Help! What do I do now?
With grateful acknowledgement to Maya
So you’re monogamous, but you’ve fallen for someone who’s polyamorous…
As with any relationship between two people who have different goals and expectations, a relationship between someone who’s monogamous and someone who’s polyamorous can present a number of challenges.
If you consider yourself to be monogamous by nature, and you want to begin a relationship with someone who is polyamorous by nature, it’s important to go into that relationship with your eyes open. It’s not going to be easy. Your partner is going to ask you to accept ideas that may be contradictory to what you’ve always believed, and this may be quite scary.
It’s necessary to know in advance that polyamory may very well be a part of your prospective partner’s nature, and if this is the case, you aren’t likely going to be able to “convert” your partner or change your partner’s drive toward polyamory. Especially if your partner isn’t currently involved in other relationships, it’s tempting to believe that it won’t come up—that your partner might be polyamorous in some abstract sense, but if your relationship is good enough, you’ll never have to deal with the reality of seeing your partner want somebody else. Avoid this temptation; this isn’t something you’re likely to be able to make go away.
Things to be wary of
- The poly partner doesn’t provide adequate nurturing or support to help the mono partner adapt to this new kind of relationship, or pressures the monogamous partner to move too quickly into a new way of thinking.
- The monogamous partner tries to preserve the illusion of monogamy as much as possible by attempting to isolate the relationship—such as through explicit or implicit denial, refusal, or reluctance to acknowledge other partners or polyamory in general. In some cases, “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules can serve to continue this illusion as well. It’s important to understand fully that you may be monogamous, but your relationship is polyamorous. It needs to be treated as a poly relationship. By way of analogy, say you really want to live in Miami. Your heart is set on Miami—but through various circumstances, you actually live in New York. You need to understand that you’re living in New York, and act appropriately, regardless of how much you may want to live in Miami; you are going to need a snow shovel, you’re well-advised to have a warm winter wardrobe… If you are joining a poly relationship, make sure you have fully accepted the fact that it is a poly relationship!
- The poly partner hopes, believes, or expects that the monogamous partner will eventually embrace poly as part of his/her own nature. This hope/belief/expectation may be overt or concealed, or even subconscious. A person who self-identifies as monogamous may be able to be happy in a polyamorous relationship, but may not ever become polyamorous.
- The monogamous partner actually hopes, believes, or expects that the poly arrangement is only temporary and will eventually become a more traditional and familiar serial-monogamy relationship. That is, the monogamous partner may hope or believe that the poly person will eventually “choose” the new mono partner over other existing partners, and abandon polyamory entirely. Again, this belief may be overt or concealed, or even subconscious.
- The poly partner assumes that monogamous people are inherently incapable of adapting to being involved with poly partners, and therefore holds back on deep intimacy, involvement, or commitment with a monogamous person—even if the monogamous partner demonstrates the skills and will to make the relationship succeed.
- The monogamous partner assumes that poly people are inherently “emotionally limited,” immature, or unreliable, or that the poly partner’s polyamory indicates an inability to commit to a relationship—and therefore holds back on deep intimacy, involvement, or commitment with the poly person.
- The poly partner is uncomfortable with or insecure about being a monogamous person’s “only” partner (regardless of whether the relationship is a primary relationship or less involved). It’s true that many poly people find themselves suddenly and completely abandoned when their dearly loved, mono-at-heart partner finds someone new who will “be mono with them.” This puts the poly person in the position of being “expendable.”
Other things to consider, which apply to any healthy, lasting relationship but are are especially important in poly/mono relationships:
- The monogamous partner, in order to feel secure, pushes for complete and immediate “parity” with (or even preference over) the poly partner’s other existing partner(s). This results in pressuring the poly/mono relationship to develop too quickly in order to prove to the mono partner that the relationship is not inferior or expendable.
- Be very wary of entering into the relationship with a naive “love conquers all” attitude, ignoring/minimizing challenges and the need to deal with them. When partners are each accustomed to very different circumstances, or they have very different assumptions or preferences, this inevitably requires a lot of patience, communication, honesty, and negotiation—not just at the beginning, but over the life of the relationship. And the fact is, contrary to the popular myth, love does not conquer all. Sometimes, no matter how sincere two people are and how much they love each other, there may be differences which make a relationship that’s satisfying to everyone involved impossible. It’s unfortunate when that happens, but it’s also important to recognize that it can happen.
- Be wary of situations where either or both partners expect the other to do most of the relationship work and to accommodate their needs, preferences, limits, or insecurities. In fact, both partners need to take responsibility for the situation, and both need to demonstrate initiative to work with the other to achieve common ground that goes beyond “New Relationship Energy.” At the beginning of a relationship, when everyone is still giddy and everything seems possible, it can sometimes be easy to overlook a partner’s flaws, and to develop the habit of being the only one to compromise when there’s a problem. This can make the relationship more difficult down the road.
- Remember, relationships should benefit your life! Don’t get into a situation where you or your partner seems focused solely on the relationship’s challenges, and never on just relaxing and enjoying each other.
Last updated: Tue May 12, 2020