Episode 68: Mismatched Labels

If your partner is polyamorous but you are non-monogamous is your relationship doomed?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What is your ideal polyamory or non-monogamy set-up?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 67 – Mismatched Ideals

If your partner is polyamorous but you are non-monogamous is your relationship doomed? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is your ideal polyamory or non-monogamy set-up?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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

I’m a cisgender straight woman. My partner is a straight cis man and his other partner is a cis bi woman. My partner and I began our relationship four years ago as a casual physical relationship. We lived an hour away from each other. He was recently out of a bad relationship, and made it very clear that he was with many other women. This was fine, but we really clicked and quickly fell in love. He’s done a lot of healing and we’re doing well. I moved across the country a couple years ago and we didn’t know how things would go but we realised that we were still just as in love. 

With the pandemic allowing me to work from home, we have recently moved in together. We knew that we were not monogamous, but we are non-monogamous in very different ways. I prefer to have very casual partnerships and hookups. He needs an emotional connection with other partners. He also needs love and companionship and reassurance in a way that sometimes feels to me like a quantity over quality, but that is not how he sees it. 

When we first started talking about moving in together, I asked him what we needed to talk about as far as other relationships. He said that we didn’t really need to because there weren’t any. I assumed that he meant that he was not interested in other relationships. Since we’ve moved in together, I’m quite happy with him and just not interested in other partners. I thought we were in the same place. He told me a previous partner had ended their romantic relationship. It was very clear to me however that they both still wanted each other. He went over to this person’s house for a game night, I asked if he was coming home, and explained I would be uncomfortable staying at the apartment by myself, and he said he wouldn’t do that to me. 

I understood this to mean he would not be spending the night with other partners. A few weeks later he told me he would be spending the night with her 48 hours later. I was crushed and betrayed. I felt forced into a situation I had not consented to. We have since had many conversations and understood that we both made assumptions based on desires we had not expressed. He is a very direct and frank person who understood the thing about spending the night to apply to that particular night. I don’t resent him for anything except not talking through things more before we moved in together. 

My main issue is dealing with the other partner. I want nothing to do with her, I don’t want to be reminded of her existence, and when he’s with her I’m a mess. I feel like this would feel different had we talked about how things would work first, and now we have, so I don’t expect this to happen again. But what’s done is done. And this person who did nothing to me is someone who is a source of so much pain. I don’t know how to get past this. We are all part of the local activist community so I can’t totally avoid the other partner, and would not want to have to explain to anyone else why I don’t want to be around her. I just feel lost. To provide more context they are both polyamorous, my relationships tend non-monogamous but I’m definitely not polyamorous.

My partner has had death threats due to his activist role in the community and people have showed up at our home looking for him. That has changed how I view our time together, as I worry each day will be his last and it makes me want to hold on tighter, even though I don’t think that’s helpful for our relationship

Response: 

First thing that I would say is that, you kind of have it right in that there wasn’t a lot of discussion before you moved in together about how you would deal with other partners. And I don’t necessarily think that it’s fair for you to resent him for that, because it’s possible… I think he at the time — and this is kind of a problem that a lot of polyamorous people have and this is why, in the article that I mentioned earlier, I really encourage people to think these things out before they become an issue.

Because I think a lot of people think, “Well, there’s not a reason to talk about it now because it’s not happening now”. And to be fair for some people they don’t necessarily know what they’re going to feel or how they want things to happen if they’re not currently happening. So it can sometimes be really difficult to have that discussion. I do think that you both need to have more of a discussion about your shared space, what that means and what is realistic. Even if you were completely monogamous, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s realistic that he can’t spend the night somewhere else.

With family, with friends, people even in monogamous relationships don’t spend every single night at their house with their partner. So it’s not really a realistic expectation. With the added bit that you’ve contributed about how he said death threats, and how people have showed up at the house — that is an absolute concern and I can understand you not feeling comfortable being home alone because of that reason.

There has to be more discussion about that and how you both work that out because it’s not sustainable or really fair even, like I said, even if you were monogamous to expect him to spend every single night at home with you. Because it’s just— He might want to say to my at a friend’s. He might want to stay tonight with family. Even if he didn’t have other partners. It’s not a really realistic expectation so you’re going to have to figure out how you work through that. If he’s had death threats, do you need to move? 

Is that a realistic solution to what you’re facing right now? That is something that you have to kind of work out with each other. Even if he is totally willing to stay every night at home with you, I really don’t see that being sustainable. I would say that’s even too much for, like I said a monogamous relationship so that’s the first thing.

I think that a lot of people in your situation where things haven’t been discussed, and you know sometimes like I said you don’t know that you have a boundary until it’s been crossed. And that is painful and difficult. I find that in a lot of these situations where this happens, it’s very very easy to displace your anger or displace your discomfort or displace everything onto the metamour. And I do think that that’s what’s happening to you. For those who don’t know a metamour is the basically the person, the other person that your partner is dating or the other people that your partner’s dating are your metamours — that you’re not dating. 

You probably are going to find it harder to hold the same anger for your partner that you can easily hold for this metamour because even though you’re all part of the same community and you sort of know of this person, you don’t have any other context. You don’t understand what’s going on with this other person. You don’t understand how they feel so it’s quite easy for you to just take all of those feelings and go, “I’m gonna throw them on to this person, and then I can kind of get my anger and frustration and with a situation out by kind of basically taking it out on her”. 

And I think you do realise that. She’s done nothing to you. And you don’t necessarily want to have to make it awkward for her, or make it awkward for the people around you, but it might help for you to realise that it’s okay for you to be pissed off that this has happened and that you and your partner haven’t really talked about this. And when situations like that happen where you like, “Oh, actually I don’t want you to ever spend the night anywhere else” and he thinks it’s just for that one night… there needs to be more discussion. 

And I do think more discussion about this is going to make that anger, a little less intense. I think that you have some serious incompatibilities with your relationship expectations that really need to be hashed out. You saying that you are definitely not polyamorous and he is. This is a problem. Two people who are non-monogamous aren’t inherently compatible just because they’re both non-monogamous. If you have completely different definitions of how you want to pursue things that will always clash if you cannot actually find some areas of compatibility.

You already kind of said that you kind of see things as casual, and he doesn’t. He seems to have a little bit more of a kind of a relationship anarchist approach or a kind of wanting multiple deep romantic connections. You’re always going to struggle with that because if you see other people as casual and him as serious, you’re creating a hierarchy where you are the most important person and he may not feel that way. And if you think that you are the most important person, you are going to then feel threatened by anybody else, because you are creating this hierarchy that doesn’t necessarily exist for him. 

However you want to judge his expectations of quality over quantity like that —  That for me is a little bit of a worry because you not only have separate concepts of what you want your relationships to be, but you are kind of judging him a little bit in how he goes about it. I think, as a person— I am more like your partner in that I don’t see other relationships with casual. However, I have been with partners who do have a lot of casual relationships, and it’s really ironic because easily, someone could flip that on you. Even though you aren’t necessarily seemingly pursuing other relationships, the idea that you would want something casual instead of something deep someone could equally judge you for that. 

We all have different needs. We all have different wants. We all have different things that we want in our life and just because somebody— a lot of people judge polyamory and non monogamy or even bisexuality for supposedly being greedy or supposedly wanting more and therefore, that being a problem. So I think that you just kind of need to be a little bit careful about how you’re looking at it. You can have differences and how you want to approach things. That’s absolutely fine. It’s okay for you to want one relationship that has this specific meaning and other relationships have a different meaning. 

It’s okay if he wants to have multiple deep romantic relationships. There isn’t necessarily one right or wrong way to approach it. It’s more about how does that work with each other? Because I know for me when I have had partners who have had more casual partnerships or who see me in a different light, or even not even necessarily about casual versus serious but when I’ve had partners— I’m a kind of introverted. A Stay At Home kind of person. I don’t like parties. I’ve had partners who are extremely extroverted and love parties. And I used to feel really scared because I thought, “Well what if they find somebody who’s  “better” than me because they like to go out and like to go to parties?”

And that made me really scared for a long time because I thought that I would be replaced by that. I didn’t understand that my partner was like “Hey, I like to stay home with you. And I like to go out and do other things”. There’s not an either or hierarchy there. You’re kind of creating that. So you have to kind of understand that when, in your mind you’re operating from a basis of one relationship has this meaning and others are casual, he is not operating from that mindset and you’re going to have to kind of remember that when you’re thinking about this. 

Because that’s what’s freaking you out. You are afraid that you are positioned as the “most important” is going to be challenged and that you could be replaced. The thing about it is is that if he’s going to replace you, regardless of  the seriousness of any relationship. If he is going to replace you, that isn’t something you can necessarily control or stop, especially by trying to control whether or not he sleeps over at somebody else’s house or not. 

Your brain is kind of trying to protect you by thinking that this little thing of him sleeping over at somebody else’s house is going to— you know if you can keep him around you somehow. You can prevent— you’re not going to be able to prevent that. You just aren’t. You can’t prevent somebody, you know I mean yeah obviously you can be a decent partner and be a nice person and not treat your partner like crap and that makes it more likely that they’re going to stick around and be with you. 

But outside of that there really isn’t anything that you’re going to be able to prevent. So you need to kind of ask yourself, “what is this kind of rule of him not being able to sleep over at somebody else’s house? What is that actually going to prevent?” Now you have brought up a side situation, which again like I said, the death threats and serious concerns over your safety, that is understandable and you may have to be in a situation where he can’t maybe randomly spend the night away but if he gives you enough warning, then you can stay at a friend’s house or whatever is actually sustainable.

But ask yourself if you can really prevent that and think about the ways that you look at relationships differently, and whether or not you can actually be compatible. Because I do think that it is workable. I don’t think it’s a complete in compatibility, but I don’t think that you can expect him— I don’t think you can expect him to see things the same way you do. And I certainly don’t think this not being able to stay at other people’s houses is really realistic or sustainable. So you have to really think about again like the question I put forth at the beginning of the podcast, what is your ideal situation? What is his ideal situation, and how can you combine those? Can you combine those?

Are they so different that basically you’re always kind of going to be butting heads about what each other wants. More discussion needs to happen because I think that’s been your problem throughout this entire relationship is that — you know and I don’t think that he is doing it maliciously so I do think that you kind of need to let go of a little bit of the resentment towards him about that like yeah it would be great if you all chatted about it, but especially when it comes to non-monogamy or polyamory or whatever you want to call it, there isn’t really a guidebook. There isn’t really a clear ideas about what you should or shouldn’t talk about and a lot of people don’t necessarily know for sure what they want until they start to have experiences. 

So, you know, it’s not necessarily that he purposely didn’t talk to you about this to spring it on you. You have to kind of assume he’s in good faith in this, but you do need to have more discussions about what you both want, what’s realistic, and not just kind of go with the flow of what’s easy. Because I do think you’ve kind of slid into that a little bit. 

So yeah, just to sum up — again more discussion about your shared space. Really really challenge this rule that he’s not allowed to sleep at somebody else’s house or he has to spend every night with you. That’s not realistic or sustainable even again for a monogamous relationship, it’s just not — It’s just not realistic. If there is a serious problem with your house and the safety of your house that needs to be addressed you both need to address it together in a way that isn’t, “Well you just have to stay here every night”. Because again if he’s realistically if he’s getting death threats, and he you know if somebody is going to show up at your home, it’s not necessarily going to be better if he’s there. 

And obviously calling the police isn’t always a sustainable solution for everyone and they’re not necessarily going to do anything but you have to have that discussion. Realise that you’re displacing a lot of anger onto your metamour. I do think that you’re going to have to sit in a little bit of a discomfort when you’re kind of in community spaces and kind of work through that. If you want to have a discussion with her and just say, “You know, I’m feeling a little bit sensitive right now, and I would appreciate some space”. That’s totally fine. You may not be able to have that discussion in person or — I would not get your partner to do it. I think it’s something that you should do on your own. Maybe if you can chat with her online. 

Realistically, if it’s kind of pandemic times there shouldn’t be big community meet-ups anyways but it’s okay for you to avoid her a little bit but realise— I think it’s fair if she starts asking questions, is kind of confused, it’s okay to say “There’s been an issue between me and my partner and I’m just feeling a little sensitive and I just need a little space”. That’s fine. That’s okay. 

There are some serious incompatibilities with your relationship expectations if he’s polyamorous and you’re definitely not. You really need to talk about your relationship ideals and how you can realistically combine them and also try to bring that up again and again with your emotional experience because you are working within the framework of your own emotions and it’s easy for you to assume that because one relationship for you is more serious and others are casual, that he’s thinking the same thing. 

