Thanks for all the thoughtful and in-depth replies you guys. I know I threw a lot out there all at once.
I wish I had more time to respond in kind right now, but I'm trying to meet a work deadline, but I seriously appreciate the feedback.
Just to reply to a couple main things you guys pointed out:
Separated for emphasis. You knew. There had to be some part of you that was so attracted to him you were willing to 'forget' this, and/or believe he could be otherwise. (regardless of what he said or didn't say)
Yes - I agree this is likely. I have loved him a long time and have really wanted to be with him, but didn't believe poly was for me - in part due to my own personal issues of course - but I didn't think it would lead us down a happy path and had committed to not getting involved with him because of it. When offered another option I jumped on it and perhaps should have questioned more. I'm feeling pretty betrayed and manipulated now though, as if I have to agree to this to keep the relationship. Frankly - we're having enough issues just between the two of us right now I think it would be a huge mistake to add another person to it regardless even if we were both comfortable and experienced with poly. He hasn't been forcing the issue, but it's been hinted at, and though I sort of fooled myself before, my eyes are open now and I want to figure out how I feel about things on my own before it really becomes a major sticking point.
Is the only way you wouldn't wonder is if he were mono? (btw, I didn't see in that description that you wanted your partner to be male? Am I reading in too much?)
Two things here: no it's not the only way I can see to not wondering. I think its just as easy to not really feel secure in a mono relationship as it is in a poly if the person you're involved with isn't communicating it in words and actions or if you're just a generally insecure person or some combination thereof. It seems like poly would multiply that though because there are so many more moving parts.
Though the things you guys are saying about communication and boundaries and mutual agreements being honored as well as mutual respect being vital to a poly relationship I see as vital to ANY relationship poly or mono or other if it's to be sustainable. I do think that if everything was done the way you guys describe and there weren't other issues we were dealing with it could potentially work and be fun, but I guess my main point here is it is vital for me to not have to constantly be trying to figure out the state of our relationship. I need some level of consistency to be happy and secure. Poly or mono.
Secondly - no you aren't reading in too much. When I said I've tried everything I meant it. I've dated both men and women, prefer men sexually, but truly adore women and would much rather paint or draw the female figure than the male any day. No offense meant to anyone.
I've also been in relationships with more than one person at a time. It was a lot less structured and we didn't really consider it a poly relationship, though it seems like it probably was in retrospect. With that though, I think none of us had any huge emotional stake in the relationship being disrupted by one of the others. There was no competing for time or attention mainly because I think it was something we all thought was "fun" but not meant to last.
Other more general things you guys have said and that I've read in other posts are wonderful sentiments in theory and in my secure and fully centered self would love to embrace, but I doubt in human ability (myself included or maybe in particular? maybe the crux of the problem...) to truly be as honest as would be necessary, as secure within themselves as they would have to be not to cause unnecessary drama, as unselfish as would be needed so that all parties felt fulfilled and as committed as would be needed to really make it work.
It sounds WONDERFUL in theory, but I just have no faith in the reality of being able to pull that off on a daily basis under all circumstances. For myself I can easily imagine having a bad day (not that I have a lot of bad days - this is just an example of what would really make me feel abandoned and less than cherished ...) and looking forward to flopping on the couch with my partner to get pet and listened to, only to find out he had plans with another partner and resenting it monumentally. And while it does all sound really beautiful and evolved in theory, the simple logistics and negotiation seem so time consuming and involved that it seems like it would really sap the fun and satisfaction of it.
Also - I'd feel jealous of all the time he spent with someone else out doing fun things without me. I'd want to be there too if anything. Not just someone sitting on the side waiting for my partner to return from his fun day/date/whatever. The situations where you describe it being a group relationship seem a lot more doable to me (for me at any rate) because then it's open communication across all lines instead of relationships separate from each other that the others have to wonder about or protect their own relationships from. It's all one relationship organism instead of several trying to vie for the same resources.
Well so much for the brief response. As you can see I'm still very tangled up on this. To summarize I think poly in theory could be really wonderful, satisfying and challenging in ways that would really make a person grow in a positive way, but the reality of human nature gets in the way. And to caveat all this - I do realize I'm just making sweeping generalizations here from a pretty uninformed position and I mean no offense to anyone. I KNOW people make this work and are probably far more evolved than I am either as a result of having this in their lives or it works in their lives because they are more evolved in the first place.
So thanks again for the feedback. Greatly appreciate it. Still super conflicted and wishing there was a rule book.