Abuse, Boundaries, and Incompatibilities in Mono/Poly Relationships

A commenter on this blog recently mentioned their frustration with the way much of the writing about polyamory is by poly-folk, for poly-folk. This leaves monogamous people in mono/poly relationships in a difficult situation.

I may at a later time attempt to go into a detailed discussion of mono/poly relationships. Today I want to at least briefly address abuse in mono/poly relationships, and the difference between abuse, boundaries, and incompatibilities.

As I discussed earlier, the defining trait of abuse is control. This is true whether our partners are trying to control our jobs, our friendships, or our intimate relationships.

On the opposite side of relationships from control is setting boundaries. Instead of our partners telling us what WE are allowed to do, they are telling us what they require in a healthy relationship, and what is and is not acceptable to them.

For many mono/poly relationships, the greatest challenge is adjusting to a huge change in boundaries. When a member of a monogamous relationship comes out as polyamorous, they are drastically redefining their boundaries. How they redefine them varies a bit, but here are some examples.

  • I am willing and open to having multiple relationships. I’m not saying I need or want to have them, but I no longer need our relationship to be monogamous.
  • I’ve realized that I’m polyamorous, and monogamy has become unhealthy for me. In order for our relationship to meet my needs, I need to be able to have other relationships as well. I realize how big a thing this is, but I really hope you will be able to accept this change in my needs.

Of course, people rarely actually talk like this, but these general ideas, and others like them, are often behind a poly partner coming out to their monogamous partner.

An important part of these boundaries is that they are expressed as what the poly partner needs and what is healthy for them. They are not asking their monogamous partner to change or do anything. Only that their partner accept that this is what they need.

It is then up to the monogamous partner to decide, can I accept these new boundaries? Can a relationship with these boundaries be healthy for me?

If the answer is no than the mono and poly partners are incompatible. Especially in cases of long term relationships, this can be absolutely heart breaking. It can tear apart families, and destroy lives. But it may be healthier and less destructive than trying to force the relationship to continue.

Sometimes, a poly partner comes out in a way that is not setting boundaries, but exerting control:

  • I’m polyamorous, I need to have more than one relationship, and I need you to be involved in my other relationships.
  • I’m polyamorous, and monogamy is not healthy for me. I can’t be with a monogamous partner, so you need to be polyamorous too.
  • I know you are attracted to other people, you were telling me last week how hot Johnny Depp is. So you can’t object to my being in a relationship with other people.

Several of these statements are structured as “I need,” but in all of them the poly partner is dictating to the mono partner what the mono partner will and will not do, will and will not feel. This is not setting boundaries. This is abuse.

When this happens, the question of compatibility is irrelevant. One partner is trying to control the other partner and dictate their life. This is not a healthy relationship, full stop. Sometimes people choose to stay in abusive relationships, for various reasons (and I’ll be addressing this in a few weeks). Whether you stay in this relationship or leave it, this isn’t an issue of polyamory or monogamy. This is an issue of one partner being controlling and ignoring the other partners right to decide for themselves what they want.

Abuse can go both ways in a mono/poly relationship. Franklin Veaux’s the Game Changer depicts a monogamous partner using emotional abuse to control not just Franklin, but his other partners as well. On the flip side, I have heard disturbing stories of sexual abuse, where a poly partner forced their monogamous partner to participate in threesomes.

Navigating a mono/poly relationship is difficult at the best of times. Both partners (and I do mean BOTH) will need to make accommodations to make the relationship work. (Check out Hard and Soft Boundaries for a starting point in these discussions.) Especially in long term relationships becoming mono/poly, it can be tempting to try to preserve the relationship by insisting your partner toe your line or to giving in to your partners demands.

Don’t.

When you try to control your partner, or when your partner tries to control you, the relationship you are trying to preserve has crossed the line into abuse. Once that happens, what is really left to preserve? Either you need to confront the abuse and find a way to heal and start over, or the relationship is already dead—it just hasn’t stopped moving yet.

This post is part of the Abuse in Polyamory blog series. It is related to Polyamory and Mental Illness.

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COMMENTS CLOSED

With regret, I am closing this post to further comments. I am glad that many people have found this post meaningful to their relationships in some way, and I hope i have been able to help some of the people who have come here. However, I can’t do relationship advice any longer. I don’t have the spoons to keep trying to help people. And that’s what almost every comment on this blog has been–requests for relationship advice.

As an alternative, please check out Ask LouLoria’s awesome advice blog. And you might find Designer Relationships more helpful than many polyamory-focused relationship books.

29 responses to “Abuse, Boundaries, and Incompatibilities in Mono/Poly Relationships

  1. I appreciate you trying to address this; even though you’re polyamorous, you make a creditable attempt at speaking for monogamous people. I’m just wondering if there are any mono people in successful healthy relationships with poly people and why they aren’t writing. How do we compromise away the basics of what makes our relationships monogamous without feeling we’ve given up everything? Veaux talks about “creeping concessions” for poly people, in that they give up little things to help their partners feel safer and more comfortable, but that it’s a bad thing that encroaches on their poly relationships. Isn’t there a similar situation for the mono partner? The poly couple(s) push for more and more in their relationships, urging the mono partner to agree to it for “growth”, and the mono partner gives in but finds it’s too painful. Only you can’t go back because that’s “not fair” to the poly couple(s), so you’re stuck with that concession. Or you can leave. I’m still struggling with that choice. I just want to hear from ONE mono partner and how they cope with losing so much of their relationship.

    • I will keep my eye out for other blogs by monogamous people in mono/poly relationships. I’m afraid the only one I know of is the blog I linked to in one of my earlier comments.

      From my perspecitve (and very much in keeping with the current blog topic) the difference between the concenssions Franklin talks about and what you are referring to is very much related to control and behavior. The concessions you need to make as monogamous person are largely about recognizing that you can’t control your spouse’s behavior and learning to adapt to their choices. A poly person making concenssions is allowing their mono partner to control their behavior. That, at the very least, pushes the edges of abuse.

      That doesn’t, in any way, mean that a poly spouses choices aren’t hurtful, damaging, or destructive to a relationship. But its the difference between the damage done by incompatibilities, and the damage done by unhealthy relationship dynamics.

      Keeping you in my thoughts.
      Jessica

      • Thank you for sharing your experience Jessica!

        fyi @Mrs. Mono, I started a blog recently, written from a mono perspective: http://www.lovelypoly.org

        It’s not that extended and I have many thoughts running through my mind to add. I look forward to reading more about your views and connecting online.

