Ask Raederle: My girlfriend has been polyamorous behind my back!?

Ask Raederle

Question: My girlfriend has been dating others behind my back. Should I give polyamory a try?

I have been dating a girl for about a year. I was brought up being taught that monogamy is right. After dating my current girlfriend for 11 months I found out that she had dated several other guys throughout our relationship. I was upset and hurt. I felt like I wasn't that important to her and told her so.
She said she loved me but has always liked having more than one partner. She feels that people can love more than one person in a romantic way. She didn't tell me that about herself because she thought I wouldn't be with her if I'd known.
Do you think it was wrong of her to hide her polyamory from me and date other people without me knowing?
Should give that type of a relationship a chance?
Do you think it selfish of me to expect her to be monogamous because I have always been that way?
I talked to a friend of mine who said that morality is subjective, and that I should try to accept how my girlfriend is if I truly love her – which I do. She also said that my girlfriend had a right to date others and show affection because I don't own my girlfriend and can't dictate how and who she shows affection to.
My girlfriend said I can date other girls but I have no desire to do so. I feel weird that she is still dating another guy; I am growing to accept it but sometimes it still hurts.
Do you think monogamy and polyamory are learned ways of thinking? Or are they genetic?
I want to continue being with her and hope I can learn to accept how she wants our relationship to be. She's so important to me and can't see myself without her. I don't want to be selfish or controlling with her and push her away.
If I decide I don't want to date other girls in the future, should I not expect her to be the same?
I'd really like to know your opinion cause you seem like a very enlightened and intelligent person.
— B. D.

Answer: You don't have to be polyamorous just because your girlfriend is.

I think it was wrong of her to hide it from you. Relationships depend on trust. How can you trust someone if they've lied to you and hidden part of their life from you? Even if she identifies as polyamorous, she was still cheating on you, because she made an agreement with you that was monogamous from your standpoint and never mentioned that it might not be monogamous until eleven months into the relationship. There is no question that she broke her monogamous agreement with you and deceived you.
That said, that doesn't mean you should necessarily give up on the relationship. The fact that you wrote to me about it shows me that you love her very much and she must be a very amazing woman that you've taken this blow and still want to make things work.
I can see why she made the choice she did. She started to fall for you, but knew you were unfamiliar with polyamory and not ready for it. So she deceived you so that she could be with you and still maintain her romantic freedom behind your back. Now that she has opened up to you about it, she is doing so in faith that you'll come around and understand. I think it is safe to assume she very much wants your acceptance and forgiveness for her deception.
Trying to convince her to be monogamous would be meeting a wrong with another wrong. When someone comes to discover that polyamory is what they want, and they authentically feel that they need that, trying to change their mind is only going to drive an unfortunate wedge between you. If monogamy is what you want, and polyamory is what she wants, you may still both be able to have what you want.

Poly-Mono Relationships

There are such things as mono-poly relationships. My parents have one. My dad is polyamorous, and my mom is monogamous. My mom doesn't want anyone but my dad. She isn't interested in a sexual relationship at her age and is more interested in her garden than new deep connections. My dad is ten years younger and in excellent health and wants a highly active sex life and new, deep connections. So they talked about it – for months, and years – and they've now settled into being a transparently mono-poly couple. My dad brings girlfriends home to play board games (which my mom loves) and my mom does other things when he goes out dancing or stays out late with his girlfriend.
Another example is a woman who came to the polyamory gathering I attended this past the weekend. She is monogamous, but her partner is poly and has another girlfriend who also came to the gathering. She doesn't think she wants any more partners herself, but she wants to be with her partner over the long weekend, share in his experiences and learn more about his perspective. Another woman who was at the gathering this weekend mentioned that she had started out the same way – attending the gathering as a monogamous person, but now she has multiple partners and loves being polyamorous. She still struggles with jealousy at times, but many people (such as myself) identify strongly with polyamory yet still feel jealousy frequently.

Is polyamory versus monogamy a question of genetics?

In humans, I believe that relationship style is a choice we can make. Some cultures are very open to different marriage arrangements and consider it normal for a monogamous marriage to add a new husband or wife, or for a polyamorous marriage to divide up into monogamous pairings.
However, people have other aspects of themselves – besides what they were taught about relationships– that play into how well suited to monogamy or polyamory.
People who prefer a lot of quiet, zen-like project activities may often be less suited to having multiple partners because they simply want too much time to themselves to have multiple deep relationships. Of course, some poly people don't have any deep relationships. Some have an array of surface relationships that are more about having activities they enjoy doing together than they are about connecting their values, hearts and dreams in a meaningful way.
For me, I'm only interested in relationships that have a high degree of depth, and so considering how much of my energy and time it already takes to have two husbands, I think I will reach my limit when I have three partners. For some people, their max simply may be one person.

B. D. Replies

I think I agree with you when you said she shouldn't have hid it from me about what she wants. I can understand why she did though. Maybe she did the right thing because if she had told me right away I probably wouldn't have accepted it. I got to know her and fell for he, so when I found out I was willing to give it a chance.
The other guys she's dated did know about me and they were polyamorous as well.
I think most likely I wouldn't date other girls so it would be a mono-poly relationship for me.
I have met one of the people she likes and it was weird at first but he actually was nice and I actually like him as a friend.
My girlfriend explained that she likes being close to people with different personalities and interests and who all have different ways of showing affection towards her. She said she thinks she would get bored with only one partner and that it would ruin the relationship but having more she said makes her appreciate the differences in each and keep it exciting.
She did admit that sex is a big reason. That hurt. I know that she did that before I was aware. Her friends knew, and they never told me. I don't know if I'm mad at her friends or not. I feel strange around them.
I really didn't know much about polyamory before I found out she was. It's actually way more common than I would have thought. At least she knows a lot of people around where we live who feel how she does.
— B. D.

Raederle's Reply

B. D.,
It is interesting for me to hear your side of this. I've wondered if I should try meeting people without them knowing about my two husbands and easing them into discovering polyamory – afterall, the dating pool of people who are already polyamorous is fairly small in comparison to the general population.
I'm very pleased to see how well you're handling this. Your connection with your girlfriend must be very strong to have withstood the "big reveal".
Your girlfriend brought up a good point when she mentioned that she likes having different partners with different ways of showing affection. There are many different love languages – touch, words of affirmation, gifts, money, quality time, acts of service and being a good listener. To feel loved regularly in all of those different languages isn't something we can expect from monogamy. In a monogamous relationship we can expect to receive love from our partner in the ways that come naturally to them, and in the ways we clearly communicate that we need. But we can't expect all methods to come naturally to all individuals. Having multiple loving relationships dramatically increases the likelihood of getting all of one's physical, emotional and psychological needs met.
Sex is a big reason for me as well. My first husband (who I've been with since 2009) and I have struggled with being sexually incompatible. Meeting my newer husband (in 2015) helped our relationship tremendously by providing me with a sex life I enjoyed, taking the pressure and guilt off of my first husband. Having unmet sexual needs in a relationship creates a lot of pain for everyone involved, so it can be a major relief to have other options.
There will likely be more challenges for you along the way. Coming to terms with jealousy and where it comes from for you will be a journey. For many, it is a very difficult journey. But it is rewarding, because you get to know yourself and deepen your relationship with yourself through the journey.
— Raederle
The Consciousness Alchemist
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