And so when he goes off and spends time with other people, your brain is going, “Wait a minute, we’re supposed to be the serious one! Are we casual Ahh!” And you’re kind of freaking out a little bit about it because you’re assuming he sees things from your perspective, and I’ve done that too. I’ve definitely done that too. I’ve been really bad at it, especially when it comes personally for me, when it comes to sexual related stuff, feeling really worried that I’m going to be not important or not as good as other people or not as— especially with my disability.

Especially with, you know, being non binary, being worried that I’m not, you know as real as other people is a huge problem that I’ve had before. It’s very easy to forget that other people just have different ways of looking at things, especially if your way of looking at things is so different. I don’t think it’s completely impossible but you will have to kind of continue to remind yourself of that. 

And if you can find a polyamory friendly therapist to kind of chatting through like whenever these feelings start to bubble up. That would be a really good thing to do, but I think overall if you both have a little bit more of a realistic talk about what your expectations are and what you think— you know, I know you can predict the future and I know that sometimes, you know, things are a little bit up in the air, especially with pandemic stuff happening and that really putting a halt on a lot of things. I know it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. But if you can see if you’re both kind of heading in the same general direction, that might give you a little bit more stability that might make these other experiences less intense. I hope that helps and good luck. 

Becoming a third

Up until 2 months ago, I had no previous experience with poly[am] dating or poly[am] relationships. What draws me to solo poly[am] is I have very deep needs around emotional connection and physical intimacy, but I don’t want kids or to raise a family, I enjoy living alone, and I love a lot of alone time. I’m also not a very jealous or possessive person and believe that love is not a zero sum game. If I give love to one person, it doesn’t mean I have less to give to another.

In June, I stumbled into possibly becoming the third in a heterosexual relationship that’s exploring opening up, as the man leans poly[am] and the woman more oriented towards monogamy. When the two of them met (we’ll call the man C and the woman B), C was dating another woman. C + B continued to date each other while C was with a third for about 10 months. For the past 9 months, it’s been just them with each other. Around March of this year, they decided to slowly explore opening things up as a couple.

The first photo in their profile was just the man and we matched, before I realized they were looking for couple’s play and threesomes, neither of which appeal to me. C suggested the 3 of us all meet up anyway for a picnic. We did and had a really nice time. They immediately asked me out on another date, which was lovely too. We had a productive conversation at the end of the night and B shared she was fine with C and me having a solo date, since I’m heterosexual and not interested in bisexual exploration or threesomes.

C and I both love developing emotional intimacy through texting and stayed in touch throughout the day, which then developed into daily sexting as well (more sharing of erotic desires and what we wanted to experience with each other than overt sexting.) I think the quick intensity of our feelings caught B off-guard, especially after learning about the length of our first date and an act of physical intimacy we shared (a cock massage, no orgasm or ejaculation). It was an act that was permitted while he was dating the third previously, but they hadn’t talked extensively through boundaries and violations related to him and me and the woman felt very hurt.

She was triggered and upset and asked for C not to be in touch with me for 2 weeks while she sorts out her feelings and needs, which she’s not clear on. She seems to also not be clearly attuned to her boundaries, so she lets things go, and then feels violated and activated. I have a deep need for communication in a relationship, especially during conflict— her 2-week request felt more about regaining control than equilibrating and processing her emotions. And C’s inability to show care and attention towards both of our needs and set his own boundaries versus taking on B’s were both red flags. What it communicated to me was:

1. C is not able to be/chooses not to be emotionally available to me when B is triggered
2. C is not able to be/chooses not to establish his own boundaries while holding space for B’s emotions- instead, he takes on hers (enmeshment)
3. Because they lack clarity on the shared boundaries of their openness, I’m receiving mixed messages and also fearful/distrusting energy, as if I’m a threat.

One more major concern: Because B has a lot of fears about opening up, she asks for reporting from C on our interactions and dates, which C provides, sometimes without asking me first. I addressed the privacy consent breaches with him and he was very apologetic but B’s need to know makes me feel like I have no privacy.

C also runs every activity by B for approval (“Is it OK that I rub her body during our date?”) I know some poly[am] couples place rules on what a specific partner can do with a third, but the notion that someone else can determine what I do with my body or what types of pleasure I can experience feels very wrong and out of alignment with my values and beliefs.

We’re regrouping after the 2 week pause next week. I really like C on his own, in a way that I feel just a few times a decade. But his partnership with B seems enmeshed, co-dependent, and hierarchical (I practice egalitarian poly). They did just start seeing a couple’s therapist with experience in polyamorous relationships, and they see individual therapists. I’m leaning two different directions re: our regroup conversation:

1. Share how much I enjoyed our time and suggest I’d be open to exploring reconnecting in a year, to give them time to align on their relationship vision and cultivate healthier relational skills

2. Go in with zero expectations and share what I would need to be different to continue exploring it:

That my privacy is protected (I’m fine with sexual activity at a high level being shared. I’m not comfortable with reading texts that I send verbatim or sharing any specific details of a sexual act without first asking for my permission)

That we operate from a place of mutual trust and respect; there aren’t restrictions placed on my sexual or pleasure experiences, our communication, or our emotional connection. And C does not run each relational act by C for approval.

That C is able to be both emotionally available to me and B, even when B’s triggered, and can simultaneously show care to our different needs around conflict resolution and communication.

That I am treated as an equal, positive, and a valued part of their lives.

Note: I can’t see them agreeing to these but I think it’s important to voice our truth 🙂 I’d value your perspective and how you would opt to proceed with a regroup conversation, if this situation was yours.

I wrote about this phenomenon previously in my article about why couples tend to want triads. I don’t think triads are necessarily bad or even doomed to failure, but generally speaking couples who seek to have a triad, especially a closed one, are doing so because they think it’s safer. And it demonstrates they haven’t done the work necessarily to address their fears or don’t have good communication and… this is the natural result.

That’s not to say here that B is wrong for her feelings, but C does not know how to deal with what’s going on between them without letting it affect your relationship in multiple ways including allowing her to dictate the terms of your relationship and also in the privacy violations.

It’s not really clear from your letter if they had a couple’s profile and said specifically what they were looking for, but I think that it was probably best for you to step out of that situation then — because what they want is something that you can’t provide. And furthermore, if you come across any other “poly[am] couples” who place rules on what their partners should do with others, and call people “thirds”, you should run for the hills. You’re not a “third”. You’re an equal partner to B and he’s not treating you that way.

You can give him an ultimatum and ask that he practice a more egalitarian form of polyamory, but ultimately that doesn’t seem to be what they were looking for from the start and, unless both of them want it, it’s not something you’re going to get.

I would hesitate to say his partnership is enmeshed or codependent — after all, it’s quite understandable to struggle with polyamory and to believe prioritising “the couple” or making these kinds of rules will fix what they can’t fix. They sound like they’re making mistakes to save their relationship and don’t have some great communication going. That can be addressed and fixed… just not by you.

Honestly the best thing you can do is separate yourself from this situation and wait until he contacts you and is able to have an actual separate relationship. Make the needs you’ve written down known and make it clear that a relationship cannot happen until these happen and make sure, if you try it again, you are real about backing away if you aren’t getting what you need.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 66: Hidden Metamour

Even if you have confusing boundaries and you’re not “official”, lying by omission can still feel like cheating.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What is a non-monogamous setup that wouldn’t work for you?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 66 – Hidden Metamour

Even if you have confusing boundaries and you’re not “official”, lying by omission can still feel like cheating.  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is a non-monogamous setup that wouldn’t work for you?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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

I’ve been seeing a guy for over 2 /12 years. We started seeing each other after he got out of a 8 year relationship and it’s been semi casual (neither of us made any serious commitment and we both have been seeing other partners) but since that year mark we have been exchanging “I love you’s”  and confirmed that we were in a relationship. In July I found out that he had been seeing her for the past year (at least once a week).

I spoke with her and she confirmed that she’s been with him and that she knew that I was his primary but that she wanted more from him, possibly a relationship. Since then he’s stated that I am his primary but that he enjoys seeing her sexually and that he needs an open relationship.

It isn’t that he is seeing someone else sexually, I am open to this, but it’s the fact that he’s lied and that she wants more time and affection and that I’m the blame for the lack of that. I feel attacked from both sides and I don’t know how to continue with this. I’ve been scrambling looking for advice since July, I’ve been following your podcast. I appreciate any advice on this situation.

Response:

The first big problem with this situation is the lying. Now even though you said you weren’t “official” and you only after the first year of being together, said that you were in a relationship, I find it a little worrying that he didn’t mention this other partner to you at all. And I don’t really know how you found out about it, whether you found out because you discovered it yourself, or he told you.

Doesn’t sound like he told you. It sounds like you discovered it yourself. And then you have this conversation with her where she seemed to say she knew that that you were his primary and she wants more, and also seems to have told you (I assume that she told you this) that he wants more time and affection— or no she blames you for the time and affection that she’s not got from him, which isn’t great. And then he’d sort of tells you that  you’re definitely his primary and that he’s only interested in her sexually. There’s a lot. There’s a lot about this that’s a problem.

It’s not up to me to tell you what you define as cheating. There’s a reason why I personally prefer not to have things and kind of a weird quasi unsure state. I prefer things to be quite clear in terms of like — Are we in a relationship? Yes or no? And maybe it’s that you didn’t have that and so he kind of felt like he didn’t need to tell you about her, but I would feel cheated in this situation. I would have a hard time not feeling cheated because it’s the lying, and it’s hiding her. And it just feels like she has been hidden from you.

And she knew about you but you didn’t know about her and that’s just really odd and I don’t see why that’s the case. And I just feel like he could have easily just mentioned it in passing. I do know that like a lot of people when they begin trying out non-monogamy sometimes they accidentally cheat because they don’t really know how to tell their partners that they’re seeing someone else. And they’re so used to the idea that they shouldn’t do that because if they do that it’ll end the relationship that they end up cheating kind of by mistake. So maybe that’s where he’s coming from but you got to figure out like why did he not mention this, up until now?

I also feel like. Had I been able to advise you before you had that conversation with her I probably wouldn’t have advised you to have a conversation with her because this is kind of not really about her, but the fact that you did you’ve got like this other information which is that she does want more from him. And she’s mad at you because she’s blaming you that  she hasn’t been able to get more time and affection from him.

Now, it’s kind of… it’s okay that she wants that and I’m not blaming her for that, But I feel a little bit worried about the fact that she is blaming you and has no problem, telling you that, and you go and talk to him and he’s like “yeah you’re my primary and I’m just interested in her sexually”. There’s some communication breakdowns going on in his relationship with her.

Because, while it’s okay for her to want stuff and I’m not saying that’s bad, she’s not going to get that, and that’s not really fair for your partner to like keep stringing her along if what she wants is more time and affection. And it’s also really awkward for her to pull you into that. No wonder you feel attacked from both sides. I would be really hesitant around like a metamour who was just willing to lay all this out on me. Because it’s not really up to me. It’s not my fault and I understand why she’s blaming you. It’s easier for her to blame you because she doesn’t have any feelings for you. She has feelings for this guy.

So her brain is going to want to put all the negative stuff on to the person that she doesn’t have any contact for, but that’s still really really worrying. If you confronted him and he said, “I shouldn’t have hid it from you” or acknowledged that even if he wasn’t trying to hide it, he didn’t tell you about it. I just feel like he should have been… It doesn’t sound like he was apologetic about the situation. He just sort of was like well you’re my primary and I’m only interested in her sexually.

Okay, but clearly there’s an issue here. And you have to address that and if that’s all the way that he’s going to address it, I just don’t know if that’s something that you should continue dealing with. It doesn’t seem like you chose to have an open relationship. It just seems like you kind of fell into it. You don’t really seem like a person who is like “Yes I want an open relationship. This is specifically what I want”.

It just seems like you didn’t want to make a serious commitment either way and you saw other people. And then you have this “I love yous” and confirm you’re in a relationship but it’s not really clear about whether that was supposed to be open or not. I mean, what did he tell you when he was going once a week? Did he lie? I just feel like you need to ask yourself, do you want an open relationship? Is that what you want independent of this person? Is it something you’re actually seeking? And then if it is something you’re actually seeking, do you want it with someone who is being dishonest with you?

Because that’s kind of what this is. Sorry but if he has been seeing some other person for the last year, hasn’t mentioned it has been seeing her for at least once a week and she is angry with you because she wants more time with him— So clearly, she doesn’t understand that she isn’t going to get that. It just doesn’t spell very good things. He’s not communicating well in that relationship clearly, or is making a choice of a person who doesn’t want an open relationship when he— it’s just a lot.

I just feel like you need to really ask yourself if open relationships are what you want, and it’s having an open relationship with this person is what you want? Because, you know, it doesn’t seem like you’re happy to find this out. And it doesn’t seem like he was going to tell you. So I just feel like you— This to me would be defined as cheating. Again I’m not going to tell you how to define it to yourself. It would be cheating to me, and I would be out of there personally.

