WAfyWF: My partner wants to stay monogamous, but I don’t.

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Question: Monogamy might not be for me. Does that mean I have to leave my monogamous partner?

I love my partner, but we’ve been together for a long time and I want to be able to see other people, but my partner is not receptive to the idea. What are my options? Is this an impasse that means it’s time to leave the relationship?

Answer: Get clear on your needs and intentions, and talk about them.

The decision to change or end your relationship is deeply intimate, and there’s no way I can make that call for you. Instead, I’m going to give you some questions to reflect on and discuss with your partner. First, I do have one strong warning: If you “convince” your partner to try non-monogamy based on the threat of losing you, that is compromised consent, and it is not tenable. So for starters, don’t bully your partner into betraying their own happiness in order to keep you. At the same time, you’re not a bad person for wanting what you want, so don’t allow yourself to be bullied or invalidated, either.

That said, here are some questions you can use as starting points for what I hope will be a constructive dialog with your person.

How are you feeling about each other in general? It’s one thing to long for the adventure of a new crush, and it’s different to be dissatisfied with your current partner and looking for a replacement. Evaluate the health of the existing relationship before making any changes.

Are your long term intentions still in alignment with your partner’s? Discuss the life of your relationship so far and where you hope or expect it will lead next. 

Why doesn’t your partner feel open to a change in the relationship? The thought of non-monogamy makes some people feel threatened or insecure, while others think it just sounds too stressful and complicated. Let your partner talk about what’s on their mind, and try not to interrupt, judge, or correct them for whatever they’re feeling.

Can you be your full self with your partner, or is there an essential aspect of you that’s not getting expressed? Different friends, acquaintances and loved ones give us opportunities to exercise different aspects of ourselves. Talk with your partner about the aspects of yourself that you want to explore or grow.  

These conversations can be challenging, so there’s no shame in seeking the assistance of a qualified relationship therapist. While some people view therapy as a “last ditch before we split” option, it doesn’t have to be that way. This moment in your relationship can make you stronger if you navigate it together. Alternatively, you may come to feel that your relationship isn’t supporting your mutual happiness and growth. If that’s the case, hopefully you can part amicably with the understanding that you’re both moving on to a better situation for yourselves.