Relax — you're going to be fine.
For years before discovering polyamory, I assumed that I was just bad at being in relationships.
Don’t get me wrong — I love love. I always have. I love meeting new people, connecting with them deeply and striving as hard as I can to make the person who I am with happy.
In theory, I make an excellent girlfriend. But in practice, I choked every time it came time to commit to someone.
I always wanted to commit to the person I was with — I really, genuinely did — but something about doing so never felt quite right. I felt anxious, restless and trapped inside of relationships. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that one fulfilling relationship meant I had to abandon potential other ones. And I couldn’t bear the thought of asking my partner to change to provide me with something I needed that they were not giving me.
Eventually, I learned that there is a term for the kind of relationship structure I was seeking: Polyamory — or, consensually non-monogamous relationships.
Here are a few signs that you, too, may be polyamorous — rather than simply bad at relationships.
1. You love love, but feel trapped inside of monogamous relationships.
You adore the experience of deeply connecting with people and falling in love. And yet when it comes time to commit, something inside of you freaks out. You want to invest your time and love into this person but you loathe the idea of not being able to connect and invest in other people as a result. Entering a relationship always feels uncomfortable and limiting, even when you’re deeply in love with the person you’re with.
2. You have always felt as though you’re capable of loving more than one person at once.
You don’t believe that loving one person excludes you from loving another (or many others)! You are entirely present with whomever you’re with while you’re with them, and your relationships with others don’t detract from the care and attention you give to each person you care about.
3. The thought of being tied down to just one person for the rest of your life gives you serious anxiety.
You’ve seriously questioned — multiple times in your life — whether you’ll actually be capable of committing to just one person forever. It’s not that you don’t want to build a life alongside someone else — it’s just that you don’t want that relationship to cut you off from the other potentially loving, fulfilling relationships you might experience.
You believe that you have a lot to learn from a lot of different people and you don’t want a singular relationship (no matter how fulfilling it is) to cut you off from experiencing others.
4. You have a varied set of needs and desires, which you’re not sure just one person could ever fulfill.
You crave both a partner who is wildly different from you, to challenge you, and a partner who is exactly like you, to understand you. You want someone you can go to for wild, kinky sex and someone you can go to for gentle, heartfelt affection. You want someone who is wild and unrestrained to explore with, and someone who is steady and reliable to come home to.
Your personality is incredibly varied and complex and you crave relationships that will satisfy different parts of it — but you couldn’t possibly expect just one person to provide all of that.
5. You have a plethora of different things to offer potential partners.
Just as you have a lot to gain from various partners, you also have a variety of things to offer. You can be a kind, affectionate lover who is somebody’s soft place to land. But you can also be a sharp and challenging lover, who pushes their partner to grow and expand in new ways. Just as you don’t want to be loved in a singular way, you don’t want to give love in a singular way either.
6. You are okay with the thought of your partner being with other people — in fact, it may even turn you on a little.
Jealously is an emotion we’ve all been conditioned to feel inside of monogamous relationships — but if you knew that your partner was first and foremost committed to you, you honestly wouldn’t mind them exploring their other options. You value their happiness above all else and you believe in your ability to communicate healthy boundaries.
Plus, it can actually be a relief to know that your partner is getting the things they can’t get from you elsewhere. It takes the pressure off of you to behave unnaturally, and allows you to simply flourish naturally inside the relationship you have.
7. You are able to maintain deep personal connections with multiple people simultaneously.
Perhaps you have multiple people whom you consider ‘best friends’ — each relationship taking on a slightly different but equally meaningful form. You don’t feel the need to compare and contrast these relationships — you understand that you can love take many different forms. And you want to experience as many different forms of it as possible.
This article was originally published at Thought Catalog. Reprinted with permission from the author.