I’ve been in a relationship for about six months now. We agreed to be polyamorous from the start (both of us had another partner at that point), but we became monogamous by circumstance shortly afterwards. Two months ago, my partner started seeing someone else, and I’ve been struggling since then. I’ve dated multiple people before, but this is the first time that I am actually in love with my partner while being non-monogamous, so it’s a lot harder than if it’s just play partners.
I’ve also been wondering if it might help for me to also start seeing someone so that I can experience “both” sides of being poly, i.e., experience the nice parts like New Relationship Energy myself, instead of just dealing with the negative feelings and insecurities.
On the other hand, I’m worried that adding in another relationship might make things more complicated than they already are. My partner and I are doing a lot of emotional work right now because of my struggles, and I don’t know if we could handle both of us dealing with significant insecurities at once.
I’m sorry for the long message and I hope it’s okay to just put it out there like this. Grateful for any input you can give me. Thanks for everything you do.
You know, I’ll be honest here. I actually did find it a lot easier to understand New Relationship Energy once I’d been on both sides of it. I’ve written about it a few times on the blog. Here’s one example:
When I was brand new to poly, I spent hours reading other polyamorous people say that love was infinite. And that love for one person didn’t take away from love for another. But it always felt like grasping. Like hollow validation without basis.
I wanted to believe it, especially on nights when my partner was off with my metamour. But I couldn’t quite.
It wasn’t until the first time that I came home from a date of my own and reunited with my preexisting partner after having fun with someone else that I understood: Love for one person didn’t take away from love for another.
It worked nothing like how I was told. Like how I had feared.
I wasn’t comparing my preexisting partner to anyone else. And what was more, I was enjoying my time with him more. If anything, being with my other lover was like a palate cleanser. My preexisting partner felt different. And in a good way. It was like seeing him and holding him for the first time. And as I continued to date both people, I found that they contrasted with each other beautifully in a way that wasn’t competitive. But collaborative.
It wasn’t the first time I’d felt romantic love for more than one person at a time, but only when I was unattached or as fantasy. I’d never acted on those feelings while in a committed relationship.
In hindsight it made so much sense: When I’d fantasized about others, it hadn’t taken away from my relationship. It didn’t invalidate what I felt. And my partner didn’t pale in comparison. Why did I think acting on it would be any different?
And as I wrote in another piece, I also came to realize that if for some reason someone did rank their partners that they weren’t someone I wanted to date, so if I lost someone for that reason, then it was probably for the best:
…knowing that I was that way allowed me the ability to perspective take when my partner had some Big Feels for someone else and realize that my partner probably was just happy, the same way I was. Not micro-accounting and ranking me and my metamour on Olympic medal podiums
I knew I could be wrong of course. We can’t read other people’s minds. So there was no way to know for sure that they weren’t doing this. But I stopped worrying that my partners were micro-accounting. Because I’d lost respect for people who would do that. And so for me, my way through the maze was realizing that if they do that and I do come up short in this micro-accounting and they vote me off the island (so to speak), then they’re not somebody I want to date anyway, and it’s for the best.
But yes. It really did start with having been on the other side of it. No reading, no internal exploration or thought experiment helped me as much as actually walking that path myself.
And this new perspective isn’t something that went away or that remained limited to the context of those first two simultaneous connections. It has followed me into every other relationship that I’ve established since.
Complexity Can Make It Harder Short Term, But It Can Also Give Your Partner Valuable New Perspective
That said, I completely understand your not wanting to add another layer of complexity into the mix, and I can’t guarantee that it won’t make things harder. I won’t feed you a line of bull here. It’s a risky move.
However, in my experience, my partner encountering the insecurities for the first time that previously only I had been working on actually ended up helping them to take my perspective. They were also exposed to a new viewpoint that they had a hard time really understanding until they’d experienced it. Sure, it was a bit rough short term, but long term, knowing the other side of things paid off for them, too. The next time I faced insecurities, they were better able to offer reassurance and were supportive on a whole new level. And they, too, have taken that knowledge and skill set into all of the relationships that they’ve established since.
In short, we both learned a lot. Not just me.
A Word of Caution: Please Don’t Date Strictly for Therapeutic Reasons
However, I want to be clear about something. I’m not saying that this is your only motivation, but I do want to caution you against taking on another partner simply because you want to improve your existing relationship. I would only want you to start dating people if you felt like you could be really open to having something with another new person. The last thing I’d want to see in this situation is for you to break a new person’s heart simply so you can gain new knowledge or insight. Essentially sacrificing their feelings for self-improvement.
The person I did end up dating when I was in your situation was someone who just kind of wandered into my life. And before I knew it, I was falling in love with them. There was a connection there independent of any perspective-changing experience. In fact, I had no idea that experiencing NRE would help me so much (you have considerable more insight into that possibility than I did when I was in your shoes).
Anyway, yes, being on the other side can definitely help. But please don’t date strictly for therapeutic reasons (though it can be a nice side effect). Don’t toy with people or treat them like cure-alls. Make sure you’re being fair to anyone new. Date authentically, with an open heart and an open mind.
And enjoy the ride.
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