So I’ve been in a relationship for a couple of years with a woman I’ll call Dee. Dee is the first person I’ve been able to be faithful to instead of cheating on my girlfriend or breaking up with someone just to get into a new relationship the next day. At first I thought I was bad at dating, but I came to realize I am poly and I’m not meant to have just one love. Dee had never been with a poly person but was willing to give it a shot if we could be exclusive for a year – which was no problem for me. Really. But the year mark has come and gone and Dee doesn’t want to talk about opening things up, even though she told me when we first became exclusive she knew who I was and was comfortable with it. I really love Dee, but I need more than she can provide me with in the bedroom. I feel like she was dishonest with me in saying I could sleep with other women after a year when it seems like she doesn’t want me to. I’m traveling for work later this month and I’ve been looking up lesbian events in the hopes of finding a one-night stand, but I’d rather be able to do this with Dee’s blessing than behind her back. How can I make my girlfriend give me the permission slip she said I could have when we got together?
-Not Willing to Wait
Before you blow things up and cheat with a stranger, it’s worth another conversation with your partner. It sounds like you were REALLY clear with Dee: You’re poly, you can’t be with one person forever, but you were willing to give it a try because you were really into her. Then you upheld your end of the bargain: You were exclusive for the year she asked.
I assume you have practical poly experience — that you have juggled multiple partners and you know what you ideally want, whether that’s one other committed partner or a few women you play with casually. But if you haven’t yet road tested the poly lifestyle, think about your ideal situation before you talk to Dee. Would you have flings during business travel and live a monogamous lifestyle at home? Would you have one other partner or several casual lovers? Would these women sleep over? Would Dee know them?
When you get clear on what you want, you can have a more focused conversation — and you’re more likely to get what you want.
Then tell her it’s been over a year and you need to revisit your promised poly permission slip. Explain to her what you’d like to have going forward, and tell her you’re willing to work toward it on a schedule that makes sense for both of you. If you’d like to have multiple girlfriends, maybe you can open things up and date one other person for six months, so Dee gets to have firsthand experience on what it’s like to be dating a poly person. Then at the end of six months, take it to the next phase.
Whatever timeline works for you and Dee, so long as things are moving forward. I imagine the stress you’re feeling will subside when you know you’re working toward what you want instead of feeling like your needs aren’t important to your partner.
Remember this is an experiment for Dee, just as being exclusive for a year was an experiment for you — one you did’t find particularly hard. But who knows how Dee will take the relationship change? She might struggle with jealousy when you’re out with other women or find that there are some things she’s fine with but other things are a hard line (say, no sleepovers).
You’re not going to know unless you talk about it AND listen to one another. All you know is your side of the story. So don’t forget to ask Dee to share her thoughts and feelings. What is she afraid of? How can you listen to her concerns from a place of love rather than getting defensive or feeling judged?
Maybe you’re scared that when you tell her all this, she may tell you that she doesn’t want to be part of an open relationship. Maybe she thought she could handle it when she was super crushed out getting to know you, but knowing and loving you makes her uncertain. If that’s how she feels, then you can choose between ending things so you can be who you are, continuing to see Dee and staying closed, or continuing to see Dee and taking little opportunities to cheat, like your business trip. And you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re willing to live with.
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