Dear Daemonum X,
I need some guidance on my current relationship. My live-in primary partner and I have been together for six+ years. We decided to open our relationship and be non-monogamous two years ago. We are basically opposites, I’m super outgoing with tons of friends and she is a shy introvert with two best friends, she loves staying home and I love going out, I’m sexually adventurous and she’s vanilla. All these reasons make it really practical for us to be non-monog and we can get needs met from other places. However, she has only slept with one other person in the last two years while I don’t know if I can count on two hands what number I’m on. Anyway, our relationship feels really uneven. I really want her to be out having fun experiences, and I have a fantasy of us doing some of these things together. When I encourage her or invite her she isn’t interested. Is there anything I can do to make her come out of her shell? Being a hedonist alone is just kind of… lonely.
Lonely in Love
Dear Lonely in Love,
The first thing that comes to mind is the tale as old as time, yes I’m talking about Beauty and the Beast. You know the completely romanticized love story that teaches us how magical it is when opposites attract? The beautiful country girl finds love in the spelled angry beast. In your case — the feisty outgoing free-lover falls for the quiet bookish recluse (I may be embellishing a little bit but stick with me). Taking the theory of magnetism and applying it to romance just doesn’t work. In fact, psychological research has disproved the adage that opposites attract time and time again. Most happy relationships are between people who are actually quite similar. Maybe you have more in common than you’re letting on, but sticking around despite your myriad of differences may actually be doing you a disservice.
Although your advice question was directed at “helping” your partner, I actually want to talk more about you! I’ll assume you’ve been pretty happy in your relationship since you’ve been together for so long. You’ve had six whole years to learn who your partner is, what she’s into, and what she’s comfortable with. So my question is, why don’t you see her? What I mean is — you know she’s an introvert who sticks to herself and likes vanilla sex. She sounds lovely. What I’m hearing from your question is that you want to change someone with perfectly fine behavior to be… more like you? That’s pretty fucked up. Do you think that your partner is a reflection of you? Do you feel like she’s holding you back? Or, maybe you feel some type of way about your behavior and think that a partner in crime will quell your shame? I could continue to guess what’s at the bottom of this but ultimately you should try to understand your impulse to control and shut that down fast.
“My partner would be so perfect for me if they would just ___.” Unless this fill in the blank is something mundane like “stop leaving their hair in the shower drain,” it’s gotta go! No one is perfect, and it’s wild and unrealistic to even project that onto someone. Everyone’s differences are what make them special and interesting. How can you accept your partner for who she is and stop thinking the ways her (perfectly fine) behavior makes you feel lonely is something you need to fix in her? What can you do to get your needs met that doesn’t include projecting or controlling?
You said it yourself, one of the great things about non-monogamy is that you can have lots of different intimate connections that help you get all your needs met. If you think about what you need in order to be happy, does that include having a live-in primary partner that’s the life of the party who you can have sexual adventures with? It’s totally fine to have those needs and standards for your relationship. However, the ethics of coaxing your partner into fundamentally changing who she is are not in your favor. It’s your responsibility to get your needs met, and if your partner can’t be the match you’re looking for then maybe it’s time to evolve your relationship (breakup, deescalate, move out, etc). It’s possible that having more life experience than you did six years ago and learning more about yourself has shown you that your needs have changed and so must your primary relationship.
It might be good for you to be with someone who you’re more aligned with in terms of outgoing personality and hedonist predilections. However, you might go out and get what you want but still feel lonely. Companionship is super important, but unless you have a solid relationship with yourself you might feel a pattern of loneliness even when you’re in relationships. If you’re looking for others to complete you or fill some type of void that you feel, most of the time that specific call is coming from inside the house. You’re a whole ass person all by yourself! I don’t know if this is what’s going on for you specifically, but it’s something to watch out for as you may be moving from one relationship where you feel lonely into others where that feeling doesn’t go away. Be sure to check in with yourself and make sure you’re constantly working on having a better relationship with you.
