What happens when you're done with polyamory and want to seek therapy to convert you to a monogamous person?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Discussion Topic: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?
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I don't want to be like this anymore. I just want to be a monogamous person. My partner can't deal with it and I can't lose my entire family. Is there conversion therapy for people like me? I really really hate being like this.
So first thing that I have to say is, I'm sorry, I'm sorry that you are going through such a difficult period. It's hard, because your letter so short, to really understand what it is that's happening, but I can understand that you are going through a lot of things right now. And, yeah, I just… just plain basic empathy just… I'm really sorry that you're having to deal with this. And that you feel like everything is about to fall apart.
To answer your question in a really short answer… no. Conversion therapy doesn't work for the things that it's supposedly supposed to work for. So, as far as I know — and I don't know the history of conversion therapy so I could be wrong — but conversion therapy started as a way to supposedly make people be less gay. And that doesn't work. It never has worked. It's traumatising and there's a reason why it's banned and a lot of places because it is… You cannot force somebody to do something that is against their nature.
And I'm not going to argue about nature and nurture… because I think that it's so much more complicated than we give it credit for. But I do know that like on a basic level, the thing that I always compare sexuality to, and you could equally extend to how we choose your relationships, is taste. So I really really like salmon. It's my favourite food. I really really hate capers, I'm not gonna like capers more if someone shoves them down my throat. If someone forces me to eat nothing but capers, that's not gonna make me like capers any more.
In fact, it might make me hate capers more. It might make capers truly traumatising for me. So, unfortunately, there is no thing— if you really really want non monogamy, if you really really want polyamory— whatever it is that you're hoping to find… you really can't force yourself to want something else. Equally if your partner isn't wanting polyamory, you can't force them to want it. You just can’t. Unfortunately that's just not how things work.
What I would say to you is that, I did write something… I wrote something recently called “13 Mistakes That People Make When They Try Polyamory” and I do think— I was going to record the entire article as a podcast episode I still may do that one day on a break. But I would say that that might be something that you might look at, because I do think that— I don't know anything about your situation. I don't know if you've tried it. I don't know if your partner's tried it or if you've just suggested it and your partner's been like “Hell no”.
I don't think that there are always cases where, you know, even if somebody is like “EH!” when they first react to polyamory that it's necessarily a bad thing. And it's always worth continuing to have discussions about things. But I do think that you do need to do a little soul searching. It sounds like you're not the kind of person that can just go to being monogamous unfortunately. But I would try look up “13 Mistakes People Make When Trying Polyamory”. It basically goes through some of the things that— some of the mistakes that people make.
Because I do think sometimes if you try polyamory and you try it with some of these things in place, it can be just like shoving capers down your throat, it can be a really traumatizing experience and it can be something that puts you off polyamory and it can be something that makes you not want to touch it again. So it could be that whatever you're doing, might be things that are you know mistakes in a way, things that make things harder. A couple of the mistakes to give you kind of rough examples:
The first thing that I noticed a lot of people do is making rules to try and stop their emotions. When you, when you kind of decide on a non-monogamous relationship, you are deciding on an essentially different relationship structure. And I don't think that people always get that. I think that people just think it's like an upgrade to monogamy and they don't realise that it is a different way of doing things. And so a lot of times when people first start or decide to open a relationship, they'll make rules that try to reassure their partner like “I won't love anybody else but you”.
And that's a very common monogamous reassurance so people feel reassured by that. That kind of thing freaks me out, personally, but it is something that tends to reassure people so that's tends to be a promise that people make when they open their relationship. There are a lot of problems with that promise. I go into it my article and that is one thing that, you know, doesn't work and anytime you create a rule, you need to also imagine what your plan will be if that rule is broken. You need to think about what the rule is designed to prevent because so many people make rules that are just designed to stop emotions or prevent negative emotions from happening and you just can't avoid that.
The second thing is about anchors. So, like I say, and I've said in the podcast, my columns, I say it all the time, agreeing to non monogamy means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn't spend 100% of their time with you. And there are monogamous relationships that are like that. There are plenty of monogamous people who have situations with— that are like that. But the thing is is that if you are choosing polyamory then I think that you really need an anchor that is something you can hold on to when things are getting really hard.
And the anchor is usually what polyamory brings to your life. So what are the benefits — outside of keeping a relationship — that polyamory brings to your life? The thing is, if your partner doesn't have that anchor, if they are holding on to the monogamous relationship you had the no amount of reading is going to change— is going to make them see that it's different, and want that difference if they don't want that difference. In the same way, you can’t force yourself to want monogamy if that's not what you want.
That is another thing. I think that people also don't expect they'll be afraid, which is a huge thing and they— you can't reassure your partner out of anxiety if your partner has anxiety so that's another thing. There is an assumption that all polyamorous people are inherently compatible when there's all sorts of different ways of doing polyamory. So even if you want to do polyamory or, you know, even if your partner didn't want to do polyamory you may want to do polyamory in a fundamentally different way, which doesn't help so that that is also a thing.
