Back in my twenties, I was seriously dating a girl who was polyamorous. The thought of an open relationship had never really occurred to me before; it wasn’t a hip buzzword just yet. So when my SO brought up the subject, I considered it. I was young, adventurous, and figured “why not?” The answer was much worse than I ever could have anticipated.
It proved how unbelievably, horribly jealous I could be. Even when I had given my permission for my significant other to go out and date other people, I spent most of those evenings thinking about all of the things she was doing with them instead of whatever I was supposed to be thinking about. Work and my other responsibilities couldn’t compare in my brain to the obsession I had with my own jealousy. Then I would just feel guilty for feeling jealous. I had agreed to an open relationship; why did I feel like I was going crazy?
It made me distrust everyone who spoke to my girlfriend. Were they hitting on her? Did the person know she was poly and trying to date her to get in between us? I started distrusting even the most innocent of conversations between other people and my girlfriend, from her coworkers to friendly cashiers at the grocery store.
I no longer felt wanted or beautiful. Feeling loved inside of a relationship is one of the most important things. Under our new open relationship, I was spending no less time with my girlfriend; she only went on dates when I was at work or busy. And although almost nothing had changed between us when we were alone, knowing she was off finding something special with other people ruined the feeling of being wanted inside our own relationship.
I found myself hating my own friends. Our circle of friends has a bad habit of dating one another. When my girlfriend and I opened our relationship, it felt like suddenly being surrounded by sharks. Every time one of them asked one of us out, I felt like they were trying to break us up. In retrospect, that wasn’t a very healthy reaction, but it felt real at the time.
I hated myself. The perpetual motion machine that was my constant downward spiral made me not like myself very much before the end of our relationship. The distrust and jealousy, then feeling guilty for being jealous and distrustful, then feeling depressed and ugly (which only made the first feelings worse) ruined my relationship with myself.
My anxiety and depression worsened. As someone who already suffers from occasional depression and near-constant anxiety, I am already sad, tired, and anxious most of the time as it is. Adding polyamory to my relationship only mode those things worse. My stress levels went through the roof, making my anxiety skyrocket as well. It wasn’t until I was single again, however, that I realized how bad things had really gotten.
I was suddenly very unhappy and felt trapped. I’d signed up for an open relationship, and I felt that trapped me within those terms. I knew that my girlfriend most likely wouldn’t be happy in a monogamous relationship, so I kept my feelings all to myself. As someone who is bad at communicating my feelings anyway, this made honest communication impossible for me.
It started a lot of unhealthy behaviors. I found myself sneaking into her phone and emails, reading her messages, and trying to make sure she wasn’t building a stronger relationship with one of her other partners than the one she had with me. It took a long time to break those jealous habits I built from that part of my life; I still have to sometimes fight the urge to go through my husband’s phone when my anxiety is particularly bad.
It took a potentially beautiful relationship and destroyed it from the inside. My ex-girlfriend and I were really compatible. We liked a lot of the same things, really enjoyed each other’s company, and had a really nice thing going for us. If I had been open and honest with my feelings, I feel like our relationship would have had been much healthier and might have even had the chance to be something more than an old regret.
It taught me that some people aren’t built for polyamory, and that’s okay. One of the most important lessons I learned was that open relationships are not for everyone. Although there are a lot of people out there who claim that humans aren’t meant for monogamy, I don’t think that’s true for a good number of people. I know myself better as a result of that failed relationship, so maybe it was all worth it in the end.
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