Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Afraid My Non-Monogamous Boyfriend Will Leave Me for Someone Else
I, like so many others, am currently having issues with a Male. (Was that a puff of wind? Oh, only a sigh. Okay.)
Anyway, the Male in question is one whom I am currently dating. We've been together for a few months, and have been keeping it really quiet (i. e. basically no one knows about it), mostly for one reason: it's non-monogamous.
This is where it gets complicated. I knew what I was getting into when he first told me that he didn't want to be monogamous—or, at least, I thought I knew—and it was in the initial agreement for our relationship. I'm monogamous, he isn't, and we've both been okay with that for a while (he spends almost all of his time with me, it's more the principle of him being able to fool around with others that he cares about, and I really appreciate that he minimizes the foolery for my benefit.)
But Auntie, he's much more experienced than I am (he was my first HND,) and a couple years older, and he has never been monogamous, and usually a few months into his relationships he "switches" between girls. Maybe he ends it for good with the original one, or maybe he doesn't, but either way he shifts the primary focus of his attention to a new person. We've hit that few-month-mark, and he's starting to question our relationship. I've asked him why, and he just shrugs noncommittally and says that that's what always happened, so he's sort of waiting for it to happen now, or wondering whether he should just "switch" anyway, or something. I don't know.
So we've been arguing more lately, and I'm really worried that he'll "switch," leaving me in the dust, as he has done with so many. I've explained to him that I really, really do like him and have high hopes for our relationship (we discuss long-term plans frequently.) I just don't want him to be afraid of committing to me just because it's a new experience for him or because he doesn't want to make this public, since he knows I want that if this is going to be a serious/long-term thing. I don't know what to do. I sometimes feel jealous and/or insecure, but I knew that was a risk of non-monogamy and I accept it.
Oh, no, you don't.
Or at least, I hope you won't by the time we're finished.
Because geez, Sparkler. Seriously? I hate to be the person who wallops you right in the teeth with a brick made of cold, harsh reality, but can we just revisit for a second the actual facts of this relationship?
- You've been "dating" your guy for months, but he doesn't want to admit to anyone that you're actually involved.
- You've been loyal to him from the get-go, while he reserves the inalienable right to mess around with other people, which you agreed to despite the fact that it clearly makes you insecure and unhappy.
- You knew from the beginning that not only would this guy not be monogamous with you, but that it is his lifelong modus operandi to have multi-month "relationships" which he then leaves in search of greener pastures.
- And finally, when you told him that you really like him and want to be with him publicly and long-term, his response was to wonder right to your face whether he should find a new fling just for funzies.
Sparkler. Sweet pea. Can you explain to me exactly what part of this relationship says "high hopes for the future" to you? Because to me—and probably to every other human being with a working brain and basic reading comprehension skills—this guy shows absolutely no indication whatsoever of taking your romance seriously. And in my personal estimation, you should be peacing on out of there as fast as your legs can carry you, before the inevitable happens: namely, that he wanders off with some other girl, leaving both your heart and your dignity in pieces…or worse, that he keeps your relationship going on the side just long enough to give you deep-seated trust issues and a lovely case of chlamydia. (For the sake of my own sanity, I'm going to assume that your sexy business with this dude involves an ever-present protective layer of latex. But if that isn't the case, for the love of everything, go procure a pack of condoms and an STD screening right this minute.)
But hey, let me guess: Did you, by any chance, believe that you would be the one who showed this guy the true meaning of love? That if you just played the Cool Girl—that archetype of an unperturbable female who makes no demands, has no needs, and meets her boyfriend's desire to play the playboy with naught but a confident shrug—that eventually, the sheer power of your patience and affection would transform him from a lothario into a loving and fabulous boyfriend?
Like I said, it's only a guess. But if you did do that, you wouldn't be the first—and you wouldn't be the first to make the disappointing discovery that it doesn't work that way. Will this guy eventually stop his serial tomcatting and settle down with someone? Probably, yes. But if he does, it won't be the result of some magical, mystical dreamgirl winning him over to the wonderful world of commitment; it'll be because his own idea of a worthwhile relationship has undergone a seismic interior shift.
But until that happens, the girls he dates will only ever be disposable distractions. And since being a disposable distraction isn't what you want, you should probably rethink the wisdom of continuing to waste your time with someone who doesn't love you, who is demonstrably uninterested in making you happy, and who is either so dumb or so manipulative that he refers to his serial secret hookups as "non-monogamous relationships." Nonmonogamous arrangements are about commitment, communication, and loving consideration for the needs and desires of both parties; in a nonmonogamous relationship, insecurity and jealousy are things that a couple deals with together, not that one person weathers miserably on her own while longing for things to be different. And most of all, a nonmonogamous arrangement is never ironclad: If one person is unhappy with it, the whole thing is put on pause so that it can be discussed, because the couple knows that their connection with each other is priority number one.
Without all that—the commitment, the communication, the respect and honesty and trust—then you're not in a nonmonogamous relationship.
You're just secretly dating a total douchebag.
But you don't have to, Sparkler. Whether or not you knew what you were getting into when you got into this, you have every right to get out of it when it isn't working for you. You are allowed to demand a relationship that meets your needs, and to walk the hell away if it doesn't. And when your boyfriend responds to your straightforward request for commitment by threatening to leave you for someone else (!), you shouldn't sigh and accept it; you should reject it, and him, because he is clearly the King of the Callow Weenies.
You can do better than a guy who won't even admit that you're dating. You can do better than a relationship that makes you feel bad. And if you're going to resign yourself to something, resign yourself to the fact that you've already wasted a lot of time with this inherently unsatisfactory relationship—and then resolve that you won't waste anymore.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.