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Love Advice with Beck and Sarah


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By Beck Kilkenny and Sarah Stanley-Ayre

I’m in a relationship with a male and I want to add another person. How can I approach the question of polyamory with my beau?

Beck Headshot

Beck:

Polyamory usually only works when both partners are interested in it and they agree on it from the outset. There’s a big change that happens when you go from the “nebulous relationship” stage to full-on girlfriend-dom, and if neither of you mentioned an open relationship in the beginning, he’s probably not going to go for it now. When the relationship becomes official, it’s less about pleasing each other and making yourself happy, and more about being responsible and exclusive to each other, consistently and supportively.

 

That being said, no one person can make you happy all the time — and they also shouldn’t be expected to. It’s your job in a relationship to make yourself happy, not your boyfriend’s. But, as a human, you want all the validation and satisfaction you can get so you seek new relationships to fill in the gaps of what your boyfriend is missing.

 

Like me, you probably get the most pleasure in relationships from getting to know someone and going through the first date period of nervous and jittery lovey-feelings, and that’s why you think you need another partner. You might be right, but you might also need less than you think.

 

I go out on dates with other women a lot, and although I foster deep emotional and intellectual connections with them there are a lot of qualities of myself that I reserve only for my girlfriend. She’s the only one I have sex and intimacy with, obviously, but she’s also the only one who I support unconditionally, whose mistakes I handle with tolerance and patience, and who I can silently work alongside of without feeling awkward or compelled to entertain.

 

I feel like getting to know other women helps me to re-experience some of the emotions I felt when my girlfriend and I first started dating. I have also learned a lot about what it means to be in a good relationship and be a good boyfriend from listening to my dates’ stories about their exes. But instead of breaking up and starting a new relationship with every girl I have a crush on, or trying to manage complicated love triangles, I just bring those feelings home and redirect them toward the woman I’m already with.

 

Sure, this strategy gets me into trouble sometimes. When I go out with someone she knows is trying to sleep with me, or if I let one of the girls into the apartment while she’s not around — things can get a little hairy. But ultimately, I want to belong to her and have her belong to me so when I do make an infraction, I do whatever I can to make it up.
Sarah Headshot

Sarah:

The answer to your question really depends a lot upon the circumstances of your current relationship, as well as the system of morals and values that your significant other adheres to. It requires you to decide which form of polyamory you are referring to and there are many. It also calls for you to hold a mirror up to yourself and take a hard look at the reflection you see, asking yourself what you are truly seeking to attain by involving yourself in a polyamorous relationship, and if there are in fact alternate, perhaps more efficient means of achieving these desires.

 

I have a feeling that your partner would feel differently about the proposal depending on whether this other “person” is a male or a female. For the sake of not having to write several entirely different responses, and assuming you are a heterosexual female in a relationship with a heterosexual male, I will assume that you were thinking of adding another male to the equation.

 

Is your man lacking in self-confidence? Does he get jealous when you go out on your own? Have you ever caught him reading your Facebook wall to see if other guys have been posting flirtatious comments? Does he text you a lot to see what you’re doing and who you are with? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to think twice before suggesting the idea of polyamory.

 

Let’s go a little deeper. Is he religious? Does he offend easily? Is he partial to tradition? Does he tend to have an open mind, or is he more aligned with a rigid system of thought and interpretation? I’m going to guess that he’s not, considering that you are his better half, and you seem open to and curious about testing the waters of alternative lifestyles; but again, if you answered yes to any of these, polyamory may not be a part of your future with this particular individual.

 

If you are still thinking that polyamory is a viable direction for your relationship to take, its time for you to decide which form of polyamory you are interested in. Remember that polyamory is different from swinging. If what you really want is another person to have sex with, for purely recreational purposes, then you aren’t actually thinking about polyamory.

 

“Polyamory” is a hybrid word, made of the Greek word poly meaning multiple, and the Latin word amor meaning love. The term doesn’t allude to casual sex, it refers to experiencing love and intimacy with more than one partner. There are several ways to go about this. You may engage in a series of sub-relationships, distinguishing between “primary” and “secondary” lovers. You may agree upon a mono/poly relationship, in which your partner remains monogamous while you engage in intimate relationships with other partners. The list goes on. “Modern polyamory” is defined by negotiation between its members, so you and all parties involved will be required to settle upon the rules and functions of your relations with one another. This will require absolute honesty, and most likely compromise.

 

Still think polyamory can work for you? I’ve saved the most difficult factor to consider for last: yourself. Let me flip your question. Is polyamory a selfish desire, or are you okay with your man seeking out his own additions to your relationship as well? If he came to you asking if he could bring another woman into your romance, would you be okay with it? Think about your own motives. Are you really just bored with your relationship and hoping that polyamory will spice up your sex life without forcing you to end your current relationship? Have you considered dating other people for a while to see if you truly belong with this person, or do you honestly think that adding another lover to your relationship will benefit both of you equally and help to strengthen and maintain your love for one another?

 

If your interest in polyamory has survived my line of questioning and still remains a viable option for you and your boyfriend, then I say by all means, just ask him outright! If its what you really want, you’re only hurting yourself by not bringing it up. He may think its the sexiest idea ever, and if he doesn’t, then maybe you aren’t meant to be together after all.

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Love Advice with Beck and Sarah