I'd like to first thank you for running this lovely site and this lovely column. I've browsed through your letters and responses now and then, always admiring the unbiased approach you take and the useful advice you give. In a world where so much seems changing it's reassuring to know that there are always logical steps that can be taken to move forward.
I have so many questions! And maybe that's indicative of my life at the moment. It would be a lie to say I'm in a very mentally stable position – I haven't been for some time. I think that's possibly useful information for the question to come. I'd like to ask about not poly relationships in general, but rather my own poly relationship. And I guess the question most on my mind, the one that keeps me up at night is, “Am I doing the right thing?” To expand, “Am I doing the right thing by them?”
I met my boyfriend roughly a year ago. It's long distance, but with plans to meet and be with one another in the very near future. He's saved a lot of money (as an artist with no secondary job, I find saving more then a few hundred to be difficult, but I cannot help but feel I've failed him if he has to provide the majority of the money for air fares and such!) and we're planning on being together in person for the first time around February-March of the new year. I was initially very hesitant to get into a relationship with him, I know I've had trouble in the past maintaining any sort of relationship and what with being transgendered (male to female) there are some rather large mental barriers to work through before I can promise him much in the way of physical intimacy. And yet everything seemed to fall into place. He was perfect for me. Supportive, caring, forgiving of my faults. He is himself an artist with more ability to pour himself into his art than I've ever seen.
Then she came along. Much like I had with him, I fell rather instantly in love with her. When we spoke I was the happiest I had been in weeks. When I could make her smile it ... well, you get the idea. She's transgendered, too, and I feel a strong empathy for her. I want to help her through life and, if the possibility of a poly relationship had not been open, I would have striven to stay by her side and make sure that she was happy, whatever happened.
I guess the “problem” is that a poly relationship was possible. That is to say, I approached the topic gently with my boyfriend and after convincing him that it was by no means a failure on his part that I had room in my heart for two people, he agreed that the idea of a poly relationship was worth exploring. And so we did.
Now at every junction my boyfriend seems cripplingly insecure. Whilst my girlfriend is content to spend but a fraction of every week together, my boyfriend grows upset if we cannot spend every day with one another. I feel like I can't do things with my other friends because I'm pressured to be on Skype with him all the time and explain myself when I want to do other things. Although he claims that my going and doing my own thing is okay, he starts to fall apart if I'm absent for more then a day or two. A week ago I felt guilty that I hadn't spent enough time with my girlfriend, so I got a commission from another artist of our characters hugging. My boyfriend went off the deep end, telling me he thought I'd much rather be seen in public with her character than his. It felt like my commitment was being questioned, which I felt unfair considering how much of my time I spend with him.
To make matters worse, I literally cannot argue very much with my boyfriend. If he perceives any danger of us breaking up, he'll back down. Is it bad that I don't share this trait? That I would rather see if we're right for each other than cling to the hope that we are and that if we don't talk about things everything will be all right?
I feel like there's much I can't explain in this letter. There're aspects of the relationship that I just can't do justice to in one document. I love both of them dearly – so what do I do? Am I doing the right thing? Trying to fight for this three-ringed circus of a relationship when they have no interest in each other, only me, or am I being selfish? Despite what he's said, my boyfriend is clearly not interested in a poly relationship yet with all that's happened. I'm not sure I could go back to a relationship with just me and him and I know the very idea would break my girlfriend's heart. I would very much like to hear your insight.
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Dear Lucky Cow,
Reading through your letter, I think you pretty much understand the situation and are just waiting to hear from an outside, objective voice whether or not you are correct.
While your boyfriend says he’s okay with the polyamorous relationship you’re exploring, both you and I know that he really doesn’t want to share you with your girlfriend. As for your girlfriend, you don’t say enough about her for me to really gauge her feelings. My sense is that she is a little more secure in this, so far, because you are currently able to see each other in real life. This might change drastically once your boyfriend is with you in the physical sense.
Polyamorous relationships are extremely difficult and only work if everyone involved is 100% on board. This is not the case with you. If you try to force the situation because you want both of them in your life, you are bound to be disappointed and, quite likely, will hurt one or both of them.
So it is, Lucky Cow, that I would advise you to make a choice. Take your time and think long and hard about what you wish to do. Weigh the pros and cons and also, of course, take into account your instincts and your emotions. In the end, though, based on what you have told me here, I don’t see a polyamorous relationship working between the three of you. Pick your boyfriend, or pick your girlfriend, not both.
Before you do that, however, I want you to reflect on who you are as a person. Why do you think it is that you want a polyamorous relationship? Would you ever be satisfied with just one person to love for the rest of your life? If so, then my instinct tells me you should go with the boyfriend; if not, then the girlfriend seems a more viable option. But be prepared for the possibility that she, too, might seek other lovers, which means you would find yourself in a situation analogous to the one in which your boyfriend now finds himself. When it comes to polyamory, must you be the focus of the group dynamic? Or would you be content to be a satellite lover?
Only you can answer that question. Figure it out before you take the next step.
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