They’ve been talking about how cool they find the idea of inviting someone else into your bed for a while now but you never really took them seriously until they handed you a copy of ‘The Ethical Slut’ to read. Is your parner polyamorous? Now you are completely freaked out that they will want to bring some other woman or man into your bed and might even want to have a relationship with that new person as well as with you.
You always took your monogamy for granted. You felt safe because you knew that you were settled in a good stable monogamous relationship. OK so maybe sex wasn’t as much fun anymore and maybe you didn’t have sex all that often. But you get along well most of the time and you are happy with your life together. The idea of adding another person and being polyamorous is petrifying.
Maybe the idea of having more than one partner appealed to you in the past or maybe it even appeals to you now, but as soon as they bring it up as something you might actually do, you freeze. Sit down. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Many of the people I have helped had the same reaction you are having.
Here’s what you need to do to figure out how you really feel about the possibility of a polyamorous partnership:
1. Educate yourself about polyamorous relationships
Non-monogamy comes in many forms from monogamish where you are monogamous except for one particular thing (like kissing one person or inviting one person to come play with you once a year on their birthday) to polyamorous where you have multiple romantic, sexual and emotional relationships to polygamy where there is one husband and many wives (or one wife and many husbands).
There are a couple of books that I recommend: The Ethical Slut, Re-Writing the Rules. Read my other blogs on the subject. Listen to my podcasts (1, 2, 3, 4) on polyamory and to my series of podcasts called sex love stories for some individual stories about non-monogamy in all of its different forms.
To make the best use of your education, start a journal. Take notes about what you are learning. Pay attention to your feelings as you are reading and listening and learning. Are you interested? Excited? Worried? More freaked out? Write all of this down.
3. Own your feelings and work on them
If you are feeling angry, then own this. If you don’t acknowledge your anger, it will play out in passive-aggressive ways that destroy relationships. If you are able, try to figure out exactly where your anger comes from. Anger often comes from fear. If this is where your anger is coming from, what information do you need to allay your fear? It might be re-assurance that your partner still fancies you.
It might be clear information about what your partner is actually proposing. You might be feeling jealous, frightened, sad or a whole host of things. If you don’t have a regular way of soothing yourself and working through your feelings, now would be a good time to do some individual coaching to help you work through the feelings but also to teach you some practical skills to help you work through emotions as they arise in the future.
4. Once you have worked through some feelings, decide if this is a deal breaker for you
If you are unwilling to even consider opening up your relationship in any way, it is important for you to acknowledge this so that you can discuss it with your partner. Some people decide to become monogamous in a polyamorous relationship. If you are really good at communicating and able to own and manage your own feelings (especially jealousy and anger), then this is an excellent option. The clearer you are on your own needs and limits, the easier it will be to talk with your partner about all the options.
If you are having difficulty thinking things through on your own or talking them through with a friend who can be neutral, this is also a time to speak with a coach or therapist so that you can clarify your own needs and limits. It is best to speak with someone who is poly friendly so that the whole range of options is easily open to you.
5. Have a conversation with your partner to find out exactly what they are proposing. Polyamorous? Swinging? Something else?
Ask what triggered this desire now and be prepared to hear any answer. Before the conversation starts, create a safe space by making sure you have plenty of time to talk and that no one will interrupt. Make it a non-judgemental space and manage your emotions even if something they say is upsetting to you. If you want them to talk honestly to you, you have to be willing to truly listen.
Consider recording the conversation (with an agreement of course). Taking notes is often really difficult during an emotional conversation. You are recording so that you can both make sure to catch any ideas you have about moving forward in a positive manner. If you have never been able to talk about difficult subjects well or if you never manage to resolve any issues together, this is not the issue to try to start on alone.
Agree to go see a poly-friendly sex and relationship therapist or sex and relationship coach together and start the dialogue there. Having someone who can help you to stop and reflect instead of ending up in the same negative communication loop is invaluable when you are looking at making major changes in your relationship. Make sure you are seeing someone who knows about non-monogamy who can bust the myths and provide you with good solid information.
After you have had your freak out, breathe deep and start working your way through the steps above until you reach clarity. Whatever you decide – polyamorous or monogamous, this relationship or your future relationships will ultimately be much richer and more exciting as a result of the emotional work that you do.
As you work your way through this challenge, remember you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re worried that your relationship is in jeopardy and you’re unsure how to explore polyamory or to how to talk to your partner about your true feelings, I can help you. Over the past 30 years, I have worked with hundreds of couples in this same boat. Some choose to explore polyamory with their partner, others don’t. The choice is yours. Let me help you by booking a free session with me so we can talk about the best steps for you and your relationship.