    • This isn’t really a reply about how I cope with losing much of the relationship, but in a way it is. I’m monogamous. My partner identifies as poly. I don’t feel at liberty to say that he IS poly because 1) I don’t know what that means or how that feels, and 2) because he behaves in a monogamous way. The background is that before out first date, I didn’t know he was poly. A few dates in he mentioned it. I wasn’t upset because I get why someone wouldn’t want to bring that up on the first date. So then I had the choice to continue dating him, or stop. We had a very intense connection and fell in love very quickly. My choice was to keep dating him, but I made it very explicit that I could not have a boyfriend who had other relationships. There was lots of discussion about sense of self and definitions. He re-iterated that it was important for him to define himself as poly. My terms for a relationship were that you can define yourself however you want (it’s not my responsibility or right to define you), but I need a monogamous relationship. This involved distinguishing the relationship from our own personal definitions of self. We also discussed common misconception about what monogamy is. To me, monogamy doesn’t mean you never feel attracted to another person, or never fall in love with another person. You might even be in love with two people at once. To me, monogamy is an agreement that if/when this happens, you handle it by telling your partner and figuring out how to manage those feelings in ways that don’t involve pursuing a relationship with the other person (e.g., actively re-investing in your relationship). It also means that you don’t actively go looking for other relationships.

      In terms of what he gives up, I guess it’s a lot – the capacity to have other relationships. But on the other hand, if he chose a poly lifestyle, he’d be giving up me (and I happen to think that’s also a lot because, yay, self-esteem). So he’d be loosing out either way.

      It’s similar for me. It would be easy to think i’ve given up nothing because i’m in the kind of relationship that naturally suits me, but that’s not the case. For whatever reason (societal expectations from upbringing, disney movies, born that way…whatever) many monogamous people have a strong internal desire for their partner to love them completely. To only want them, to only need them, for the idea of loving someone else to be unthinkable. Whether you’re poly or mono, there will be preconceived ideas about relationships that you developed in youth that you will have to let go of in adulthood – it’s just reality. But for me being with a poly person means giving up those ideas and the feelings associated with them, while at the same time, coping with the feelings associated with the reality. It’s having that thought in the back of my brain that when he says “I love you”, he doesn’t mean “I love you and only you and forever”. It’s dealing with the idea that I might not be enough for him, but having to muster the security to remember that he has chosen me regardless and I need to trust that he’s happy in the relationship. Constantly challenging those kinds of feelings and thoughts that conflict with the way I think love should be takes energy, commitment and a lot of self-awareness.

      Basically, we both lose out on the kind of relationship that feels comfortable and natural to ourselves, but at the same time, we win each other and that makes it worth it.

      • Ginny, thanks for sharing! It’s great that you and your partner found a way to make a relationship that works for both of you. Giving up that sense of security and being the center of your love’s life, even if they don’t act on their feelings is hard, but it sounds like you are managing to do that and be happy in the relationship you have. Major kudos.

        I don’t think I could make the choice your partner made, but then I’m currently IN two different relationships. Someone asking me to be monogamous would be asking me to cut two people out of my life that I love very much. That’s very different from giving up relationships that one might have in the future.

        FYI–if your partner identifies as poly, it is totally okay to say “he is poly.”

    • Sweetblackangel

      There are mono people living happily in a mono/poly relationship. I am one and I know of multiple others. I don’t write about it for two reasons though. The first is that there simply isn’t much to write about, it’s just part of my daily life. Blogs going ‘My partner, metamour and I went to the movies together. It was fun.’ or ‘My partner went on a date. I watched a chickflick.’ are not very interesting to read.
      The second reason is that writing my thesis makes me not wanting to write anything else for a while.

      But just know that happy mono people are certainly out there!

  2. Ms Mono I think I may be facing a similar situation to you. My partner of 8 years, who has been the love of my life, has recently told me he is poly. I still feel like it’s some sort of joke that I will wake up from eventually. It does feel like there is no compromise from the poly spouse – I am this way, deal with it or leave (of course said in a much more sugar-coated way).
    I am happy for my partner to have extremely deep emotional bonds with his friends, but felt sex was the sacred bond that only we got to share. If he takes that away, from my mono perspective, I dont know what else is left that feels sacred and private and just special between us. I hate how old fashioned and prudish I sound typing this – I consider myself quite open minded and I am only 27 years old. I don’t know, I have gotten off track. For me it feels like I am losing the very core of our relationship, the most pure and beautiful bit. I am heart broken and ravaged to my core, I have post traumatic stress from some trauma I experienced in my life, and I can say without a doubt that the prospect of having my partner chose multiple partners over his relationship with me is the most obliterating, unbearable pain of my life. It trumps everything. x

    Ps. Sorry if my comment was disrespectful – this blog and the sections on mental health have made me feel less attacked by the Poly community, and the best that I have felt so far – thank you for the kind and empathetic content.

    • Georgie,

      Your comment certainly isn’t in anyway disrespectful, and I’m glad that my blog has been a welcoming place for you.

      For me, polyamory is very much a part of who I am, and I could never be completely comfortable in a monogamous relationship. In that sense there is no compromise–anymore than there is compromise with my most entwined partner’s disability. Or anymore than you, as a monogamous person, can stop being monogamous. I was extremely lucky to A) be exposed to the idea of multiple relationships at an early age, and B) recognize this about myself ebfore I got into any serious relationships. For people who only recognize themselves a polyamroous after they have been in a committed monogamous relationship…well it’s absolutely devastating for everyone.

      I wish there was something I could do or say that would make this better or easier for you and your spouse. I hope this website will continue to be a safe space for you, and please feel free to comment or contact me at any time.

      Jessica

    • Georgie, I wish I could give you some hope, some level of comfort. I had to make the decision to end my marriage, filing for divorce on Friday. I’d given up so much, with no hope of ever getting any of it back, when I finally broke. It seems very easy for them to take and take, and never give anything back. And once you give in on one thing, they won’t stop until you’ve given up everything. When you’re in a mono-poly relationship, it’s always about the poly side, the poly relationships.
      This experience has pretty much destroyed me. I have no faith in men or relationships, no trust left to offer anyone.
      I’m praying for you and your family, hoping your husband and his lovers don’t treat you like mine treated me and my daughters.
      Best of luck to you.

      • I’m sorry this has happened to you, and I hope you and your daughters are able to heal and find happiness moving forward.

