You don’t get along with your metamour and what’s more — you think they might be unhealthy for your partner. What do you do?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 18 – Monster of a Metamour

You don’t get along with your metamour and what’s more — you think they might be unhealthy for your partner. What do you do?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My partner and I have been together for almost six years. We married three years ago.

My wife asked to changed the parameters of our marriage five months ago so she could more seriously see someone. This guy was a person I’d already vocalized having issues and red flags for but my wife said that her partner choice is not mine to make.

It’s been five months now and I find myself not wanting to go out to community events for fear this dude will be there, blocking him on social media and considering blocking her so I don’t have to see their interactions online, and still deeply uncomfortable with her partner choice.

He is unhealthy. She is often hungover after spending time with him which infringes on our time together, and he still gives me and others in our immediate circle red flags. He is unhealthy in his drinking, drug use, depressed, doesn’t exercise and eats a poor diet.

She’s right, her partner choice isn’t up to me, but I can’t stand this guy and am saddened that her relationship is making me want to retreat from my community.

She has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her, but this guy is the bottom shelf at best.

Response:

So there a few things here. First and foremost, she is right. Her partner choice isn’t really up to you and I think that that’s an important thing for you to remember and it really does suck. Because there are situations like this where are you really don’t get along or like who your partner dates and it’s kind of a thing that you have to navigate.

One thing that I really, really want to stress and this is really important for you and other people who are in more dire situations. Because I do think the situation is… because you don’t go into specifically what type of red flags this person flags up. And I’m going to talk about the ways that you describe him being unhealthy. It’s obviously not great that your partner is often hungover but at the end of the day it is her life.

But I do think that if people are really worried about their partner dating someone who is showing some specific signs of abuse such as their partner trying to control who they interact with, things like that. Even friends of people who are you know basically in a relationship that seems abusive, it can be really really hard to know what the right thing is to do. Because I think most people’s first Instincts is to confront their friend and say “You need to stop dating this person. This person is terrible. This person is bad.” But actually that approach can often backfire so I would you know… even as much as you may have very good reasons for feeling like this guy is not good for your partner, any attempts you make to try to change that situation either by saying “Dump him or I’ll leave” or you know… even polite things, even to the extent of reminding her constantly— all of those to a person who is going through a situation where their partner’s slowly kind of entrapping them and putting them in an abusive situation…

Because people aren’t just of a sudden abusive. Like it slowly and slowly escalates and for someone who’s in that situation, if their friends or their family or other partners start to be even more controlling or controlling to them, they’re going to retreat from that. So I think it’s really important for you to remember throughout all this that you trying to control the situation for her is just never going to work. You can’t force her to see this person the way you see them. Even if… and I understand that it’s not just you who feels this. You say that, you know, that he gives you and other people within your community red flags. You’re never going to be able to force her to see it your way.

And in fact, if this guy is specifically abusive, one of the first things that abusers try to do is isolate their victim. So they’ll often, you know, sometimes outright tell their victim that “You can’t be friends with this person. I’m really jealous of this person.” Yada yada. Sometimes people help the abuser do that by deciding to further isolate that person. So it’s really really important to remember that if this person is a *red flag* red flag in terms of being really abusive, you don’t want to put her in a situation where she’s going to be further isolated and doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can set your own boundaries. You’re totally allowed to decide what is healthy and isn’t healthy for you. You’re totally allowed to feel the way you feel about, you know, seeing their interactions online and you’re allowed to make your own boundaries. Like you’re allowed to say that she can do whatever she wants with this person but for her to show up hungover on your time together is unacceptable. But the thing about these boundaries you have  is that you have to be willing to enforce them as well. So if you’re going to say to her, “Regardless of how I feel about this situation and regardless of how I feel about this person, I don’t want you to be hung over when we have our time together. It’s not acceptable to me for that to happen”.

You can say that but what’s going to happen if and when she does show up hungover? What is… What you need to think about in your mind is what are going to be the repercussions of that? And that can be really tricky because it’s really hard to feel like you’re… it’s really hard to not feel like you’re punishing someone but at the same time like you need to be able to say, “You know what? I’m not going to have this time.” And so you need to think about you know the worst case scenario here.

What if you know… You don’t want to punish her but you do need to decide are you going to spend less time with her? Are you going to change the times you spend with her? I don’t know if you live together. I assume maybe, if you’ve been married for 3 years, you might live together. Maybe you might consider not living together anymore. It can be really really difficult to face these kind of situations but she’s not really giving you any alternative. Like she’s allowed to date whoever she wants to date. That is very true, but it’s not fair on you for her to show up hungover and infringe on your time together.

