“Oh shit, Page,” she says, “I have a problem. A big one.”
“What’s going on?” I prompt her.
“So if you remember, I’m ambiamorous, just like you,” she says, “and it’s a good thing, too.” By ambiamorous, she means she’s about equally happy being in a monogamous relationship or a polyamorous system of relationships. It’s more about the health of any relationships she’s in.
“Well, the flexibility does have its advantages,” I say. “But what’s going on?” Because she’s clearly all worked up about something.
“My boyfriend and I have been dating other people for a while, and it’s a total disaster,” she confesses.
“Really?” I say. “You seem so happy.”
“That’s because of all the work I’m doing behind the scenes,” she says. She tells me that her boyfriend keeps running all of his relationship issues from his other partners by her, that she’s basically his relationship whisperer. That he asks her for advice on how to write tricky emails to his other partners when things are going rough.
“The hard part,” she says, “is it’s kinda flattering. I love that he looks up to me that way. But ohhh boy, is it awkward. It is nonstop emotional labor.”
And she adds that he doesn’t reciprocate at all. He actually doesn’t want her to talk about her other partners at all, let alone help her problem-solve or brainstorm or anything like that. He has been having a lot of jealousy and insecurity issues about her other relationships that have made it so she is in this place where she’s giving him tons of one-sided support.
“I’m so exhausted, Page,” she confesses. “I’m thankful I haven’t been struggling with insecurity and jealousy myself — because I have a feeling he wouldn’t be able to help me with any of it.”
I send my love. “This is a tough situation,” I agree.
They’re at a crossroads, she tells me. As it turns out, their other relationships all ended of their own accord (some of them due to your garden variety reasons, and others because of COVID and the difficulties it posed logistically).
So for the time being, it’s a non-issue. They’re basically just on their own. But she’s worried about the future, when it’s looking like one or both of them might want to date again.
“I’m not sure how to tell him about this,” she says, “What do I say? I like open relationships, just not sure if I can have a healthy one with you?”
“Well,” I say, “not necessarily what I’d open with, but it’s direct at least.”
“You know,” I say, “it’s funny… with all the times I’ve had people say something like ‘why would you ever see other people if your partner is enough for you?’, basically implying that relationships within a non-monogamous system are all lesser and inadequate somehow… and well… you’re basically saying here that you have to stay monogamous to keep this relationship healthy. That you want to be monogamous with this person because the relationship is essentially high maintenance.”
“It is!” she exclaims. “It is so high maintenance!”
“Now, you’ve decided that the maintenance is worth it. And you’re right. It does help being ambiamorous, because you do have that option to decide to focus on something, knowing that it won’t make you miserable — provided the relationship itself is fulfilling.”
“Which this one is,” she adds.
We brainstorm for a while longer about ways she could talk to her boyfriend about the issue. (All based on him and how he tends to emotionally frame things and process information.)
I am hopeful for them.