This may be way out there, but I’m currently struggling thru the beginning of my partner and I’s attempt at non monogamy. We both wanted a hierarchical structure, but I quickly became overwhelmed with jealousy over everything. Because I have been feeling this way, he decided to call it off for now. I feel horrible. I feel like I took away something that he wanted, we both wanted, and we’re excited about. I dont know what to do, I don’t want our relationship to fall apart because of this. He’s super reassuring when it comes to the fact that he only wants it if I do, but I know now more of his sexual interests and I feel like I cannot give some of them to him. How can I deal with this awful, unnecessary jealousy so I can make this work for us?
It’s not realistic to expect yourself to not have any jealousy or experience any intense feelings when trying non-monogamy. Of course you’re overwhelmed and scared. Of course you are worried if you find out that your partner has some interests that you can’t fulfil. All of that is understandable. I also do understand why your partner decided to close the relationship in response — but perhaps you both are giving yourselves high expectations?
Jealousy is very necessary. It is a signal that is very important to listen to. It’s not some evil demon emotion you need to purge yourself from. It’s as important as any emotion you have. It’s communicating something to you. What’s important is learning how to listen to it and respond to it. There have been moments where I have been very jealous because my partner was giving someone else something that I wanted. That was important information. Your brain is scared and anxious and it makes complete sense.
There is a lot for your brain to change and rethink given how different the approach is. Have you and your partner discussed why you want non-monogamy and how you plan on it working within your relationship? Do you know what the difference will be between your monogamous set up and both of your ideal polyamorous or non-monogamous set ups? A lot of what can ground you during periods of fear is your anchor which I discuss in my polyamory 101 article, which might be helpful to you.
In terms of knowing more about his sexual interests, one thing to do in response to this is addressed in my 101 but also my 102 article — within a monogamous centric culture we’re encouraged to see it as our responsibility to meet every need of our partners and also that we have a responsibility to ensure that our partners don’t leave us by offering them as much as possible. While I absolutely do think you should put effort forth in a relationship for your partner, I do think people can take it too far in the middle of anxiety and fear and place everything on their own backs.
You cannot possibly be everything to everyone. Every single person you meet is going to have interests and things that you don’t share and things you can’t or don’t want to do. That is normal. The idea that a partner should be able to meet every single thing we want is not realistic. If you feel worried that your partner is not satisfied in your relationship, you can ask. But just because there are sexual interests your partner has that you can’t necessarily give, doesn’t mean your partner has no interest in you or must get these from you in order to be happy.
Release yourself from the responsibility to meet every need your partner has and to “keep” them. Ultimately, you cannot control whether or not someone stays in love with you. People fall out of love with people for all sorts of reasons. If you come from a difficult background and childhood, sometimes it’s easier to believe that we can convince people to treat us well if we just treat them amazingly. When you are younger, this gives you a sliver of hope and makes for a better childhood than just succumbing to disappointment, especially as a child who has no control over whether or not you can be around the people you’re around.
That can carry over to our adult relationships and we can put the responsibility of that completely on our shoulders, which compounds our anxiety. Because we can’t assume we can control whether or not someone leaves us without blaming ourselves for the people who have already left. So letting that go can sometimes help massively with anxiety. I go into this more in my 101 and 102 articles and I also will be having a book which will be for newcomers to non-monogamy who struggle with anxiety.
In the meantime, I hope the 101 and 102 articles are helpful for you and what I’ve explained so far. Good luck!
Do you have a question?
If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice message. Your question will be posted anonymously.
If you’re looking to start exploring polyamory or you’ve been non-monogamous for awhile and struggle with anxiety, The Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy may be for you. Even if you aren’t exactly struggling with anxiety, it could be a great book for beginners.