        Jessica

  3. Just some thoughts about mono relationship morphing into a poly relationship…my husband of almost 25 years had an affair 6 months ago. I literally caught them in a compromised situation. My husband swore allegiance, love and regret to me begging me to stay with him. Long story short..for whatever reason…I’m unwilling to say I was cohersed…he and I ended up having a week with her which ended in disaster. I had never done anything like that before and I wasn’t prepared for how awful I would feel seeing him be affectionate/intimate with another person. We parted ways with the expectation of never seeing her again. However, she and I had bonded in a weird way…my husband ironically had become I’ll during our trip and she and I had a lot of time to sit together and talk while he was sleeping. I unexpectedly found that I wanted to “try” and get to know her better. We live in separate states, so that was just talking, emailing and texting. 2 months later, she joined us on an extended business trip. I thought I could handle it…enjoy it even. But it has been really really difficult. I suffer from depression/anxiety…I attempted suicide 2 yrs ago and almost succeeded. This change in my world has caused me to come undone. I really believe she only wants to be with my husband and tolerates me in order to be able to have a relationship with him. But I struggle…like you said in the mental illness blogs…with differentiating between reality and my own insecurities/demons. My husband says he wants this “for me”…so that I can have an experience and feel alive. But let’s face it, he didn’t have an affair with her for me. I love him very deeply and don’t want to make an ultimatum to choose between me and having this thing that he desires so much. And it’s really not that simple because I feel vested in her as well, except for the fact that I doubt her sincerity towards me. All of this is even more difficult because of our age differences…He’s 13 yrs older than me, I’m 19 years older than her. It makes no sense? And what about our children and grandchildren? Our oldest daughter is only 4 years younger than her which is so shameful to say. The worst part is that they know about the affair…not from me but from a colleague…so even of we were to decide to continue this, which is what she swears she wants, they would never accept her. She has a young daughter as well, and ironically, she hasn’t told her husband about us because “he wouldn’t understand” even they are both in an open/polyamory marriage. So that’s my story. What triggered my comment was your reply to Ms Mono. “The concessions you need to make as a monogamous person are largely about recognizing that you can’t control your spouces behavior and learning to adapt to their choices. A poly person making concessions is allowing their mono partner to control their behavior. That at the very least pushes the edge of abuse.” The thing is, I have adapted to my spouce’s choices every time he has been unfaithful to me…yep, not my first rodeo. And for him, after 24 years to declare himself poly…which he is not doing, but for the sake of all the other mono women out there…and then call my objections abusive, is quite frankly absurd. That’s cool if you have this realization that you want to be in multiple relationships and are open and honest with that from the get go. However, if you change the rules years into a committed monogamous relationship, isn’t the other partner allowed to voice their hurt and anger over their world being irrevocably changed…FOREVER…without being labeled “abusive”?? Especially when the only “real” openly poly person isn’t all that open about their choices? I don’t know. Not saying I understand any of it, but it seems pretty convenient for someone to have a “I’m poly” epiphany when things in their marriage become stagnent and the going gets tough. Jessica, I REALLY appreciate your site and blogs and insight into what has proven to be one of the biggest challenges of my life. This is the first site I have looked at that actually had something real and tangible to offer people who are struggling with their own tornado. My comments are not reflective of your opinion. Just a small note as to my own experience.

    • Lea,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You had a long comment, so I’ve got a fairly long reply. Please bare with me.

      First, I am very glad that you’ve found my blog helpful. If there is ever a specific topic or question you’d like to see addressed please let me know!

      Now, I’m going to stand by what I said. Trying to control another person’s behavior is abuse. Period, end of story. I don’t care if they’ve just came out poly after 50 years together, or just announced they are leaving for a round the world tour they’ll see you next year.

      However, there are lots of ways relationships can be unhealthy without being abusive. Coming out poly after years together and just expecting your spouse to go along with it is pretty damn unhealthy. I have (probably obviously) a lot of sympathy for someone who spent decades thinking monogamy was the only way and they were a bad spouse for wanting more, suddenly discovering there are other ways, and turning into a kid in a candy shop. But expecting to change the entire foundation of a relationship instantly, with no preparation, no discussion, etc, is definitely unhealthy. Because I am focusing specifically on abuse, it may sometimes seem that in saying something is not abusive, I am saying it is okay. THat is not my intent. Just because something is not abusive does not mean it is okay, healthy, respectful, considerate, or any part of a good relationship. All it means is that that behavior is not abusive.

      If my live-in partner goes out and spends all his income on fancy dates w/ his girlfriends, and we don’t have enough to cover household expenses, that is not abusive. But it is highly shitty, irresponsible, disrespectful thing to do, and we would not be in a relationship any longer.

      As far as “calling your objections” to your spouse coming out as poly abusive? No. Objecting, being upset, expressing anger, rage, fear, none of that is abusive. Trying to make him not be poly is abusive. Using impossible-to-navigate rules and restrictions to try to prevent him from having a girlfriend is restrictive. Telling him he’s being an inconsiderate ass and you are so angry with him you could scream is not at all abusive, IMO. (There are people who consider any use of profanity abusive. If profanity is used to attack a partner, belittle them, or force them to change their behavior I agree. If profanity is being used to call it like you see it, well I do that all the fucking time.)

      Regarding your story, I have to say I have some concerns. The “I’m doing this for you” line your husband is using is a classic bit of emotional and psychological abuse. If you and he were having sex while he was having his affairs, that is also abusive because he was taking away your choice and control over what level of risk is acceptable for you re: STIs. Everyone says and does stupid shit sometimes, but if this behavior is typical of him (and the history of affairs suggests it might be) then you might in fact be in an abusive relationship.

      Re: his girlfriend, if you want to have a relationship with her, but feel like she is being standoffish, the best I can suggest is talk with her about it. It may be that she expects you to blame her for the affair. It may be that she isn’t sure how to have a relationship with someone who is older than her. It may be that she is in fact not interested in interacting. Best way to find out is to ask. Personally, her refusing to tell her husband, even though they are supposedly open, is another red flag for me. That said, from what you’ve said here your relationship w/ her sounds like a side issue. If I were you, I’d spend some time really looking at your husbands behavior and if it is something you want to live with.

      Jessica

  4. Do you know of anything written by a monogamous partner who knowingly entered into a relationship with a polyamorous person? My searches have mostly turned up cases of long term monogamous relationships where one partner eventually comes out as poly. I just ended a relationship with the most wonderful partner I’ve ever had, because he is poly (which I knew from the beginning) and I have had traumatic experiences with open relationships in the past, and we decided it would be better to end our (monogamous) relationship before faced with his inevitable need to have other relationships. I had originally been in favor of staying together, monogamously, until he felt that he couldn’t do it anymore, but I think the way we ended it was better, and I hope that we will stay close friends, after the grieving is over.

