Definitions, trust, commitment
I am a 22-year-old gay male. My boyfriend and I have been in an open relationship for just over a year now. Polyamory is new to both of us, and we differ on what it should mean in our relationship.
We both believe that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time. We encourage multiple relationships of varying degrees and agree that sex should not be confined to our own relationship. This is basically what we agreed on when we started going out.
I do not believe monogamy is feasible and therefore for me there is only one alternative, polyamory. I would describe my own belief as more of an "ideological" one. My partner, however, has come to the same conclusion because of past experiences. He has been through multiple monogamous relationships before this one and basically chose to practice polyamory because he had been hurt in the past. He saw a therapist for a while and came to the conclusion that in order for himself to be happy he should realize that he was the most important person in his own life. He also firmly believes that one can have multiple, equally important relationships, as do I.
Where we differ, however, is when it comes to the aspects of trust and commitment. Because of my partner's past experiences - he believes himself to be the most important individual in his life, and therefore does not want to commit or feel obliged to another person in any way. He believes that his private life is his private life and he does not have to share everything. Fair enough, I feel the same way.
But I just don't know where the boundaries ought to be. I know he has had other sexual partners and I know he has developed strong feelings for other people than myself. This I can accept. My problem is that he doesn't share these things with me, because he feels that it is not any of my business. He says that I should focus on the things he does with me and not on what he does with others - that if I enjoy being with him and feel loved by him when we're together (which I do, no doubt), then I shouldn't worry. He argues that if what he does doesn't directly affect the relationship we have, then he shouldn't feel obliged to talk to me about it. I understand where he's going, and his arguments seem rational, but I still get upset, and afraid that if whatever he does at some point does affect our relationship, I won't know until the last minute. When I say this he says that it would be like that in any relationship, even if we were monogamous - and that I should deal with my own insecurities. Or he gives me something along the lines of "You're the one who shares my bed". Sometimes it makes me think that what he actually believes in is having one partner he can be romantically inclined with and at the same time have as much sex as he wants with other people. But hey, I suppose that's fair enough? Or?
I have tried to put down some "ground rules" and boundaries, but my partner bluntly refuses. He says that any type of rules or obligations are not right, because it would make us dependent of each other and that is what he is trying to avoid. For me the commitment and trust is actually what takes a relationship to a higher level. Am I wrong to think this?
So basically, I am a bit confused. I do not have previous experience with polyamory - it is still new to me. I genuinely believe in the concept, but I also believe that the concept changes from relationship to relationship.
Does anyone have any advice? Am I right to feel insecure or should I just man up? I see the logic in all of my partner's arguments, but it doesn't really change the way I feel.
I'm sure there are no definite rights or wrongs when it comes to polyamory, but if this is what it is supposed to be like, then I am not sure whether it is for me. But I don't see any alternative either.
Thank you for reading!
Well I would be bothered by a partner that doesn't tell me anything and doesn't want to discuss boundaries. I haven't known any poly relationships that have survived a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy (DADT) without the people in them moving so far away from knowing each other that there is really no connection at all and they are just paying lip service to the term "partnership." Wither that or they get really damaged by doubt, fear, secrecy and insecurity and eventually split up. It seems to me its kind of like above board cheating if you have a DADT policy. Perhaps he is getting confused by what is usually called an "open relationship" and what poly is? Have you asked him what poly is to him and discussed your different ideas on it?
I would suggest that you and he do a tag search here for "DADT" and see what has been written. I would also look at the threads tagged "lessons" and "foundations" as well as usually poly is based on open and honest communication, integrity, compassion/empathy/consideration and love and caring for all those concerned, including establishing solidly functional and cooperative metamour relationships (your partners partner is your metamour). I don't see this happening if you are getting nothing, in terms of communicating, out of your partner.
I would ask him what it is that he is willing to tell because nothing is just not going to work for you. Perhaps details about his sex life are just too much for him, but where he is, who he is with and eventually meeting men that he is serious about would be okay. This is where boundary discussion comes in and is really necessary. It sounds to me that if you are going to be able to trust, and be comfortable to give him a kiss as he leaves your company with both of you knowing that things are good between you, you are going to have to work out some boundaries.
Hmmm. I can't imagine not sharing details of my life with all of my close friends. If I've had a great time with somebody I very often talk about it to other friends. I might not give them a blow by blow account of what happened but I'd certainly talk about it. I can't imagine how I could have a relationship of any depth with anybody if I didn't discuss the rest of my life with them.
Instead of advice, I'll ask a question. Does he come home and tell you funny stories about his coworkers, his experiences with his friends, times with his family?
If he does, he could be revealing a mental block surrounding sexual or romantic relationships, possibly influenced by our monogamous-minded culture, which it might be helpful to talk about. I acknowledge that everyone has the right to privacy, and I don't want you to write off your own potential for mental blockages around "needing to know" about sexual and romantic activities. (Mental blockages aside, you have a right to know if you've been exposed to risky sexual behavior through him.)
If he doesn't share anything like that with you, of any sort...well, that would make me sad. So let's hope that's not the case.
Wow, no, I would say this is not what it's "supposed to be like", and certainly it's not what most people do. He says he needs to be the most important person in his own life, but why does that mean you can't be important enough to share things with too? How can you feel secure with someone when you have no real idea of what's going on with them? It doesn't seem like a healthy way to live, for him or for you. :(
His sexual and emotional choices affect you too, because of your level of intimacy with him. If he absolutely won't let you have a window onto that part of his life, I think its perfectly valid for you to feel like you can't be in a serious relationship with him. There is a middle ground between dependency and walling yourself off, it seems bizarre that he doesn't seem to realize that.
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