The Mono-Poly Diaries: Supporting Your Poly Partner
It’s been a messy few months to say the least. I took a long break from writing The Mono-Poly Diaries because I felt quite unsettled. My partner and I have both been suffering from varying degrees of mental health issues. Mine are beginning to settle and I’m wanting to help him out as much as I can by nudging open the door to polyamory after playing the mono game for the past few months.
As a naturally monogamous person for the past 20 odd years, it took time for me to look at polyamory and decide whether or not it is for me. At the moment, in my journey of love, self discovery and generally trying to grow up, being poly is not for me, personally. I’m happy and secure in myself and I only want one romantic relationship. I’ve slowed down with posting pictures online for validation. I’m happy with my body and I’ve stopped needing people to tell me I’m the hot stuff. If I really start doubting it, I will just get back to running and eating well until I’m feeling it. That kind of self assurance only comes from within, and if it comes from the outside (other people telling me I’m perfect) then it’s not in my power if it goes away. It’s in the power of everyone I seek that validation from. Anyway – I’m digressing massively here. The point is, I’m feeling confident about who I am and about my body. I’m worthy, good enough and quite frankly, I have awesome tits so I don’t need to flaunt them around for ‘likes’ or compliments. I’m feeling ready to be in a mono-poly relationship and to allow my partner to just be himself.
I’ve been thinking a bit about co-dependence in relationships, and while I understand that it is not my partner’s duty to make me happy and not my duty to do the same for him, it’s really important that we take care of our own happiness and that we are both understanding, and allow each other to do that. A simple scenario to use as an example: let’s say I want to watch Gossip Girl and he wants to watch Narcos. A dutiful or co-dependent partner would say ‘it’s fine, we can watch your show, I just want you to be happy’. But that partner wouldn’t be looking after his or her own happiness. So a supportive partner might suggest watching shows in different rooms or alternating between the two or, even better, maybe picking something completely different to watch as a compromise – perhaps a UFO documentary! You shouldn’t be putting your happiness second, but neither should you put your partner’s happiness second! It’s important to look after your happiness but to be supportive of your partner doing what he or she wants to do to be happy too.
I’ve been looking at tips on how to be a supportive partner to a polyamorist and I’ve found three really helpful pointers that I think are worth sharing with other people in my situation.
Mono-Poly Tip 1 – Polyamory is about your partner, not you!
As the monogamous partner, you might never get your head around polyamory, and that’s ok. As long as you are accepting about what it means to your partner. It’s fair to expect that it will take months, even years, to adapt to dating someone who is not exclusive with you, but it can be done.
Think about it this way: you’ve met your partner, they’ve been honest about who they are and they are open about the fact that they believe in multiple relationships and infinite love. They decided all of this before they met you, so it’s really not a case of you not being enough. If a polyamorous person decides to commit to a relationship with a monogamous person, you can bet your bottom dollar that that person is enough for him or her, otherwise why would they risk the drama that can arise in a mono-poly relationship? Likewise, a message for my polyamorous friends reading this… If a monogamous person is dating you, you are totally enough for them, and you shouldn’t ever doubt that. He or she could get exclusivity and monogamy from someone else, but you are the one he or she loves and wants to be with. Another great thing on both sides is that you know you are dating someone who is compassionate enough to try to understand the way you are, and they are open minded enough to give the relationship a go. Look for the positives.
Mono-Poly Tip 2 – It’s ok not to be your partner’s “everything”
I’ve only ever had mono relationships before meeting my poly partner, so the idea of not being his one and only was a little alien to me to begin with. I thought that if I wasn’t his “everything”, then I wasn’t fulfilling my role as a girlfriend, and that maybe it wasn’t the true love you see in the movies and read about in books. While I’m on the subject – remember that the happy, plain sailing mono relationships you see in the media are just as fictitious as the happy, plain sailing poly relationships you see in the media! You only have to be as much to your partner as he or she needs and wants you to be. Your poly partner’s needs can’t begin and end with one lover. I’ve started to see how much my partner needs to be himself – his polyamorous self – to feel happy, and I want nothing more than for me to become the kind of understanding monogamous other half who can be compassionate about that. I want him to feel the thrill of the chase, I want him to feel desired and wanted and longed for. Yes, I desire him deeply, but I’m also smothering him by expecting my want for him to be enough. If you really, really want gravy with chips, having just chips or just gravy is going to leave you feeling unsatisfied.
The scary side of this acceptance and understanding from the mono half is that when your partner experiences New Relationship Energy (NRE) with a new partner, naturally, you won’t be the centre of his or her attention, and that’s why it’s really important to say goodbye to co-dependency before opening things up. If your partner finds a new partner (your new metamour) it’s really important to avoid being hostile towards him or her. Likewise, it’s important that your metamour(s) understand and respect your relationship with your partner, and it’s totally ok to expect that from them. As the poly half, it’s important to ensure that your partners all respect each other’s wants as well as physical and emotional boundaries. I found myself feeling guilty after I discovered my former metamour was upset with the fact that I left my toothbrush at my partner’s house. I had breached an unspoken boundary and I can imagine that it left her feeling displaced to some degree. Sometimes it’s the little things you need to watch out for.
Mono-Poly Tip 3 – Your poly partner’s love for someone else doesn’t negate their love for you
There’s a great quote that I love to go back to: “the presence of someone else’s beauty is not the absence of your own”. I got that one from one of my poly friends and I’m not sure where it originates from but it’s very true. Likewise, the existence of your poly partner’s love for someone else is not the absence of their love for you. When you allow your partner to date other people, or even to sleep with other people, it’s not up to you to put up a fight and make sure he or she still wants to date and sleep with you. If your poly partner loves you, you needn’t worry. If they wanted to go from one partner to another, they would be mono and date casually.
If your partner is committed to you, then the likeliness of them leaving simply because someone ‘shiny and new’ has entered his or her life is very low. And remember: nobody is shiny and new forever, so don’t try to compete with NRE. Instead, focus your attention more on building that ever lasting love and consistency for your poly partner to come home to. For me, I always know that my role in my partner’s life goes much deeper than sex. It’s to do with emotional intimacy, stability, reliability. I’m someone to come home to, to cuddle during hardships, to eat cheese toasties in bed with on a lazy Sunday morning. I might not provide the butterflies and fireworks of a new metamour or a one night stand, but I know my place in his heart.