Published: November 21, 2012
I am a 30-year-old straight man who has always known that he is a poly. The woman I love is not a poly. She is a monogamous person. When we started being sexual, it was a strictly friends-with-benefits arrangement, although a sexually exclusive one, at her insistence, and I agreed to that because neither of us expected anything long-term to come of it. But we fell in love, and now I can't imagine life without her. She is amazing, and I love her like I've never loved any other woman. But she has asked me to betray my sexual identity by remaining sexually exclusive. If I cannot commit to that, she does not want to be with me. I am not asking the same of her: She does not have to sleep with other people to keep me in her life. She is, however, insisting that I not sleep with other people to keep her in my life. Can someone who is poly be happy with someone who isn't?
You are not "a poly."
Poly is not a sexual identity, it's not a sexual orientation. It's not something you are, it's something you do. There's no such thing as a person who is "a poly," just as there's no such thing a person who is "a monogamous."
Polyamorous and monogamous are adjectives, not nouns. There are only people – gay, straight, bi – and some people are in monogamous relationships, some are in open relationships, some are in polyamorous relationships, some are in monogamish relationships, some are in four-star-general relationships. These are relationship models, not sexual identities.
So the question isn't "Can a poly be happy with a monogamous?" The question is can you, despite your clear preference for nonmonogamous relationship models, be happy in this relationship? Do you love your girlfriend so much that you're willing to pay the price of admission that she's demanding – you're willing to behave monogamously (adverb!) – in order to be with her? Yes or no?
Since your girlfriend has already indicated that she's not willing to have a nonmonogamous relationship with you (or anyone else), the choice is yours to make. If you truly can't live without her, if she's the one, you'll have to be monogamous. If that's not something you're willing or able to do – and "willing" and "able" are two different criteria, and you'll need to make an honest self-assessment on both counts – then end this relationship and go find someone whose romantic desires more closely align with your own.
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