My partner J and I have been dating almost a year, though due to our schedules/long distance we only hang out 1–2 weekends on average a month. We call and text often. We tell each other we love each other. J has a long-term (several years) nesting partner, B. They live together, share finances, are fluid bonded, etc. Although they’ve been poly[am] this whole time, they haven’t really had other super involved/long-term partners. I am now in the picture and J has expressed interest in deepening and growing our relationship. When I stay at their house, I sleep in J’s room with him, B and I have coffee in the morning together, and so on…
Meanwhile, B has been working through a lot of heavy past trauma. She and I hang out and connect, although we don’t have a deep friendship. She has expressed her happiness that J and I are together, although she’s also expressed some minor things that lead me to question if she’s felt a little possessive at times.
Enter The Incident. One night, after we all went to a show together, we all came back to their place. J and I went into his room for privacy. We’re a little tipsy and we get in the mood and then he asked me to have sex without a condom. We have been honest about our sexual history and testing with each other, and he’s always been super committed to maintaining agreements and boundaries (yes, while inebriated). So I trusted that he had discussed this with B. I know it’s not my responsibility, but I do wish I had asked for clarification about their agreements right then. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, B was elsewhere and was working through some presumably unrelated emotional stuff. B had a really rough night. J stayed with me. I didn’t try to navigate this situation because I don’t know how they work together when stuff comes up (example: I get PMDD and cry a lot, no big deal, I can be alone).
Well, as you may guess, turns out they had NOT discussed J and I having unprotected sex, and they had a previous agreement around using protection with other partners. B is devastated at the broken trust. B also feels like J was not there for her that night. J obviously fucked up bad by proposing unprotected sex to me. Everyone is upset. B and I talked extensively about it. J began an accountability process.
Fast forward 4 months: B has felt intense anxiety and anger whenever J and I hang out. B still does not trust J. B no longer wants to hear about me or our relationships and feels triggered whenever I come up in conversation. B and J’s long-term relationship is on the rocks. B has requested that J and I have a no-contact period (6 weeks) so they can focus on repairing their relationship. Well… I’m not interested in waiting around with no contact. One of my basic needs in partnership is availability, and we were already long distance. And what happens if B is not feeling safe after 6 weeks?
Basically, if we are going to have no-contact, I am ending the relationship. I understand they want to fix things… but after telling me they are committed to polyamory and that they don’t have a primary partnership, it surprises and angers me that I need to end my relationship with J over this. I want to be compassionate to their dilemma, but I have my own needs as well. J is really upset at this proposal too, but reluctantly willing to do what she asks in order to try to repair their relationship.
Have you ever experienced a meta’s request to put your relationship on hold? Is there ever a “hold period” you would considerable acceptable, and for what reasons? Have you ever navigated this kind of complicated poly[am] + trauma + relationship instability? Is this related to hierarchy or just difficult relationship stuff? What would you do?
All due respect, you are way too involved in this situation.
When I say this, I don’t mean that people need to hypercompartmentalise or not care at all how their partner behaves in other relationships. Or that you can’t be friends with or sympathise with your metamour. But I also think boundaries are really important because either your shared partner can not step up and manage their own situation or you can step in out of habit and think that this is your situation to manage.
You’re right in that it wasn’t out of place for you to assume, when asking to have unprotected sex with you, that J had spoken to B about it. There’s nothing wrong with you making that assumption in the moment, especially inebriated. In the future, though, I wouldn’t assume this and I’d ask just to check to avoid this type of situation.
There’s so much about this situation you know that you don’t need to know, which is really not your business and isn’t your problem to solve. I’m guessing if you talk to B, she might have personally revealed her struggles but if she’s never explicitly spoken to you about her mental health struggles or trauma, this may be also a huge violation of her privacy. I’d be personally livid if one of my partners decided to tell another partner they had all about a mental breakdown I had or even tell them I’m struggling with mental health. It’s not to say I’m ashamed but my mental health is my business and I don’t care for people not involved in it to know the details.
Regardless of the details you know, at the end of the day, J fucked up. J didn’t speak to B about this when they are fluid bonded, causing a major rift in their relationship. It sounds like J and B have not worked out how to manage the anxiety within the relationship in a way that makes B feel secure so she is grasping at straws, trying to establish this weird ‘no-contact’ rule to basically force J to behave how he should within the relationship. This rule is delaying the inevitable and is effectively pointless. If J cannot give B the attention she needs or work it out with her while their relationship is open, going no-contact will not work because, as soon as contact is resumed the problem will continue. Going no-contact assumes the problem is with you when the problem is with J. And you can’t make rules to force people to behave or think in ways that you want them to.
But none of this is really your concern ultimately. J needs to address the problems in his relationship with B and manage that himself. He needs to not make you party to this so much that you feel it’s somehow your responsibility to fix this. It isn’t your responsibility, it’s J’s. And you being involved in this won’t fix J’s relationship with B. He needs to fix that himself and make a decision about what he’s going to do with B and he needs to stand in his own decisions and not use you as backup.
My advice is to step out of being the consult in this situation. If J needs someone to talk to about this, he needs to either find a friend who isn’t involved romantically with him or he needs to find a therapist. State very clearly that you’re not going to accept a ‘no-contact’ scenario and then let him make his decisions and fix his own relationship.
As difficult as it might be for you, you need to step away from it and set some clear boundaries with J about what he can discuss with you about his relationship with B — and set those boundaries too with B as well. At present you’re not a triad and I don’t see that you’re planning to be so, there’s no reason you need to be involved.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Comments from the therapist
It is incredibly hard to restore trust in a partner after that kind of breach though! I feel for both the OP and for B. I do think it’s okay for J to reduce interaction with the OP for a brief time, like maybe a once a week phone call, so he can focus his energy on repairing with the person he hurt. I don’t like that it’s coming across as a “rule” put in place by B though. I wonder if OP has considered how skilled J is at relationships though, given the mistake he made?
Do you have a question?
If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to email@example.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.