Basically, to sum up, lying by omission is still cheating, in my opinion. Whether or not you want to identify that as cheating is up to you. Because you kind of had nebulous boundaries and definitions from the beginning, so maybe he did get confused and didn’t know when to tell you and I don’t know. I think that you can confront him about the conversation you had.

It doesn’t make it clear whether you actually told him that she said that she wants more time from him and feels you’re the blame for not getting that. So clearly there’s some communication breakdown. It’d be interesting to see what he has to say about that. And if he apologetic for basically hiding this from you for so long? Especially if he’s seen her once a week, like he had to say he was going somewhere or maybe. I don’t know. Maybe you don’t live together.

Or you don’t have a shared calendar so it’s not like you paid that much attention. But sometimes we don’t know that we have a boundary until it’s been crossed and this might be a situation where you go, “Okay. In the future, if you decide to see someone regularly I would just like a heads up”. And you can go from there but I kind of just feel like the combination of the fact that you found it out, which to me seems to illustrate that he didn’t tell you.

You found it out on top of the fact that she is blaming you for not getting more time with him when you didn’t even know about her… It doesn’t spell good things, so you need to ask yourself if you want an open relationship? And if you want an open a relationship with this person? Because even if he needs an open relationship fine, but he could have been honest about it from the beginning. And he wasn’t.

And so that is really the issue that I’m having with. If you need an open relationship that is fine but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to just lie to people and not tell them, whether you’re not intentionally lying or hiding things…

yeah, it just doesn’t spell good things to me. Really, ask yourself, is an open relationship what you want, what you need? And even if it is, is that something that you want with a person who has lied to you for the past year?

And hasn’t, from the looks of it, apologised for that. I wish that I had more like other things, to be able to advise, because if this is his response is just going “Well, you’re my primary and I just want to see her sexually and that’s it”. That’s just not enough to go by, and the fact that you’ve been trying to find advice about this for so long makes me feel like he hasn’t given you any other reassurance or attempted to do so and that doesn’t spell good in any kind of relationship.

I wish that I had better things to advise. I really hate it sometimes when the only thing that I have to advise is “Do you really want to be in that situation?”. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 65: No Longer Primary

How do you force yourself out of apathy if you feel the partner you want to settle down with is slipping away?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: How has your ideal lifestyle changed over time?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 65 – No Longer Primary

How do you force yourself out of apathy if you feel the partner you want to settle down with is slipping away? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How has your ideal lifestyle changed over time?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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

In the past I was married and dealt with an abusive, homo-normative relationship (married to a power lesbian doctor who wanted a submissive doctor’s wife). When I left that abusive relationship and moved to another country, I started my healing process and learned to be my own primary.

I read The Ethical Slut and this helped me define myself as a relationship anarchist. Because I met more people who were into alternative relationships, I felt more open and free. I was also involved in a queer anarchist punk group that I still see as my family.

I became my own primary and was happy to no longer have any other emotional responsibility. I explored my sexuality more and got into more BDSM activities such as spanking, bondage, and humiliation. This led me to move to another country where I started to teach spank therapy.

I loved my life there but also survived two racist/homophobic attacks. As a Black, gender non-conforming individual, I started to feel exoticised and missed seeing a more culturally diverse community. I also missed my family so after 7 years away healing from the past trauma of the marriage and getting to know myself again, I decided I needed to move back to the US.

When I moved back, I had to readjust to the extreme of capitalist life. I started working full time in the nonprofit world again and had to hide my BDSM kink lifestyle. People I dated were either monogamous, or else not familiar with healthy non-monogamy (it just felt quite trendy and not taken seriously). Finally I met someone called K last year that was on the same page as I was about non-monogamy and wanted to develop a healthy relationship. We even started out reading [polyamory books] and doing the exercises together.

About three months into our relationship they let me know that they wanted to date someone who they were attracted to prior. I accepted that and let them know that I supported this, and appreciated that they told me that they felt this way in the beginning. I am attracted to transparency, and I also still had a few lovers that I saw and was able to share that with them without them feeling our connection was threatened. I knew that the lovers I had would not evolve into more emotionally intense relationships (one connection being primarily sexual and the other spiritual). I felt that my relationship with K had the potential to become more well-rounded: emotional, spiritual, and physical.

The sexual connection started off great and continues to feel that way almost two years later. What I didn’t expect was for their other lovership to grow into a partnership that they found to be equally important. I met the metamour a few times at the beginning of their relationship and they were very respectful, even seemed to want to become friends.

I was resistant to this because I felt I had enough friends in my life and didn’t want a forced connection (although K would have liked this). Also-there were times where K broke boundaries that we agreed on (invited them to the DR to meet their family without telling me until last minute, and also fluid sharing when we formed an agreement around us only fluid sharing together).

Somehow we overcame those incidents and reinstated our boundaries. I still loved them and didn’t want to ‘break up’ because they were still affectionate and apologetic. During the pandemic we became closer and even though we were apart for three months we connected by doing a 21-day meditation challenge together. They were still connecting to their other partner long distance as well, but told me that they wanted to find a place together in the US and plan a future together (start a family and buy a house together eventually).

Fast forward, we did reunite, it felt good, and we now live together in the same flat (with our own bedrooms). With this ideal set-up, I thought it would work well since they would invite their other partner to come and stay with them sometimes and vice versa. But 5 months later, it proves to be more stressful than I thought it would be.

They see their other partner once a month and even though it started off as 4-5 days, it is now at 10 days a month. I am also dating another person that they have met and is also attracted to and we started a triad because I like to include them in my exploits, but with them planning to spend more and more time with their other partner, they have less capacity to develop this relationship with me.

There have been times I really needed them (when my Grandma has been sick, or I am feeling down, or want to plan a doctor’s visit together to freeze my eggs) that they just aren’t available based on timing. We have a shared calendar but they don’t seem to look at it prior to making plans with their other partner and I am starting to feel like a fool for being so accommodating. They sense my anger and proposed that we go to counselling to talk about our different ways of being non-monogamous since the timing has been the most consistent point of contention between us.

I am not sure it is worth it and am also triggered from the time I tried counselling in my last abusive relationship. It didn’t help ‘fix’ anything and I felt that I was being called ‘the problem.’ I am willing to get rid of this past trauma to work towards a stable foundation with K, but I also don’t want to waste my time if we can’t reconcile our different philosophies on being non-monogamous. I don’t want to be apathetic (my go to shut down), but I don’t want to try ‘too hard’ either.

Do you think our non-monogamous differences are worth going to therapy for or that I am hanging on to a configuration that just doesn’t work for me and should let it go?

I do know that any relationship can shift and change, but I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the way things are going, and feel like this may mean that I should move on sooner than later as I have the tendency to hang on and try to make things work when they aren’t supposed to. This is my fear.

Response:

The first thing here that I want to say, specifically about therapy — If you go into therapy with someone who is abusive, that doesn’t work. There’s an amazing book I constantly, constantly recommend people read called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, and I recommend this book because it was hugely, hugely helpful for me in understanding the pathology of people who are abusive.

And I do want to illustrate that there’s a difference as well between people who do abusive things that maybe they have learned because of where they grew up or just the society that we grew up in, and people who are pathologically abusive, which means — if you read the book then you do understand the difference between the two. And one thing that Lundy Bancroft, and a lot of therapists say who deal with people who are actually you know pathologically abusive is that going to therapy can sometimes make it worse — especially couples therapy can definitely make it worse.

So just because you’ve had a bad relationship with therapy with your other partner who you say is abusive does not mean that it won’t work in this case, I think that this is a situation where you have a really good concept of what your ideal is, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve had that conversation with K.

Or it may be that K’s ideal is shifting and maybe they don’t really know how to communicate that to you. The thing that I worry about is that K violated some pretty serious boundaries that you had. It’d be one thing if it’s like, “Oh, K was supposed to come to see me this time but didn’t”. But violating the fluid bonded boundary is a pretty big deal. And I worry that maybe you kind of forgave a little bit too quickly.

I’m not saying that you should break up or that you should have broke up. But I do think that you have a clear situation where K is prioritising another relationship in a way over you and you’re not really handling it or talking about it or it doesn’t seem like you really talked about — Forgiving someone for doing something wrong is one thing, but working out why it is that they did that is another thing.

I think that you need to both sit down and figure out if you share the same, as you said, philosophies on being non-monogamous but also ideals. Does K really want to do this, have a family, buy a house together? Is that something that K actually wants? And this is something that K really needs to figure out especially when it comes to this other person that K is also supposed to be in a triad with you? With this other person?

Maybe K has new relationship energy with this new person and is sort of being sucked in but still does want you know the whole marriage and family and settling down with you. But you have to have that specific conversation. Is the mishaps you’ve been having with timing intentional? Because you say, we have a shared calendar, but it doesn’t seem like K is checking that calendar before K makes plans, is that intentional?

Is K actually just so caught up in things that they don’t really think about it for they go ahead and make plans, or is it that K isn’t looking? That involves K being really real with themself, and they have to be really real with themself and what they want, because otherwise this is what eventually happens. Like stuff gets missed. The little things start piling up. Resentment and anger starts building, and then eventually it ends up being horrible.

I think that you could have a basic conversation with each other about whether or not you share that same goal. Does K actually want this or is K envisioning…? What is K’s ideal? Does K envision that this partner that they’re going to see for 10 days out of the month will eventually come and move with you guys? What is the ideal here? Do you have a shared intentional vision of what you want your relationship to look like?

If you don’t have a shared intentional, then what you can do — I don’t necessarily even think you have to break up, but it will allow you to decide, “Okay, K doesn’t want this” and you may need a break up period” It really depends on how you feel personally, but maybe you can shift that expectation, and then K spending so much time with this other person won’t be such a big downer for you. Maybe this other person that you’re dating that you have this like triad with, maybe that can be the person that you have this settling down with who is more interested in that.

So, it just comes down to what your shared vision is. I think that if you can get out of K, that you do have some shared visions, that this timing stuff is not intentional, that they have not, you know, they can see that they’re caught up in new relationship energy which does sound like. I don’t know how new this relationship necessarily is but you can be caught up in new— especially if you’re a long distance, and especially with all this pandemic stuff and like the way that people have been touched starved and how difficult it’s been like, I do think you can be caught up in new relationship energy for a long. long time with a long distance connection because every time you see each other, as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I do think that can be especially true for long distance, even if K is spending 10 days of the month with them. It’s like that absence makes things super dramatic, in a way that can kind of intensify the new relationship energy. So if K is able to say like, “Yeah, I am being a little bit focused on this relationship. But I do want to have this settling down thing with you”. Then I would say go to counselling together.

The fact that K recommended counselling is actually really, really great. That does show an effort to fix things. And again, like I said, just because you’ve had a really bad experience with counselling with an abusive partner in the past, that won’t fix anything. A counsellor is not going to be able to stop someone from being abusive towards you, if that’s what they want to do, and going to couples counselling with an abusive partner can actually make it worse.

Like I said, it’s another thing about— one thing that’s quite popular within the community is Nonviolent Communication, and there’s a lot written about nonviolent communication about how if the person wants to be violent towards you, nonviolent communication does not work with them. And similarly with counselling so I think it’s a positive sign that K has adjusted to go to counselling. K has recognised that you’re frustrated and upset and wants to solve that.

And I think that you also might want to consider counselling on your own, because there’s a bit of a contradiction on what you’re saying You talk about how you’re worried about trying too hard, and hanging on but then you also say you’re apathetic and you shut down. And I think that you might want to work out some of the stuff that you went through with your other partner with a counsellor and figure out how to address some of these situations as and when they come up.

Because I do think that if you’ve had an abusive relationship that and you know depending on what kind of background you come from and surviving so many things that you have survived, it is going to be hard for you to feel comfortable and safe confronting someone about some of the things that they’re doing. That is quite understandable. I definitely think that makes sense.

To sum up. Just because counselling didn’t work in your last abusive relationship doesn’t mean it won’t work now because that partner was abusive. So of course, it didn’t work and it’s okay that you didn’t know that. A lot of people go through that. You should definitely like I said, check out that book. Look up what other people go through online with going to counselling and abusive relationships.  I’m sure there’s tons of things written about it, especially if you had a counsellor that didn’t understand your perspective, and where you’re coming from, and didn’t understand, you know, any kind of marginalisation. That can also compound and add issues to it so you can try and find a therapist who is more understanding of that.

And also, definitely check out online how to interview therapists and ask them questions. They are there to work for you. They are there to help you. And so you can absolutely  ask them if they’re used to polyamory, if they’re used to being with helping people who have been in abusive relationships, if they’re used to queer people. You can ask those questions. If you feel like you’re “the problem”, you can find a second opinion.

