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How do I find the right relationship structure for me?

Jan 23, 2024

How do I find the right relationship structure for me?

This is a hard question to answer. God!

I’m such a therapist, right?

This is a hard question to answer because I don’t think that any person has like one right relationship structure.

I think that our relationship structures are a product of who we are in a moment in time, who our partner is at a moment in time, and what it is that we have with each other at that moment in time, and those things are always shifting and changing.

I think the biggest thing I would say about this is that almost no relationship structure remains static forever.

And if what we are trying to do is find the one fit for me, I think that you’re setting yourself up for making that kind of natural shift and change more challenging for yourself if you look at it that way instead of looking at it as at this time with this person what feels good for me.

Some things to consider.

I think a lot of folks choose relationship structures particularly like monogamy versus various nonmonogamy from a place of their fears and worries.

They come from this space of what am I worried will happen and what’s the structure that’s most likely to prevent that?

And I get where that comes from.

In our brains, the avoidance of things that feel uncomfortable or negative or hard or bad is a very, very strong driver for a lot of our choices and behavior.

And I think that that tends to lead us towards making choices about relationship structures that we then end up wanting to change or wanting to renegotiate because it isn’t actually aligned with what we want. It’s aligned with what we are worried about.

If I was going to choose a job based on what I’m worried about, there are a whole lot of jobs that I may not even consider because of worries that I have about how it might even be.

But if instead I focus on what is it that I do want?

How do I want to feel?

How do I want to be?

What are the freedoms that I want to have?

What does my agency or autonomy look like?

How do I want to respect the people in my life?

How do I want to be respected?

How do I want to show commitment?

How can people show commitment to me?

What does love as a verb look like for me?

What does it look like for me to receive love as a verb?

When we talk about relationships from that framework, I think it’s much easier to think about what kinds of relationships might fit for you at this moment in time in your life with the particular people you are thinking about.

I do not think that everybody should be nonmonogamous or polyamorous at all.

I am not one of those people who think that it is like the enlightened choice that everybody should choose forever.

I don’t think that’s true.

I don’t think that it is necessarily a more enlightened way of being or that people who do nonmonogamy are more enlightened or better at relationships necessarily.

I think that you hit speed bumps a lot faster in nonmonogamy than monogamy around the same kinds of behaviors but the same kind of bullshit happens everywhere.

So when it comes to what is the right structure, I think looking at what do you know about yourself in the real world, how do you want to be as your ideal self in your ideal – like as your ideal self if everything was great, what is the difference between those, and where is the point for you of like healthy challenge versus trying to be a person you are not?

I see a lot of people who through my practice as clients who intellectually really want to be nonmonogamous, they really, really, really, want to be able to be nonmonogamous.

It’s something that they agree with intellectually.

Philosophically, it’s aligned for them.

But when it comes to the actual experience of it, for whatever host of reasons, attachment issues, or challenges with their own trauma histories or emotion regulation, or time management or their ability to focus, actually doing nonmonogamy doesn’t work for them.

You can be as intellectually-invested or philosophically-invested in a relationship structure as you want and that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you, because we see the same thing with monogamy where there are a lot of folks who are like, “Yes, I want to do monogamy. It is the thing that I want to do. It will be so great if I could do monogamy.”

And they keep struggling with it because it just doesn’t align for them.

And so I think looking at like who are you, what have you seen about yourself?

If you look at your last few years of relationships and what you noticed is that you are bad at monogamy, maybe that is a sign from the heavens.

Depending on what bad at monogamy looks like, it may be a sign that you need to work on being better at communication.

You need to work on being better at honesty.

Or it might mean that you need to find people who can accommodate and be happy about the person you are.

If you look at your past few years of dating and you’ve been working very hard at being nonmonogamous and it still feels awful to you, maybe this is your time to just take a step away from nonmonogamy for a bit.

That’s okay.

If what you need is permission to be monogamous, I give you permission, right?

If what you need is permission to be nonmonogamous, I give you permission.

Neither of these are a right choice.

And what is the right choice for you right now may change in a month, a year, 10 years.

So again, look at who you are right now. If you have this philosophical idea of what you do want, take a moment and say like, “What is this idea of who I want to be, how I want to be, how I want my relationships to look?” and sit with it for a moment and ask yourself like, “Where did that come from? Is that mine? Is that something I was told I should be? Is it something that I think other people will like me better if I am?”

Take a minute to see where that’s coming from and if it is genuinely aligned with how you want to be, then you can look at like what’s the next easy step towards that place that’s going to help me get there?

If it is about something that other people have told you or you think other people want you to be or that’s coming from outside, then maybe what you need right now is to take some time really thinking about and looking at what you want, you yourself.

If you are not worried about anybody judging you or anybody shunning you or anybody being upset with you, how would you want your relationships to look?

What would that be?

Give yourself the space to explore that.

And again, look at that if there’s a difference between how you are doing things, how you have been doing things, how you have actually functioned, how you want to be doing things, how you want to be functioning, where is a space that feels like a little bit of a challenge but not so much it’s going to overwhelm you.

In a lot of theory, they call this the zone of proximal development.

If you try to push yourself too hard, you can end up making it even harder to make any process or progress.

But if you don’t push yourself at all, then you can end up stuck exactly where you were.

So, where is that development place?

What’s the next space you can go towards?

In terms of right relationship structure, again, just be honest with yourself. If you are someone who does not do well at monogamy, don’t do monogamy.

If you’re someone who does not do well with nonmonogamy, don’t do nonmonogamy.

Get some help if you want to move towards that thing, get some coaching, join a support group, do some reading, get some therapy, whatever feels right for you but just be honest about where you are and go from there.

I do have a worksheet in my book that might be helpful in looking at some of these factors.

You can find all the worksheets from my book at

You just click on the book link and you will find it there.

But again, there’s no right answer here and I think there’s no static answer.

Who I am right now in relationship, what I want from relationships right now is very, very different than who I was 8 years ago, than who I was 10 years ago, 15 years ago.

And so, give yourself that space for this to change, for this to be flexible, for this to be something that is never set in stone but instead, flows with who you are.

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