Help! Will This Relationship Last?

Dear Louloria,

My wife and I have been seeing another couple we quite like. We’re all very aware of poly; we met through a poly discussion group. By discussion and agreement it hasn’t become sexual (yet), but it’s mighty snuggly, including naked-in-and-after-the-hot-tub snuggly. We’ve been seeing each other for Saturday hikes and dinners, etc., for a couple of years.

The strength of feelings in each of the 6 relations between the 4 of us varies widely. Recently I remarked that each of us is in this thing for a different set of motivations, and each of us is getting different things out of it, and yet it’s all good.

Question: How stable, or unstable, do you think a thing like this is? We’re in our 50s and 60s and all pretty settled.

A possible warning sign: all their lives, they’ve had a rule of only dating other couples — and only when all four people are together. Naturally this has severely limited their experience over the decades. Even though we’re at ease together, they have turned down any offer for one of us to come out alone even just for an afternoon hike. This hurts a bit but we can live with it. What’s your Spidey-sense?

– Mr. WantingASecureFuture

Dear Mr. WASF

I’m going to annoy you straight off and ask you what you mean by ‘stable’. If you mean ‘does it have the potential to turn into a long term relationship’, (long term arbitrarily defined as 2+ years) then I reckon it already has. You have a mutually satisfactory ‘special friends’ configuration which sounds like great fun. But there are several other interesting points about your mail which ping my spidey-sense.

You start off by commenting that you ‘quite like’ this couple. ‘Quite like’ is a fairly mild amount of like (at least in my dictionary), but nonetheless this sounds like a valuable relationship to you and something that you’d like to see develop into a deeper one. Only you can tell how much this desire prevents you from enjoying what is. And as someone much wiser than I said to me once – ‘if you’re waiting for them to change, don’t’.

They’ve found a way to ‘do’ non-monogamy which works for them… and any deviation from that pattern seems to be a threat. Personally it sounds a little rigid for my tastes, and I couldn’t live with it. Two years is quite a while not to accept that you can go for a hike individually (as they must surely operate with some people at an individual level, just not you); maybe you can live with it now, but how frustrating will this be for you in five years? Ten years?

So it sounds like you are not trusted to be alone with them. But from their perspective, they already know or sense you want more and they’re not willing to give it. When there is a permanent desire from your side to see the individual relationships deepen and a conflicting desire from their side to only develop as a couple (no matter how right or wrong you consider it), I can understand why they consider you a potential threat. What you want undermines their vision for their future. It means that the power balance could be perceived as weighted towards them. They have something you want. The hurt you feel probably stems from resentment. And resentment – unless resolved – will kill a relationship.

I believe that your configuration has the potential to last a long time as it is, if you can be happy with the limitations that it presents. Don’t expect that it will change because this puts undue pressure on all of you. Note that if you can just let it be what it is then this will give the relationship the best chance of developing further (but perhaps you can’t and that’s also fine). But as you are all polyamorous (or poly friendly), it shouldn’t be a problem to seek deeper connections – if you want them – with others who are more open to a one on one evolution.

Good luck.

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