just accepted at this point in my life like… if I find another partner… I mean I've had dates and things but like, you know, I've got one domestic partner and I've had some chances that things but nothings really stuck. And, you know, I do want to like— I want to have another live-in partner. That's like my ideal situation, but it may not happen. I may not find another person. I've had situations that I thought were going to turn into partnerships that didn’t. But it'll happen when it happens. But I'm not going to like think that I'm less suitable or less capable or there's something wrong with me or, you know.
I'm sure you've been in a situation where someone has been attracted to you who was a lovely person who, you know, there's nothing wrong with them you just don't feel anything for them. And that's okay. Just because you don't get so many connections doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with you. And it might be a— you know my domestic partner right now connects with all sorts of people; finds it really, really easy to connect with people, and it could be because maybe I've had more trauma. You know all of these horrible things that have happened to me and I don't trust people— and I'm working on all that.
Like I'm trying to work on, you know, not being so nervous and scared of new people and not seeing them as a threat and partially kind of like, I think why I don't connect with people as easy as my partner does, is because of some of that, but I am where I am. I'm in the situation that I'm in. And, you know, it's not even necessarily about security. It's just about, you know, just. You can't fix everything overnight. And it might be partially because of kind of the stuff you've been through or even your situation, you know, being in a less marginalised position in multiple ways may make it a lot easier to find connections with people.
I feel like with my domestic partner— I feel like when we started our relationship, there were probably, you know I feel like I've kind of corrupted them in a way. You know I think they're less able to deal with some of the shit that they would have dealt with now— they're less able to deal with it now, so maybe they would, you know… You make connections with people and sometimes like they say horrible shit like… that's my experience you know. I’m interested in dating someone. They say something terrible. I’m just like “Ugh”. You know that sometimes can happen a lot to me. Some people can write that off. Some people are fine with that I feel like— like I said my partner is probably less fine with that now.
You know, I've kind of brought them over to the grumpy side of it. But, you know, you are kind of just overthinking it and beating yourself up a little bit when you don't need five partners to be polyamorous. You don't need 10. You don't need two. You by saying “I’m polyamorous and that’s”— or “I’m non-monogamous, and that's how we want to live my life”. That's enough. There is no test. There is no license. You don't have to prove anything to anybody and if anyone wants to come along and say “Well you don’t have another—“ they need to mind their frickin business. Mind their business. Are they the polyamory police? Mind their frickin business.
So, you know, try and if you have access to polyamory friendly therapy please try to find it. You can absolutely find it out there even, you know if there's no one around in your immediate area— look at Skype therapy. Look at phone therapy. Just try and be a little less harsh on yourself and you know for all the virtues of your partner. Yeah, he’s— like you said like he's being real understanding now but maybe he hasn't had a lot of situations that have threatened his jealousy. So maybe that has a lot to do with it, but just, you know, trust that your partner is going to be able to tell you when they're not feeling up to things.
You have to be able to extend that trust to him as well, and trust you have good enough communication that even if bumps do occur in the road, it's not going to throw everything off course and you'll be able to cope with it. Because you never know when something happens and you never know when, you know, life has a— can be unpredictable and something could happen, and all of a sudden someone needs your support, someone needs your help, and you have no idea like what's going to happen in the future.
So try not to overthink it too much. Give yourself a little bit of it, and screw anyone who has something to say about how about partners you have or how often you date. You don’t— you could give up dating right now, and you’d still be just as polyamorous as you were if you didn’t— if you continue trying to find a partner. You know, my position is this let it happen. And maybe, adopting that position will like— it'll take some of the pressure off of your shoulders to find somebody else so that you can have someone else to rely on or whatever like just… it'll happen when it happens, and just let it happen.
Okay, I hope that helps and good luck.