Recognising your own needs

I just started listening to your podcast and it has helped with a lot of questions, but I have one of my own. My partner and I have been together for 5 years and they recently told me they are polyamorous. We have been monogamous our whole relationship and have casually said that maybe in the future we could explore having other partners, and if we ever showed interest in someone else we would let each other know.

However, I’m not sure if I’m polyamorous as well. I’ve been trying to do research of my own and my only goal right now is to make sure my partner feels supported. Whenever I think of the logistics of our relationship (how we’ve wanted to get married, move out together, etc.) realistically we can’t do that until I’m comfortable with my partner pursuing other relationships. I am willing to break off our own if by some chance I cant come to terms with me not being the only partner in their life.

I am only concerned about their own happiness and if that doesn’t include me in the picture then I want to do everything I can to make them happy. It’s so hard and I’m so scared that I won’t be able to be with them, they’re my everything. I can’t see myself without them in my life, and I’ve learned that I need a lot of attention, and I don’t want to put that burden on them if they’re wanting to pursue other relationships. What can I do to ease my own anxiety and accept the amount of time it will take for me to de-entangle and unlearn what I’ve known about monogamy?

There’s a lot in here about your partner’s needs and very, very little here about yours and that does really alarm me. I absolutely understand why you would want to help your partner, but it’s very fundamental that, regardless of what happens, you stop seeing your basic needs as a “burden”.

It’s totally legitimate if you have needs that your partner cannot provide, but your partner’s needs are not a baseline to compare yourself to and it’s very important that you’re able to validate what it is that you want instead of assuming you are at fault. Especially because, if you want any kind of relationship to work for you in the best way, you’re going to need to have a solid understanding of what your needs are, be able to ask for them, and be able to walk away when they are not being met.

That said, the primary and first question I tend to ask people who are interested in polyamory is whether or not they could see themselves being monogamous to a person who has an intense career which causes them to have to be away for longer periods of time than you would normally have within monogamy. On a fundamental level, agreeing to polyamory means agreeing to a relationship style where your partner does not spend 100% of their time with you.

Needing “attention” though can be a variety of things. Do you need reassurance? Do you need quality time? Physical touch? It’s very possible to be in a monogamous relationship where a person lives with you and doesn’t give you any of these things. Do you know how much you need? Can you tell when you are not getting enough and can you ask for more without feeling wracked with guilt? These are the types of things that are more important.

I won’t lie that it worries me that you can’t see yourself without your partner. While I absolutely do understand that we can feel incredibly close to someone and really embedded into their lives, it’s also important, in my opinion, for us to be able to see ourselves outside of the relationship as an individual. I am a little bit worried that you are overly enmeshed in this situation in that you’re only concerned with their happiness and also consider your basic needs to be a “burden”. It might be worth you considering speaking to a therapist about codependency. I don’t necessarily think you’re unhealthy when it comes to this, but whether you pursue non-monogamy or not, it’s vital that you learn to be an advocate for yourself first, before anything else.

I have both a Polyamory 101 and a Polyamory 102 style article on my website that you can read through, but I think this starts with becoming an advocate for yourself first and I think that is something you should do regardless of what relationship style you decide to go with.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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