Why do I have to accept polyamory
Open relationships: Can you actually practice polyamory?
In our "Bedroom View" column, the sex therapist Angelika Eck regularly answers your questions about love, sex and relationships. Because nothing is more often kept silent. We want to change that.
The systemic couple and sex therapist studied psychology in Landau and Heidelberg and did her doctorate there. She works as a supervisor and systemic teaching therapist in Heidelberg and elsewhere. She is the editor of The erotic space: questions of female sexuality in therapy (2016). Angelika Eck runs a practice for couple and sex therapy in Karlsruhe.
Ann-Sophie, 24: I've had a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend (24) for two and a half years. After finishing my studies I will move to his city. So far we have been able to deal with conflicts well, communicate a lot and honestly and both feel very comfortable in our relationship. He recently started a new job. Among his new work colleagues is a woman whom he finds very attractive. He would really like to get to know her better, both personally and physically, but initially only told me honestly because he noticed that it was increasingly stressing him. At the same time, however, I felt pressured because he speculated that if he couldn't live up to these needs, he might feel frustrated in the long run. Within a very short time we were on a fundamental question. I would rather have a monogamous relationship; an open / polyamorous relationship is also an option for him. He can imagine limiting his physical needs towards her, but still wants to be friends with her. I, on the other hand, understand his feelings, don't blame him and don't want to dictate any rules, but on the other hand I am extremely hurt. I feel jealousy that I do not otherwise know about myself. I have great confidence in him, but I'm still afraid of how things will develop in the future. For both of us, the mutual well-being inside and outside of our relationship is very important, so that we are both willing to compromise, but now we have the feeling that one of us will always suffer more than the other. So how can you deal with it when one person wants to live more monogamous and the other more polyamorous?
Your friend has made a new move, he has made clear his need to approach another woman. The fact that he did not just start an affair with her or suppress his wish shows that he wants to be true to himself, and at the same time respect you and have great confidence in you. How nice! It just feels less nice that you have moved out of your comfort zone into impassable terrain.
No consolation, but true: a couple relationship is always unstable, even if we would like to believe otherwise. It consists of two individuals who are constantly changing and who repeatedly raise an exciting question for each other: How far do you go with me when my needs change? Or: what do we do if your wishes change but mine don't? Because for most of the partners in adulthood the most important attachment figure, his new position, his sudden strangeness, his possible departure feels threatening. So it is normal for you to feel threatened.Newsletter
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The couple constellation is a place where existential risks come to the fore. On closer inspection, the exclusion of third parties only defines the couple. The separation from the parents and families of origin establishes the new couple, later the occasional separation from their own children and their omnipresent needs is added. The demarcation from other potential intimate partners also marks the exclusivity of the couple relationship. And she automatically gets a question mark when the two-person date is opened to the outside world. In addition, this is a re-edition of the age-old question of whether love is, should, must, can be exclusive. It seems to me that it has been socially acceptable for some time now, and not in the style of the '68 liberation calls, but rather in the zeitgeist of individualistic imperatives: Be as true to yourself as possible, optimize yourself, live relationships of high quality.
But now to the specifics. So far everything has been going just right: You are in the conversation and struggling to find a way in a stalemate in which your need opposes his and vice versa. Your boyfriend is the one who wants to change the relationship contract. He knows you don't want that. So he should seriously examine himself what it would cost not to take the said step: Who would he be as a person, man and partner if he said goodbye to the desire to intensify contact with his colleague? What would he be missing, how would he live with it - if it happened of his own accord, not because you categorically failed? Should he choose to voluntarily respect your current boundaries, it would be up to you to thank, trust, and allow your wellbeing to be so important to him.
Should he feel immediately or over time that he desperately wants to experience sex or a friendly contact with this woman, you would have to go a step further. And ask him curiously: What exactly is what is indispensable or what is longed for in this external contact for him? What would be the attractive thing about friendship, what about the eroticism that he thinks he spotted there? What does he think the experience would do to him? What if things get complicated or develop more intensely than expected? These are all questions that cannot be answered in advance, but still want to be asked if you take the man by your side seriously.
Then it would be your turn to examine yourself: Out of respect for his wish - what could you grant him? You write that you would suffer. Of course you would. The question would be whether you would avoid suffering or say yes. It is possible to actively affirm pain and accept unpleasant feelings. Jealousy, for example, would be a most appropriate feeling here, as would fear of loss. Some people can allow these feelings and carry them in the relationship with one another.
What do you want to know about love, sex and relationships?
Problems in bed are rarely about sex alone; they almost always also affect the relationship and your own self-esteem. When things get stuck in sexuality or in the relationship, many questions arise. How do I say what I am missing? What if wishes remain unfulfilled? Why am I cheating? Our column Bedroom view wants to give answers. Because speaking openly is a prerequisite for being heard.
Send us your questions to [email protected].
We will of course treat your correspondence as confidential. You can find all of Angelika Eck's answers here.
There is a fine line to walk, because this does not mean bending over for your partner and suppressing your own needs. It would mean taking something on for the sake of your loved one and still remaining yourself. Nevertheless, you may feel: I know that I can't stand it. It's not working.
For the process in which both of you are stuck, it is helpful to dare to take steps on a trial basis - for example, continue without an outside relationship for the time being - and to discuss them in all connectedness. What does who need? Not in order not to have pain, but to be able to deal with it. Couples whose exclusive bond is strong are more likely to get along than couples in whom one or both of them compensate for a lack of intimacy in the outside world. Do not chisel anything in stone, no one requires identification of your life model, there is no polyamorous hymn book and no declaration of membership in the club of sexually open relationships. Follow the step of four in rounds: weighing up, deciding, trying, giving feedback. Good luck!
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