When it comes to your community, like I understand how you feel in terms of not wanting to go to community events. I think that’s where you need to focus less on you know your personal feelings and talk to the people who are also feeling red flags. Because the thing of it is… The thing I’m worried about and the thing that I often find that people… the struggle people have with this kind of situation where there is somebody in the community that is throwing up red flags, quite often community organisers and people who are in charge don’t know how to deal with that.

It can be very very difficult to know what the right solution is. Especially when you know if they were to say bar this guy from all community events and that meant she never went to any more community events. And then let’s say you decided, because she showed up hungover again and again on your time together, you moved out. So now she’s completely isolated with this guy and she can’t go to any more community events because he’s not there. You know, it becomes really difficult.

I think sometimes communities feel like they have to choose between letting everything happen and just letting everything go and not getting involved or completely banning someone and I really feel like there is a third option that involves potentially holding accountability. Holding, you know… thinking about all of these people who feel like this person is throwing up red flags… Can you not get together as a community and think about how to confront him? How to tell him? What about his behaviour is throwing red flags for you and you know bring him into the conversation rather than kicking him out. That’s something that you need the help of a community to do, but I do think that if you’re feeling uncomfortable at community events, that’s not necessarily her fault.

And I don’t want you to feel like you’re pitted in between him and her and I don’t want her to feel pitted in the middle, but I do think that if you seek the advice and the opinions of other people in the community and unless… you know, banning together to kick him out because you’re just kicking him out to go to another community where he might still be crossing people’s boundaries or, you know, showing up their red flags. You know, actually create a situation where there is a solution to this. You might think about holding him to account as a community, if you feel like that’s something that the community can do. It’s a very difficult and tricky thing to do and I think not all organisers and events people are going to be prepared for that kind of thing.

There’s quite a lot of people, especially if they running an event on their own time and they’re volunteering, just frankly don’t have the spoons for it or don’t have the patience for it. And you might consider, you know, all of those people that you’re together with who are feeling uncomfortable, maybe you guys have your own time. You know, organise your own things with them. You know, nobody owns community events. Nobody owns community. You can get together with whomever and whenever you want.

I mean it’s hard for me to say. I don’t know if you’re like in a really really small town and there are like only one of two bars or maybe one bar to go to or something like that, but you can create… you can make an attempt to create your own community spaces with those people who also feel like you do. And it’s an unfortunate thing to have to kind of like splinter in a way but I do think that if that’s something that’s going to make you feel more comfortable than do it.

If you really feel like as well like blocking her so you don’t see those interactions, it’s perfectly fine for you to say, “Right, you can date who you want. I really really don’t like this person. I’ve blocked them already.” I’d do a little bit more research to see because I’ve been in situations like that where my partner is just friends, not even dating, but just friends with someone that I just really don’t like because they’re really terrible to me and I didn’t want to see them so I blocked them. And I haven’t been able to see their interactions online.

So there may be other filters that you can use and things, but you are allowed if you want to say to partner like, “Look, I don’t like this person. I support you. I care about you. But I don’t like this person. Maybe we won’t be friends on social media”. You’re friends of real life. You don’t have to be friends on Facebook as well. If that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel better than do it. You know, it shouldn’t be… She might get hackled about it but explain it. You know, your concern here should be less necessarily with how irritated you are by it and more about, you know, you have genuine concern for her.

And that’s another thing that I think that’s worth you looking at as well is what you think is healthy. Because there’s a lot of things that you cite like… drinking, drug use, depression, exercise, poor diet… There are a lot of different things all meddled up within that one thing. People can drink responsibly. People can use drugs responsibly. People do have depression and that doesn’t make them undateable. A lot of people struggle with depression. It’s not their fault.

Not exercising, you know… for some people exercise can be dangerous for them. It’s not really up to you to define whether or not someone doesn’t or doesn’t exercise and weather or not that is healthy for them. That’s a discussion that they need to have with their health care provider, if that’s something that they need to address. And poor diet again like… I don’t… You’re not a nutritionist and it’s not you who gets to decide what is a bad diet and isn’t a bad diet for someone.

