Help! I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for (1-25) years, and I’ve just discovered polyamory/think I’ve always been poly. How do I get my monogamous partner to agree to this?
You can’t make anyone do anything. You can only control your own words and actions.
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Ask for what you want, and be willing to accept “no” as an answer.
“Relationships exist to make the people in them happier and healthier versions of themselves,” LustyGuy is fond of saying. In any relationship, it’s your responsibility to know what will help you to become a happier and healthier version of yourself. And it’s wise to ask your partner on a regular basis what he/she needs as well, regardless of the relationship structure. If being a practicing polyamorist is essential to your health and happiness, it’s your responsibility to ask for it.
However, if you are in a long-term monogamous relationship and have recently either come to the realization that you are poly or feel you have always been poly but either unable or unwilling to express that need until now, I probably don’t need to tell you you’re in a difficult and risky situation. It’s entirely possible that you can come out to your partner as polyamorous and ask for the relationship to be opened up only to cause drawn out arguments, disastrous dates and potentially even the end of the existing relationship.
Likewise, it would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge that successful relationships in which one member is monogamous and another member is polyamorous are few and far between. (I’ve personally never heard of any in which the original participants remained happily together for more than year, but there is always the hope.)
That being said, if you don’t ask for what you want, it’s guaranteed you won’t get it.
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If you do ask for what you want, there is a chance you might get it. And as Franklin Veaux says, “Life rewards those who move in the direction of greatest courage.” Or we can go with Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”
Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that ultimately, the answer may be “no.” Your partner may either shut that door permanently or be open to further discussions but ultimately determine that he/she can’t be happy and healthy in that arrangement. And as we say here, never ask a question you’re not willing to accept a “no” to.
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In the end, having the courage to ask for what you want will in the long run make you a better partner and a better human
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Long answer (if your partner is willing to talk)
Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.
A new self-identification of polyamory can be frightening and threatening to an existing partner. Remember that while you may have spent months or years wrestling and coming to terms with the idea of polyamory, your partner hasn’t had that luxury. While you may see love as limitless and joyful, your partner may be inclined to distrust, especially if there have been issues of infidelity in the past (or present). Keep in mind that your partner will need time and a safe space to identify his/her own fears, insecurities, emotional triggers and boundaries with respect to polyamory.
And it’s helpful not to have a deadline looming or a potential partner waiting in the wings. These only add pressure to a topic that is already socially quite disruptive on many levels for most people.
It’s worth mentioning that if you have already engaged in any type of infidelity with someone else, it’s unlikely that a discussion about polyamory will be received enthusiastically. These things take time and trust. In cases of infidelity, trust must be rebuilt before poly can even be considered.
Keep in mind that if you expect a partner to respect and nurture your self-identity as poly, you should likewise be prepared to accept and nurture his/her identity as well. Set up a safe space to listen to your partner’s reactions to the idea of polyamory. Just as you eventually want to be understood, take the time to listen to what your partner values in your existing relationship—without defending your own choices or making it about you and your new poly needs.
Over time, these listening sessions may eventually become “what if” conversations or even fantasies musing about what poly might look like. They can end up taking place over months or in some cases over years, and they can be tremendously helpful in gaining a full understanding of everyone’s needs, regardless of the outcome.
Also, these months/years should be taken for introspection by both parties. Both people need to determine what they need to be happy and healthy in the relationship. Are the drawbacks of the non-preferred relationship structure truly intolerable? Are the benefits of the preferred relationship structure truly irreplaceable? Which is a want versus a need? It’s not unusual for the topic of polyamory to be brought up, discussed over time and ultimately rejected, leaving the relationship all the more solid for having considered an alternative. Likewise, it also happens (less frequently, to be sure) that polyamory is brought up, discussed theoretically over several years, and ultimately leads to the successful opening of the relationship with little to no drama.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, the important aspect, as always, is healthy communication between loving adults. If everyone involved has asked for what they want, listened to the other party, owned their own shit and determined their baseline for happy and healthy, the ultimate decision about relationship structure is undoubtedly the right one for everyone involved.
Ready to bring up the idea of polyamory with your partner? We’ve made the process easy (well, easier!) with a free checklist for you. Click below to download your free checklist: