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The perks and pitfalls of potential polyamory

My partner (S) and I have been going out for three years, since coming to uni. We’ve always had a semi-open relationship, in that we’re both comfortable with the other getting off with someone at a party or club. In summer S asked me if we could properly open up our relationship so she could explore her bisexuality. We set down some ground rules, basically agreeing to extend what we were already doing. We explicitly agreed that we weren’t interested in polyamory. 

For a while nothing happened, and then I slept with some random person after meeting them at a bar. That weekend S travelled to visit one of her old mates and when she came back let me know that they’d ended up having sex.

Since then I’ve slept with three other people, all of which were one night stands.

Every month or so, S and her friend travel to see each other and each time they’ve had sex. They’re constantly messaging, exchanging actual letters, and S has even brought her to visit her parents (who obviously don’t know the situation).

I’m getting jealous and confused. S assures me that it’s just a mate that she sometimes hooks up with and that there’s nothing romantic there. Am I wrong to feel this way, or have I accidently stumbled into a polyamorous relationship?

J, 22

Hi J! Thanks for writing in, and giving so much detail on this complex situation!

Off the bat, you’re never ever wrong to feel a certain way. We can’t help how we react to things, and no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ the issue may seem to anyone else or even to ourselves, pretending that you’re not hurt or confused is only going to lead to more trouble down the road. Our emotions can only be displaced, never removed completely. Anything you bury or subdue will inevitably come up somewhere else. You’ll be having a minor disagreement with a friend and suddenly all of these other emotions will start coming up, or you’ll start to feel angry at yourself and not understand why. Best to face your feelings head on and not diminish them as silly or wrong.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that neither me or you can guess or ‘crack’ how your girlfriend feels about her friend– only she can know her true feelings. However, what is clear to me from your message is that she has a deep emotional connection to this person. Visiting on a monthly basis, meeting family members, and communicating frequently clearly show that they have a close bond, and on top of that they’ve continued to sleep together.

Personally, I think the main components of a relationship are exactly those two things: an emotional and physical connection, so I would say that the two of them are, by now, probably quite romantically involved. At the very least, she’s developing a close sexual relationship with someone who is outside of your relationship, which you stated was outside of your boundaries. For that reason, a proper, in-depth conversation needs to be had.

If she is falling for someone new, one reason she might be denying it is because of you saying you don’t want to be polyamorous– making an already tricky chat even harder. 

I’d recommend sitting her down and telling her to be brutally honest, and doing the same yourself. If either of you are hiding certain details or leaving things unsaid, the conversation is likely to just keep going round and round in circles without anyone actually being honest.

I really hope that whatever the outcome, you can both agree on a situation that makes everyone involved feel respected and levelled with. None of you deserve any heartbreak or confusion. And if you do end up in a polyamorous relationship, make sure that the honest and open communication not only continues, but takes the forefront of everyone’s priorities.

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Maja Anushka

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June 2022
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