When your partner says they want to open up the relationship to date other people, and your response is ‘I can’t share you’, what’s really going on?
It might sound strange to hear, when your feelings are so strongly indicating that this suggestion from your partner means you have to ‘share’ them, but –
Sharing another person, is not a thing. You have no automatic, earned or invested right in what they choose to do with their body, their time, their thoughts and energies.
People are not property, and no one has the right to share another person. To do this, would amount to slavery. There are certain exceptions, in the case of expressly consented, BDSM scenarios that are negotiated, specific and time-limited.
Feeling possessive of your partner, is something that many people experience and is sadly quite common. It comes from the learned mono-normative, toxic idea that a dyad relationship consists of two people who are incomplete on their own, find a soulmate and together magically form a whole unit that completes them both. This is not only wrong, but dangerous to your entire concept of authentic Self. It encourages codependency, diminishes their autonomy and leaves them feeling that they need the relationship in order to survive, instead of wanting the relationship to increase their overall life satisfaction.
This reflexive reluctance to ‘share’, conceals a deeper truth. This is that we are afraid of the unknown, of the possibility that any change to the current dynamic will threaten the entire relationship. That you will be left alone, that they will choose someone else over you. The fear is at times so strong, that we prefer to lash out in anger, blow up or break into tears, just so we don’t have to get close to it in our minds.
My message is a simple one, and is starts with recognising that there are layers to our emotional resistance in the face of what our partner has asked us. Taking a step by step approach can be a more manageable way to process this without creating further conflict that could damage the relationship irrevocably. Here are some suggestions of what you can say to yourself, and your partner, to make the most of this situation.
- I cannot share what is not mine. I cannot control what my partner thinks or feels. I want my partner to have autonomy and agency.
- My fears are human fears and they deserve to be openly expressed, not hidden behind the fake story of ‘not sharing’. Only by fully expressing my emotions, can I heal my insecurities that contribute to these fears.
- My partner only came to me to share their truth because they trust me
- They say they want to explore this together with me. If they didn’t, why won’t they simply leave?
- If our relationship is in a good place, having a raw and honest conversation about our desires, needs and fears can only bring us closer.
- By opening up this topic for an open-hearted discussion, we will build up more trust and intimacy and find out if there are areas of our relationship that we want to work on.
- Change is inevitable and I want to embrace it. I will change, my partner will change. This is not a cause for fear but for celebration – that we can grow and develop as individuals and witness this in our loved ones.
Sometimes, when it feels too hard, professional support in the form of coaching or couple’s counselling may be the right choice. Or perhaps, a support group.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.