If you are new to Polyamory or have not come out to your partner yet please first read Polyamory 101.
So let’s jump right in. If you’ve been alive for more than five minutes then you know that interpersonal relationships are hard. And if you are or have ever been in love with someone who had a different love orientation than you then you know that this can be especially difficult. Mixed-orientation relationships like poly/mono are becoming increasingly more common but people still seem to have the same questions with very little answers. So, here is my attempt to shine some light in dark places. This blog will be composed of two perspectives; both poly and mono.
Dealing with jealousy
“How do you deal with the jealousy?” is one of the first questions people ask when they find out you’re poly or with a poly person. Jealousy is a natural human emotion that almost all people feel, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t suited for a non-monogamous lifestyle. Let’s define jealousy first. Jealousy– a feeling brought on by not wanting someone to have something you want. It is important to distinguish this feeling from envy– wanting something that someone else has but not minding if they also have it. The latter is much easier to deal with in my opinion. I often find that jealousy is a symptom of something larger, such as not getting your needs met. If you aren’t getting your needs met then talk to your partner about specifically what you need. For example, if you feel jealous when your partner goes on a date, maybe it isn’t that you don’t want them to date. It could be that you want them to put the same amount of effort into quality time with you that they do with others.
Follow these steps:
- Be willing to face your jealousy.
- Want to change how often you are jealous. I call this step getting un-triggered. Just because it bothers you now doesn’t mean that it always will.
- Know yourself and your triggers. This is important for setting boundaries.
- Communicate with your partner(s).
Its not uncommon to feel like the old toy, tossed to the side when someone new and shiny comes along; but remember that this is probably because of NRE (new relationship energy) and it’s temporary. NRE is also contagious (his excitement could make you excited), so if your love is enthusiastic about their new partner, it’s possible that he may bring some of that home to you. NRE can make for fun outings and very satisfying love-making. If getting jealous happens to you often, then try what Cunning Minx and Lusty Guy suggest in their Polyamory Weekly podcast; distract yourself with something that you enjoy but don’t usually get to do, and when your partner gets home from their date, do something to reconnect (having sex is a great way).
Giving vs Sacrificing
Avoid sacrificing for your relationships. This can seem counterintuitive given the narrative that we often hear about how noble it is to sacrifice for the ones you love. However, the fastest road to resentment is sacrifice. Asking someone what they would sacrifice for is to ask them what they value. My mom always told me as a child to never lend more money than you’re willing to lose and I have a similar saying about sacrifice. Don’t sacrifice more than you’re willing to live without. Be generous with your love and with your time. Give freely. Be kind and understanding. But if you find that you are overextending yourself and losing things that you value for the sake of your relationship, then you may likely begin to feel resentful of your partner and underappreciated. This is especially true if your partner does not acknowledge your sacrifice. Which is possible because you may have different values than your partner.
Equality In Relationships
People often say that they want fairness in relationships but relationships are not about being equal. Instead, you should strive for equity. Ensure that you are getting your needs met and it’s okay if that means that you are giving more or getting less. It’s not about keeping score, it’s about being happy. If you are happy in an unequal relationship, then that is all that matters. Just make sure you are negotiating your power dynamics. If you find that your poly partner is spending more time with you than with their other lovers, negotiate for the time that you need.
Dealing With Guilt
In mixed-orientation relationships guilt can seem inevitable. Poly people can feel a crippling sense of guilt for hurting their mono partner. Many of us didn’t know that poly was an option until later in our lives when we had already settled into traditional relationships. It is important that you realize that poly is not something that you did to your relationship to intentionally cause harm. If poly is who you are then this was unavoidable, and at some point in your life you were always going to realize what you needed. It is unfortunate that you had this realization while in a relationship. I’m sorry for your pain. As poly people we often worry that our desires and lifestyle could cost us the ones that we love.
