Episode 81: Just FOMO

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Thinking about the things you might be missing out on doesn’t, in fact, make you a jerk.

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

Non-Monogamy Help

Non-Monogamy Help is a relationship advice podcast for people in non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships. With the help of a therapist with over a decade of experience, your host Lola Phoenix, answers the questions your questions about rules, hierarchies, unicorns and more.

Discussion Topic:

What is one thing that you haven’t done in your life that you wish you could do?

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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

I am a 27 year old cis het male and my wife is a 26 year old bi female. We are monogamous at the moment. For background, we met in university and got married when we were both pretty damn young (2018). We both come from very conservative religious backgrounds and I had very little relationship experience and zero sexual experience before getting married. We were also pushed to get married quickly by our families and beliefs. That’s not to say we didn’t love each other, we did and still do, but there were a lot of powerful outside forces that influenced that decision.

That being said, we have both since denounced the religion that we grew up in, starting about a year after getting married, and we have been deconstructing all of the things that we were taught. One thing that has been particularly difficult for me is the thought that I never got to have any of the formative sexual or relationship experiences people usually have, and will never get to. 

I think about all of the connections I could have made, ways I could have explored my sexuality, etc., and the thoughts led me to consider my options. I still love my wife very much and am not going to cheat on her, so that’s out of the question. If I just let this stew I feel like resentment is just going to build up. So I started researching non-monogamy.

I really resonate with the principles of healthy non-monogamous relationships I’ve learned from your show and other helpful sources and think that it might be something I want to bring up with my wife. However, I feel that once I bring it up there will be no going back, and the thought of her hating the idea overall and resenting me for wanting to “fuck a bunch of other people” for the rest of our marriage is sobering. 

I see lots of benefits for her as well though. We both get lonely and have been expressing the need to make new friends and connections, and because of our past religion she never got a chance to explore her bisexuality, and I think a NM relationship would be a great opportunity for her to do that.

So my question is, am I being an asshole for considering non-monogamy in order to both build new relationships that I feel I lacked and am lacking while still loving my wife and building a life with her? Am I just jealous of people who didn’t grow up in a super restrictive religion? Is this just FOMO and am I being selfish, or are these valid reasons for me to consider non-monogamy? 

I’m really struggling with this as I consider our communication good, but we have only talked about non-monogamy in the abstract and I’m afraid that if I bring it up and she resents it that it will ruin our relationship. So that’s why I’m trying to figure out if my feelings are valid or if I’m just a selfish ass lol.

Response:

No, you’re not being an asshole. You’re not being an asshole at all to be curious about the things that you didn’t get to experience and want to experience them. You’re not being an asshole at all. And to be honest you don’t even have to grow up in a restrictive religion to have this type of experience. I have this type of experience. 

For people who don’t know what FOMO is. It means “fear of missing out”. For me personally, it wasn’t a restrictive religion. It was dealing with the aftermath of being sexually abused. It caused me to be terrified of sex. It caused me to be terrified of my own body. It caused me to just be absolutely unprepared for anything for a very, very long time. I have FOMO about the fact that like my first kiss was when I was 18. And it was horrible and I could have had much better kisses if I had been less afraid. 

So you’re not at all an asshole for feeling this. I absolutely sometimes wish I could go back and be a little bit braver and not have all of that fear and all of those hang ups that I had dealing with sexual abuse. It’s not an asshole thing to feel at all and the difference is that I can’t really go back and re-experience my 15s or 16s or 17s, nor would I really want to at this point, but you absolutely can have new sexual experiences. This isn’t a fear of missing out of something that you can’t necessarily have. This is something that you can have. So it’s a very legitimate thing. 

And I don’t see it as a reason to be less of a need, especially if you feel like you might be resentful. If you feel like you might be resentful, I think that it’s a need. We have these types of needs for all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily like huge missing out experiences. For example, if you really liked living in the country and your partner really liked living the city and you push yourself to live in the city, you might have a lot of feelings about that and you might have resentment build up and then your relationship might end then partially because you’re unhappy, and partially because of that resentment. 

I feel like there’s a way that you can ask. You said you’ve talked about non-monogamy in the abstract and I don’t necessarily know what that exactly means, but I feel like there’s a way you can talk about this with your partner without necessarily being like, “So…” There’s also lots of different types of non-monogamy to explore and I think the thing that you need to kind of explore a little bit more with yourself is what about non-monogamy are you interested in? What is your ideal? Are you interested— Is this just about sexual experiences? 

Are you only curious about having sex with other people or are you actually interested in a relationship with somebody else? Because there are a lot of different things. There’s a lot of different ways to explore non-monogamy and just because two people are polyamorous doesn’t mean that they’re compatible. So it’s worth you thinking about what it is that you think you want. 

Because here’s the thing— if you are just interested in having other sexual experiences and so is she then you may not even necessarily have to be technically non-monogamous. You could hire a sex worker and you could have experiences and so could she without necessarily opening your relationship fully. There’s a lot of different ways that you could go about having more experiences that don’t necessarily have to be like, definitely full on polyamory. So what is it that you want? 

I get the feeling that because you’re worried about being judged about wanting to have other sexual experiences that you might want more than that. You might be the type of person that can’t necessarily just sleep with someone that you don’t have a close relationship with. And that’s also valid, but it might be worth, before having these conversations, you kind of having a better understanding of what it is exactly that you want, and what it is exactly that you’re interested in. 

