Hi Yana!

I’m currently in a mono-poly relationship. My primary partner is monogamous and has no interest in being with other people. He is reading More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert and is searching for resources when feelings of jealousy or envy come up. We’ve known each other for two years and have been dating for three months. I was already dating my current girlfriend when he and I started dating, and I have also ended a relationship with a boyfriend while we’ve been together. He says his biggest fear is what might happen when I meet someone new and fall for them, since that hasn’t happened yet. But I know it will, and now I’m afraid of it happening, too.

How do I stop freaking out about hurting my amazing partner while still being my autonomous, polyamorous self? We love each other and we want to put everything into making this last.

In a Poly Predicament

Dear Poly,

True: monogamous/polyamorous relationship structures can be extra tricky and take a lot of work.

False: they never work.

However, they certainly thrive stronger and longer if built on a sound, ever-updated structure.

It sounds like your primary has been (very naturally) struggling with jealousy for the short few months that you have been together. It also seems like he’s developed enough jealousy-coping strategies to at least manage these strong feelings about partners who were already on the scene when he arrived.

The idea of having a new person show up can rock the boat even with seasoned non-monogamous folks, and can definitely feel like you’re waiting for a huge, catastrophic other shoe to drop when you’re unfamiliar with non-monogamy or are naturally monogamous like your primary is. Will he be replaced? When will this happen? What will happen when this happens? Who will it happen with?

First, validate these scary feelings he might be having. It’s important for each of you to confirm for the other person that the differing, but intersecting fears you have are natural.

Then, reinforce the power you have to handle change in your relationship by making some plans to support each other before, during, and after that change. It’s possible that part of what helps him deal with the multiple relationships is that he has primary status. Take some time to re-negotiate and solidify any agreements you might have between the two of you that are unique to his primary status. Chances are this label helps him feel loved and valued and though not a great long-term solution, this can help create some structure during emotional chaos.

Remind him why polyamory is an important part of your life and of who you are. That this aspect of your life and identity help create the person he loves and that working together to uphold this part of you is not effort wasted.

Talk about what other emotions underlie each of your individual fears. Dig a little bit deeper than the crust of “fear” and “jealousy” and get into primary feelings like lack of trust, low self-esteem, fears of not being enough, etc. This way you can target what’s really bothering each of you rather than just addressing the surface evidence of root causes. A poly-friendly therapist or relationship coach can be a big help in this process. Polyfriendly.org can help.

The key here, Poly, is not to stop freaking out about hurting him, because in this process hurt feelings will likely happen. Rather, convert this freak-out into proactive relationship action.

Yana Tallon-Hicks, MA, is a relationships therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.