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Polyamory Wasn’t for Me, and That’s Okay

I tried polyamory. It didn’t work for me.

Like every breakup, I took it pretty hard. I convinced myself I wasn’t mentally or emotionally strong enough to handle a polyamorous relationship. So, I sat back and truly analyzed my emotions until I realized something.

I am not wired for polyamory, and that’s okay.

Like many, I had a lot of misconceptions about why I needed to open myself to poly relationships and consider giving up my monogamous ways. I quickly found that I have limits. And if nothing else I’m a person who wants his limits respected.

So what led me to discovering this epiphany? Let’s examine a few points that resound with me.

Polyamory Isn’t a Cure-All

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a couple on a dating app seeking to “open up” their relationship to a third party. One partner initiated the idea, while the other reluctantly agreed to be open-minded about it.

One couple in particular stands out in my memory. Todd (bisexual man) wanted to explore relationships with other men. Meanwhile, Linda (heterosexual woman) wanted to exclusively date her boyfriend.

Underneath all this was a myriad of miscommunication, issues with trust, and little respect for boundaries. We’ll get to boundaries later.

Todd had a tendency to cheat on Linda and cover up the fact. Todd suggested to Linda after multiple incidents that they explore polyamory. Linda gave in because she wanted the relationship to work.

Even though Linda consented to being in a poly relationship, Todd previously broke her trust multiple times. Opening up a relationship doesn’t eliminate cheating. In fact, in some cases, cheating can be increased.

Todd could decide that he now has free reign to have sex with, go on dates with, and become involved with whoever he wants, neglecting his original partner in the process. This is self-centered and not rooted in love and respect.

Monogamy Doesn’t Always Mean Selfish

I often heard that phrase, “Monogamy is inherently selfish. You can’t be someone’s everything, and you can’t expect them to be yours.”

Okay, let’s dissect that a bit.

Yes, we push this magical belief that we’ll one day meet the man/girl of our dreams, who will complete us in every way imaginable. Yes, said belief/goal fails to live up to our expectations most of the time.

However, most of that can be tied back to co-dependence rather than just monogamy. And co-dependence can manifest in poly relationships too.

Think about it like this. Is it not possible for someone to want multiple partners because they’re also trying to fill something within themselves and feel completed?

Your main partner can’t satisfy you in X,Y,Z ways, so you decide to date or seek as many people as it takes in order to feel fulfilled in those areas. Such a mindset can also devolve into co-dependence just like monogamy. It just looks different.

You Are Allowed to Have Boundaries & Expectations

No matter your dating preference, you’re allowed to have boundaries. Not only that, you should expect those boundaries to be respected.

For example, sexual health and safety should be important whether you’re poly or monogamous. Poly doesn’t mean everyone gets to do whatever they want. There are still consequences to be considered.

So, then what if you can’t emotionally, physically, or spiritually handle being involved with more than one person? Is that also a boundary? Yes, and it should be respected.

To put it simply, I chose not to engage with partners with multiple relationships because:

1. Emotionally, the relationship overwhelms me.

2. I wanted to reduce the chance STI exposure.

STI’s obviously aren’t exclusive to poly relationships, but things happen. In fact, the gap between monogamous and non-mongamous STI rates is smaller than you think.

Negative Emotions Don’t Make You Weak

I recently posted about addressing negative emotions. It’s important to express any misgivings or general unease. You are not weak or mentally-fragile because you get upset. Our experiences and personalities form the paradigms that shape our preferences.

No matter what route you take, you need to communicate, listen to understand, and set clear boundaries. Poly works for many people, and I truly believe it’s an amazing alternative for many. But it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay too.

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Give People the Same Energy They Give You

Stop accepting bread crumbs from people while giving them endless amounts of your time, patience, and energy. You are human, and humans have limits. You deserve better than what you’re getting back in terms of reciprocity. Give people the same energy they give you.

Our culture teaches us that we must be altruistic, 100% selfless human beings at all times. So, we strut around giving our energy away freely to anyone who asks for it, and we wonder why we’re endlessly exhausted.

Lets explore ways to conserve that energy and apply it to aspects of your life that will yield a bigger and more satisfying return for you.

Re-Discover What You Want Out of Life & Love

You expect yourself to always be giving and altruistic, but it’s perfectly fine (or not fine) for others to give you almost nothing in return. Stop doing that to yourself. You deserve better.

Start by writing down any goals, dreams, and aspirations you may have. Then, consider your core values as a person. What do you believe in? What makes you happy? What do you have to have in order to function as a person?

Personally, I recommend creating a vision board. Not sure how to start one? You can click here for an easy how-to guide. I’ve also got some worksheets you can use if you need a confidence boost. Once completed, you can move on to something that’s a little more challenging.

Set Boundaries & Manage Expectations

What’s the difference between expectations and standards?

Start managing your expectations. I don’t mean standards. I mean expectations of people. Standards are like boundaries. They’re the things you don’t budge on. Expectations are more flexible. If you are a person who goes out of their way for people on instinct, you need to learn to adjust according to what you are given in return.

It seems petty, and at times it will appear to be. But it’s also being fair to yourself. If you don’t know how to be fair to yourself, how can you truly be fair to anyone else?

Any relationship requires a healthy balance of energy. A one-sided friendship, for example, isn’t really much of a friendship at all. You make all the arrangements, you plan the birthday parties, buy the presents, listen to them when they’re down, help them move, etc.

How do I manage my expectations?

Do your friends do any of the above-mentioned for you? If not, you need to change your expectations. Instead of doing all of the above, you should only do what your friend reciprocates. Nothing more.

That is now what you expect out of YOURSELF when it comes to that person. If that becomes an issue, then state why you’ve changed your behavior to match theirs. By stating it, you’ve expressed the expectation you have of THEM and the ball is in their court to figure out what they expect from the friendship. It should ALWAYS be fair.

What if they don’t meet my expectation?

The friend may decide not to meet your expectations, and that’s fine. That’s what compromise is for. You have to decide if the compromise is worth keeping the friendship.

That’s where your standards/boundaries come in, the things you’re not willing to budge on. They should always be realistic. If it all works out, then great! If not, it’s not your fault. You still did the right thing. This thought process also works for marriages and long-term/short-term relationships.

Check Your Balance

Imagine you have a bank filled with your energy. Every day you withdraw funds in order to power your relationships. Now, every bank account has a specific limit, right? At a certain point, that account needs to be filled up, or it will overdraft.

So what happens when you run out of funds? You not only won’t have enough “energy” to give out, but you won’t have any to give yourself either. So, how can manage your account when the funds you give out are never returned?

You’re always the one to initiate conversations, always the one offering emotional support, and always the one showing up for something. But when the time comes, those who are accepting your funds aren’t doing the same, so you’re always in the red.

Invest in people who will match the funds you’re giving out. Make time for individuals who aren’t emotionally selfish and self-centered, and watch how your outlook changes. You’ll feel supported, loved, and most of all appreciated.

Reclaim Yourself

Stop allowing yourself to be walked all over by people. Stop accepting bread crumbs when you’re worth an entire buffet. Know your worth and demand to be treated fairly. You have to stand your ground and give people the same energy they give you.

Remember that, no matter what, you are enough.