I’m 31 and in a relationship with a bisexual man. We’ve had a tempestuous, on/off ‘thing’ for the past three years (including a year when I regularly cheated on my then boyfriend to be with this man) with both of us being unwilling to commit to it. Five months ago I realized that I loved him and wanted a monogamous relationship. He told me that he still wasn’t ready for that, that he wanted a polyamorous relationship and although he had strong feelings for me, he couldn’t say that he loved me. We decided to stay out of contact but he called me to say that he did love me and that he wanted to be with me and was willing to try and make a monogamous relationship work.
We were happy for three months, but he recently told me that he needs to explore his sexuality further – which means sleeping with men. This is something he has done in the past but he carries an enormous amount of shame about it and feels that the only way to ‘make peace’ with himself is to confront it. I agree with him! But he wants us to stay together while he does this, which I don’t think I can face. I’ve tried to tell him that we should split up but he insists that his future need to sleep with men doesn’t interfere with his love for me and that he wants to make this relationship work.
Pu-leese! Life is complicated enough without people demanding not only their proverbial cake but a range of toppings into the bargain. Marriage may not be the only creditable union but some of the demands it makes offer a decent benchmark for a healthy relationship. “Til death do us part”, is increasingly difficult to live up to as we endure for decades longer than our original die by date but “in sickness and in health” is still worth a punt and certainly “forsaking all others” makes for a much less complex lifestyle.
I write for a liberal organ with a broad constituency among whom there are plenty who have chosen alternative approaches to their relationship criteria and for a minority it works. As in all things there are always exceptions to the rule but while guarantees of success aren’t possible in matters of the heart, indicators for disaster are easy to spot. A lovers desire for polyamory is one of those warning signals. There are few among us who want our partners involved in a series of ‘intimate relationships’ which is what the word describes. Guidelines in how to conduct your romantic life are not rules but they do help in suggesting personal boundaries beyond which you may not want to stray. In matters of the heart we all have a different watershed but you do seem to be setting the bar unrealistically high in terms of what you will tolerate. Meanwhile your partner is taking the opposite position and putting pleasing himself on top of his to do list. I’m not saying he doesn’t love you, isn’t credibly conflicted and may not come around to a workable union with you in the long term but I’m not foolish enough to hold my breath in anticipation of it happening.
If I were in your shoes, as a 31 year old woman with her future stretching ahead I’d want to jettison the flotsam and get on with my life. Accepting bi-sexuality in a partnership and creating a safe environment in which respective individuals can explore their desires is one thing, sitting at home keeping the fire burning while your lover sates his sexual desires wherever he pleases is quite another. This man appears to be hedging his bets, a practice you were also guilty of when you were stringing your ex along. It’s a practice that offers some protection in global financial markets but none in the field of romance. Relationships require constant health monitoring, demand enormous sacrifices and only succeed with gargantuan levels of determination and dedication.
Love at first sight is the stuff fairytales are made of and there’s good reason why most of those tales end at the beginning of the relationship. As stalwarts will tell you the price for a sustainable enduring partnership is high so it’s a path definitely not for the under-committed. If you haven’t yet decided what sex to go for, let alone an individual to direct your passion toward you shouldn’t be attempting a long-term union. Whether you fancy a future with this guy or not the solution is the same. Torturous though it may feel right now your emotional well-being depends on setting him off on his journey of self discovery unfettered and with no guarantee of a reserved spot in your life. He has every right to say he’s not ready to commit but none at all to expect you to wait in the hope that he does choose you.
Equality is the essential ingredient in the pursuit of harmony and with the balance of power so hopelessly off kilter a positive outcome is unlikely. Until the scales are weighted more in your