New to Poly: Can This Work?
Apologies for this being so long. :-)
I and my ex-ish boyfriend have had a really difficult year (we have been dating for 5 years with one other 2 year long break-up). During the summer I was going through a high time of stress, he was unemployed/moving, and I felt as if I was doing all of the work within the relationship. I have a very deep desire to be desired and wanted, and he was not pursuing me or paying me any attention (I would always have to message him first, I planned all the dates, he seemed disinterested in sex, etc.)
I started to feel very bitter and angry, and instead of communicating with him, I shut down. I broke up with him, and immediately hit a rebound fling. My boyfriend was, understandably, devastated and betrayed by this, as he saw me as using him as a back-up option.
It's been 3 months since then. A few weeks ago we started talking again, and I realized what a horrible and immature thing I had done, and how I cared about him more than anyone else in the world. I really want to make amends; he really wants to as well, but fears he doesn't know how and won't be able to get over the anger and betrayal.
He would like to see from me 3-6 months of improvement (in communication, in maturity from both of us) before we make another attempt. He wants to be committed to a future with us, and we've been having a lot of painful, difficult, but necessary conversations over the last few weeks.
However, in the meantime, he wants to date around. He promises he is not looking for a relationship (as he is not over me and ultimately wants me monogamously), but doesn't want to be left "holding the bag." He is too afraid that I will abandon him as soon as he gives up his options.
I don't blame him for this. I think it makes sense, and if that's what he needs right now.... to date around before he's sure about me... I want to give it to him. But I am naturally monogamous, and I am having a really hard time emotionally with this. I am terrified that, despite his promise, he is going to fall for someone before he and I have truly worked through our issues.
Is there a way to make this work? I thought perhaps he could present himself as poly (while I will remain mono), so anyone he goes out with knows he's not looking for anything long-term or serious. However he's worried that will severely lower his chances, as he says he has a hard time getting girls interested as it is.
Any suggestions would be really welcome. I love him more than anything, am committed to making this work, and want to give him the things he needs to feel secure about us (time, and not feeling as if I am setting him up to fall.) Thank you!
By definition, poly is about having multiple relationships. Polyamory-multiple loves.
It sounds like what you are wanting is more of an "open relationship" where he can have sex with others but not have love and relationships with others.
Maybe read the book Opening Up by Tristan Taormino. (Spelling of last name may be off). It covers a variety of open relationship styles including but not limited to polyamory. It also details some important topics to consider and discuss.
Hi cmurach :)
You know, I do think that it's natural at times for long term relationships to start falling to pieces under pressure. Outside stressors, long-held resentments, poor communication, passive aggressive behaviour, and certainly unmet expectations. These things can sneak up without us even noticing.
The good news is that if you both see something worth salvaging, you can work together to achieve it. But it has to be together.
I have to say, it's not just you. On your end, it sounds like you could (and should) have communicated better and not been so rash as to break up. You clearly hit a rebound fling because you were hurt, lost and feeling destructive. I understand that this hurts your ex bf; but you were hurt in the first place. It's a chicken and egg situation.
From his side, at least as far as I can tell, he could have done some things differently too. Have each of you owned your mistakes and come up with solutions? Did you at all hint or try to talk to him before you broke up about his lack of attentiveness? Did he turn a blind eye?
Or was he genuinely a perfectly mature partner with perfect talking, listening *and* problem solving skills?
I have to be honest. Feeling rejected by your partner - feeling that they are not *present* in your relationship - can feel like a betrayal in itself. It's painful to feel that you aren't wanted. You didn't cheat on him. You didn't betray him. You were feeling out in the cold, with nowhere to go. Does he understand that part?
In terms of the improvements you are supposed to make over the next 3-6 months, are these measurable? Have you identified how you are going to communicate better? Have you talked about finding solutions? What about from his side, too?
You guys are facing a tricky situation now. I do understand why he thinks he needs options. However, I see a potential mess and heartache for someone... whether it's one, or both, of you two, or someone else who enters the equation.
In my opinion... you have around three options.
The first is to have a do-over on your relationship. Monogamously. Putting a time limit on it is fine and I do think this is a good idea. You could give it 6 months, with a review at the 3 month mark.
The second is the option that is being proposed. You stay mono, he gets to date others, until you've 'proven yourself' over the next 3-6 months. I really think that this is risky business. He's scared of being left holding the bag if you decide not to be with him, yet you're left holding the bag if he meets someone else. My worry is that if you both go into this with an imbalance in the power dynamic, that resentment will carry on. You're a team, not a criminal and keyholder. The ideas shouldn't be that you prove yourself, it should be that you do your part to communicate well and he does his. The other concern is that he could hurt someone else by getting involved with them while still being in love with you. That really isn't fair.
