He’s not wrong.
Not very long ago, my monogamous partner of nine months and I broke up. There were so many reasons for this, the fact that he is monogamous and I am polyamorous was just one of many. The wild part is, we never fought, we hardly ever disagreed, and we freaking enjoyed the hell out of each other’s company. But as most of us know, despite what the rom-coms want you to believe, love just ain’t enough.
One of the main things that came across loud and clear when we finally sat down and had a good discussion about these things (a conversation my trip to Berlin to see my friends and stay with my other partner precipitated…) was that my need for autonomy was a huge gap in our relationship that we would never be able to bridge.
One of the things I love about how I do life, relationships, and even my work, being a freelancer/ consultant, is that I can direct all things to suit me perfectly. I also have found over the six years since getting divorced, my autonomy is one of the ideals I value most. It is something I am not willing to give up. So when Dex said, “The most important thing to you, is you. I need someone who is going to prioritize me and my son.” He wasn’t wrong. It was not an insult. It’s just true. For both of us.
Traditional One-ness is Not for Me
Traditional relationships seem to value a one-ness that I am no longer comfortable with. I mean in our traditional Christian worlds “Two become one flesh” is how it is done. “Cleaving to one another, forsaking everyone else.” And if you don’t go in for all the religious reasons, how about romantic movies and literature? Or heck, just the examples we see all around us all the time. Women giving up what they want for their relationships. Careers put on hold, favorite flats sold to move to where the other person prefers. What hobbies? We do what they want. We don’t have many positive role models in our cultures that say “It’s ok to do otherwise. It’s ok to consider yourself in all of this.”
It’s not always easy to maintain the autonomy I crave. I will frequently adopt a “we” style of language. Even as I do it, I know I am making trouble for myself down the line, and usually, I am doing it to “help” the other person in the relationship feel more connected to me and part of this “one-ness.” (Bad habit I need to stop doing! It causes more trouble than helps in the end.) I have an older woman friend, and when she talks about things like the home she shares with her husband of 35 years, she says “My house.” I aspire to that level of self-confidence and self-consideration.
In the time I was dating Dex the amount of time we spent together ebbed and flowed, which I think is pretty normal. But there was a time in there when he was intentionally increasing the days we spent together. I enjoy his company so much I didn’t really notice, until one day he said, “Well [this event] is on our Tuesday/Wednesday.” I was like what? Two days? We have two days? That made me very uncomfortable. I realized I was spending so much time with him, I wasn’t making time for my friends, or even just time for me to sit alone in my house and relax. Also- we were still always hanging out together, not simply being together but doing our own thing. It was a time dedicated to talking and doing things together. (I once suggested we just hang out and do our own thing, like he could watch baseball and I would work on my art and he looked very confused by that suggestion. He responded that he had never really thought of that, but he supposed we could try it sometime.)
I intentionally started to move our dates to only one day a week and maybe one afternoon on a weekend. I started making a weekly date with my best friend. I started making time to go out to dinner or lunch by myself. I started to date other people again- it’s difficult to meet new people when all your free time is spent with one partner (especially a partner who is monogamous and not enthusiastic about your polyamory.) Low and behold, I felt like I had more energy. I felt better about myself and how I was doing my life. I was happier during the times I was spending with Dex too.
Of course, Dex noticed that I was not agreeing to the same number of dates anymore. He noticed that I said no to him more often. He began to wonder if I was living this wild polyamorous life outside of my regular life with him. Instead of talking to me about it, he started to write a story in his head about what I was doing with my time, only some of it was right.
The part that was right? I was prioritizing myself. Doing things that work for my life. Things that suit how I relate to people, how I find joy in life. I knew he needed more from me, but I was not making that need a priority. I couldn’t do that and still be true to myself. In the end, the gap between what we each needed from the other was too great: me- my autonomy and space to have a life outside of the relationship and him- someone to build a life with, do things with together more than anyone else.
Autonomy is noted in this article as a primary reason people participate in non-monogamous relationships:
Some other posts in which I talk about autonomy: