Help! I agreed to a monogamish relationship, and now it is coming back to bite me

Question:

My mate and I met each other a little over a year ago though a mutual friend and have been mated for almost a year. We hit it off pretty well; if I have any confidence in the things I feel anymore, it's how darn infatuated we were with each other in the very beginning. The moment we became official was when I made my first mistake, when I agreed to his proposal of a monogamish relationship versus what I preferred; a 100% monogamous relationship. The rules were that we can see other people sexually as long as the other partner gave their permission. I voiced my concern with this by professing how important I think sex is and how I wouldn't ever want something with someone else as long as my feelings for him held strong, which they VERY much did then and still do now. He dispelled with saying how there was almost no one he had in mind and he simply laid out that boundary just in case something came along; how I will "never know when something will come up."  Oh boy, I could write a whole separate e-mail on that topic I even almost withdrew from the 5 minute relationship at that moment and vowed to called it an open relationship or FWB because I truly didn't want to begin investing in a relationship where I did not agree with its sexual boundaries. If it was FWB he could be free to explore his sexual desires with no strings attached.. He insisted that we be more official than FWB and that we call each other boyfriends. I loved him so much and this was great to hear, so I tried to forget about this whole monogamish thing.

Like I said, it was a mistake to agree to the relationship on those boundaries, but we did. It came back to bite me. Over the months, I began to see things that have always been taught to me to be red flags. Things that i've always know to be red flags, because it made sense in my mind that people should feel the way they do about them. You see these videos all over Facebook joking about girls trying to unlock their boyfriend's phone to see who he's been texting. Why? I am 95% percent sure that if I was to go into his telegram, I would find things similar to what those girls in the videos are looking for. I would find flirty texts. I would find RPs. I know for a fact he sends pictures of him in underwear to huge telegram groups. He might even send nudes to guys he knows. And i've seen that he gladly accepts nudes from them. Outside the furry fandom these things are so widely known to be indications of cheating, losing feelings or interest in the current partner, etc. They're known to sometimes be the only hint that someone might EVER receive that their partner is cheating on them. The Facebook videos are examples of that. They get millions of likes because girls and guys everywhere can relate. But inside the furry fandom, I feel like I am lesser for not being on-board with it. I get feelings like being "antiquated" for believing in something so ancient. Something so simple. These monogamish relationships seem to be so common in the furry fandom that I feel like I'm looked down upon; like I'm selfish for wanting my mate to be mine and for me to be his. I feel like because I don't have this "feelings on/ feelings off" switch when it comes to sex that I am seen as less emotionally-agile or emotionally-aware.

At first I didn't want to talk to him about it because there were problems with that. The first problem is that our communication is abysmal. I won't get too into it, but most problems I bring up to him, including this one, are usually about him seeming to lose feelings for me, to which he says something like "you're the only one I truly want" or "i don't wanna leave you." And because i'm so crazy about him, these things usually satisfy me and make me almost forget what I even wanted to talk to him about in the first place. The second problem is that I thought there was always a chance I might be able to understand where he is coming from so he wouldn't have to change for me. I tried doing the things he did just to see if there really were no feelings associated with doing things with other people. I failed. I couldn't get into role plays. I tried being casually flirty with other guys but I couldn't do it. I couldn't even bring myself to stay on this one underwear telegram chat that he invited me to because of how many underwear pics, compliments and swoons were being exchanged between the person that I really love and 250 random furries.

I finally talked to him about it, and he reassured me that I'm the only one that he wants. I mentioned the underwear chat and he removed himself from it, like that's what I wanted. It wasn't what I wanted. I want him to do what he wants in life without me holding him down. I don't want to hold him back from doing these things, but I don't want to keep being hurt from it, either. I've proposed breaking up with him multiple times now because I keep thinking that I'm not pleasing him like others can. Every time I try though, he reels me back in, dispels my doubt and assures me that he loves me. I'm beginning to think that there's an ulterior motive for him wanting me to be with him, for why he keeps fighting for this relationship where I do not sexually please him enough for him to want me and only me, like I want him.

I fear that his desire for staying in this relationship is so strong that he will skip the part of asking for my permission when he finally does meet someone he wants to play around with, because bringing it up to me would be too risky. And it would be. He still hasn't, to this day. But the day he does ask for my permission to play around with someone else would probably be the last day we're together.

I don't ever want to imagine him going down on someone, looking them in the eyes while I sit home and pretend that I still have something that he wants.

Received via email (name withheld)

Answer:

First off, I want to assure you that you aren’t “broken” or antiquated for wanting a monogamous connection with your mate; it is a perfectly valid thing to want, inside the furry fandom or anywhere else. The problem here is not that you want to be monogamous, but that you agreed not to be — you signed up for a monogamish relationship instead.

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I very much empathize with the pain and worry you are experiencing; before I became convinced that polyamorous relationships were what would work best for me, I too was a worried monogamist dating someone who wanted permission to sleep with other people, and it made me incredibly insecure about my relationship. The thing that I had to learn in order to be happy in my relationship was how to take yes for an answer; your mate seems to be constantly reassuring you that you are the one he wants, you’re the one he is in love with, etc. Currently, you are refusing to accept his reassurances and insisting something else is really what he wants. That’s really toxic thinking, and if you continue down that path, you’re going to poison your relationship with distrust. If you make your mate feel like you are never going to trust him no matter what he does, why would he bother remaining faithful to you? You are punishing him either way, and that is incredibly unfair.