You may have an opinion about what is healthy and not healthy to eat and you’re welcome to that opinion but you don’t really get to decide for other people, you know, what they should and shouldn’t eat. And equally, you don’t get to decide that for your partner either. You know, if you are eating together and you’re sharing a meal together and you don’t want to have things which you would consider poor eating or not good eating, whatever you want to consider that as, that’s one thing. But when they’re eating their own food on their own, that’s their responsibility and their life and I think that you should really do a little bit of self-exploration about what healthy means.

Because what concerns me is that… you know red flag is a very broad term. And you know, if you said that this person was attempting to control who she was friends with, if you said that this person she was dating was spreading lies about you or trying to basically manipulate her against you— those are red flags to me. I think that you know… drug use and drinking may not be something you approve of or like, which I can understand. I’m not necessarily a huge drinker myself and quite often end up very frustrated when only you know social gatherings focus around drink. But at the end of the day, it’s their life and their decisions.

Those aren’t red flags in and of themselves. Somebody drinking, someone using drugs, someone being depressed, not exercising and eating what you would consider a poor diet are not red flags and are not necessarily “unhealthy things”. They’re unhealthy for you and that’s valid but that’s not really what you get to decide. So I think that you need to rethink your framework here.

And I do kind of wonder because what really you know confuses me about this situation that you’re in is that you know… you’re really heavily judging this person for not being healthy and yet at the same time you say that your partner has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her. And what does that say about you, though? And that… I am really surprised that you don’t, you know… It doesn’t seem like this is something that you’ve reflected on.

She enjoys dating people beneath her. I mean, that’s a very strange thing for anyone to say and I don’t know as that I would…. it depends on how she said it. If she’s specifically said “I enjoy dating people beneath me,” I don’t know. I think that would, regardless of who that person dated, would kind of be a little bit strange for me to hear because basically what they’re telling me is that they think that I am the beneath them. So you know… I’m worried about this situation in terms of… you’re so busy looking at this other guy and thinking he’s the bottom of the shelf, you’re kind of on the shelf with him, if that’s the case. You may think you’re better than him in terms of how healthy you are or you may think you’re not as bad as him but if she enjoys his dating people beneath her then you are beneath her too.

And is that something that you really want to be? You know, putting aside like… Because I totally think it’s understandable for you to be upset if someone shows up to a date that you’ve planned or time that you planned together hungover and doesn’t have the energy for you. I totally get that and that is totally fine to object to. But you have to kind of…. one of the things about polyamory and one of the unfortunate experiences people can have one when they open up their relationship or see their partner dating other people is that they can realise their partners tastes and who else their partner dates and what their partner does when they date.

And maybe you know…. maybe this is part of the irritation of this. Especially if your partner has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her. Are you really irritated by this guy completely or are you more irritated that she’s dating him and you and what does that say about you? So I think that’s something that’s really worth exploring because putting aside all this like… yeah, it’s not up to you who she dates. Yeah, you’re allowed to put down your boundaries. Yeah, you know, you’re totally understandable with objecting to someone showing up hungover. And you do need to re-examine what you think health means and why that applies to other people and why it’s necessarily your business but at the same time I also think that this is a red flag that you’re kind of ignoring — that she enjoys dating people beneath her.

And again like… you said that she has said this. It’s not just your own personal commentary and that’s the thing that I think you really should think about. Sometimes when we see our partner dating other people and we see how they behave in other relationships and we see you know… who they pick, sometimes that changes how we feel about our partners because you know… when you first meet someone, if they’re not currently in a relationship with anyone else or you know you both can start in a single position and then you start dating, you know, you can kind of have those rose tinted glasses. And you can think that they chose you because you’re the best, you’re healthy, you’re… whatever that means, but actually maybe the reasons that you think they chose you are not the reason that they chose you. And it’s hard for me to say what her reasons are for choosing you, but I do think that this is worth you really thinking about.

So yeah, to kind of some up the thoughts here: I think that she is right that it’s not up to you who she dates. It isn’t unfortunately, as uncomfortable as you are. And also I really want to impress upon you that even if it were, even if you could make a rule and say “Break up with this person,” that isn’t going to solve the underlying issue. That isn’t going to fix everything. Controlling the situation won’t fix it.

It’s not really up to you who she dates, however you are allowed to have your own boundaries and that does mean if you want to remove her as a friend and not see their interactions you can. If you want to set the boundary that you know you’re not going to tolerate her being hungover when it’s your time to spend together and she needs to manage her time adequately so that she can make sure she’s not hungover and has the energy for you that you want, that’s a fine thing to say.

