Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

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Jay27
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Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with my gf for a year. I developed a crush on my best friend a few weeks ago, and I started questioning whether I can be in love with one person at a time. (I never acted on the crush). For me and my gf, the line between platonic and romantic attraction is blurry. When I asked her out over a year ago, I actually told her I wanted to get closer to her but I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of relationship I wanted, and then she ended up asking me to be her gf after a few weeks of going on dates, cuddling, and kissing.

I brought polyamory up with my gf and she said she’s also been considering it. I told her about the crush on my friend and how I don’t actually want to pursue anything with them, but I’ve realized I can have strong feelings for more than one person. We’re not going to change anything for at least the next month while we’re long distance. We decided that we’re not going to actively look (like trying to find someone on dating apps), but we could be open to romantic connections with other people if the right person comes along. We only want to have sex with each other though.

I’m having some uncertainties about polyamory. I don’t think I can maintain a high level of commitment with someone in addition to her. As in, being connected to each other’s families, considering moving in together, communicating a lot, building our lives around each other. That’s already a lot of work with just one person. Could we be each other’s only “life partners” but see other people more casually? Idk if I’m overthinking it because we’re not changing anything for the next month or two. Idk if I should’ve even brought it up if I’m not sure.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Amanda B »

Hi Jay27,

Your thoughtfulness around this is already a great place to start. I recall a previous conversation we had on here about potentially taking a break from this relationship. I'm curious about how that situation panned out, and how the motivations behind the potential break interact with the motivations to open up the relationship.

I'm glad you've already brought things up with your girlfriend, and that the two of you will think it over before making any decisions. To answer your question, you can absolutely be each other's only "life partners" while seeing other people more casually. Polyamory, also called nonmonogamy, can mean whatever you'd like it to, as long as everyone involved is on the same page.

I'll also include one of our resources on polyamory, A First Polyamory Guide as a starting point for our conversation here. Let me know if anything resonates with you, and feel free to share it with your girlfriend as well!
Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

We’re still together and we didn’t take a break. I’ve definitely been struggling with the long distance but I’m trying to spend more time with my friends and I stopped making my plans around her schedule. I guess that her not being around in person gave me more time to form deep emotional connections with other people. We FaceTime about once a week and text on most days to check in. I’m really touch starved but neither of us wants to open the relationship during her semester abroad. If we date another person, it should be because we really like them, not just to fill a void.
We’re very physically affectionate when we’re together but we have sex only once a month, sometimes twice a month. She’s ace. It’s not ideal for me, and I mentioned maybe wanting to do it more often but how I don’t want to pressure her into anything and I still really like nonsexual intimacy. We’re trying to figure out how to keep working with that, just the two of us, because we’re very sexually compatible when it happens. We feel really safe and comfortable together, we communicate well, and our preferences (besides frequency) are very similar. We’d look into polyamory because we want to be able to love other people and get close to them without being constrained.
Amanda B
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Amanda B »

It sounds like the two of you have been very intentional with this relationship, with clear communication and honesty. I'm also glad to hear you've embraced deeper emotional connections outside the relationship. There can be an overemphasis on romantic connection, so it's nice to hear you've been able to lean into that.

Skin hunger can certainly be a huge challenge in long-distance relationships, especially with someone who identifies as ace and may not be as interested in sexual activity even when you are together. One person cannot meet all of our needs, and that's a huge benefit of being open. While your girlfriend may fulfill some needs, an additional partner may be able to meet your need for touch. It sounds like your motivations are clear.

With what we have talked about so far, what would be most helpful right now? Would you like to weigh the pros and cons of opening the relationship? Perhaps discuss avenues for continuing the conversation with your girlfriend? Let me know how I can best support you right now.
Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

I think discussing pros and cons would be good. The uncertainty of it scares me and sometimes I wonder whether I should’ve brought polyamory up at all since I’m not sure. Since I don’t see a clear difference between romantic and platonic attraction, I also don’t know whether I really want multiple romantic relationships or to get closer to friends in a way that’s not typical.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Nadine E. »

Hey Jay27,

Firstly, I want to reiterate everything Amanda B said - and also say again that it sounds like you’ve been really intentional in navigating these questions and communicating openly with your girlfriend, which is great.

You’re exploring making a change to your relationship, so uncertainty makes a lot of sense and it can be scary. At the same time, it can also be an opportunity to figure out some of these questions you’re holding, both with yourself, but also with your girlfriend. It’s totally okay that you aren’t sure, and it’s okay, and even helpful, to communicate the questions, wonderings, and anxieties you’re having with your partner to try to figure them out together. And it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing. It’s also completely understandable that you aren’t sure about whether you want this at all, or how you want it to look like. And that’s not something that can often be figured out without having these conversations, and maybe even trying it out and seeing how it feels. The key is actually having honest, open communication about those feelings and questions, and navigating them with your girlfriend, which is exactly what you’re doing. Does that make sense? And are there maybe other ways you think could be helpful for you to feel safer or more secure while navigating these uncertainties?

In a previous discussion, you shared that you were also interested in exploring physical intimacy and touch with your friends and that you had talked to your best friend about it. Have you had a chance to talk to some other friends about this? And have you had the opportunity to explore more closeness within any of your friendships? If so, how has then been? If not, do you think you’d like to go back to exploring that further? It could be helpful to explore things both in your romantic and platonic relationships. But I also get how that can feel like a lot to do at once.

I’m also happy to think through some of the pros and cons of polyamory with you. From what you’ve shared so far, it sounds like some of the pros would be:
  • Getting certain needs fulfilled that your girlfriend might not be able to fulfill
  • Getting more information about whether you actually want to be polyamorous, and if so, what that could look like for your relationship(s)
What other pros can you think of?

And what do you feel some of the cons might be? You said that you’re not sure that you should have even brought it up with your girlfriend - Could you share a bit more about what’s worrying you about the fact that you brought it up? Is it that you are worried you might not want to after all, but your girlfriend will? Or that you will, but she won’t? Or something else entirely? I think exploring that might help us surface some of the ‘cons’ or concerns more generally.

I also recommend checking out this resource that walks through some of the different concerns and fears that can come up around polyamory: https://www.scarleteen.com/article/poli ... poly_fears
Let me know what you think or if any of this resonates!
Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

I haven’t explored any physical touch with my friends. It feels weird to ask. One of them offered, but it’s the same person I have a crush on and I’m monogamous right now. It’s embarrassing but I’ve felt turned on from cuddling or even holding hands with someone I really like. I don’t want to experience that when I know that actually pursuing them would be a really bad idea even if I was polyamorous. I’ve been getting emotionally closer to this person in a way that doesn’t look like a typical friendship, and my gf said she’s ok with that. The only line I’ve crossed with them is oversharing about our sex life so I stopped doing that. I definitely feel less guilty now that I told my gf. She doesn’t think emotional cheating is a real thing.

I guess I just don’t want our relationship to change that much. I’m dealing with so much stress right now and she’s also gonna be adjusting to being back in the US. Bringing in more people makes it more complicated. My time is pretty limited. I don’t know if me bringing up polyamory means that I can’t change my mind or I’ve opened up a door that I can’t close. And I’ve been doing more research and reading about how just having feelings for more than one person at a time doesn’t mean you should be polyamorous.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there, Jay27
It’s embarrassing but I’ve felt turned on from cuddling or even holding hands with someone I really like.
Well, that's just how you are then- just to reassure you, there isn't anything intrinsically bad about feeling that way.
I don’t want to experience that when I know that actually pursuing them would be a really bad idea even if I was polyamorous.
That is an understandable choice. I know we've said as much before, but you really are doing quite well by communicating openly with your girlfriend about what is happening.

My understanding is that you don't have a time limit on figuring this out. You've discussed opening up your relationship, but you still can wait until both of you are less stressed and more settled before you try it. If I may ask, what do you mean when you say that your time is limited?

And of course, you can always change your mind about this. You can try polyamory, and decide that it isn't for you. What you can't control is your girlfriend's actions and feelings, but that isn't changed by the fact that you've bought up polyamory.
Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

That’s true. Since my gf told me she had already had thoughts about polyamory, maybe she would’ve brought it up eventually if I hadn’t. When I say my time is limited, I mean that we’re both very busy college students juggling school, work, extracurriculars, and our social lives. It’s already hard to make time for each other. So if we brought another person into the relationship, we’d be stretched even thinner.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Jay27,

I understand your concerns about not having enough time/energy to maintain another relationship- if I were in your situation, I would think about the same things. Still, maybe these worries about how you will make this work are a bit hypothetical. You've established that both you and your girlfriend are open to polyamory and new romantic connections, but that you are not actively searching for another relationship. You can still wait to evaluate how a prospective partner might fit into your life until after you meet them. That way, you'll have a better understanding of what kind of commitment/effort a relationship would entail, and your circumstances might be different.

