I’ve always loved the idea of poly. I love that what you can’t give your partner another can and visa versa. I don’t believe that, that level of love can only exist for one person. That being said, I obviously haven’t gone poly yet for a reason. Like everyone, I have insecurities and I would say my biggest insecurity comes from not being good enough, be it sexually, emotionally, intimately, etc. Now, I know you don’t have to be the best to be good enough, but I think even with that knowledge I still have that mindset. I have to be so good that my partner does not desire anything I give them from any other person and I have to be good at everything, so there in nothing to seek in another person. What do i do?
I see this question a lot, or something like it, from folks new to poly and struggling with the emotions that brings. Mainstream culture teaches us that co-dependence is virtuous and that one person should be everything to their partners. So when a partner wants more than just you, it can feel like you are inadequate as a partner. But society’s emphasis on co-dependence is misguided.
The short answer is that you will be much happier (poly or not) if you recognize that you can be “enough” without being everything to them.
For me, I remind myself that my love for my partner means that I want them to be happy, even if that means that it’s not with me. Rather then working to make sure my partner(s) never looks at anyone else or feels good with anyone else, I encourage it as much as I can, while also working to make sure that I am always worthy of them, that I am the best version of me that I can be. Then either they continue to choose me, and I can be completely secure in that love because I know that nothing is forcing them to stay, or they leave and I know that it was not my fault, that I did the best I could, but apparently we weren’t a good fit for each other.
Either way, I never spend a single drop of energy trying to protect a relationship. I protect people. I work to make my partners happy. But if either of us is not happy, the relationship either needs to change or end, and you can either be proactive about it and hopefully continue liking each other enough to still be at least friends, or you can resist it and end up hating each other.
If you read More Than Two (And I hope that you do), one of the things you will read is “The people in the relationship are more important than the relationship.” That sentence is the center of my approach to poly.
No one can be everything to anyone. That’s why we all need friends and hobbies and all of the other people that make up our world. You would never tell your partner that you don’t want them to have friends or rely on their family for support in the name of you being everything to them. You wouldn’t consider it an inadequacy on your part if they wanted to talk to their sibling about old family problems instead of you. So why would it be so different for them to seek out another’s intimacy?
Don’t look at it from the perspective of you being “enough” for them or not. Because there isn’t a person in this world that can ever have “enough” love. We all need more.
Instead, look at it from a perspective of abundance. The world is full of people. Each one is a different flavor. When someone wants strawberry ice cream, it’s not because chocolate isn’t good enough to fulfill their needs. They just like strawberry too and they like something different now and then. But chocolate is still delicious and if they have enough money, they might even just want to have both.
Or to put it another way. One partner might be coffee, while another is wine. Both are very important, but they both serve very different needs. If either tried to serve in place of the other, it would fail, because they are essentially different. Where one partner might encourage me to think big and reach for the stars, another might keep be grounded and remind me to be realistic. I really, truly NEED both.
If you aren’t enough, if you aren’t worth it, they won’t be with you at all. If they have every flavor in the world to choose from and they still want to spend time with you, that means something. And to me, it means a lot more if there is absolutely nothing forcing them to be there. I want to feel my partners pick me (Even if I share the cup with other flavors of ice cream). Because being chosen feels good, especially when you know it’s not out of loneliness or desperation. My closest partner has several other partners. She would not be alone without me, which gives me comfort if something were to ever happen to me. But it also tells me that the time she gives to me is truly her desire, that I am important to her.
And to me, nothing feels better than that. And in my experience, you can’t get that in monogamy.