It’s not something where you always have to go by what one therapist says. Unfortunately, sometimes even when people aren’t abusive and are trying to find a therapist, it can sometimes not work and that isn’t because of you. So definitely, definitely keep that in mind. It’s a good sign that K has addressed these issues but you can have a sit down conversation and figure out if K is still interested in this shared vision of what you want together.

Is K still interested in settling down? And figure that out with each other. And then, last thing is just give yourself a little bit of a break for having a lot of these feelings and maybe, see if you can get some therapy one on one for what you’ve been through with not only just having that really horrible relationship that sounds like but also, moving so much, and then facing like specific horrible attacks and like dealing with horrible people. Yeah, it’s a lot and that’s a lot to go through. And now you’re also kind of back in the closet now a little bit when it comes to kink stuff, and that’s a lot to go through.

So you need a little bit of support in that regard. And then we all have the pandemic which is a lot of shit for all of us to go through so there’s a lot of stuff you’re going through. And you can be a little bit easy on yourself. You don’t sound like you’re beating yourself up too much, but I always think it’s good to remind people, especially when they’ve gone through a lot of stuff that like, “Hey, you’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and that’s understandable that you would feel anxious and a little bit nervous about the things that are happening around you”.

But overall I would say this doesn’t sound terrible. Again, my final point is that K suggesting that you go to counselling is a really positive sign. And I think that you should definitely consider it and just have a conversation. I feel like if K is already identifying that you’re unhappy and is wanting to fix it then having that conversation about whether or not you have a shared vision won’t be so difficult to have without a counsellor, but equally you can find one together who understands polyamory who’s accepting and understanding of queerness and kink, and also has maybe Black identified themselves, or maybe has worked with Black clients before or has some understanding of that, instead of just being ignorant about it, which unfortunately a lot of therapists are. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 62: More Metamour Toxicity

Your partner’s partner’s partner doesn’t seem like they’re good for your metamour, but what can you actually do?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: How many of your friends know each other?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 62 – More Metamour Toxicity

Your partner’s partner’s partner doesn’t seem like they’re good for your metamour, but what can you actually do? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – How many of your friends know each other?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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:

I’m a married, polymorous woman and have been dating a man for almost two years. Our relationship has always been moderately long distance as we live just over an hour apart across an international border — but since COVID, that border is now mostly closed and we see each other much less.

He has been married to his primary partner for 6 years and they’ve been polyamorous about half that long, each having had various shorter-term partnerships (he just with women, her with women and men). Let’s call my partner Shawn and his primary partner Leah.

Leah has been in a relationship with another partner (let’s say Sam) for a year and a half — they have a lot of shared interests and activities that Shawn doesn’t like, so they spend several days and nights a week together. Sam is solo poly[am] and from the beginning has been awful at acknowledging and respecting Leah and Shawn’s boundaries — it doesn’t help that Shawn and Sam have very different interests and personalities, so they’ve never bonded as metamours. Sam has also burned bridges with Leah and Shawn’s friends by being confrontational and aloof at gatherings, so they aren’t interested in spending time with him either.

Despite Shawn’s boundary that he does not want to spend time with Sam (either separately or with Leah) Sam continuously pushes to visit Shawn and Leah’s home without warning, store things in their space and be invited to their social gatherings. He has been un (or under) employed for the length of his relationship with Leah and she pays part of his rent and for most of their date nights and agrees to drive him places because he doesn’t have a car.

Sam has had a variety of short, dramatic relationships with younger women throughout their relationship, and nights out with Leah and other partners has ended in screaming fights, sometimes with the other [woman] partner or Leah literally out on the street on their own, intoxicated, because he has stormed off or locked them out.

Despite this, he is always successful in guilting Leah into continuing to date him and to spend more and more time with him. He has also managed to imply that he isn’t the problem, but instead that Shawn is too controlling and should let Sam come to their home and to their social gatherings whenever Sam wants.

This has been incredibly toxic and upsetting both to Shawn and to me — Leah’s a very smart woman, a feminist, and yet she continues to be dragged through drama after drama with Sam. Not only has she not broken up with him, whenever they’ve had a disagreement she’s only worried that HE will break up with HER and always eagerly resumes their relationship after days of him freezing her out.

It’s the latest development that worries me the most and has taken this from toxic to potentially abusive — Leah has recently met and gone on a few dates with another married, poly[am] woman (let’s call her Susan) who was very stable and pleasant. Susan got along well with Shawn and Leah’s friends and Shawn found her to be lovely to spend time with.

But the first time Leah invited Susan and a couple of Susan’s female friends to hang out with Sam, Sam accused Susan of “yelling at him for just trying to get to know her friend better,” which sounds to Shawn like he made an unwanted move on a   friend and Susan told him to back off. Sam got so angry that he refused to speak with Leah for days over this, which was only made worse when Leah and Shawn hosted a very small, COVID friendly social gathering at their home this weekend, to which Sam was not invited.

He has now made Leah so guilty that she’s been upset and crying for two days and the worst part is, Shawn tells me Leah has now called things off with Susan entirely.

We are at a total loss. Sam is succeeding in alienating Leah from her friends and other healthy partners and Leah will not listen to Shawn’s concerns. I’ve felt just terrible over this all day — Shawn is stuck with this toxic person in his life, is worried sick about Leah and I can’t be with him for support.

Is there anything we can do? Do you have any recommendations for resources that may help Leah more objectively (and not through the lens of Shawn’s dislike for Sam) see that Sam’s behaviour is hurtful and full of red flags? Shawn has asked me not to contact Leah at all about this and I will respect his request. But I’m hurting for both of these people that I care for.

Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

Response:

The long and short of this, unfortunately, is that there is very very very little that you can actually do. The issue with this is it sounds more than toxic, especially if he’s starting to basically tried to alienate her slowly from all of her relationships. That does sound abusive and it does sound unfortunate and very very difficult for everyone around.

Basically the gist of the situation is that the second that you as a person involved in this person’s life began to demand them to leave people or demand that they stop seeing people — and I’m not saying that’s what you would do but anything that seems that way — can easily be twisted and turned by the person who is abusing them exactly as you said, that he says now that Shawn is too controlling.

So it’s going to be very very difficult for you or Shawn to really do anything about this situation. There is a really good book called “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I recommend it all the time because it was really really helpful for me. It’s just a really good breakdown of what goes through the mind of people who are abusive and the narratives that we’re kind of given in society is that people do this and they can’t help themselves and that it’s not something that they are consciously doing.

But a lot of what Lundy Bancroft shows in his book is that it is very conscious. If you can get her to read that that’d be amazing. However, it is something that is going to be very very difficult for you to do because I’m pretty sure he’s going to be furious about her reading that. There is another website that I also recommend called youarenotcrazy.com and it talks about verbal abuse specifically, and how people who are verbally abusive can twist things. So that might be something that she wants to look at.

I would just be careful. I would read “Why Does He Do That?” before you suggest anything to her, and just be careful about the way that you go about it because basically what she just needs is for somebody to be there for her and not abandon her. So against all odds, don’t just abandon her to Sam’s whims because that’s what he’s hoping that you’ll do. And it’s so so much easier for someone who is abusive to continue abusing someone, whilst they are isolated from everybody that they know.

The other thing that you can do and that Shawn can do is, he is absolutely able to set firm boundaries in the shared spaces he has with Leah, and it does sound like he’s kind of doing that. They have gatherings without Sam being invited but that obviously causes a lot of stress, but I wouldn’t encourage him to ease up on those boundaries. I would encourage him to keep them. I would encourage him to be more firm in them. The thing about it is, is that I don’t think that Leah is going to be willing to execute those boundaries fully. As you’ve said throughout the letter that every time he kind of says jump she says how high.

I think that Shawn can just allow himself to be characterised that way by Sam. And for the sake of his own sanity, put down those boundaries and say like, “Look, I don’t want you at my house, and I’m allowed to because it’s my shared space. I don’t want you to keep your stuff here”. And it’s going to put more pressure on the situation, undoubtedly, but it’s really, really important for him to maintain that, because if he starts just letting things happen. It’s not going to make the situation any better.

As much as you might think, “Okay, well we’ll just let him store his stuff here. We’ll invite him so we’ll stop causing all this ruckus”. It’ll just be some other thing because that’s kind of how the situation works. I don’t really like calling it like the frog in the pot thing because I think that that’s a misnomer. But it is very much a case of slowly and slowly turning up the pressure. And basically, someone does something, they flip out, they get mad, they cause a whole ruckus. It’s very upsetting. And in order to avoid that the abused person and the people around them are going to try to avoid that.

But then something else is going to cause and then they’ll just slowly and slowly and slowly back that person up into a corner. And I expect at some point there will be some escalation. I expect at some point that Sam will demand that Leah break up with Shawn. I would expect that. And I would be prepared for that eventuality, but I definitely think that Shawn should not ease up on his boundaries around their shared space. It’s his home too. He doesn’t have to put up with Sam.

Another thing that might be helpful, and I don’t know if Leah is open to getting counselling on her own, but I would also, if there’s a way to do that by maybe Shawn and Leah going to see a polyamory friendly couples therapist. That might be a gateway into her seeing a therapist on her own and realising that these are really horrible behaviours that Sam is engaging in, that they aren’t helping her, and that she feels miserable. I think that that is a good gateway.

Someone who has the ability to help her objectively see the situation isn’t really going to be you. Definitely. And isn’t really going to be Shawn. It’s going to have to be a professional because it’s just not something that — and I wouldn’t be surprised as well as Sam turned — you know said “Oh your therapist hates me” or “your therapist—“ like criticise her credentials — or them or they or he. I would not be surprised for a second if Sam does that. But, at least getting her on to that kind of attract might help but ultimately she has to make that decision.

She has to decide that she doesn’t want to be with Sam anymore. And the thing of it is is that I believe, if I’m not mistaken, I believe it takes people an average of seven attempts to leave someone who is abusive. I believe that that is the average. The average is seven. So, it is very very hard for people who are stuck in the cycle to just break out of it. And as much as it might seem simple to you because you’re seeing it from the position —I think that you get that.

You’re not like most people who are in your situation or a lot of people that are in your situation where they would be like “oh well she just must want this, because she’s tolerating it”. It’s just so much more complicated than that when you’re kind of in the middle of it. So yeah. To sum up, there isn’t very much you can do. This stuff sounds pretty abusive. I’m not going to label Sam one way or another but clearly this isn’t a relationship that is really suiting Leah. It doesn’t really seem like overall the net benefit of this relationship weighs out all of the drama and difficulty it brings to her life.

However obviously she is the one who is experiencing it and, obviously, a lot of people who are this way can make really lovely partners when they’re not being terrible so it’s difficult, but it doesn’t sound like a good situation that she’s in. Unfortunately there’s very very little that you or Shawn can really do about that. I suggest you read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. If you can get Leah to read it, that would be really helpful.

I honestly read it, just before I was probably going to enter a really shitty relationship. I don’t know if he was abusive but he definitely was… Gosh, how do I say it? He was definitely denigrating to me and I put up with it because I guess I just assumed that I was being sensitive. And I would never put up with that now, but at the time I did because, even if you are a feminist and strong and all those sorts of things, you’re still encouraged by society to think negative things about yourself and you’re also, you know — like I said he’s probably not terrible all the time.

So, it’s very difficult to when you have someone who’s —  especially because he has all these interests that, you know, Shawn isn’t interested  in, it’s hard to just drop that. It’s very hard. But, if she can read that read that book, it might help her out. If you can get her to visit youarenotcrazy.com that might be helpful, although don’t be like “Your boyfriend is a horrible abusive person. Here’s a site that will help convince you of that”.  Work it into something else. Maybe if you watch a movie where there is an abusive relationship mention the site… like if there’s a way you can get her to visit it without being like “This is what your boyfriend is”, that would be helpful.

Because any pressure you put on her isn’t really going to help the situation. Absolutely remind Shawn that he is, and should continue to put down firm boundaries, around his shared living space. Obviously you can’t tell Leah to not see Sam anymore, but he can absolutely put down boundaries around his shared living space, and around what things are around, who’s in this house and who he sees, and he should not let up on those boundaries.

He should absolutely keep them going. And do not give up on them even if Sam continues to throw fit into these column names all this nonsense. And last but not least, if there’s some way for Shawn to get Leah in with him in some polyamory friendly couples therapy that might help her begin some type of internal exploration about this relationship. And what it’s doing to her. A therapist is going to be the person who will have the most objectivity, but also be fully, fully prepared for Sam to disregard the therapist, to trash talk the therapist, to encourage Leah not to see the therapist, etc and so forth to even see this leap to therapy as another sign that Shawn is controlling.

So, just expect all of that. That will happen. You just got to be there if you can for her. Don’t give up on her. Don’t allow her to be isolated, because she is going to need — when she finally realises that this isn’t a good situation. If the entire time, you have been like “He’s bad, he’s bad, he’s bad, he’s bad he’s bad, he’s bad,” and she’s going to go “Well I don’t want to go to that person who said that because they’re going to say told you so”. If you can, be that person that is supportive to her and friendly to her and do the best you can, then that’s really— that’s going to help her out more in the long run. I hope that helps and good luck.

Episode 56: Escalating Past a Metamour

Your partner is escalating your relationship and it’s making your metamour jealous. What can you do?

*A metamour is a person who also dates your partner who you do not date.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What does an “escalation” in a relationship mean to you?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 56 – Escalating Past a Metamour

Your partner is escalating your relationship and it’s making your metamour jealous. What can you do? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What does an “escalation” in a relationship mean to you?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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 metamour, Kay, suffers with depression and anxiety, I feel it would be unfair to omit this. They have been dating our partner, Pip, for a year longer than I have. My relationship (friendship) with Kay started to go downhill a year ago, after they found out that Pip and I were fluid bonded and regularly had sex without condoms. Kay has another partner with whom they are fluid bonded and have been for several years.

Since then Pip has suggested that we move in together, introduced me to their parents, and planned a big holiday for us to visit their relatives in another country. The last time I met Kay it was clear that they were blaming me for “plotting” these relationship escalations, even though they were all initiated by Pip (which it turns out they had failed to mention). Kay told me that they had a fear I was going to change to being monogamous and “drag Pip down with me”.

I feel it isn’t my fault that between the two of them they had never had any of these discussions about how their relationship could escalate, despite over 2.5 years of dating. I said I thought it was pretty normal to at least discuss these kind of escalations by that point in a relationship. Kay said “it’s always going to be unfair if one partner is always planning ahead then the other partner never even gets a chance.”

I feel really stuck in the middle here, and unfairly blamed. I don’t feel I can break it to Kay that all of these ‘life events’ were initiated by Pip. Then they would want to know why Pip hadn’t sought out the same things in their relationship. But I feel like I have to either do that or just pretend to accept some “blame” for things moving forward in my own relationship with Pip.

This all happened just before lockdown and I’ve had very little interaction with Kay since the climax of this whole saga. I know that this all makes the situation really awkward for Pip but I don’t know what to do to make it better. I feel like I don’t want any kind of relationship with Kay right now.

Response:

Right. So, initially when I’m reading through all of this, my first instinct is to be like don’t have any relationship with Kay. You don’t have to have any kind of friendship or anything with Kay. But the thing that kind of really bugs me about this entire situation is you are doing Pip’s work for them. And that’s really not cool. I would have just outwardly said straight to Kay’s face from the beginning that they started to blame me for all of this that this was initiated by Pip, and if they had a problem about their relationship with Pip, then they needed to go speak to Pip and not to me, because I have no control over that.

I would have outwardly said that. It makes Pip’s life awkward? Tickity tough. Okay? Pip’s life is awkward then and that is a

direct consequence of Pip not having those discussions with Kay. Especially if Kay is going to talk to me. If we’re going to talk, and we’re going to have a friendship and you’re going to start blaming me for stuff that’s not my fault, I’m going to immediately tell you who initiated this stuff. And I’m not sure why you haven’t done that.

Okay, it makes Pip’s life awkward. Big deal. Pip made Pip’s life awkward. The second that Pip decided not to have these discussions with Kay was the moment where Pip made Pip’s life awkward. Especially if Pip knew that you and Kay were talking. At what point does it make any sense? So, yeah, two things.

First and foremost, you are not required to have any kind of friendship or relationship with Kay if you don’t want to. And I know. I’ve gone through depression and anxiety myself. Anxiety is something that I’ve got. It’s tough. I get it. But that is something that you can, especially if the anxiety is technically kind of being caused by you (which it’s not really). But I can understand from Kay’s perspective feeling really anxious about the way that your relationship is escalating and feeling like that’s not happening to me and wondering why.

I can get that. That’s a totally logical reason for having that. However, if Kay is using you to voice these concerns, you can set your own boundaries and it doesn’t have to be like an either or situation. It doesn’t have to be like “Excuse me Kay. Fuck off. Never speak to me again”. Doesn’t have to be like that. But you can set very clear boundaries with Kay and it’s understandable they have anxiety. It’s understandable that they have these problems, but you’re not their therapist and you’re certainly not Kay and Pip’s couples therapist at all.

So you can very clearly say to Kay, “If you have a problem with what’s going on in your relationship with Pip, then you need to speak to Pip or a relationship therapist and not to me”, because that is unfair to you. It puts you in the middle of a situation that you have a stake in, and it would be no different if you and Kay and Pip were all friends, and you went to, I don’t know, Disney World with Pip and Kay was really upset because Pip had always said that they would take Kay to Disney World. And instead of going to Pip and saying “Hey why didn’t you take me to Disney World?” Kay came to you and said “Hey why the Pip take…”. It would be the same if you were friends.

You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of this, so don’t allow yourself to be. Put very clear boundaries down with Kay. You don’t have to be like “Fuck off forever and never speak to me again”. Because I do kind of think that, you know, maybe there are other things you have in common. Maybe even a casual cordial friendship is possible between the two of you. It’s just

that because Kay is using this as a means to voice their grievances and their relationship with Pip, it’s very difficult to be friends with that. So make that very clear and very known.

The other thing that that Kay said that you said, “it’s always going to be unfair if one partner is always planning ahead and then the other partner never even gets a chance”. The problem that I have with this kind of mindset, again we were discussing about the relationship escalator and about how there’s this thought process within monogamy where it’s like okay you meet, and then you are together, and then you decide to move in together and then you have babies, and then— you know all of that progression. The reason why that’s so complicated within a polyamorous framework is because some of that is contingent upon there being only one person who does that.

It’s going to be very hard for someone to live that kind of life and progression if it’s only one person. And the thing of it is, all of the relationship escalating things you’ve mentioned about like going on trips together, meeting their parents, and moving in — I mean, some of those things may be things that Pip only wants to do with one person, but they aren’t necessarily completely limited to one person. Like they could be things that Kay has done as well but if Kay wants to be the first and if Kay wants to be the only then that’s always going to be an issue. And that is something that Pip has to address with Kay, not with you. This is not your battle to fight.

So yeah, the first thing is that you need to set clear boundaries with Kay about what can be discussed. And if you have to get really blunt, and really honest about it then do, because it’s your right to say, “Look, I’m not involved in this”. You can’t control if Kay wants to blame you. There’s nothing you can control about that, but you can absolutely control how much you hear about this kind of stuff, and you can absolutely say “Listen, if you continue to have discussions with me about your relationship with Pip, and about how unfair you think all this is, then I will not speak to you anymore, because I am not the one who you should be talking to about this. If you feel like Pip is not treating you fairly then you need to speak with Pip and leave me out of it”. And you can make that very very very clear so that Kay either decides to stop speaking to you altogether, or decides to stop speaking to you about this.

The second thing that’s kind of going on here that I don’t think you’re really focusing on is that you are bending over backwards to make the situation easier for Pip. Why? Why are you doing that? Pip should be the one who’s talking to Kay about this, and you have that realisation. In your letter you’re talking about like, you know, Kay— all of these things were initiated by Pip which they had failed to mention to Kay and you don’t understand why in their 2.5 years of dating they have never had that discussion and it is not your fault that they’ve never had that discussion. It’s Pip’s fault, in a way. It’s also Kay’s fault a little bit. It’s like both of them.

Pip’s not doing anything and Kay is talking to you about it instead. They both need to stop it. And I kind of feel like you’re holding Kay super responsible in a way that you’re not holding Pip responsible. Pip should that share some of this blame as well. And you’re kind of just like “I don’t want to make things— All of this is gonna make the situation really awkward for Pip”. Tough shit. Like honestly, I do think you need to be a little bit more talking to Pip as well as telling Kay like “Look these are my boundaries. I’m not going to have this discussion with you. If you have a problem with the relationship that you have with Pip then you need to speak with Pip”.

Equally, you can go to Pip and be like, “Kay is talking to me about this stuff. You need to talk to Kay. You need to do that because I am not the one who’s going to be put in the middle of these situations. It’s not fair to me. You need to do the work that you need to do with Kay, so that this is addressed, and so that she stops coming to me. There’s something clearly going on in your relationship which is not my business, but it’s being made into my business. So please do something about that”.

You’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to hold Pip a little bit responsible because it isn’t your job to fix the situation. You say you don’t know what you can do to make it better. You can’t do anything to make it better. Pip is the person that needs to do something to make it better.

So to sum up, two things. First thing you need to put more boundaries in between you and Kay when it comes to discussing this. You can absolutely say, “I do not want to discuss this with you”, and you need to say that if that’s how you feel. And then Kay can either choose to continue whatever friendship that you would have had without this or Kay can choose not to talk to you, but either way you were allowed to put that boundary in.

Second thing, you need to give Pip some of the blame for this. Be a little bit more annoyed with Pip than you are with Kay because this is Pip’s relationship which Pip is not clearly not addressing, and you can say to Pip directly, “Kay is coming to me and talking to me about this stuff. Why? You need to talk to Kay. You need to figure this out because it’s not fair for me to be put in the middle of it,” and you can say that 100% to both of them. “It’s not fair for me to be put in the middle of this”.

If you have to sit them both down, I mean I don’t think you can do that with lockdown, but like if you have to sit them both down and be like, “I don’t want to be in the middle of this anymore. Discuss amongst yourselves,” you’re allowed to do that. I’m sorry. I’m just really annoyed on your behalf because you shouldn’t be put in the middle of this. This is absolutely… And the fact that you can’t even say overtly to Kay… like “Pip is the one who initiated this stuff”. Say that. Just say it. So what if it makes Pip’s life awkward? It’s making your life awkward and it’s not even your fault. You don’t deserve that.

Anyway, I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Episode 55: How Much is Too Much?

How much is too much to know about your partner’s other relationships? Where is the line?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: Do you believe in first impressions?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 55 – How Much is Too Much

How much is too much to know about your partner’s other relationships? Where is the line? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – Do you believe in first impressions?

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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:

I’ve started listening to your podcast on and off in the last few months.

One thing that I notice is a recurring theme in your advice is that you often say it’s none of their business to know all this stuff about any of the relationships that the letter writer is not involved in.

What I’m curious about is: where is the line? How much stuff is enough to know?

When I’m in a relationship with someone, it’s important to have *some* kind of understanding of each of our existing/potential relationships in order to navigate the dynamics that arise and even just from a logistical point of view when planning out time for each other.

When meeting someone new I want to know what kinds of relationship/s they have in their life so that I can see how they relate to their partner/s, what kinds of boundaries they may have in place, whether what they have to offer is something I am interested in. These are difficult things to figure out if there’s a cone of silence around all their other relationships.

One time my partner and I tried a mutual agreement of non-disclosure with our respective new relationships. In hindsight the complete lack of transparency was the biggest driver of it hurtling into disaster. Where we would normally give basic updates on how the relationship is progressing and how we feel about that person, there was absolute silence and we both projected our insecurities into that empty space. It was horrible. My partner and I learned the hard way that too little knowledge did not work, and had we been able to provide each other with the updates that we normally would, it would have headed off a lot of the insecurities that all of us were feeling.

So I guess I would like to know, in your opinion, what kind of stuff, and how much stuff, do you think is appropriate to know about the other relationship/s that your partner is in?

Response:

Okay, first of all, when I’ve said in my podcast or columns— when people have asked me questions and I’ve said “You know too much”, or “You’re too involved”, almost in every case, that isn’t what you’re talking about here. You’re talking about wanting to know about logistics, or things like that. There’s kind of an in-between between Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and knowing every single thing, beyond a point where it’s kind of like, is there any privacy in these relationships?

I’m not advocating for people to operate on a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell basis which is what it sounds like you were actually operating under. A very strict agreement of complete non -disclosure. That isn’t what I’m what I’m saying. That is pretty much Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, other than the fact that you may know that your partner is in this other relationship. It is kind of a don’t ask don’t tell setup. That’s not necessarily what I advocate. What I advocate is supposed to be contrary to the advice that or the instinct that people have to know everything about another relationship.

And I do kind of think that’s working in this situation that you’re describing. People tend to think that if they know everything about the other relationships that their partners are in, they can prevent something bad from happening in their relationship. The reason why I don’t think this is good is because, ultimately, there’s only so much you can control. You cannot control the relationships that your partner is in, and sometimes when you want to know about that relationship, it stems from a desire to want to counteract the anxiety by controlling everything, or wanting to know as if  that’s going to help you foresee something bad.