    But in the waves of withdrawal following the end of a wonderful relationship with seemingly just this one incompatibility, I find myself wanting to learn whether it’s possible to be a monogamous person in a relationship with a polyamorous person and have everyone’s needs be met. The relationship is off the table, at this point, so this is not a last ditch effort to make it work. Just something I want to learn more about so that if it comes up again, I’ll be ready.

    • Ms Mono/Poly write about her experiences as a monogamous person in a relationship w/ poly folk here: http://frombaltictoboardwalk.blogspot.com She doesn’t blog often but when she does she has some good insights.

      I thought I had a link to another blog, but I can’t find it right now. I’ve reached out to the person I thought was writing the blog, and I’ll update when they get back to me.

  5. I’ve read several post about poly/mono relationships, and I still can’t find a way to handle mine. He is an amazing man, we’ve been together for some months, after four weeks of dating he told me he was poly and he had already a long term relationship with another woman. I consider myself an open minded person and the way the relationship were working make me dicide to stay. Since that day I’ve been working with my feelings and emotions, I constantly feel jealous when I know he’s with her, it’s nothing against her, I met her and she’s lovely.
    It’s not about the time or attention I receive, it’s about the concept, about the idea that I’m not enough for him, all this time I’ve been trying to understand it, to accept it, but is so hard to ignore or change all those preconceived ideas about relationships.
    I don’t want to end up an amazing relationship for not being able to understand him and his needs and to control my jealousy and negative emotions . I wish you could help me. I’m kind of desperate.
    Ps. Sorry for my horrible writing, English is not my mother tongue.

    • Preconceived notions are always difficult to dig out and the idea that you should be all things to someone you love is very deeply embedded in our culture.

      I think you may be running into a version of the Poly Culture Gap. You KNOW what love is supposed to look like and this isn’t it. Ultimately, the only way to accept your partner’s approach to love is going to be to stick around long enough for it to begin making sense.

      A few thoughts that may help in the meantime:

      1) There aren’t many good resources on dealing with jealousy–but there are LOTS of resources on dealing with anger. Check them out and see if you can adapt any to help you with your jealousy.

      2) Figure out what exactly you need in this relationship. Pretend for a minute that poly wasn’t an issue. What would you need from your partner? What would you want your relationship to look like? Try to be concrete. If you need to know he cares about you, write that down. but also write down some things he could do to show you that he cares. Be realistic. It doesn’t matter what type of relationship you are in “I need him to drop everything when I call” is rarely possible because work and other life stuff. Talk with him about those needs. Poly or no poly, you should be working to meet eachother’s needs.

      3) Talk with your partner about establishing some relationship space. Having something just for the two of you can help you feel special and cherished when the jealousy gets bad.

      4) Focus on the good things. I had a psych teacher who used to say “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” What he meant was, the brain can become trapped in patterns. If you create a pattern of thinking about negative stuff, it becomes easier to think about negative stuff and harder to think about positive stuff. Training your mind is kind of like teaching a toddler not to go in the kitchen. The first time you realize you are thinking negative stuff you tell yourself “No, I’m not going there. I’m going to think about this happy thing instead.” Give it thirty seconds and you’ll be right back in the negative thoughts again. But in time, if you keep gently redirecting your thoughts, the intervals between negative thoughts will become longer and it will be easier to focus on the good stuff. So make a list of good things in your relationship. When you find yourself thinking negatively, pull out that list. (I figure I’ve got another month of gently redirecting the baby everytime she heads for the kitchen. But one day it’ll stick!)

      5) Find something for yourself. Maybe you can start dating and have a second relationship. Maybe you can take up a hobby. Maybe you can go splurge on your favorite bathbomb or chocolate or that book you’ve been wanting to read. You’re working hard at a really touch thing. Reward yourself. It’ll give you something else to think about when the negative thoughts start, plus.. You totally deserve it!

  6. I am monogomous. I knowingly entered a relationship with an old friend who is poly. He never kept it a secret from me, and when we first ended up sharing a bed, it was actually awesome to know I could have the sex and intimacy when it suited me, visiting him on occasional weekends. We fell into a routine of sorts, every weekend, and then a midweek visit as well. He gave me drawer space, and suggested I leave a complete assortment of make-up and toiletries on his dresser so I wasn’t bringing it with me every few days. My robe lived on a hook behind his bedroom door next to his. I became known and accepted as ‘his girlfriend’. I knew there were others, but I never saw any evidence of them in his home, and they never crossed the boundaries if we were out together and ran into them. Although I could usually tell they were one of his ‘play-buddies’. It didn’t really bother me because I had entered ‘his world’ with complete knowledge and told him that as long as it worked for us, then I would continue to see him. This worked well for 18 months, then he was forced to make a decision to move interstate for family reasons. He asked if I would consider making the move with him, as he didn’t want to end our relationship, or pursue a long distance involvement. A lot of thought went into my decision, and I asked if we could define some boundaries in order to make the transition work for us. He was more than open to that, and asked me to give really serious consideration to what I could and could not tolerate, in order for us to hash out and come to an agreed set of rules and boundaries. So I did.

    Given my very monogomous and otherwise conservative life, I tried to be fair and reasonable and very hard on myself on what I would and would not be able to deal with. It’s all very well to say ‘I’ll deal with that with your support’, but can you? I didn’t want that, so I was brutal. I also didn’t want to put too many obstacles in the way of what had, up til that point, been a wonderful relationship. So my requests were these:

    1. No old play buddies. Let’s start new and with a clean slate. Establish new connections and be open when wanting time away from our home to see them.

    2. No-one is to invade our home, unless it is someone we met together and both connected with and decided we could trust to not taint our sanctuary. (I was open to exploring my own long-suppressed desires for some female encounters, and my thinking was with his support that I could finally do that. I would never have sought out those experiences on my own.)

    3. Defined areas of going out. I did not want to be taken to a restaurant or club or other venue where he was known in the company of another woman. Give us our own zones, and never the twain shall meet.

    He had some concerns of his own, like how would I cope if he told me he wanted a night out – knowing it was with someone else – and I had to tell him honestly that I didn’t know until it happened. But I felt that I could safely project I would be ok as long as it was not someone from his past. The best explanation I could give was that we were in a new state, in a new town, where nobody knew us or our private lives, and we would be known as a couple. So anyone new being added to the equation would respect and appreciate the boundaries of our relationship, whereas a play-buddy from times previous to me would be more likely to feel that I was encroaching on their territory, and changing the rules. Does that make sense? I was ok with new connections, not with the old ones. One in particular used to make me feel like an interloper whenever we saw her, and clearly resented me for upsetting what she perceived she had with him.