The other thing is, assuming that unhappiness is a failure, which may be contributory to maybe some of your partner's feelings about things, if they assume that they would suddenly be happy about everything and polyamory and, you know— they have that expectation of non-monogamy when that expectation doesn't exist for monogamy. So that's something e to think about. Trying to form a triad. If the first thing that you tried to do was open your relationship only a smidge to include one other person that's a very common first time mistake and there's a lot of reasons why that doesn't work.
Another thing that people do is they give their partner permission, so they will put themselves in a position where before they do anything they have to get their partner's permission for it. And even though that sounds like a good idea because they're trying to check in and reassure their partner, there's a lot of reasons why that's a double edged sword. Doesn't always work very well.
Another thing people do is forcing themselves to mingle with metamours and get along with metamours, which you don't have to do. And it can create more problems and it helps. I think the other thing people do— another first time mistake is trying to like emotionally weather everything and they basically ask their partner to tell them everything about their other relationships because they kind of think that they can sort of…
It's almost like herd immunity. It's like… they think that they can become more strong by hearing all of these details that are excruciating like to somehow be able to conquer non-monogamy by knowing all the intimate details about their partners goings on and sometimes that doesn't help. You don't need to put yourself through the emotional ringer to be a polyamorous person.
The other thing people do is they make it into a competition. Usually one person and a couple, if they open, one person will always get more dates than the other. That's quite normal. And that creates a struggle, you know and it creates a lot of tension and sometimes it's hard to reconcile. The other thing that people do is, when it doesn't work thinking that closing it will fix that. Or vetoing another person, another partner will fix everything, when that isn't going to fix everything. Basically if you have to close a relationship, a polyamorous relationship in order to fix it, then there's some deeper problems going on there that need to be addressed.
And then, yeah, I think, ignoring inherent power imbalances… if you brought a “third” into your relationship and it didn't work out… there's sometimes people who bring “thirds” into the relationship ignore the power imbalance that the couple in the relationship has over the third person, and you just— it's not to say you can't ever have a triad, or anything or that you can't both be the same person. But it is— you have to acknowledge the power imbalance there.
And then the last kind of mistake people make is punishing themselves for feeling things. So I think, like I was saying before like it… A lot of the times when I'm giving advice to people it's mostly that they should let themselves feel their feelings. Because a lot of beginner polyamory resources overhype jealousy and make it seem like jealousy is a character flaw that they have to rid themselves off and not a legitimate emotion to have, in a lot of situations. So, that is a thing— like you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings.
There's also some other things I talk about when it comes to polyamory and starting like— starting from cheating is the thing that happens a lot. When they sort of feel like their partner is pushing polyamory because there's a window of opportunity like maybe they've always been interested in this person and then now this person has broken up with your boyfriend and they're like, “Oooh!”. That can be a thing that can put a lot of pressure on things.
Dating exes or coworkers is another thing that people often do. But the last thing that I always say and what I think that you should do: Find a polyamory friendly therapist and talk through this. Find a polyamory friendly couples therapist and talk through this, because I just think that… I just think that like, if you're so desperate and you just want all this to be over with I totally get that in terms of just wanting to change and be monogamous, but you really can't force yourself to be monogamous, you just can't.
Unfortunately it's just not how things work. It is understandable for you to fear losing your family and fear losing this relationship, but there is a such thing as a sunk cost fallacy, which is the idea that you, you know, the more you kind of dig this hole, you think “Well I have to keep digging because I’ve dug so far”, and you keep putting effort into a situation that isn't actually helping you because only for the reason that you've already put so much into it.
If you have kids, I can tell you from personal experience,
kids are better off with two separated parents who are happy than with two people who are together and miserable. Unfortunately, that is the case. Having separated parents isn't the end of the world. It is kind of difficult to deal with sometimes and it is a change but it's not the end of the world and you shouldn't stay together “for the kids”. Speaking as someone whose parents tried to do that, please don't do that, because you are setting the example as a parent for your child of what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.
They do catch on to certain behaviours even without them consciously thinking it. They will kind of see what you're doing and then go, “Hm, is that what I should be doing in a relationship?”. And you don't want to give them the wrong message about what they should be looking for in a romantic relationship so being separated is sometimes much better for that and also like you won’t— you never lose your family in terms of your relationship with your children, unless your partner is threatening to, you know take away your custody in which case you should talk to a lawyer.
But you won't lose that. You will always have that, and you shouldn't also stay with your partner just for the sake of keeping the family together. Your relationship with yourself is pretty damn important. Staying true to yourself is pretty damn important. You only have one frickin life and you can't spend it doing shit that you're just going to regret and feel miserable about later on. A better parent and a better person in general, is someone who isn't filled with regret and frustration and anger because of the choices that they've made. So I hope this helps and good luck.