There comes a point in nearly everyone’s life as a polyamorous person where they ask themselves the single most important question they can. Unfortunately, it usually comes under a cloud of doubt, pain and misery. It is almost always a “newbie” question, but it can happen to anyone.
The way it usually happens is all too common. The newbie (meaning someone with little to no prior experience being poly) is dating someone that is comfortable being poly, likely already has a primary relationship and probably has or has had several partners. It’s worse for the newbie if the relationship is long distance. The “oldbie” meets someone new. It is the newbie’s worst fear realized. A fun, shiny, sexy new person that is full of awesome and made of win has arrived. This new person is going to replace me, and I’ll be forgotten and alone. Then they feel bad for doubting their loving partner and beat themselves up over that. Finally, in a fit of despair and jealousy, they ask themselves “The Question”.
“If I feel this way, am I really cut out to be poly?”
I wish there was a simple answer. To all you newbies out there (and oldbies going through a crisis of identity) please believe me when I tell you that everyone has their moments of doubt. You can be perfectly happy living a polyamorous lifestyle for years and still experience negative feelings and emotions from time to time. I’ve been poly most of my adult life. At one point or another I’ve been involved in nearly every type of polyamorous relationship configuration you can think of. My poly identity has lasted longer than my decade long marriage that ended horribly because of new lovers, and multiple failed poly relationships along the way. Even now, after living with my partners in a happy quad for over five years, I still get feelings of jealousy, such as when one of my partners gets to do something that I wish I could but can’t. Jealousy is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself (but that’s a different article). So, no, feeling jealous, envious or whatever does not automatically mean that you aren’t cut out to be poly.
But the truth is that maybe you aren’t. Not everyone can be polyamorous, in the same way that not everyone can be monogamous. Some people just aren’t “built” that way. Some could never handle not being poly. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. Polyamory and monogamy are one of the many false binaries that exist in modern society. In much the same way that there is a wide spectrum of sexually, with heterosexual on one end, homosexual on the other and a dizzying array of options in between, so too is it with relationship style. Rather than asking whether or not one is cut out to be poly, the real question should be, “Am I cut out to be polyamorous with this person, in this relationship?”
This is a question that demands honesty and self-reflection. It will require lots of thinking, processing and perhaps a few tears. But above all, understand two things. It’s OK to ask it, and your answer, whatever it is, is OK too. Your answer might hurt you and the people you love, but answering this question honestly is absolutely necessary. Don’t assume that a negative answer means everything is over. Your partner may be willing to renegotiate relationship parameters and boundaries if you ask. Only after you answer the real question negatively should you go back to the first one. The answer may be the same, but perhaps not. Perhaps polymory isn’t for you, or maybe your partner really is being a jerk-face. But until you ask the questions and honestly examine yourself for the answers, you won’t know for sure.