    He was ecstatic that my requests were so few, and workable, and agreed to them. There were many more questions I posed, that he answered to my satisfaction, and I agreed to some requests that he made. Namely to speak up more, and not keep anything brewing in my mind. He was quite adamant that he wasn’t a mind reader, and if I didn’t spell it out for him, he would continue under the impression that all was well in our world.

    So we moved. The other end of the country, away from everyone and everything I knew. And he worked away a lot with his job. And I knew there were encounters and connections and friendships forged during his tenures in other places. None of which particularly bothered me. It seemed to be working, and I was secure in the knowledge we had our boundaries and he loved me and respected me and would not cross them.

    Then one day, I broke a rule of my own. I never ever looked through his phone, computer etc. Even if he went out and left facebook open – I just didn’t pry. He used to joke that I was odd in that respect, I just told him it was self-preservation. I knew what our lives were, but I didn’t want to actually read anything about it. But for some reason, while he was showering, (and I still don’t know what made me do this after 3 years together) I picked up his phone when a message beeped through. The initial annoyance when I saw it was the old friend that resented my existence, turned into shock when I saw the message scroll across the top of the screen. She had bought tickets for a concert in our town, and couldn’t wait to have him to herself for two whole nights!! I replaced the phone quietly, and decided to say nothing until I thought through it and could approach the discussion without letting my mouth run away with me. He picked up my mood however, asking me why I seemed quiet and sad. He is so perceptive in that way… it’s quite alarming sometimes. The next day I told him I had something to talk to him about, but I needed to think on it more first, and could he just give me some time. He agreed, and was true to his word. So two days later, over a glass of wine, he gently broached the subject again, and I firstly apologised profusely for breaking my own rule and his trust. Not that I actually pressed any buttons on his phone, but I picked it up and read the message as it scrolled across the top of the screen in preview mode. He was stunned, but didn’t respond in any accusatory manner. He listened to what I had to say, and how hurt I was that he had broken the boundary we had agreed to – ‘no old ones’. Particularly ‘that’ one. Out of all his old FWB, that one had always made it patently clear she resented me. And was always gleeful when she heard of any ructions in our lives. I didn’t like her, and didn’t trust her, because she did not respect me or us as a couple. So this one, of all the possibilities, wounded me beyond belief. I always respected their friendship, and never demanded he wipe her from his life completely. And I believed that their continued connection was friendship based only.

    We’ve now had 3 incredible rows about this. And I feel betrayed, I told him he broke a rule, and that I could not deal with her in our lives. I reminded him that the reason this boundary was agreed to was because I genuinely felt that while I could cope with new and unrelated connections, I could not deal with old ones. Given that his connections are not relationship style, but friendships with sex thrown in on occasions, I didn’t feel that I was asking him to sacrifice his right arm, and he agreed at the time that it was a fair and reasonable request. So now I feel that he has ‘cheated’, and I told him so. Ethical non-monogamy is based on faith and trust, and while I always maintained his other connections were his business, it isn’t ok to underhandedly break a boundary on the premise that if I don’t know about it, then it’s ok. It’s still cheating, right?

    He has told me he can not, and will not choose between the two of us, as he has genuine feelings for her also. My trust and faith have just gone now, what else has he lied to me about? Safe sex? Work visits to our old town spent with her then? I now question everything, and feel sure about nothing. He knows the ball is in his court, but with the concert date drawing near, all I have been able to do is wait to see what he decides.

    So there you have it…a mono/poly connection that was working perfectly (or so I thought) – that is now being tested because of what I perceive to be cheating. Am I right? Or was I being unfair to start with, despite my efforts to be fair and reasonable?

    • You made an agreement, he broke that agreement. Yes, this is cheating. If he had feelings for this person when you and he made your agreement, he should have told you then “I’m sorry, I can’t agree to this. I have feelings for X person and will not give up that relationship.” If he has developed feelings since then, he should have come to you and said, “I have developed strong feelings for this person and I want to re-negotiate our agreement.”

      For him to take advantage of your decision not to pry in order to have a relationship he knew was a violation of your agreement, is several levels of fucked up on top of the cheating.

      Obvious, I’m missing a lot of the details and only hearing one side of the story. But if you started your relationships with an agreement and he could no longer accept that agreement, then the ethical thing to do would be to tell you up front that he couldn’t live with the agreement anymore.

      That said, I’m gonna play devil’s advocate for a moment. Three years is a long time, memories blur and miscommunications happen. Is it possible he didn’t remember that this was part of your agreement? Is it possible that there was a misunderstanding between you when you made the agreement? If either of these are what happened, then I wouldn’t consider it cheating, just a very hurtful SNAFU that you need to work through. If he has admitted that he was aware of the agreement, knew he was breaking the agreement and did it anyway, this doesn’t apply. If in your rows you sometimes feel like you are having two different conversations, neither hearing what the other is saying, it may be worth sitting down and asking him what he remembers of he agreement you made and making sure you are both remembering the same thing.

      I’m very sorry you are going through this. It’s always hell when someone breaks an agreement, and worse if in the process they bring someone you don’t want anything to do with into your life.

  7. Thanks Jessica, it’s good to hear another person’s perspective on my feelings, as I often wonder if I am too grounded in the ‘picket fence & monogamy’ thought patterns that are taught to us from day dot.

    We had our big discussion prior to moving interstate, (I wouldn’t have made the move if I hadn’t felt we could succeed) and rehashed them again on our 2nd night in this house, just over a year ago. They were written in my notebook, and he doesn’t deny the agreement at all. At the time he had no contact with this particular woman, they weren’t speaking, in fact she had blocked the two of us online, due to a misunderstanding that I encouraged him to address. I knew their friendship had been important to him, and didn’t wish to disrespect that, despite my wariness of her behaviour. They have a common interest in music, and can talk for hours about recording and singers and their mutual love of performing. So when our agreement was made, he only had feelings of regret that she had apparently opted out of the friendship. I was genuinely pleased when he told me she had responded in a friendly nature to a text, and it appeared their old friendship was back on track. I know they spent time together when he was working in our old town recently, and asked him if he had crossed that boundary then. He didn’t lie, but he couldn’t answer me. So that obviously was her impetus to purchase the concert tickets and plan a weekend with him here. (A concert that I had considered trying to buy tickets for, as I knew he would love it. Not pertinent, but another stinging slap in the face as I had decided it would be too difficult with his work roster.)