If your relationship is stable:
If you’ve gotten to a point in your relationship where you’ve reached a healthy balance, then you might be feeling a different kind of guilt. One in which you feel as though you are forcing your partner to live a poly lifestyle that they only chose for you. To combat this guilt you should talk to your mono partner. They chose this life for you and for themselves. Love them and treat them with respect. They gave up ideologies for you and transformed their lifestyle to accommodate a relationship with you. So, make sure you are nurturing them properly. Learn about love languages and setting boundaries for tips.
Dealing With Mono Guilt:
If you feel guilty as a mono partner, it may be because you feel as if you aren’t letting your poly partner be who they truly are. This can be difficult to deal with, but remember that your poly partner has agreed to be monogamous for the sake of your relationship. It is important to communicate with them that you don’t want them to give up more than they are willing to live without. Over extending yourself in the name of sacrifice can lead to resentment which could ultimately result in the end of your relationship. In some cases it is possible for a poly person to live a happily monogamous life but this is not always true. Find out what your partner needs. If they tell you that they are happy then its up to you to believe them and try to let go of your guilt.
Anger and Resentment
As the mono partner in your relationship, you may be angry that your partner has come out as poly. You might be feeling lied to and like you’re not enough for your partner. This is normal. When I came out as poly, my mono husband felt like he was grieving the loss of the life that he thought he would have. Sound familiar? It is easy to feel like you have been tricked into a lifestyle that you didn’t agree to. You thought life was going to be one way and then suddenly your partner has pulled the rug from beneath you. You have every right to be angry, but unless your partner has treated you poorly, lied, or cheated, then that anger should not be directed at them. It’s not their fault. They didn’t know they were poly, and they did the right thing by being honest with you. It’s important that you face your problems as a team. Instead of one partner fighting against poly and the other fighting for it, try to find a common goal or middle ground that you can work towards.
Working as a team will remind you of the reasons why you love your partner and your relationship. It’s a good way to re-solidify your bond and remind you that you probably work well together with your partner. When things get hard, remember that this is not something that they did to you and your relationship. This is something that is happening to both of you and you have to go through it together. Love them for who they are, not for who they used to be or who you wish they were. We are not poly because we are looking for a replacement. We are poly because we love love and we love people.
Things to Remember:
- There can’t be a healthy relationship without trust, communication, and honesty.
- As natural as monogamy feels to you is how natural poly feels to us. The warm butterflies that you get when your partner stares into your eyes and confesses their love is the same warm feeling we get when our husband and our boyfriend share a friendly laugh together or grab a beer.
Knowing When To Quit
This is the hardest part. No one ever wants to get to this point but eventually something’s gotta give. Sometimes love is not enough.You have to determine for yourself when a relationship is no longer working for you. At some point you have to realize that poly really isn’t for you and that you’re just as mono as they are poly. But make sure you’ve tried everything, see a relationship coach, try being poly for a while to see if you can adjust, try being mono for a while to see if your poly partner can live that way happily. There is no quick fix and leaving someone that you love can feel impossible. Transitioning your relationship and finding a healthy balance could take years. So be patient and get creative, but, don’t wait until you resent your partner to leave. End things on good terms while you can still treat each other well.
When Divorce Isn’t An Option
Whether it’s for religious reasons, financial reasons, or for the children, sometimes divorce isn’t an option. What then? Well someone has to choose. Either the poly person will give up poly, the mono person will accept poly, or you agree to a don’t ask don’t tell (not recommended). I also don’t recommend staying for the children. Children are highly intuitive and they will likely notice when their parents are unhappy. It is better for children to grow up in a home where their parents are happy and separate than it is for them to grow up in a home filled with anger, fighting, and resentment.
End On A Happy Note
This might seem all doom and gloom but I promise you that it’s not. Even if you figure out that you and your partner have to separate, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can be loved by someone else who can and wants to love only you. If you’re poly then you can have the freedom that you deserve and create vibrant relationships filled with endless love. You both deserve the love that you want. Remember that this doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship either. It is possible for your ex-lover to become one of your best friends. They can love you and understand you better than anyone because you’ve been through so much together and built a foundation. This could very well be one of your anchor relationships now that you are not sexually involved with each other.
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