When your partner pulls a veto

My longterm boyfriend and I decided to start doing polyamory together a few months ago. We each started dating someone around the same time (his date was someone new to his life and mine was a poly[am] friend we’ve known for less than a year).
My boyfriend wasn’t sure about trying poly[am] but gave it his best go. Suffice to say, my experiences have gone really well and his has left him heartbroken and feeling like poly[am] is not good for him. He wants me to end it with the person I am currently dating, even though we are taking things as slow as we possibly can. I’m not sure what to do. Any advice?

My first instinct with your question is to say that your boyfriend is being extremely unfair. When you agree to polyamory, I don’t believe it’s ever healthy to agree to any situation where your partners have a say in who you date. If your partner were telling you to end a friendship, that would be inappropriate, so how is this the same?

On the other hand, I do feel as though there are situations where you reasonably cannot deal with your partner dating someone and that the situation is so toxic that you have to tell your partner that, if they continue to date this person, you cannot be apart of their life. Those situations are rare, but they do happen and I don’t think people should continue to be in relationships where they are unhappy just because ‘vetoing’ is a bad thing. I also think that sometimes this is a normal hiccup when trying polyamory for the first time and he may not be coming from a place of trying to control you here.

What I’m not clear about with your question is whom introduced the idea of polyamory. You mention that your boyfriend wasn’t as keen on it as you were, so that leads me to believe that you introduced the idea and it’s very possible that your boyfriend went along with it, not because he wanted to, but because he wanted to salvage your relationship together. Maybe he saw the benefit of it when he had another partner, but now that it’s ended badly, it’s forced him to reconcile that polyamory is not for him and that this is not what he wants out of life. Or, as I said, this might just be a bump in the road. It comes down to what he wants.

Now, I will say that there are many situations in polyamory where one partner has way more success than other partners they have. That’s pretty usual actually. And I’ve seen many situations where a monogamous couple agreed to be polyamorous and then when one partner couldn’t get so much as a date, they wanted to go back to monogamy because they weren’t having fun.

In those situations, where both individuals chose to enter into polyamory because they each saw a mutual benefit in it, I would encourage that person to, more or less, buck up and keep trying to find a good date. Some people just take longer to find compatible people than others. I’m definitely one of those people. And even when it’s sometimes hard for me because my partners have plenty of success, I remind myself of why I chose polyamory to begin with.

But that’s the catch. I have something to go back to — a reason I chose this for myself. If your boyfriend did not choose this for himself, if he sees no value in it other than keeping you in his life… that is not going to be enough for him to overcome the inevitable heartbreak that comes with multiple relationships. And it’s possible that it’s taken him this experience to realise that this is not a path he wants to go down.

However, what he should do is tell you this and be honest about how different you both are. You’re enjoying being polyamorous and this is what you want to do. He is not. Instead of just being honest with you and himself about you both growing apart, he’s continuing to try to salvage this relationship by forcing you to break up with your other partner. He may not mean this as maliciously as it seems, but I think you both need to be honest with each other.

At present, you want a life he does not want and it might be that the best choice for you both is breaking up and going your own way. It’s very possible if you suggest this that your boyfriend will suddenly be okay with polyamory and want to try again. As painful as it may be, I would encourage you to stick with the decision to split and not fall into the trap again of allowing him to go along with it just to salvage the relationship.

You might decide to give it one more go and see if this is really what he wants. And I’d say, given how many people do experience this hiccup, you could give it one more try, but it’s important not to keep going into the cycle again and again — because it won’t be fun.

Breaking up sucks. It hurts and it’s painful. But it’ll be much more painful down the line if he continues to pretend like this is what he wants when it isn’t. I suggest you let him go.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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