    And yes, he admitted that he knew he was crossing the boundaries at the time, but he had really missed her being a part of his life as a friend, and it had ended up that way. He asked why her presence in our lives threatened me, and I told him a mutual friend had relayed her utter disgust to me regarding a conversation they had over coffee, where his friend had spitefully announced that we were ‘mismatched’ and that she would get what she wanted anyway. To me, that showed a blatant disrespect for our relationship, and while people can harbour thoughts like that, they don’t generally announce them to a third party they know is actually related to me. His face told me he clearly disbelieved me, as I had not given him the details previously, only told him that something rather hurtful had been said.

    Our agreement on boundaries was made with the clear understanding that they were open to renegotiation if and when either of us found something too hard. He could have done that. Not that I would ever agree to allowing that particular woman any foothold in my life, but at least it could have been discussed, and I wouldn’t then feel like he had cheated on me.

    So now I wait – because I have told him I cannot deal with her in our lives. I will tolerate a friendship, but no more. He has to make this decision before the concert, because if he does go to that concert with her, our whole relationship is going to be re-evaluated. And while I love him, and I don’t doubt his love for me, I didn’t move away from everyone I care about in life to be unhappy and mistrusting in my relationship. We do talk quite well about issues, he’s becoming less defensive about his wants and needs and more understanding of mine. But I can see that this one is sticking, and I’m sure he feels that if he forgoes the concert, that he is in some way ‘giving in’…despite the fact he knows it will be our demise.

    If you have others in a mono/poly relationship, I suggest you tell them it can work – for a time. And make you incredibly happy. But it will make you incredibly sad when you have to deal with issues where your values do not align. I should add that I am very ‘vanilla’ in every aspect, and he is very into kink, bdsm, & considers himself ‘heteroflexible’. All things I knew before I got into his bed, and all things I accept now – and happily experiment with when the occasion suits me. These were issues I expected to cause problems within our relationship, not the trust and honesty factor. So to anyone considering a mono/poly relationship… sometimes it isn’t the glaringly obvious that cause problems within.

  8. My wife is poly. I am not. Short of it is we’re going our separate ways because I can’t do polyamory and she won’t do monogamy. Help me to understand the justification for walking away from a perfectly happy marriage and family to pursue this relationship. She says she loves me. I love her too. How is giving us up and putting us and our kids through this turmoil worth this? How can she choose polyamory over the sanctity of our union and the promises we made and in spite of the anguish and turmoil it will cause for our children and other loved ones? I know how devastating divorce can be. I’ve lived through it. The thought was unthinkable and unacceptable to me and to her… but now it’s ok? For this? I’m hurting over this, but she says can’t go back. Why is this ok? Am I wrong in this? She’s says I make her feel guilty. That I’m laying all the blame for this on her? Is this not of her own choosing? Is the onus not on her in this? Please help me to understand!

    • Nathaniel,

      I’m sorry you and your wife are going through this. I know how devastating it much be for both of you.

      I can’t know why your wife is doing this, but having spoken with many people in mono/poly marriages and with my own experiences I can make a good guess. And if you want to understand you need to stop and listen to her. Because if I am right abot why she is doing this, you aren’t hearing what she is saying.

      Help me to understand the justification for walking away from a perfectly happy marriage

      She isn’t happy in this marriage. If she was she wouldn’t be walking away. It sounds like you have been “perfectly happy” in your marriage. It’s pretty obvious that she hasn’t been.

      I can’t do polyamory and she won’t do monogamy.

      says can’t go back

      Is this not of her own choosing? Is the onus not on her in this?

      No, it is not of her choosing. She told you that. You say that you “can’t” and she “won’t,” and by doing that you are blaming her for something she has told you is not a choice. How would you feel if she told you “It’s your fault I’m leaving because you refuse to be polyamorous, if you’d just choose to be polyamorous with me e could stay together.”

      I think you’d probably say something like “I’m not making a choice this is who I am.” And be upset with her for trying to make you feel guilty.

      When she is telling you “I’m not making a choice this is who I am.” and you are blaming her for who she is and insisting it is a choice she is making.

      Gonna tell you a story. This is a made up story, but it’s what my story would have been if I married monogamously before learning about polyamory.

      She fell in love and she loved him with everything she had. But it always felt like something as missing. Some way their relationships was a little “off” from all the romance stories and happily-ever-afters. She told herself she was being silly. Life wasn’t a fairytale, but he loves you and you love him and you’ll make it work. They were married in front of a big crowd of friends and family. They lived together, loved each other, had children. It was the perfect marriage. Except it wasn’t. That feeling of something being off, something being missing never went away. She pushed the feeling away. Felt disloyal for feeling it. Wasn’t her husband wonderful? Weren’t her children her pride and joy? How could she be unsatisfied when she had such a perfect family? She blamed herself for whatever failing was in her that made her feeling this way and vowed to be an even more perfect mother and wife to make up for this lack in her.

      Then, one day, she learned about polyamory. She learned that there were people who were happy in relationships with multiple people, something her upbringing always taught her was impossible. But it was possible and people have been doing it for decades and suddenly, that missing piece she has always felt makes sense. It’s not that she doesn’t love her husband, it’s that she has a need to love many people. And all this time she has been blaming herself for her failing hen it isn’t her failing–it’s that monogamy was never right for her, but she didn’t know that because she grew up being taught that monogamy was the only way and right for everyone.

      She tries to talk to her husband about, but he doesn’t understand. Maybe all he hears is that he isn’t enough for her anymore. Maybe all he hears is she’s having some kind of midlife crisis. Maybe he can’t comprehend polyamory or doesn’t understand why after so many years together she suddenly unhappy with him. He doesn’ hear HER, he hears what he expects t hear. What he wants to hear. He hears this is something she is choosing because if it is something that she is choosing than she can change her mind and this nightmare can end, and everything can go back the way it was.

      But it can’t go back the way it was. Because she was miserable the way it was. And he never saw it. Never saw how unhappy she was trapped in monogamy that she never chose because she as never given the chance to choose. And it’s worse now. Worse because she sees a way she can be happy. It’s there, just out of her reach, and if her husband would only listen, would only meet her half way…but he won’t, or he can’t, and thinking about being miserable in a “perfect family” for the rest of her life makes her want to scream. She can’t do it. She can’t give up her chance to finally be happy. But the only way to seize that chance is to leave her family. And they’ll hate her for it. Her husband already blames her for being polyamorous insisting that it’s a choice hwen it isn’t. It isn’t…is it? Is she just being selfish, putting her wants before the good of her family? But doesn’t she have a right to be happy? doesn’t she have a right to take are of herself?

