Building a Mono-Poly Relationship
Last summer, my partner Dex and I broke up. You can read more about that here. But in case you don’t want to read all that, here’s a brief rundown. We limped on together while I was away in Berlin, acting like we were just friends, but pretty much texting and connecting every day… telling each other “I love you!” and not changing much. But when I got home again in October, we had another talk where we solidified our original resolve that it was just better for us not to date and really focus on our friendship. We even tried that for a while, before he met someone he wanted to pursue in a relationship, and she was NOT ok with him being friends with his Ex. Now you’re all caught up! (Sort of! LOL, I’ll fill in the important things as we go.) OH- yeah, we’re trying to figure out how to be together! You can read about THAT here!
Dex and I met, and then over the 8-9 months we dated, we totally fell in love. Whenever people ask about him or talk about what he means to me, I always say he makes me FEEL! I feel alive, happy, peaceful, safe, sexy, and very loved when I am with him! BUT he is a very traditional young man who divorced his wife after she cheated on him. Monogamy with all the lifelong ride or die implications is how he views relationships. He has never had to consider that there may be other ways to do relationships. (Pretty typical for our culture, no shade on him!) I am a divorced, open, sex-positive, solo-polyamorous, world traveler who never wants to be married again, nor do I want to live with someone more than an occasional short burst, if at all.
So, you see? Quite a predicament. Especially since we decided to jump right back into the fire when I came back from Costa Rica at the end of January. I told my BFF this weekend at our weekly date, “I just love being with him, so I am going to be.” And he recently told me, “I got a little worried the other day then I reminded myself, I am happy right now. Why would I go chasing the unhappy when the happy is right here in my life, right now. I am just going to stay in the moment and enjoy the happiness and not get ahead of myself.” So- the good news, we’re on the same page. Mostly! I mean- in the immediate moment and our attitudes, so that’s a huge hurdle.
There have been some positive changes this time around. We have the kind of connection that means we enjoy each other’s company very easily without any stress. Sexy times were good at first, but it wasn’t so great as time went by. He was exhausted working his crazy normal job and then many side jobs to save money for vacation with his son. I wanted to make sure he was ok and didn’t press him for sex, which made us both feel like we were missing out. (We were.) The worst part is it was difficult to talk to him about it. He is traditional in many ways, and thinking sex should “just happen” without too much fanfare or discussion made it difficult to have frank, open discussions about sex. I did not do a good job of getting those discussions to happen. Worse and worse feelings and less and less sex ensued. But this time, we are having good discussions. I am trying to navigate them with more finesse and be more insistent that we have them in the first place as often as we need them. The New Relationship Energy is pretty strong so we haven’t needed them too often, but there are some presumptive discussions I’ve felt like we needed to have. We’ve had them and it’s gone well.
As for the polyamory part? He is about as monogamous as they come. The other day he said to me, “I have found my person and I don’t like to share. I am getting better about talking about the sex thing, but the poly stuff is harder to wrap my head around.” (I, of course, felt obligated to remind him that I am not an object that can be shared, and he understood, but his feelings are still the same.) He has, however, been trying. He asks me if I have any dates coming up and reminds me that I can tell him. He also does this to give himself a day or two after my dates before he sees me again, that seems to be his unstated boundary. It’s fair, especially for a monogamous man, trying to navigate his feelings for a polyamorous woman. He mentioned that his best friend asked him if he was going to get back on the dating apps. But he said he is not interested in any other adventures at this time. He wants to focus on his son, on our relationship, and on handling his life/business and getting ahead a little.
The most natural state of polyamory for me is solo-poly and a non-hierarchical structure. But a preference is just that, a preference. I am willing to look at how my relationships look and evolve to find a way for us to work. I am not willing to go so far as to give up the polyamory, that would not be true to myself and definitely not fair to him. I am also not going to stop cruising Tinder for new connections, or FetLife to see if there is someone fun there. I am not going to stop planning my 50th birthday orgy either. We haven’t yet had to deal with me finding someone new to date besides Review Bae and Stefan, and I know when it happens it is going to be a difficult conversation, but I feel like this time, we have already built a stronger foundation of communication and commitment to be able to manage those feelings and stressors.
As far as I am concerned, we’ve always been in a committed long-term relationship, just one that won’t escalate to living together or getting married. I think he always hoped we were too, but it was too difficult for him to really trust that, knowing I will always be dating other people. His definition of committed and long-term as well as the label girlfriend has always included monogamy and escalating thru living together and getting married. But this time around, we have already marked a few “milestones” that really show our commitment to one another. Our commitment to working this thing out. He gave me a key to his place and he is going to make a copy of mine this week. He also took me to one of his son’s soccer games. He has been divorced for 10- years and has never taken another woman to a game or event where his ex-wife would be. So, our commitment to one another is real and strong.
We have taken labels off the table. That is helping. When we made it “official” that I was his girlfriend previously, that came with a lot more baggage than I ever understood. All the things he wanted to build were held in that word. So. now, while he often refers to himself as my boyfriend when he is talking, we have not officially made that a “thing.” So much so that his best friend asked him the other day, “So is she your girlfriend yet or what?” (It’s even more difficult when his friends have absolutely no experience in this kind of relationship or this way of thinking either!) It’s better without the label though, I am just his “love” and because that truly encompasses what we are to each other that works. As long as we are growing and evolving together, I will always be his love.
This weekend we talked about our relationship, despite our running joke that “we’re not talking about it.” I wanted him to know, that regardless of my relationships with other people, he is a priority. I will always take our relationship into consideration when I make decisions about my schedule and other relationships. The other day I told him I was free all weekend to hang out with him, but then coming up on the weekend he asked if I had other plans. I reassured him that once I commit time to him, I am not going to “take a better offer!’ If I say I am his for the weekend, then I am his. Period. He is the priority for that time, and even outside that time. I am aware this is bordering on Primary Partner and a hierarchical approach to dating, and I am working out how I feel about that, but right now, building this delicate balancing act, this amazing relationship I have with him IS a priority, and that works for me.
I haven’t talked to him about mono-poly relationships, because honestly, I would love if he had other dates or sexy times or friends. Truly, I have so little jealousy and I honestly believe love is so abundant that I would be thrilled if he was also enjoying more love and more great sex in his life. But recently, based on his comments about just wanting to focus on his life and our relationship, I think I am going to look for some resources for both of us to explore and learn more about the option of a mono-poly relationship structure. I would prefer it be more of a mono/open-poly relationship because I already know there are a few people out there who have offered him some sexy fun and I want us to be able to be totally open about that. (Don’t ask don’t tell is not something I am interested in.)
I love that we live in a world where it is OK to build relationships in a way that works for the people in them, not always building them to society’s expectations. He is new to this whole idea but we’ve known each other now for about 16 months, and I after having some time apart, he is really trying to figure out what that looks like for him too. I am hopeful for the future. Unlike last time where we kind of “expected’ to someday break up we are proceeding like we won’t. As if we are building something lasting and that also makes me hopeful.
Believe me, I don’t want to go through that again. I was totally devastated when we broke up. The whole six months we were broken up, I cried almost every time I talked about him. Either that or I was talking about how wonderful he was and how much I missed having him in my life. We had a talk about that the other day and I cried even talking about how I felt during that time. I do not want to feel that hurt and sad again. But even saying that; I am willing to risk feeling that way again, to have him in my life now, and to try to build our relationship by navigating these wild waters!
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