The third option is that you guys take an actual break and agree to see where life leads you in that time. When I've been stuck as to what to do with an ex, whether to continue, etc., those relationships have often ended on a 'break'. 6 months can make a big difference. You may find that life moves on and, actually, it's better than you thought it would be. On the other hand, you may find that you both can't stop thinking of each other and that with the space, you are in a better position to come back without resentment. However, this is different to him being poly and you being mono. This means an actual break, where you do not speak often, and you are both free to explore your other options; never having to talk about whether you've explored them, because you are free to do what you want to do.
Of course, you can go with the option that you wait for him to date around until he's made up his mind. You absolutely can do that. It is literally an option. As long as you are prepared for the chance that he might meet someone he likes and you might be waiting a while longer. However, as you say, if that is what he needs at this time, that is what he needs. You could choose to let him be; to let him go off and do his thing. But you two do need a clear agreement on whether this is a breakup, or whether this is a "let's review it in 3/6 months."
I thought perhaps he could present himself as poly (while I will remain mono), so anyone he goes out with knows he's not looking for anything long-term or serious."
Actually, poly is all about long term and serious. If neither of you are comfortable with that, it's pretty misleading to tell these girls you're poly :(
Also it will have the exact opposite effect you're wanting. .... which is attracting girls interested in a relationship.
There is no time frame or depth of intimacy inherent in describing oneself as poly any more than there is in monogamy. Every person sees romance, love, and intimacy different and it is an entirely subjective topic.
No relationship starts out as long term and serious, but poly means you're open to such developing. At least that would be my expectation.
In that case, I'm flattered that you would even think anyone here considers my words as the standard for poly :)
You guys broke up. You are processing previous hurt. You are thinking about dating each other again if hurts can be resolved.Part of the problem in the past was not being able to ASK for what you need.
You seem to need reassurance. How about practicing asking what you need then? Grow this skill? Here is opportunity.
Why not ask for reassurance on his behavior rather than reassurance on the final outcome so you can feel better NOW? Because he can reassure you NOW he intends to do and will do his best to process with you. That's his behavior. He can know that right this minute. He's promised he's not looking for relationship and ultimately hopes for a monogamous relationship with you. That doesn't seem satisfactory -- maybe you want more SPECIFIC behavior you can measure?
If you are more reassured right now if you could have a time frame... you could ask if he's willing to give you a small one. Negotiate. Ask if he's willing. Maybe something like...
"Ok, you date other people. Cool. But could you be willing to give me 1-2 weeks of you not dating anyone and telling me about it? Because these recent convos really took it out of me emotionally. I'm not ready to deal in more challenging emotional stuff right away. Could we call a time out? What is a reasonable breather space to you? I'm not asking for going steady or anything just... breather space here before we continue processing here."The point of DOING the process is to determine the outcome. That part he can't reassure you on. He can't read into the future. Neither can you. Limit of the Universe. :o
I'm also not reading where the polyshipping part comes in here at this time. That's where I am confused. :confused:
To me it sounds like you are fearful that you might not get to date him again. And it is true. You might not. But then again... you might!
Rather than "what iffing"... you could focus on what you have going on right now: You are engaged in conflict resolution. Resolve it. THEN level up.
Here's the toggle variables that I can see. (I could be wrong.)
You could not connect things that don't have to be connected.
You could treat each portion of it separately rather than taking them on at once so it is "baby steps" and not "scary leaps."
Because you could deal with (conflict resolution and return to right relationship) first.
Before you get to move on to the next stepping stone to discern whether or not you will build a NEW relationship and what shape that might be:
Can't level up til you complete the previous floor, right? Could consider that reality as "the price of admission" here.
I know it could feel "ugh" in limbo, but you could exercise some faith. 5:1 odds there that you will at least get a partial green or a double green one and not a red. So to me? The odds are looking pretty good for something green in there. Which is better than before -- broken up and not speaking, right?
Could that adjustment in your outlook help make the wait more bearable? And help you be more able to focus on the job of conflict resolution and discernment?
Talk, sort it out. You both can do this.
Hang in there!
What strikes me about your statement is that you make poly seem like fluff that doesn't matter and so he should present himself that way to avoid falling for someone - and potentially hurting you.
I say, if he wants to date around, that's his choice and you can either accept that and work on YOUR relationship with him, or walk away if you cannot accept it. But if you are going to stick around, you have no business telling him how he should present himself to other women he wants to date. That is his dating life, not yours. However, I have to say that while reading your first post, I just thought the whole situation sounds like a disaster, and full of control issues -- so I am inclined to wonder what the heck benefit it will be to either of you to get together again. Be careful and go slowly. Maybe you should date others, too.
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