It’s a preventative measure, and what I’m saying is that, that can’t prevent it. When you are in a relationship with somebody and they’re in relationships with other people, those relationships that they have with other people should have a reasonable respect of privacy. It isn’t sometimes very fair when you know your partner is disclosing stuff about their other partners to you, to those other partners.

It’s a balance between the privacy of other people and also— sometimes I feel like people want to know those details because they don’t want to actually hold their partner accountable for their decisions. And it’s used way too much as an excuse. So for example, if you are dating Person B, and they are dating Person C, they could say to you that person C is getting really upset every single time this happens or that happens and what I feel like is going to happen is you’re going to blame Person C when Person B makes choices based on Person C’s actions, instead of going, “Okay, I get—“ You know your partner’s welcome to tell you that their other partner is getting upset yada yada.

But ultimately it’s them that’s making a decision based on that information. It’s them that is choosing— if they are choosing to change your relationship because of what’s happening in other relationships. The thing that I worry about with being like “This is what’s happening in this relationship and this is what’s happening in that relationship” is that rather than being used as a way to talk about dynamics, it’s being used as a way to blame other people, for what you are choosing to do. And that’s why I don’t particularly advocate it. I think that it’s— it tends to be a way that people use to try and avoid things, and sometimes I think it causes more problems.

Yes, you have filled this void of not knowing with your own insecurities, but knowing that isn’t going to solve the problem which is the insecurity. The problem really isn’t this void or what’s in it. It’s the fact that you feel like you need to have this information, and if it’s not there then you’ll put it there, in order for you to feel comfortable and safe and secure in your relationship. And I do genuinely feel like, regardless of whether you have no information and you’re putting information in there or you do have information, the initial problem is that you feel like you need to know this, to solve the fear and the insecurities and the doubt that you are experiencing, and that is the issue.

That is the real problem. Not whether or not that information is there. It’s the fact that you feel like there should be something there for you to feel safe and secure in your relationship but that is kind of what it boils down to. Now there’s different things that you mentioned along here. You said “It’s important to have some kind of an understanding of each of our existing potential relationships in order to navigate the dynamics that arise even just from a logistical point of view and planning out time for each other.” You can have a partnership with someone who communicates to you how they do relationships, without necessarily knowing tons about other people.

So for example if I had a new partnership and I would say, “Okay, this is how my life is organised. I have a partner that I live with. Generally speaking, that partner that I live with does tend to take up a lot of my time because we live together, and there’s logistical planning. However, in terms of how I do relationships, I am not a person who believes in prioritising anyone just because I’ve been with them longer”. So I would highlight to them that if they feel like I am not giving them the time that they need or if they feel like that I am prioritising my relationship with the person I live with over them, then they need to highlight that to me because that is not what I intended.

However, what I would say is that I do have a disability, I do have a condition which makes my energy levels low. I don’t always have access to the best transportation because I can’t drive, things like that. Like they have to — depending on where they live and where they are in their life — you know, if I if I had another partner that basically wanted me to be their primary, that wouldn’t work. I don’t have the time or energy for that. So it’s about figuring out what your individual preferences are, what your commitments are, what all of those things are.

I don’t need to tell them, intimate details about my partnership with the person that I live with in order for them to get a good understanding of what place they would have in my life, and I don’t even know what that would entail. Like what is it about my partner, and my relationship with the person that I live with that you would need to know in order to understand things? You need to be able to trust me when I say “This is the time I have. This is the place that you would occupy in my life. This is how I operate”. You would have to trust me in order for that to work.

Maybe you don’t immediately trust somebody’s word. You need to see it in action in order to get a good idea of it. So that is… that’s one thing I’d say about that. Somebody can pretend like they are and this is, this is actually— it’s quite funny that this comes up because for a very very long time I felt like relationship anarchy was just something that people who didn’t want to take responsibility used as a cover for, you know, to say I don’t have any priorities when actually they do. I have kind of since come to believe and understood relationship anarchy a little bit better and what it’s supposed to mean, even though I think that people don’t always use it to mean that in a similar way to anarchy in general.

People can lie about things you know. They can say, “Well, I don’t have any primaries. I don’t really…” you know, and then make decisions that counter that but the thing of it is, you can’t prevent everything. You can’t prevent yourself from getting in a relationship where your needs don’t match up, where somebody isn’t honest or maybe doesn’t even know. Like some people just aren’t self aware enough to know where they’re making their decisions and why. So that’s a possibility. And there’s nothing that you observing them in their other relationships or knowing any details about that, isn’t necessarily going to prevent that.

And you have to understand that part of entering into multiple relationships includes the risk that those relationships will end. That’s just part and parcel of the risk. So I still think that you wanting to know the dynamics of someone else’s relationship is partially a way to shield yourself from heartbreak, and you need to maybe— all of this is a very anxious response, which is understandable.

It’s totally understandable that you would want to try and protect yourself. That’s not a bad thing. But ultimately, this is creating a lot more problems than there needs to be. Now when you talk about you and your partner tried this mutual agreement of non-disclosure with your respective new relationships, the lack of transparency was the biggest driver of it hurtling into disaster,

Okay, you would normally give basic updates and how the relationship is progressing and how we feel about that person, but there was an absolute silence. We both projected our insecurities— how does another relationship increasing in terms of feeling and how you feel about that person how the relationship is progressing — progressing into what?

If you’re feeling this fear it’s because you haven’t talked about what relationship progression means. It means different things to different people. Are you on the relationship escalator? Is one of you expecting to marry someone else? Like, that’s the discussion that needs to happen. That’s what you need to work out with each other, is where you fall into each other’s lives and you have to trust each other to talk to each other if that changes.

But having regular updates. I mean, If someone asked me that like, “How is your relationship progressing? And how do you feel about that other person?” I would feel really… what do you mean progressing into what? I have no intentions upon getting married. I have no intentions of having children. I have no interest in purchasing property or any of the other sort of general milestones people have for “relationship progression”. So what does that mean to me?

You’re asking these questions because you’re afraid of your partner falling in love with somebody else and you being replaced. That’s what it feels like. And whether or not you have this information— I’m sure It felt great. I’m sure when your partner said “Well I don’t know if I love this person yet, but we’re seeing how things go”. I’m sure you felt very relieved by that. I don’t doubt that for a second, and I’m sure when you didn’t have that information, you started to panic.

But the issue is the panic. The issue isn’t the information being there. It’s the fact that you feel like you need this for some reason. Why? Why do you need that? Can you not work together to sort out your insecurities and figure out why you feel so anxious? How do you reestablish a relationship with each other that means that you don’t worry about things like that? You don’t need updates like that. You have to also accept that regardless of getting these general updates, at any point in time your partner could be like “No, I’m done. I’m done with our relationship”. These updates are not going to prevent that.

These updates are not going to shield you from that. It’s not  going to make it easier for you, even if you like— okay, your partner’s like “I just met this person,” next update, “I’m dating,” next update, “I’m starting to fall for this person,” next, update “I love this person”, next update, “I don’t want us to be together no more”. You really think that the progression of those updates is going to somehow prepare you mentally for losing that partner? It’s not going to.

Your brain is trying to help. It’s trying to do something with all of this fear, understandable fear that it has that you will lose your partner, but these updates aren’t going to— They will temporarily make you feel better, no doubt. No doubt. But you need to address the fact that you’re filling what you see is a void with insecurity— You need to address that and figure out how you counteract that insecurity, instead of just trying to feed the information in, because it’s, it’s not actually— it does make you feel better and temporary, but it’s a temporary solution.

It’s a band aid over gaping wound. It isn’t fixing the actual problem. And that’s why this situation devolved the way it did, because when you can’t— you know, you need that and you haven’t addressed the core issue. So when you don’t get that information for whatever reason and you might not. You might not get that information. You wouldn’t when you don’t get that information all of a sudden you’re filling it with insecurities and you’re scared so you need to figure out why it is that you and your partner— Either you know, if you felt insecurity on both sides which it sounds like that was the case.

You need to figure out how you build up more trust with each other, rather than trying to fill up with regular updates. You don’t tell me how long you’ve been with your partner so I’m not sure if this is necessarily new. And even if you have been with them for a long time, if you’ve just started trying out polyamory it makes sense as you would have all of these insecurities. But yeah, I can’t give you a hard and fast answer, of what kind of stuff and how much stuff is appropriate.

It’s not necessarily about what kind of stuff or how much stuff. It’s about what’s the purpose of it is? What is the point? To try and stave off fear and anxiety? Because if the point is trying to stave off fear and anxiety, I don’t think that’s useful, because in the long run, it won’t prevent anything, and sometimes knowing these details can trigger more anxiety. Sometimes if you’re, you know— if your next update is “I’m falling completely head over heels in love with this person”, then it might be your brain goes, “Wow. They fell in love faster with this person than they do with me. What’s going on?”

Sometimes more information is more for your anxiety to work with. Ultimately it comes down to what you and your partner are with comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with regular updates, then you know, who am I to tell you to stop doing that? If it’s not a violation of the privacy of the other person who is involved and you should always check that and you feel comfortable with that, then go ahead. But the one thing that I would just say is that it’s not necessarily about, you know, how much or what not to know.

It’s about whether or not it’s actually serving you to know. Is it actually solving the situation? Will it actually do what you are trying to prevent? Will it prevent what you’re what you’re trying to get it to prevent? Because usually I feel like people are sharing this kind of updates or sharing this kind of information in order to prevent something from happening that it cannot prevent. And that is why I tend to tell people that they’re too involved, because they’re trying to be too involved, to be able to stop their partner, leaving them, and ultimately they cannot do that through this method.

They can’t do it at all. If somebody decides to leave you, short of locking them in the tower, which isn’t really going to fix the situation, you can’t stop that. You can’t stop your partner from leaving you. You can’t stop your partner from falling out of love with you. None of that is a thing that you can control and temporarily as I said, if you haven’t already read it I wrote this article called “13 mistakes people make when trying Polyamory”. I suggest you check it out as well.  One thing that people tend to do is that their brain in these types of situations, says, “What can I do to keep this person in my life? Because I’m afraid of losing them. I know I’ll do X, Y Z”.

And it’s an easy solution. It’s much easier and nicer and less traumatic and less scary for your brain to think that if you do X, Y Z, then your partner won’t leave you. Now you can be a complete and total asshole, obviously, you know. The best thing you can do to keep your partner around is by being respectful person, treating them well, treating yourself well — all of those things. But outside of that there isn’t anything you can do and your brain will trick you into believing that you can do things in order to temporarily relieve some of that fear and anxiety.

But the problem with this is that in the long run, what this inevitably ends up meaning is that you lost that relationship because you didn’t do X, Y Z and other relationships that you’ve had, you’ve lost because you didn’t do X, Y Z. This mind kind of like temporarily anxiety relieving thing ends up really screwing you over in the long run because it blames you for the things that happen in other relationships that you could not control, and that’s the problem with that mindset. It doesn’t prevent the thing you want it to prevent and it ends up creating more blame for you.

So yeah, basically to sum up, there isn’t a hard fast rule, other than the privacy and respect for the third person and, or the other person or people that your partner is dating about what to disclose or how much to not know. The only thing you really need to consider yourself with is what will knowing this information do? What problem will this solve? And will it actually solve that problem? Because, in the example you gave, the problem is that, you know, you see this void. You’re filling this void with anxious thoughts and you think that replacing it with updates will fix it.

When the actual problem is that you feel like you need this information in order to feel secure in your relationship and that is the actual problem. And that is something that you should think about. How do we build security between each other? What is relationship progression? What does that mean? What is the end goal? What is the ideal situation for yourself and your partner? Do your ideals …. you know this is my ideal polyamorous situation and this is your partner’s — do they mesh up? Are you compatible? Because at the end of the day, you know, that’s kind of what you’re asking with a relationship progression.

You’re afraid of being replaced. You’re afraid of things changing. You can’t prevent that. You need to discuss with each other, what your situations are and if you want it to change and also respect that even discussing that and knowing that doesn’t mean it can’t change in the future. Shit happens. Life happens. The only thing that’s constant is change.

So, you can’t ultimately prevent it. You have to sit with that discomfort and be able to get used to it and trust your partner that if something were going to change in your relationship and change in your expectations that they would discuss it with you, and that they would be there to support you. Because if you don’t feel like that’s the case, then that is ultimately the bigger issue than knowing about what’s going on in other relationships.

I hope that helps and good luck.

 

Knowing too much

I am a 40 year old solo poly[am] woman in a relationship with a poly man who is in a long term nesting relationship with his common-law wife. They have been together over 25 years; I’ve been with him for just over 3.

I’ve heard you tell readers on multiple occasions that you should not know too much about the inner workings of your partner’s other relationships. I agree with this fully, now that I’ve had the painful experience of doing just that. Three years into the relationship I am really struggling with the consequences of that and I hope you have some advice about where to go from here.