The last thing I want to advise you on is the part of your query where you lament the uneven feeling in your relationship. An uneven feeling is a problem when we’re talking about the housework, or the childcare, or the rent. However, if you’re feeling uneven because you’ve been fucking lots of people and your partner hasn’t, or because you’re a party monster and she’s a snuggle monster, this doesn’t seem like a problem to fix. If you’re non-monogamous these issues should, in theory, be solved by the very definition of non-monogamy. Why do you feel the need to be “even” in what you’re doing? If your partner doesn’t want to have sex with as many people as you, that’s ok! Meeting new people is a lot of work and isn’t always a fun time for everyone. I strongly advise you to stop comparing yourself to her and stop troubling the gaps between your behavior that are simply indicative of the natural difference between you two.
Lonely In Love, I really hope my words gave you a gentle wake up call. Whatever you decide to do with your relationship, I strongly suggest you do some deep journaling about your desire to change your partner, and your desire for a more equal count of fucks. Can you accept your partner for who she really is, and can you see and appreciate her differences as traits that endear you to her? Are you able to soul search and decide if your feeling of loneliness is something you need to solve within yourself, or is it actually trying to tell you that you would be happier in a more aligned relationship? I’m sure you know that only you can answer these questions. Good luck!
Ahh that was harshly put but I hope taken in the constructive spirit intended. Speaking as someone who’s extroverted but still has very little interest in sex!
The reason I once considered non-monogamy was specifically the opposite of OP. I wanted my partner to find other people to have sex with so I wouldn’t be on the hook for all that. Turns out they were doing all that without my consent already though so boi bye…
Interesting, I didn’t think it was harsh at all! Just clear and to the point but nicely gently nudging to consider.
Didn’t find it harsh either, I think wake-up calls will feel this way even as gentle nudges.
(OOF that was not cool of them to do, these discussions are intended for mutual honesty but tbh you dodged a bullet by knowing they weren’t going to be honest anyway.)
This is a great wakeup call if it’s about the expectations that the letter writer has for their partner. I wonder, though, if it’s about guilt that the letter writer has – it’s possible there’s a dynamic where they are shamed for their higher sex drive and maybe their partner feels resentful about all the “fun” the letter writer is having, or feels manipulated into a polyamorous setup and punishes the letter writer for having more fun. Either way, the relationship is probably due for reconsideration, but that was my instinct on it (maybe just because of my experiences).
That was my feeling as well – that there’s a dynamic of the letter writer experiencing real or imagined judgment for their sexual adventures.
Thank you for saying that! I agree 100% and am in a similar situation with my very introverted partner, but guess what?! It’s all good, because she’s amazing just the way she is. She knows what she needs and wants, and that’s awesome. Stop trying to change other people, and instead work on yourself.
This is really good, straightforward, needed advice.
Got to agree that this advice was a touch harsh. I’ve been the more outgoing one in a poly partnership. When you’re always going out and sharing your time and emotional energy with other people, but your partner isn’t, it’s very easy to feel guilty. It can feel (to either partner) like a comment on your commitment to the primary relationship or your relative desirability, even though it shouldn’t necessarily! Maybe you need some reassurance that your lifestyle is okay?
More practical: My current introvert does not have fun at parties, and I totally wish he would come to more events with me. But it’s in a hypothetical sense, since I know it isn’t much fun to make him come to events he doesn’t like. we’ve spoken about that, and worked out compromises and boundaries. For example, my partner can show his face for an hour or two and then head home and leave me to party all night. If there is anything it’s really important for him to be at, I’ll say so – and he’ll happily attend without complaining because he knows I won’t try and make him go out the rest of the time.
I am an introvert and I don’t find the reply harsh rather necessary. Introvert get drained from social interactions with many especially unknown people. Me personally I am even a quite talkative person but parties make me tired. So maybe not everyone has the same idea of fun. I would rather spend and evening with one or good friends (inside jokes and deep discussions included) than having small talk at a party. This might sound boring to you and also comparing to the general expectations of society, which are a bit more fitted to extroverts, but to me that party sounds boring. So yes it might be easier for a relationship if the extroversion/introversion level kind of matches (of course it is a scale not two binary categories) but the most important is to understand and respect your partner. You can’t love someone you don’t understand and see. You might love your picture/projection you made up about someone (everyone does that in some way.)