Poly to mono?
October 27, 2012 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Polyamorous, yet want to focus on one person right now. How to tell the others? Is this even normal or should I start re-evaluating my orientation?

I'm polyamorous (or so I thought for the past couple years), female, and have been dating multiple people for a couple of years after a long monogamous relationship that didn't work out because I fell for someone else (as happened before). I thought poly was the answer, but maybe not.

One lover has had staying power for the whole two years. Over the past couple of years, we've been each other's closest friend and lover. Both of us have had about a half-dozen other involvements in that time but neither of us has managed to feel a deep connection with any of them. He has called himself a serial monogamist who isn't the jealous type.

Our relationship has deepened. We both just sort of stopped being interested in other people over the past few months. We didn't formalize it, but we've both said we don't really want anyone else at the moment.

A couple of nights ago, I met up with someone after work (to discuss a work issue) but it was a time when my sweetie wanted to see me, and he seemed jealous until the next day when I explained why I had been meeting this other person instead (we didn't have plans, but generally I see him after work most nights).

He doesn't think of himself as the jealous type, but it seemed like he was to me. (He has tried to downplay the incident). I love him, and I don't want or need anyone else...not that I can't love more than one person, I just don't right now.

However, a casual lover from the poly community is in town this coming week. I set up a date with him for a few days from now, before this incident. We've only hooked up three times, over the course of four months. But he's really cool, and I want to deal with him and my primary lover respectfully.

Should I meet my more casual friend out as we planned and tell him in person that I'm just focusing on my other lover right now? Or should I send him a Facebook message or text? A phone call isn't an option as my phone will be off until after our date was planned for.

Should I make a big deal of this to my main partner? He'll probably insist he's not jealous and that I should do what I want. My intuition tells me otherwise, though, and I have decided it just isn't worth the strain it puts on our relationship.
posted by sucky_poppet to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Basically, there's no poly law that says you have to sleep with X number of people in Y number of years or you're lame or not really poly or whatever. There's also no law that says you have to view polyamorous as a fixed orientation instead of as a lifestyle choice that either suits you at the moment or doesn't suit you.

However, it doesn't sound like that's the only issue, here. If your main partner is jealous to the point where you're changing activities in order to avoid his reaction, that is a different issue and it's problematic because it seems like he's being manipulative by lying about his jealousy or lying about what relationship boundaries he wants to see in place.

Alternatively, it could be that you simply aren't able to trust him and take him at his word when he says he's okay with something, and that could be based in reality (he often lies or hides his feelings and then they come out later) or it could be something you're projecting onto the situation that isn't accurate. Sometimes people in open or non-monogamous relationships assume that the other person is way more upset or unhappy than they are, because the social script is that obviously no one can be happy with a non-mongamous partner.

Him getting jealous once doesn't seem to be a huge strain on the relationship. Was it just this incident, or is this a pattern?

I'm also not sure why you would consider talking about it with your partner to be "making it a big deal". Talking about your feelings or about your desire for monogamy isn't you being dramatic, it's you taking care of yourself and being up front. Again, I sense this sort of undercurrent of anxiety about his reactions and responses, and I can't tell if it's anxiety that stems from his previous behavior, or from your own feelings and assumptions.

Finally, the polite thing to do would be to be honest with your casual partner as soon as possible. I would not wait to see them in person.

Good luck, and feel free to clarify if there's anything I've gotten wrong.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:14 PM on October 27, 2012

Tell him in person. A dear john text message is low.
posted by Flood at 7:46 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I disagree with Flood; if the casual partner has enough forewarning, he may want to make different arrangements. I'd at least let him know about the change in romantic plans as soon as possible and if he still just wants to platonically meet up, sure, but if he'd prefer not to it should be his call.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:54 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's nothing especially weird here, and you're not doing anything wrong or icky.

So to keep that record clean, just tell everyone everything, and you're golden.

In person, yes.
posted by rokusan at 7:59 PM on October 27, 2012

How about keeping the date but sending -ahead of time- a message saying "um, I'm so very into special_lover that I think this won't be a sex play date". Kinda like the above couple comments, yah, but it depends on the emotional depth of the connection and you have to decide that.
posted by jet_silver at 8:00 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since it sounds like you are on good terms with the more casual partner and it is nothing they have done, letting them know as nicely as possible, as soon as possible that you aren't really up for a hook up would be the polite thing to do.

Since your primary lover isn't asking you to be monogamous, if it were me, I don't think I would bring this up in a fashion that could be construed as "their fault" because of seeming jealous. I think I would bring it up as "I would rather not at this time". When people's feelings change, it can be hard to come to terms with it and hard to define. I would give it time.

I had an open relationship with a man I knew primarily online. He was good to me and over time I just gradually stopped spending time with other men because compared to him they just seemed like jerks after a while. If he had asked me to dump other people, I would not have. I got to experience a sense of loyalty to him and that gave me my answer as to why my marriage never worked: My marriage was monogamy as prison, as an edict of Thou Shalt Not, not really an expectation that we will both be good to each other. Having had that sense of "I want only you" when monogamy was not required, I think I have some hope of someday working out the happily monogamous thing. Perhaps you are experiencing something similar.

Good luck.
posted by Michele in California at 8:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I'm looking forward to spending time with you, but I'd prefer a platonic evening to a romantic one. Is that cool with you? My feelings won't be hurt if you'd rather make other plans."
posted by itesser at 8:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [14 favorites]

This is a social problem, not a sexual one. You have plans with someone, you need to change the plans, and it is polite to let them know as early as possible. It doesn't make any difference if the plans are for the movies or for the bedroom.

Should I make a big deal of this to my main partner? He'll probably insist he's not jealous and that I should do what I want. My intuition tells me otherwise, though, and I have decided it just isn't worth the strain it puts on our relationship.

You know this is a giant red flag, right? Poly relationships require more communication and more honesty than mono ones to function. It's normal to have a primary relationship and to make adjustments, including evolving to monogamy, to make that relationship work. But if that's what's happening, you two need to renegotiate, not take guesses as to what is going on.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:37 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

DarlingBri is right. The one and only real poly 'rule' is honesty and forthrightness from everybody involved at all times. If you're having communication issues like these, the communication issues are really vital to work on, above and beyond all else.
posted by kalapierson at 6:00 AM on October 28, 2012

There are lots more phones than your cell. Use them.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:38 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

If casual partner is coming specifically to hook up with you, tell them immediately. It'd be shitty if they came all the way out when all along you knew it wasn't going to happen.

But you need to be honest with yourself and what you want. Be open with yourself and be open with your partners. If your primary partner is lying about being jealous, then I don't even know what to say to that. It's not cool for him to do that and it puts you in an awkward position of having to be a psychic. If he can't communicate, then being poly with him just won't work.
posted by inturnaround at 8:34 AM on October 28, 2012

Adding to what itesser said above, that plus, "I'm happy to talk about it if you like," or something. Then it's less like you're imposing a decision on the person unilaterally (even though you are) and more like they have some participation/involvement in what's happening, and they can discuss the situation and be heard. Also I think the important thing is to let the person know as soon as possible, even if that's by text, rather than waiting. Really the best time to let them know is immediately.
posted by kellybird at 9:11 AM on October 28, 2012

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