When I started dating my partner, I was brand-new to poly[am], and I was fascinated with the concept right away. I read everything I could find about open relationships, and I asked him a lot of questions. We became very close in a short period of time, in part because we talked about everything. A few months after we fell in love he went on a 2-month trip with his wife and kids, and we communicated mostly by email. We wrote long letters to each other sharing the most intimate details of our lives.

I learned the reasons that he pursued polyamory, which included feeling lonely in his marriage and the lack of sexual compatibility with his wife. He never said anything negative about her, and he clearly loves and respects her and is grateful that she agreed to polyamory even though she much prefers monogamy. Learning this made me feel closer to him, and I assumed that the more I knew about the history of their relationship and the ongoing struggles, the better I could support both of them.

However, about a year into our relationship I started really resenting his wife, mostly because I wanted to be able to spend more time with our shared partner, and I saw her as an obstacle to that. Eventually I realized that he wasn’t taking responsibility for his choices, and I asked him not to scapegoat his wife because it was damaging my relationship with her. To his credit, he did stop, and things got better for a while. He negotiated spending a bit more time with me, and I was very happy with that.

Unfortunately, my feelings towards his wife haven’t fully recovered. She and I have a cordial relationship. We interact only when necessary. I have dinner with them and their kids every once and awhile, but I find it extremely awkward. She is pleasant enough and I don’t think she has anything against me personally, so I’m pretty sure this is all my stuff. Although I’ve asked my partner not to tell me when they are going through a rough patch, it ends up being pretty obvious because he’s an emotional guy. He’s also extremely honest, which is a wonderful quality, but it means he perceives that not telling me what’s happening in his life is akin to lying, or at least “don’t ask don’t tell” — which is fine for some people but not how either of us want to operate.

They seem to go through a lot of rough patches. They’ve talked about separating many times. I know that they won’t break up, because they are both very family-oriented and things would have to get very bad before they would put their kids through that.

I get very triggered when they are re-evaluating their relationship. I worry that one of these days she will ask him to choose between their family and poly[am]. That may not be true, but it’s my fear, and it causes me a lot of anxiety and guilt.

I’ve explained all of this to my partner, and he feels terrible for the pain he has caused me. We are trying to figure out how to maintain our close emotional bond without triggering me. It seems obvious that we just shouldn’t talk about the things that trigger me, but it’s not that easy in practise. And even if we can manage to do that, how do I get over my negative feelings about his wife and their relationship?

In some ways, you have opened Pandora’s Box a little bit because you have been let into their relationship in a way that puts you in an awkward position, but I do think that ultimately your feelings aren’t really about her so much as they are coming from a place of instability in your relationship, which is why they haven’t recovered.

It seems like this is less about her actions and more about his. You don’t seem upset that he went on a two month trip with her and his kids, though he did communicate with you, and then you had to negotiate for more time and he initially blamed his partner for that. You haven’t really overcome that because he gets obviously upset when their relationship is in turmoil. It seems like you’ve not really had time to breathe in that regard.

He can tell you when they’re going through a rough patch without giving you details. He can also reassure you that he does not have any plans to throw you out to save his marriage — if that’s something he can promise. Personally, I feel like in my relationships I would never tolerate one of my partners demanding I dump someone else. That would be an absolute no no for me.

The problem is that, if he is willing to get rid of you if polyamory becomes a problem in his relationship, then he isn’t going to be able to promise that to you. And then you will begin to feel anxious and scared about every up and down in their relationship and then, to a certain extent, resentful of his wife for “causing” the problem. You have a relationship with him whereas you have little in the way of a friendship with her, so it makes sense that it’s easier for you to be upset and angry with her than with him.

There needs to be a combination of you sitting with the discomfort of being afraid of what you can’t control, which is their relationship, but also some reassurance on his part — especially if he wants to be able to tell you when they are having issues or be honest about it. If he can’t give that reassurance or promise… then your anxiety isn’t just happening and this isn’t about her. It’s about your relationship.

So, to sum up, I think this really is less about her and more about the uncertainty you have. If he does reassure you that he wouldn’t accept that kind of ultimatum from her and you still have these feelings, it might be worth consulting a polyamory friendly relationship therapist to work through what specific things are triggering you and figure out how to sit with this discomfort for awhile until the balance is set right. But if he cannot give you that reassurance, it might be worth working with a therapist on how to manage boundaries on your part.

I feel like if he can’t give you a reassurance that he’s not going to chuck you when his relationship goes south, then you’re definitely going to have to maintain more boundaries with hearing about his other relationship because it’s going to, for an understandable reason, make you feel extremely anxious whenever they are going through a rough patch. And you may, in the end, want to consider whether or not you want to be with someone who has no problem chucking your relationship out to save another.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 53: Forgiving Mistakes

You have a metamour who thinks someone you’re dating is a bad person. What do you do?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What do you think about forgiveness? When should one be forgiven?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 53 – Forgiving Mistakes

You have a metamour who thinks someone you’re dating is a bad person. 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 our website. Discussion Topic – What do you think about forgiveness? When should one be forgiven?

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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:

I’m married, and my husband has two other partners in addition to me: his partner Anna of 3 years, and Lisa of 1 year.  I get along well with both his partners and hang out with them semi-regularly. On my side, I have one other partner I’ve been dating for several months now, Zach.  When I first met Zach several months ago, we instantly clicked.  He seemed very thoughtful, mature, and we had great chemistry. After our first couple dates, he briefly met my husband at a party we were all at, and my husband said he felt “good vibes” from him.

A few days after that party, my husband had a date with Lisa, and he told her about meeting Zach.  Afterwards, Lisa contacted me and said she wanted to talk to me about him. When we spoke, she was really upset and was crying. Apparently, Lisa briefly dated Zach a year earlier, and they saw each other for a couple months. She told me that he violated a boundary of hers twice. She wasn’t comfortable telling me exactly what that boundary was, but she said she felt very manipulated and didn’t think he was a good person.

Obviously this was super concerning to me, but it was also confusing. In my few interactions with Zach up to that point, he’d been respectful of my boundaries, very communicative, and very careful. What’s more, my husband’s other partner, Anna, was seeing him casually at the time I met him, which I took as a good sign. I decided to continue seeing Zach and to form my own impressions. However, I took Lisa’s words to heart and proceeded with caution. I also asked Lisa what her boundaries were if I continued dating Zach, and she said she didn’t want to be around him at all, and didn’t want him to contact her. And I agreed to honour that.

Lisa had also told my husband that Zach violated her boundaries, and of course, my husband was upset by this. It made him understandably uncomfortable with Zach.  In the past, my husband has been friendly with my partners and has been open to hanging out with them, but after talking to Lisa, he didn’t want to engage with Zach any further.

Fast forward several months, and my relationship with Zach has grown. I’ve been moving very deliberately and slowly, because I was worried NRE would cloud my judgement. But he’s been 100% respectful of my boundaries; we have excellent communication, and I feel very safe with him, both physically and emotionally.

Because of this, my husband has become more comfortable with Zach, and he appreciates how he’s been a good partner to me. But he still doesn’t personally want to engage with Zach at all because of Lisa.  Lisa really values loyalty, and my husband told her that he wouldn’t pursue a friendship with Zach out of respect for her.

But as my feelings for Zach grow, I’m wanting to bring him into my life more. I recently asked my husband if he’d be willing to meet up with Zach and his primary partner (who I’ve met and love), but my husband isn’t comfortable with this. He’s worried that if he hangs out with Zach at all, Lisa would view it as a betrayal, and he’d be compromising his integrity. I know you can’t force your partners to hang out and be friends, but I also feel like my husband hasn’t given Zach a real chance. The only interaction my husband ever had with Zach was at that party all those months ago.

I don’t need my husband and Zach to become besties, but I would like to be able to all hang out together on occasion, like I do with his partners, and like my husband has done with my past partners. Also, it’s going to be hard to involve Zach in my life more if I can’t bring him around my husband.

I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do. I’m trying to respect everybody’s boundaries, and I understand why my husband feels uncomfortable.  But I also feel like I can’t grow my relationship with Zach the way I’d like to because of his history with Lisa.  My husband and I still don’t know exactly what happened between the two of them, but the shadow of it is having a very real impact on both my relationships now.

Response:

Now I want to say before I start that you did send me a little bit of extra information which you didn’t necessarily want me to divulge. I’m not going to divulge too much of it but one thing that I do think is really important to this is that you did highlight that there is some BDSM elements that are involved in this and I think that is actually really, really important so I do think that needs to be part of my response.

I’ve been in this situation so many times, both like as a person who has experienced some unsafe behaviour from someone and as a person who is friends with someone who has experienced unsafe behaviour from someone. I’ve been in this situation, and it is quite difficult and this quite frustrating. There may be a situation where you accept that. Zach just won’t be able to hang out with your husband, and that is what it is. That might be preferable to what I might suggest here. Because the thing about me, if I place myself into this situation, I really don’t like tiptoeing around things.

And while I wouldn’t want to press Lisa about what happened to her, based on the information that you’ve given me, I feel like I would really, really want to know, and I would really, really have a hard time— it’s not necessarily that I wouldn’t believe Lisa because her experience is her experience. But it’s the fact that, especially with the BDSM element that you mentioned — and even I think without the BDSM element — people fuck up. People make mistakes. And people have to be given some ability to atone for those mistakes.

It’s not a sustainable community solution. And I know that it’s a big thing especially within BDSM communities to be like “As soon as someone’s abusive we chuck them out and the community is all safe”. It’s not a sustainable solution. It’s really not, for all people because you create this environment and myself and any autistic person will be able to tell you there have been so many times when we have fucked up. We have broken some type of social rule. We have messed up, and not understood and people have responded by isolating us. And they have responded by kicking us out of spaces, sometimes not even telling us what we did.

I have gone through this on a social justice level of going into places, making mistakes, as we’re wont to do, and people’s responses, either being kicking people out, just absolutely trying to verbally eviscerate them, or just you know, as if we’re not yelling at people for the same mistakes that we made. I know this is a boundary violation. I know Lisa is upset about this. And I’m not saying that you need to force Lisa to confront Zach, but a frickin conversation needs to happen here. It just needs to happen.

And it’s a conversation, not necessarily between Lisa and Zach but a conversation between you and your husband and Lisa and Anna. I just I feel like it’s a little bit, you know… nobody’s talking, and we’re all trying to— and the thing that makes me a little worried is that I have witnessed people utilise this element that we have created— like I said in the discussion question I talked about. We, we need to stop recreating these unjust systems.

We live in a society that has an unjust system, a system that takes people who have done wrong things and bad things and I’m not saying that you know, yay, murder is great! No, but what I’m saying is that the system isn’t a just system the idea of separating a human being from from everyone, and closing them often segregating and humiliating them isn’t always a just solution and isn’t sustainable, you know.

Lisa’s still upset. And maybe there’s a conversation that can happen where Zach can understand that what he did was wrong and if he is someone who was willing to listen, if he is someone who is willing to say “oh shit I’m sorry”. You have to at least give somebody that chance. Like, you know, I’m not trying to tell you to tell Lisa what to do. Lisa has to decide. She’s perfectly in line to say, “Listen, I don’t want to hang out with him. I don’t want to be around him”. I’m in the same way about some people.

People who I gave the chance to apologise, who did not apologise and who decided to continue their behaviour. I wish the best for them, but I don’t want them near me, and I have the right to say that. However, when it becomes about “loyalty”… I just feel like that is… that is something that needs to be discussed. It’s not about telling Lisa that she has to tell Zach that he did something wrong, so that he— I mean… I feel like given the additional information that you’ve given me about exclusion from communities and spaces… I just feel like people fuck up. If he hasn’t apologised for it then you need to dump him. If he’s been told that he did something wrong and he refuses to acknowledge it, even if he’s nice to you, I think I… yeah I’d be done with that. And it’s hard because nothing’s happened to you thus far with him.

But it sounds like, from the additional information that you sent to me, that he has no fucking clue that something bad has happened. Maybe there is a Lisa out there for me. Maybe there is someone whose boundaries I’ve violated who is not telling me that. I can’t fix that. Nobody can fix things that they don’t know about. I’m not the kind of person that would be like “Okay. Fuck you, I don’t care”. Like, I’m not that kind of a person. The second that I find out that I fucked up, I try my best to apologise. I don’t get it perfect. I’m not perfect.

But in the past in situations where I have— someone’s basically told me “You have violated this boundary. You made me feel bad or you did this”. I have tried to apologise. I’ve done my best, and I have tried to learn from that experience. You kick somebody out of the community like this and especially if they don’t know, like, if they are– if they don’t apologise and they refuse to listen then fine, I don’t have any problems with saying, “Fuck this person then”. If they can’t be arsed to be, you know, if they if they can’t be arsed to actually say that they’ve done something wrong and actually do something about it, then that’s fine.