You may find that you don't have time or energy to dedicate to a new relationship, but that is okay.
Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

My anxiety disorder makes it hard to live in the moment and not want answers right away. My gf and I texted about this yesterday. She said that we don’t have to be sure of anything and that we’ll keep talking during our relationship about what words for us.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Latha »

Well, that would make it hard, wouldn't it... I wish I could offer you a better solution.

I think your girlfriend is right- you don't have to be 100 percent sure of anything, you can just talk and address things as they come up.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by zabran99 »

It's normal to have doubts about polyamory. You can be each other's main partners while exploring casual connections with others if that feels right for you. Take your time to figure it out and keep talking openly.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Heather »

Hey, Jay, I do just want to mention a couple of things!

First up, I think what Latha said about only trying to work this out too much before you have even met a person who this could be about is so, so important. She's right. But I also think that if you are having feelings of anxiety at not being able to sort of manage and control all of this, that might be something to think about in terms of if this will be right for you. Because, after all, this will potentially be a whole 'nother person, and we can't really manage people in this way.

That said, what you CAN do that I think answers to both of these related issues is get a sense of what you think will or won't work for you.

For example, you seem to make clear here that you may not have have the capacity for another ongoing relationship. If that's the case, then you can think about if not seeking any other partners might feel best or if only seeking partners who are not looking for anything ongoing or very regular: that kind of partner is very much out there whether that person just doesn't want to be in anything ongoing right now, is in the kind of spot you're in, or is someone who travels a lot, for instance.

You also have talked about bringing other people into your relationship: that's also both an option and a very intentional choice everyone involved would have to make for themselves and together. But again, it sounds like you don't have the capacity or a good setup for something like a triad anyway, so if it were me, I'd be thinking about what it means to me to have someone "in" my existing relationship and what having them be someone I was in relationship with as a separate relationship looks like?

You can think about all of these kinds of things and more and then just make yourself a literal or figurative list of the basic criteria you might be looking for. If you feel lost about some of this, one place you might be able to get some clue is by looking at dating apps that center or are inclusive of ethical nonmonogamy. Seeing how other people classify both what they want from someone else and what they are offering can show you a wide range of ways this can go.
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Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

I think if I did polyamory at this point in my life, the other partner would have to be low commitment. I’m dealing with enough stress right now. I think my problem is that I don’t have clear lines between friendships and romance. Throughout my life, I’ve had close friendships that look like dating minus the physical aspects. This seems like a bigger issue for monogamous people. I guess we could be more flexible as a monogamous couple? I also see polyamorous people on social media who have a big network of emotional support and connection which is really appealing to me. But can’t you get that from friends and community anyway while you’re monogamous? Idk what any of it means.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Heather »

I don't think I'd say that those of us who are ENM/poly necessarily have bigger support/social networks but I WILL say that some frameworks and ways of enacting monogamy can involve more isolation for people in couples, which can for sure make it harder for monogamous people to create networks. I think that's more often a feature of monogamy and heterosexuality though, than monogamy and queer relationships, in my experience and observation.

When you look at this as maybe it's poly, maybe it's greater flexibility with monogamy, I think you pose an interesting question. Because for some people, poly/ENM is only something they consider in play with sexual or romantic relationships, while for other, it's more about all kinds of relationships, including the kind that are hard to draw easy borders around.
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Jay27
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Jay27 »

Queer friendships can be really messy and undefined. I guess I’ve been questioning what relationships even are.
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Re: Brought up an open relationship to my gf, but I’m not sure

Unread post by Heather »

Well, literally speaking they are ongoing interactions we have with other people. Seriously, that's it. I have a relationship with my bus diver just like I I do with a lover, they are just very different kinds of relationships.

Honestly, I think often the older we get, and the more complex we all become as human beings, the harder it gets to file relationships in easy, minimalist boxes. The longer relationships go on tends to complicate that, too.

So, what your relationships are is really all about each of those relationships. You can for sure define them by what you do or don't do in them, or what primacy they do or don't have in your life, but that doesn't have to be all of how they are defined, or even how they are defined at all. You also don't even have to try and define them in any kind of general way at all if you don't want to. It's optional, not required, unless we're talking about things people need or choose to do for legal reasons.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
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