      So she tells her husband she wants a divorce. She tries to tell him why, but he don’t listen. He insists that this is a choice she is making. That could stay if she chooses. And when she asks him to stop trying to make her feel guilty for taking care of herself he says that she is the one choosing to leave, so the onus is on her. And maybe she’s right, but what else can she do? Live a lie? Pretend to be a happy little family? Is that what he wants? How much good does he think it will do the kids when her bitterness and resentment at being trapped in a miserable live spill over onto them? She loves him, still. She’d stay with him if he could be polyamorous, but he can’t. If she stays when he insists she’ll be monogamous, ho long until that love turns to resentment?

      It’s not that she wants to destroy her family. It’s just all her choices will destroy her family. At least if they part ways now, they can stay friends. Or they could, if her husband could understand why she needs to do this…

      I don’t know your wife’s story. I don’t know how much, if at all, her story resembles what mine would have been.

      I do know if staying in your marriage is going to end with her being miserable and resentful, she is doing the right thing. It’s the relationship equivalent of performing an amputation to prevent gangrene from killing someone. Sure, the amputation hurts like fuck and will leave you crippled. But the gangrene will kill you slowly and painfully over a long time.

      Right now, I see four possible choices for you.

      1) You can do what you are insisting your wife do and choose to have a polyamorous marriage.

      2) You can accept that she is seeking this divorce not because she wants it but because it is something she needs to do. Once you stop blaming her you can work together to make the transition as smooth as possible and your children’s relationship with both of you remains strong and healthy.

      3) You can ask your wife to remain married until the children are older, with the understanding that you won’t fight her when the time comes to get a divorce. This usually doesn’t work out as well as people hope, but if she knows that their will be a divorce in the future she might be willing and able to continue as things have been without her feelings poisoning your family.

      4) You can continue to blame your wife for doing what she has to. What is left of your marriage will be poisoned with bitterness, the children will probably get dragged into a nasty divorce case where your bitterness and anger with each other make them feel like they are supposed to take sides and if they don’t they are betraying you and/or their mother. Your wife will spend years recovering from the guilt and trauma of doing what she needs to do and you will spend years healing from your anger and bitterness at her for abandoning you and the children.

      I don’t know if anyone can help you understand. I do know that if you can’t hear what your wife is saying and accept that it isn’t that she “won’t” be monogamous but that she can’t, the anguish and tormoil you are afraid of will be much much worse than they have to be.

      PS: I’ve found rabbit starvation is sometimes a good metaphor for helping mono folk understand why for some of us polyamory is a need, not a want.

      • Jessica,
        Most mono people have a problem when poly people push this:
        “and if her husband would only listen, would only meet her half way…”

        Giving up everything, changing the entire basis of your marriage, losing your spouse’s devotion and fidelity, losing time, focus and love to other people, isn’t “meeting halfway”. To be a part of a mono-poly relationship, the mono person loses so much as the poly person gains. And it seems the more the poly person wants, the more the mono person has to give. There is no such thing as 50/50, halfway in a mono-poly relationship, unless it’s -50/+50. I don’t know why this is so hard for poly people to grasp.

        • I’m sorry if it sounded like i was saying a mono spouse should or needed to try to meet halfway. That was a line from a story illustrating what a poly spouse might be thinking in that situation, it is not meant as instructions for what a mono spouse should do.

          Expecting a mono spouse to “meet halfway” is, IMO, as unrealistic as Nathaniel’s insistance that his wife “won’t” be monogamous when she has said that she can’t be monogamous. Unfortunately, people don’t tend to be realistic when facing painful, heartbreaking situations. We all try to find ways to stop the pain and if the other person doesn’t agree with us then we blame them for not doing what we think they should rather than admitting we were being unreasonable to expect it in the first place.

          I have known successful mono/poly relationships, but only in situations where the mono partner genuinely wanted to support their poly partner.

          I will never blame a mono spouse for not being able to accept their spouse’s sudden insistence on polyamory. However I think it is equally wrong to blame the poly spouse for no longer being able to live a lie. There are situations where someone is in the wrong, especially if they try to coerce or badger for agreement. But most of the time it seems no one is in the wrong, just two people who didn’t realize there was a weakness in the foundation of their marriage trying to save something when the floor caves in on them.

          • I always heard about the mythical mono spouse so loving, giving and supportive that they didn’t mind losing everything and were happy to stand by their spouse as they ran off into the sunset with other people, but I never actually met one. Or talked to one. Or read an account by one. You hear about them from poly people second-hand, but never straight from the horses’ mouths. They would do everyone a great service if they’d come forward and tell how they managed to deal with it all. Especially if they were in a monogamous marriage for years before getting the rug pulled out from under them. If you could convince any of these people to open up, we’d really appreciate it.

          • Ex Mrs. Mono, I’ve tried to be supportive of you, and I know you were through hell with your ex husband. But your bitterness is coloring your perspective. No one expects a mono spouse to happy while their spouse “ran off into the sunset with other people” because that’s not what polyamory is about. While there are some shitty people who do things like that successful polyamorous relationships, which include mono/poly, involve people who commit to all their partners, not people who abandon one partner to be with another.

            It is unfortunately a rule of human nature that we talk more about unhappy things that happy things. This means forums and discussion boards are full of people asking for help with problems but have people talking about how wonderful their relationships are. They are enjoying their relatinships, not taking time away from their relationships to talk about it online.

            That said, all you need to do is go onto a poly forum or discussion board and ask if anyone there has been in a successful/happy mono/poly relationship

            For instance:
            https://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/3c8b5k/looking_for_people_in_a_monopoly_relationship/
            https://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/32uaqp/has_anyone_ever_made_a_monopoly_combination_work/
            The responses are from a mix of mono and poly folk who are in relationships with mono folk, and many don’t give details of their relationships. For the ones that do, relationships length ranges from months to ten years.

            Transitioning a monogamous marriage to mono/poly is undoubtedly one of the hardest ways to have a relationship. I expect it fails far more often than it succeeds. And when it does work, I expect it has more to do with the personalities, communication skills, and flexibility of the people involved than any advice they could give you.