But, with all these boundaries that you are allowed to have, you need to really think about what you’re going to do if they’re crossed. What are the repercussions of that? And really think about how you’re gonna enforce them, because it’s not really you know good enough for you to say, “Right, no more coming to our dates hungover,” if she does and nothing happens, then it doesn’t really matter. Does it? You need to think about what you’re going to do if this continues and where that leaves you.

I think that you should really examine what health means because I understand some of your objections to this person but the others may just be personality differences in how you like to live your life and that’s fine. If you are super into going to the gym and that person isn’t, that’s fine. You’re allowed to have that but it’s not really up to you to decide what is unhealthy and whether or not he’s unhealthy is kind of irrelevant to you. What he is is kind of irrelevant and it’s more that you need to think about what those red flags are and if they are red flags or if it’s kind of like you, you know, just not liking him very much. You can be a kind of person that you might consider a messy person but not be abusive. People can have depression and that’s not something they can control. They can not exercise if they don’t want to and I can eat whatever they want and that’s not necessarily a red flag in and of itself. So think about what that means.

Lastly like… I think this this last comment about… she enjoys dating people beneath her. I think you should really think about that. And I think it’s worth you finding a polyamory friendly therapist like. You can find a couples therapist to kind of talk these things out and maybe that’s a consequence. Maybe if you make it really clear, you know, you don’t have to hear anything about this person. You don’t even have to know anything about them. People kind of do all this like compersion and “oh wouldn’t it l be great?”. It would you know… it would be great if we all get along with our metamours, if we all loved our metamours and they were great people yada yada. That would be great but that doesn’t always happen. It’s not really realistic to expect that and it is ok if you want absolutely no information about this person because they annoy the piss out of you.

Regardless of what health or unhealthy or whatever you know… it could just be that you know you don’t like the person. She could dump this guy and time can pass and then she could date somebody else who just like maybe you know does all the things you would consider healthy but is just super annoying and you just don’t get along with him and that’s fine still. You’re allowed to say, “Right, you date that person. That’s fine for you, but this is my area. These are my boundaries. This is my space and I don’t want to have to deal with any of this stuff in my space.” When it comes to your individual personal space within your house and your social space where you have people as friends or not friends on Facebook, you can decide that.

When it comes to your wider community like I said you need to circle around. Gather together with those people who also feel the same way. See if there is an accountability process to be had, if there’s something for that person to be accountable for. If there is a genuine red flag, then maybe that’s something you pursue or just kinda hang out with the other people. I mean it does suck like that you know you… if you feel like he’s going to the same community events and you don’t like him but this kind of thing happens in general.

I am in that situation now. There  area lot of people who have either been shitty to me or who I just don’t like who are at a lot of polyamory themed events where I am and I don’t go to them because I’m like… ugh that person is going and I don’t want to go. Unfortunately the polyamory communities even in big cities tend to be quite small. Small worlds and this kind of thing unfortunately happens. I don’t think there’s enough still a huge amount of things you can do. If there’s a serious cause for concern in terms of like abusive red flags and this person needs to be brought up on those kinds of things, I would look up kind of accountability processes.

There’s one right now going on if you look up the “Polyamory Me Too Movement” there is a big accountability process going on with quite a well-known writer of different on polyamory resources and that’s might be a model you might consider, if that person is to that level of a red flag situation. If they’re just kind of a jerk and they aren’t what you would consider healthy, that’s not a red flag situation. That’s just a difference in personality and how they like to hold themselves vs what you think they should do.

And then lastly like… I really really think you should think about you know the worst case scenario unfortunately. Like if this situation progresses, you know, where are you? You can’t fix everything. If this person is a red flag in terms of abusive, you can’t really fix everything. You can’t rescue her from that situation. There’s a really great book called “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft which I think every human being in the world should read because it’s kind of like about abusive mindsets and how they impact people and how to help people in those situations who are kind of caught up in or in abusive relationships.

But the long and the short of it is that there isn’t any magic solution that you can do to pull someone out that situation. If they want to date someone who is causing them to be hung over there really isn’t anything you can do about that yourself. But you can control your own environments and your own actions and it’s worth you thinking about unfortunately what you know the worst thing that could happen? Nothing changes? Where does that leave you? And I think that’s certainly worth you having a think about.

So yeah there’s lot of different things I addressed. I feel like I want to sum up things again by think I’ve summed up everything as much as I can. I really hope this helps and good luck.

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