Ask Sex Coach Leigh: What are strategies for a monogamous partner to manage jealousy and insecurity in a relationship with a polyamorous relationship anarchist?

Question:
Q: What are strategies for a monogamous partner to manage jealousy and insecurity in a relationship with a polyamorous relationship anarchist? I have been having a tough go of it. Without the concept of a “primary” relationship or a hierarchy of some kind, it is difficult to ever feel happy and secure in a relationship like this.

A: Hi lovely! It’s understandable that you’ve been having a tough time with this – in a lot of ways, you and your partner are on opposite ends of the relationship style spectrum. I want to validate that different relationship styles can be challenging even when both partners are polyamorous. Hierarchy and relationship anarchy can often seem as disparate as monogamy and polyamory, depending on how they are practiced.

A short primer for those who aren’t familiar with these terms: polyamory, meaning “many loves,” refers to a type of ethical non-monogamy where folks don’t just have sex with other people, but also form romantic and loving relationships with multiple people. In hierarchical relationships, there is usually a primary relationship that has somewhat more clout than secondary or tertiary relations: sometimes this comes with a lot of relationship agreements, where a primary partner can have veto power over their partner’s other relationships, and other times it is more descriptive – your primary relationship might not be more important than your other relationships, it just might be a way of identifying the person you cohabitate or share finances or raise children with. Relationship anarchy is used to describe the practice of not valuing any person or relationship more than any other – whether or not the relationship is sexual or platonic, romantic or familial, there is no metric for putting one type of relationship above another.

When it comes to managing jealousy and insecurity, in any relationship, it is important to remember that jealousy and insecurity are both emotions, not personality traits. When I tell people I am polyamorous, I often hear some version of “I could never do that – I’m such a jealous person.” I absolutely believe that polyamory, just like monogamy, is not for everyone. But I reject the idea that someone can be a jealous person. We all experience jealousy, but it doesn’t have to define us. The best way to address it is to look at what fears are underneath these feelings.

If you are afraid that your partner will find someone who you perceive as smarter, more attractive, or more interesting than you, try to remember the reasons that your partner is with you and the ways that you are unique and amazing. Ask for validation from them, but also cultivate that within yourself. If you fear that your partner will leave you for someone else, try to remember that relationships don’t have guarantees. Sometimes people leave us for someone else, whether we are in a monogamous relationship or a non-monogamous one. Sometimes we leave people. But if we are communicating and staying present, that is not the kind of thing that is just going to happen out of the blue. If these feelings of jealousy and insecurity keep coming up, ask yourself if there’s something tangible your partner could do to assuage your fears. Do you need to spend more time with them? Would you feel better if you could meet their new partners and see them as actual, flawed humans, rather than just ideas? When your partner goes on a date, would you feel more confident if they checked in with you before or after? Can you make sure that you are maintaining your relationships with your friends and finding positive ways to spend time away from your partner? Would a discussion about your both of your visions for the relationship ensure that you were on the same page?

Most non-monogamous folks will say that they don’t believe that any one person can meet all of their needs. There is an abundance mindset here – the more, the merrier. Maybe one partner is more into late nights out dancing, while another is more of a cuddle on the couch type. Maybe one relationship is kink-focused, while another is all about holding hands and making out. I want to be clear here, though – it is okay if this is not how you see relationships. Your needs and desires are just as important as your partner’s. If your main priority is being someone’s one and only, and having someone be your one and only, that is awesome and valid. But that might mean this relationship is not the right fit for you. Some incompatibilities can be worked through, and some can’t. My hope for you is that you can value your needs, ask for what you want, and be gentle with yourself no matter what you decide.

Talking with other non-monogamous folks can be a great resource as well. This is something I specialize in as a sex coach, so feel free to reach out to me, or look for poly meet-ups or support groups in your area. I would also highly recommend both the More Than Two book and website. It has a wealth of information, with great techniques for managing jealousy and the unique challenges of mono/poly relationships.

Best of luck!

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Certified Sex Coach & Clinical Sexologist
Leigh Montavon is a professional sex coach and clinical sexologist, as well as a queer, polyamorous, kinky, feminist mama. She likes reading and cooking and trying to stay awake through TV shows. She is usually running at least fifteen minutes late.

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