          • I’m not bitter, Jessica, I’m realistic. I’ve seen the realities of polyamory, I interacted with the local and regional poly communities for over a year, and I feel uniquely qualified to discuss this from the perspective of a monogamous person in a formerly committed relationship. I know that for a mono-poly relationship to work, the onus is on the mono person to give up as much as they can physically, mentally and emotionally stand for their poly partner to pursue everything they feel they need to be happy. I know that it’s the monogamous partner who has to make the sacrifices and adjustments, who has to constantly “own their own shit” when left alone yet again while their partner pursues other people, and who will be required to carry the burden of the home relationship when their partner is too wrapped up in their new loves to bother. If a monogamous person really doesn’t care about any of this, then yes, they can successfully transform a marriage to a mono-poly one. But you have to be completely open and accepting that once you go down that path, you can never go back. That once you agree to your spouse bringing other people into your intimate circle, you have no control.

            Poly people want to put the best stories forward, and that’s completely understandable; but it’s disingenuous at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. You’d better serve the monogamous community if you were more upfront about the losses and challenges and pain that they will inevitably face rather than trying to sugar-coat it. Just tell them, “Hey, you get nothing out of this other than your partner being “more fulfilled”. It’s going to be painful, hard, and lonely. You’re going to be required to give up what you want and need so they can have what they want and need. If you can’t do this cheerfully, then it’s best to cut your losses early.” Honest communication is supposed to be a hallmark of polyamory but this is the one area that is never honestly communicated with monogamous partners. That’s why I feel it’s my duty to put it out there.

    • Nathaniel,
      My heart goes out to you and your kids. I’m coming up on my 1st anniversary of the end of my 23-year marriage, and I want you to know that it does get easier.
      My husband hit me with the polybomb over 3 years ago and I felt everything you’re feeling, and more, because I forced myself to try it his way.
      Consider yourself lucky that you’re getting out when you are, because the other option is pure and utter hell. We went through two years of therapy with a “poly friendly” therapist who was decidedly NOT mono friendly. I was made to feel like a complete and utter monster with my un-evolved and backwards monogamous thinking. After a year of brainwashing me to be more accepting of my husband having other women, we were “ready” for him to move forward. Do you want me to describe in detail the hell of watching the person you love happily, gleefully pursue other people? Giddily prepare for dates? Come home glowing, walking on air, because they were fooling around with someone who WASN’T you? The nausea of having them try to make love to you when all you can envision is them doing the exact same thing with the person they really want to be with? Smelling the other person on your spouse? Being forced to sit across from the other person/people, making polite conversation, because they INSIST on meeting you before getting involved with your spouse, so you get to have a FULL description of their face, body, voice, personality filling out the nightmare form in your head? Yeah, it’s so much better having a technicolor nightmare while your spouse is out banging another person.
      Get out now and consider yourself “lucky”, because staying means you’d get the full-on agony of your spouse’s other relationships before you finally give up. At least you’ll still have no questions about who you are, I’m still trying to recover from the “therapy” and experiences. And take this experience and add it to your dating repertoire, because you will eventually find yourself wanting to date again. Make this one of the FIRST things you discuss with any new person. Establish the other person’s commitment to monogamy before you get deeply involved. If they can’t make that commitment, thank them and walk away. You’ve learned a very painful and expensive lesson, don’t waste it. Use it. Weed out the people who can’t commit up front. Save yourself more pain.
      In the custody agreement, make it very clear that your kids are not to be exposed to your ex’s alternate lifestyle, that they aren’t to be exposed to a revolving roster of men in and out of their lives. Your children can’t advocate for themselves in this, you must do it for them. You have to be their protector, make very clear guidelines and make sure your ex sticks to them. You’ll be walking a tightrope, you can’t drag your kids into adult situations, so if you find out your ex isn’t following the rules, don’t discuss it with your kids, don’t demonize your ex. Take it up with her, and if necessary, the court. Your job is to protect your kids from as much of this as possible, and that means not dumping your pain and frustration on them. Remember, it’s not their fault for loving their mom. Don’t punish them for it. But don’t accept anything that puts your kids in danger because it’s your ex’s “new lifestyle”. Like I said, it’s a tightrope.
      Mostly, accept that your wife isn’t the person you thought she was, isn’t the woman you fell in love with, built a life with. That person doesn’t exist. It makes it easier to mourn. And you will mourn. Embrace that, don’t fight it.
      My heart goes out to you and your kids, you have a long road ahead of you. But you can do this, you will survive and become stronger for it.

  9. i’m all too new to this, just recently (within the last month), my partner has suggested poly, i have done this before and in my personal experience it never worked out, in fact i was left feeling as if the break up was my fault with feelings of self disgust and jealousy. The idea of poly does not deter me, the emotional side does, i just don’t know which way to turn, which for me is difficult enough as m everyday life is hectic. How does one cope when they have feeling of being inadequate, can there be a way forward, i know it is possible to learn to love the other person too, its the emotions from hell i’m struggling with.

    • Sarah,

      I don’t know how much my experience applies here, but I have felt inadequate in every relationship I have ever been in. In fact, until I got comfortable with polyamory I always expected my relationships to end because sooner or later they were obviously going to find someone better and leave me for them. They might SAY they loved me and wouldn’t leave me, but how could I believe that when everyone in my life had always abandoned me sooner or later?

      What I finally realized was that it’s not my inadequacies that determine how long a relationships lasts. I could be the most perfect awesome person in the world and someone might break up with me because people are weird like that. What matters is that my partners want to be with me and choose to be with me. That’s the real secret of every relationship: every day we choose to be in this relationship. We choose to be partners with another person in building a relationship. As long as both people in a relationship choose to work with their partner to build the relationships, that relationship will last. As soon as someone chooses to stop working with their partner, the relationship is doomed.

      Your partner chooses to be in a relationship with you. Apparently, they think you are pretty special. We can let our inadequacies drive us into constantly fearing the end of our relationships, and often in the process creating a situation where our loved ones can’t be our partners because we don’t trust them to be, or we can accept that our partners have chosen to be with us, and trust them to be honest with us if their choice changes.

      As far as feeling as if your last break up was your fault… Look, maybe it was your fault maybe it wasn’t. We can’t change the past, we can learn from it. So start by working on forgiveness. “I’m human. no human is perfect. I forgive myself for my mistakes and failures. I will learn from them so I can do better this time.” You won’t believe it at first, your mind will toss out all kinds of reasons why you don’t deserve forgiveness, because the mind is fucked up like that. But just keep telling yourself that, and sooner or later it will start to stick.