I also think that there are ways to talk about things like this in less abstract terms. Like if you wanted to just see what she thought about it then one thing that I encourage people to do — or if they want to kind of introduce the subject, but don’t want to be like, “So let’s open it up”.

Because you are right, like this is— as I say “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch”. You can’t undo that once you’ve let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. So what you can do sometimes is you can talk about — there’s something… I can’t remember the word for it… It’s like a list or a free pass or a hall pass, something that a lot of married people talk about where it’s like if you met a celebrity, then you would have a free pass basically to sleep with that celebrity. 

That is an interesting way to get into the topic and get into the subject of it. That is still kind of abstract but it is something that I think that if you talked about this and your partner was like, “No, I never want you to ever sleep with…”, you know, then you would have a very good idea about what your partner thinks about some type of non-monogamy but I don’t think that you have to introduce this as “I want to open our relationship”. 

Maybe you need to problem solve together. It is possible that this could end your marriage. However, lots of things could end your marriage. There isn’t— and I respect the fact that you’ve been married for a long time. And obviously you don’t, you know, neither one of you are looking to end it. But I think that also when we kind of follow the scripts that society gives us about certain relationships and how to do them it tends to make us feel a lot more safe than we necessarily are. 

I’m not saying anything about you or your partner in terms of the type of people that you are, but I absolutely have read stories  — when I was researching getting my reduction, I went on to forums of people who had full mastectomies and just because I was curious about the process, and some of the stories that I read on that board of women who had been married to men for like 15 years. There was one story I’ve read of a woman who I think she’d been married for like 10 years, and her partner took her to the hospital to get a double mastectomy because she had breast cancer. 

And he just her dropped off at the hospital, went back to the house packed all his stuff and left. I’m not saying that that’s what you or your partner are like but what I’m saying is that we have this idea that marriage is somehow more stable and obviously when two people decide to make that decision and make that commitment, there is a hope that it will last and that there is more of a backing to it. But technically a lot of relationships can and do end and that doesn’t necessarily mean the either of the people in them failed. 

So I think that it’s important— Obviously this person means a lot to you. Obviously you mean a lot to each other. But it’s also important to realise that like you can still mean a lot to each other, with or without marriage being the thing that bonds you together. It may be that you aren’t compatible. A lot of people who marry very young, who marry because of religious pressure later on end up in relationships with people that they aren’t compatible with fully and they don’t figure that out until it’s too late because of these kind of archaic ideas about sex and marriage (in my opinion, very archaic). 

So that may be a possibility, but I feel like if that is a possibility, eventually that will come out in one way or another. You may not realise that right now. But you might explore— There are tons of different ways to explore sexuality and you might explore more through pornography for example. You might explore more through researching more subjects, and then the resentment or the wanting to do things and if your partner doesn’t feel the same, the same thing could happen with or without you being in kind of an extremely restrictive religious background. 

Plenty of people grow up very repressed with or without living in this type of background and don’t really realise what their sexual tastes are until much much later. So, this is a possibility. However, I do feel like if you introduce the subject, talk about the list as a joke— if you’ve already kind of talked about that stuff— like if that’s what you mean about talking about non monogamy in the abstract, then what I would do is I would go and say, “Look, I feel like we both got married quite young. You haven’t had the chance to explore your bisexuality. I haven’t really had the chance to have multiple sexual relationships, or multiple relationships and I kind of am interested in that and I kind of don’t know how I’m going to feel about never experiencing that. How do you feel?” 

And then maybe you can problem solve together and then the solution that you have. “Oh, hey, there’s this non monogamy thing”. It doesn’t have to be this like, you know, drop — not to say it’s a turd but, drop a turd on somebody’s door and be like — Ta da! It doesn’t have to be that it can be a, “Let’s problem solve together. This is a solution that I think might be an option”. Either way, whatever way you introduce it or talk about it, if she has no interest in ever sleeping with anybody else or ever having a romantic relationship with anybody else, you can’t really change that by introducing her to non-monogamy in some type of way.

But it’s worth thinking about— There is a spectrum of things that you can try. And, you know, if she’s kind of anxious about the relationship aspect of non-monogamy then you could try hiring a sex worker. It just depends on if you’re able to do that in your area. I don’t know where you are. But there are lots of different things you can try. 

So to sum up, no, you’re not being an asshole at all. Nothing about you is being an asshole. It is FOMO. And that is a valid thing. FOMO is a valid feeling. Don’t dismiss it. It’s not selfish. It’s a really, really reasonable thing to feel. There isn’t any reason to see that as less of a need. I think there’s a way you can introduce the subject of non-monogamy in a less direct way. If you’ve already done that, then kind of introduce it in a problem solving way. And then also like— you’re not alone in terms of this. Lots of people either marry young for religious reasons are sometimes you know, just happenstance and don’t end up finding out like what they’re really into until later.

And you’re definitely not the only one there if that helps at all. I think if you if you introduce it in a in a less direct way, maybe using the hall pass sort of thing, see her initial reactions. If you’ve already done that, then maybe just talk about your emotions, your feelings, being worried about being resentful, wanting to have these experiences and see if she feels the same. There’s no real way to avoid that. And I think that there may be a possibility where you’re not necessarily married, but you still care about each other. That’s still a possibility. 

So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck. 

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