Try to put yourself in your mate’s shoes. He knows himself to be a very sexual person, and he made sure to get permission to be flirty with others so that everything was out in the open and there wasn’t any risk of him cheating on you. He hasn’t actually slept with anyone else (perhaps in part because he knows how uncomfortable you are with the idea), but he enjoys flirting, exchanging nudes, and engaging in erotic role play (RP). I would urge you to de-catastrophize your mate’s behavior. You worry that his flirting is going to lead to infidelity, but have you considered that those outlets might be enough to satisfy your mate? Perhaps he simply enjoys developing an erotic charge and feeling sexy by flirting with other guys, and then he gets in bed with you and lets you enjoy all his ramped up sexual energy. I know of plenty of otherwise-monogamous relationships that work that way: one person flirts and sexts to get horny and then plows all that sexual energy into his or her mate at the end of the day. Perhaps your sex life is actually benefiting form your mate’s activities, and you haven’t even considered the possibility. It’s certainly worth asking your mate what he gets out of the flirting he engages in — is he looking for someone new, or does he just enjoy feeling attractive and desirable and being horny all day? If it is the latter, I doubt you have much to worry about.

You really need to let go of this idea that your mate is just itching to cheat on you, and will as soon as he finds someone. I don’t think your communication is “abysmal,” as you describe it. You’re asking him really accusatory questions, and he is responding by reassuring you, yet for some reason you are not satisfied, and think he has “some ulterior motive” for staying with you. This paranoid sort thinking is toxic and doesn’t seem to match the reality of your relationship at all. If what you want is a truly monogamous commitment from your mate, you need to ask him for that, not punish him for acting according to the relationship terms you agreed on. He seems to be pretty satisfied with just flirting and sexting, so perhaps you could agree on new terms that permit what he is already doing, but that do not allow for him to actually sleep with another person. You might even ask him not to climax while playing with others online, instead saving that erotic charge to invest into his sex life with you.

You mention that the second your mate actually asks you to sleep with another person, your relationship will likely be over. If that is the case, you need to tell your mate that and let him choose. If sex with other people is something he needs, that means you two are not compatible, and you should break up. If instead he is willing to pay the cost of admission to be your mate, and to give up on the idea of sex with others (perhaps with exceptions for online flirting/sexting/RP), then take yes for an answer and let yourself enjoy the relationship you are in. Stop being so distrustful of your mate, who has done nothing to deserve your suspicions and has conducted himself openly, honestly, and ethically throughout your relationship.

You might also want to work on becoming more comfortable with the idea of your mate being sexual with others. Based on your statement that you “don't ever want to imagine him going down on someone, looking them in the eyes while I sit home and pretend that I still have something that he wants,” it sounds like you have a fairly fundamental misunderstanding of how open and polyamorous relationships work for most people. Your mate isn’t (potentially) looking for new partners because he no longer loves you or no longer desires you, but because he does desire other people. For him, it isn’t either/or — it’s both/and. He enjoys both exploring sex with other people and having a long-term, committed partner who he can come home to and snuggle up with every night. He wants to enjoy lust with them and both lust and love with you, and he’s been very open and honest about that (as opposed to just cheating on you). If he ever sleeps with someone else, it won’t be because you don’t have anything he wants any longer. It will just be because he’s horny and wants to experience something new. Most people, when they come back to their long-term partner after a sexual escapade, experience their long-term partner in a new light, and their sex life improves for the better. You might actually find that your partner is more intimate with you after being with someone else, not less. However, if you just cannot come to terms with the idea of your mate being with someone else, then you need to be honest about that and let your mate choose what is more important to him. 

Finally, here are some additional resources you might find helpful for your situation, based on questions others have asked:

This column talks about some of the risks and hurt feelings that can come from online sexual interactions with others, hurt feelings that you seem to be experiencing in your relationship.
http://www.feralattraction.com/advice/are-my-mates-online-rp-sessions-crossing-the-line-into-cheating

This column addresses how to define cheating in a non-monogamous relationship. TLDR: If your partner is adhering to your relationship terms and honoring your agreements, he isn’t cheating on you.
http://www.feralattraction.com/advice/how-do-i-define-cheating-in-my-non-monogamous-relationship

This column assumes that non-monogamy is something you actually would like to enjoy at some point, but it offers a lot of helpful tips on overcoming jealousy to indulge a partner who wants to experience other people sexually.
http://www.feralattraction.com/advice/i-love-the-idea-of-non-monogamy-but-jealousy-is-preventing-me-from-enjoying-it

This column offers advice for someone who needs to close their open relationship for emotional reasons
http://www.feralattraction.com/advice/my-mate-and-i-have-always-been-open-but-now-im-feeling-jealous

This column addresses what is probably the doomsday scenario you have running through your head: What happens if my mate falls for someone he’s sleeping with?
http://www.feralattraction.com/advice/xwpizwi795rbclhpn349gme7dz7t0g

Hope that helps! If you have any follow-up questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch again by replying below or visiting feralattraction.com/contact.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.