It doesn’t sound like this has been a situation with Zach. I’m not saying he didn’t fuck up. He probably did. There is a brilliant person on Instagram named KinkyBlackEducator, I believe that’s their Instagram username and basic guides about BDSM that they put out talk about how consent violations can and do happen. And we just have to talk about it in some way. And like… again, I’m not telling you that you need to tell Lisa that she has to confront Zach. That’s not what I’m saying. But you got to talk about this loyalty thing.

You can totally honour the boundary of not having to have Zach   anywhere near Lisa. That’s fair. But it’s not fair for your husband to basically feel like he can’t be friends with Zach and can’t even interact with him without that being some insult to Lisa. Like that has to be discussed. And maybe in that discussion you can put forth the point that in your interactions with Zach and surely in Anna’s interactions with Zach, he’s never done anything and it’s not to say you don’t believe her but it’s that maybe he would apologise. Maybe all of this trauma could be resolved, or at least some type of justice can happen, rather than just, you know, locking him away. Maybe we can actually solve the problem. You know what I mean like, I just think that that is to me what accountability is and what needs to happen more often in communities that isn’t happening in so many communities.

In so many communities, it’s like you fuck up once and BLAH. I just feel like, especially when you’re talking about, you know, nobody walks out of the womb knowing how to, knowing all the tips and tricks on everything. We all fuck up. We all make mistakes. It is not—Yeah, Okay I’m going on and on about it. Basically you get my point. I think that you can make that point. It just doesn’t work. And this is a good example of why it doesn’t work because now your husband is insulting Lisa by being friends with Zach and we— that conversation just needs to happen. And you need to figure out if that is actually how Lisa feels and understand that there are multiple situations I have been in Lisa’s situation.

I have had somebody who… actually I think I was lucky enough to—  thank my lucky stars I never had a scene with them but I have, I have been around somebody who showed me that they were very unsafe. And this was somebody who was a community leader. It was somebody who everyone loved, because they were very charming and charismatic and it felt like I couldn’t go to any community events they were at. It felt really hard because I didn’t want to, at the time I didn’t want to get them blackballed from anything.

I didn’t want to get them kicked out of anything, but I was frustrated by the fact that this person was continuing to mistreat people, and nobody was holding them to account. And so I can totally understand how Lisa feels. I think I asked you in a follow up questions to get a gauge on whether or not Zack is kind of popular and has some social capital to get away with treating people like shit constantly again and again and again without any— That’s the thing about this like a thing that we like to think that we do, which is that we get rid of people who are toxic, but I don’t think that that’s always true.

I do think that sometimes people have the social capital and the privilege to get away with being toxic again and again again without, without any consequences. So I understand being in that position. I understand.  I tried to avoid putting people in the position of defriending somebody just to prove their loyalty to me because I don’t like that. That loyalty thing is a bit… It’s a bit suspect, to be honest because. Yeah, I just, I just feel like even in that situation I understood why people were friends with them. I understood why and even in my personal life situations where people have sexually assaulted me, I didn’t necessarily blame people for still being friends with the people who sexually assaulted me.

So, I don’t think accountability and justice comes in the way of just completely isolating a person, especially if we if they’ve never been given the chance to actually know that they fucked up. And this is the kind of thing that I just think, you know, I feel like I’m going on and I don’t know if that’s really helpful. I think that that is something that’s worth talking about with Lisa, having that discussion with her. If she gets to a point where she’s like, “No, nobody your husband can’t—“. Basically tells your husband, who we can or can’t be friends with or threaten— you know then your husband has to make that decision.

I think I’d feel very uncomfortable… I feel very uncomfortable with people telling me who I can and can’t be friends with, because that isn’t a good sign for any kind of relationship. Any partner telling you who you can and can’t be friends with or basically creating a situation where if you’re friends with somebody, then they— I just yeah I just don’t think that that’s a good situation to be in.

So it’s a discussion that you and your husband need to have with Lisa potentially with Anna there too because she has also dated Zach. And I think that that’s an important key factor. And then I think that you’re going to have to think about a future where Zach can’t be as involved in your life, and you’re going to have to think about whether or not you want to tell them why. I would really really struggle to not tell Zach why. Like, I just would even if I thought it might lead him to have a discussion with Lisa, as much as she wouldn’t like that, I kind of feel like I would have— I would feel like that’s dishonest for me, like, like what am I going to say? Like how? Yeah, I just I think you need to think about are you going to tell Zach, because I think he will notice. I mean unless he’s the kind of person who’s like “Ahh I don’t need to be friends with your husband. I don’t need to hang out with all you whatever. It’s fine”.

If he’s that kind of a person then you kind of don’t really have a problem. It’s more or less just unfortunately, you’re in that situation. But if he does want to be involved and you’re sort of like “Nah, you can’t come to my house because…”. You have to keep making up excuses that basically creates a situation where you’re lying to him. And I yeah I would, I’d really struggle with that. I would just have to be honest with him and tell him like. I just couldn’t pretend like everything was fine when it wasn’t. So yeah, let me try and wrap up, and some up in some kind of way because I know I’ve just— this is a subject that I feel a lot about because I’ve been in so many situations and it’s a thing that I feel like, especially social justice communities we’ve— It’s just a thing that happens and I’ve seen…

I’ve been the person who is sick and tired of someone who has all of the social capital and treats people like shit continuing to be allowed to be in charge of everything. I’ve been the person who has, you know, been told that they fucked up three years later after the fuckup happened and just felt so frustrated that they just didn’t tell me when it happened and I could have apologised then and feeling all of this self hatred and shame for a mess up that I did and trying to learn better and am better now but just, yeah, I’ve just been on all sides of this. I’ve also witnessed people, people I care about, you know, get doxxed online because somebody decided to use these types of communities against them so I have a lot of feels.

Anyway, sum up. Let’s sum up and shut up. It’s a conversation you need to have with your husband and Lisa basically is what I feel like, and you need to figure out this loyalty thing, and figure out if Lisa can understand that you haven’t had a problem with Zach, Anna hasn’t had a problem with Zach, your husband hasn’t had a problem with Zach, you will not be forcing her under any circumstances to be around him in any way shape or form. But you have to be able to do your stuff on your own. It’s not fair for her to tell you all who you can or can’t be friends with, and you will be keeping a close eye on him.

And maybe offer some type of community accountability process, where if she doesn’t want to confront him maybe you guys can. Maybe you can make him understand what he did. And then, if she lets you do that, maybe you can see if he’s apologetic or not and if he’s not apologetic and maybe this whole point is moot. Because you’ll basically be like alright well you know that you’ve done this wrong and you don’t care. That will kind of make you figure out if he’s really safe or not to be around because just because— and I will add this as a major addendum, just because he’s been safe around you thus far does not mean he will not change.

There is a book which I constantly, constantly, constantly recommend called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft and I think that every single person should read it. Like it’s such an important book and it explains to you how abusive natures work. And there’s one thing in the book that’s just, like— there are a lot of abusive men who don’t get abusive until their partner is pregnant. How’s that for a mindfuck? Just because he’s not been horrible to you, doesn’t mean he can’t be. So, that is a very real thing.

It’s also very very very important that you not treat Lisa as if she’s lying. It’s important that you acknowledge her and  I feel like you have done but throughout this process of having this conversation with her. It’s important that you don’t take her complaints lightly. And last but not least I think that you need to accept that there may be a situation where you are just not, you know, Zach is not going to be in your life in the same way. Like if Lisa says, “Absolutely not. I consider it betrayal. I consider it a problem. I don’t want you interacting with him”, and your husband decides to comply with that. Then you’ve got to decide what you’re going to do. Are you going to be fine with that?

I mean, you might have to accept that that’s where the situation is. And if you decide to accept that’s where the situation is, then you know, are you going to tell Zach? Are you going to not tell him? So, I mean you don’t even know what it is technically that he’s done but you need to think about that as a real possibility if Lisa decides like “Nah I’m not I’m not having it”. Which is fair enough for her.

I’m trying to sum it up. I think that the loyalty thing is, and I don’t know— is this something that she’s actually said? Has she said “you cannot be friends with Zach” or has your husband just assumed that she would be upset if he was? So, you know, that’s why this conversation between all three of you needs to happen, because it’s— maybe everyone’s going on hearsay and no one’s actually having a conversation about it. And so that needs to happen. I tried to sum up, this is a… this is something that really affects me so it’s kind of hard for me to keep things 100%, like straight in my head, but I’ve tried to set everything up.  Hopefully this helps and good luck.

Possessive metamour

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over two years but have been in a BDSM dynamic for four years, we have always had an open BDSM dynamic due to not always having the same kinks but we opened up our relationship sexually a year ago.

In that time he took on more constant play partners, I am perfectly happy with this but some of the girls he goes with makes me uncomfortable, I always feel pushed out if our whole group is out together at a BDSM munch/event, as one gets really possessive over him and pouty when he pays me any attention. Especially when she gets drunk. The other is newer and is one who he has spoken to me about in the sense he would like to take things sexually with her. My issue with her is she has tagged him in pictures calling him daddy or if I’ve been in the room with his phone or laptop and seen her pop up I’ve seen parts of messages where she calls him daddy.

This is a dynamic I’ve discussed with him where we both agreed to be more open about due to its nature. I’ve pulled him up on this and he said its a joke as she calls anyone she is close to daddy/mummy in a baby voice in certain situations. Since the pandemic he obviously can’t see anyone but me cause we live together, but I can hear their phone conversations as I move through the house and it sounds flirty and cute, which doesn’t bother me at all but the conversation goes dead until I leave the room and I am out of earshot, which makes me uncomfortable and paranoid, as I’ve already had one relationship where things were hidden. I don’t fancy another.

I feel like it’s my own fault I feel uncomfortable as I met them weeks after he did due to missing a few events cause of my own issues.

I like the girl that he likes as a friend she is really friendly and we talk alot about common interest and I’ve been helping her try and think of a birthday present for him and I am happy for them to have whatever dynamic they have I just want to be informed.

He hasn’t even really changed with me either, he is still cute and loving, but a bit more protective cause of the pandemic cause I’m classed as vulnerable.

What should I do? And the paranoia just all in my head?

One of the interesting but semi-unfortunate aspect of polyamory or an open dynamic is that you can see all of the different types of people you partner dates. Because we live in a society that convinces us that we have to consume in order to be the “best” to attract “the one”, we often believe that we have attracted the person we were with because we are talented in some way… and sometimes, given the types of people our partner dates, we learn differently.

You don’t have to like the people your partner dates no more than you have to like the people your partner befriends. What’s needed are some boundaries and some better behaviour on the part of your partner. It wouldn’t be acceptable for one of your partner’s friends to be possessive over him and get pouty when you’re all out in public together, so why is it okay for anyone else? He needs to put his foot down when it comes to you being within a group and advocate for you rather than allowing you to be pushed out — or you need to find another BDSM group (though I don’t know how useful that is in your area).

When it comes to the other person, I think that you need to put some boundaries around yourself and how much you’re involved in a friendship with her if you notice that you’re dwelling on what she’s doing online. Her messages to him are technically private and you shouldn’t be looking at them unless she’s agreed to that. And I could understand why, if you have a proclivity to read his messages, he is unwilling to put anything on display that might cause you to question his honesty.

A big part of this problem is your previous experience of having a relationship where things are hidden. In response, you’re attempting to prevent that happen by creating this rule that you “stay informed”. You’re under the impression that somehow you can spot someone being dishonest to you and prevent yourself from being hurt again. On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. Your brain is trying to prevent you from being hurt again. But the problem with this line of thinking is it places the burden of preventing someone from lying to you on your shoulders.

The result is that you become paranoid and afraid of everything and also that you must conclude that the reason that your previous relationship didn’t work out was because you failed somehow — which isn’t true. Whomever was dishonest to you in the past, you are not to blame to that. You cannot prevent this from happening to you again ultimately. You are going to have to make the scary leap of faith and trust that your partner will let you know if something will change and be honest with you instead of trying to spot something yourself.

Finally, this rule of being “informed” is probably not going to serve you well because it sounds nebulous. Not everyone can pinpoint when they start to develop deeper feelings for someone. And she may have deeper feelings for him than he does for her — which he also can’t control. Ask yourself what this rule is meant to do. What is it meant to prevent? What do you want to be informed about?

Maybe what you need to do is have a conversation with your partner when your expectations around how often you see him change or when he may have a regular partner because that may alter your schedule. Have a talk with each other about your ideals and see if you match up. Maybe you only want one other partner but he wants several. Having a realistic idea of what it is you might be aiming for in terms of having an open dynamic might be helpful.

And lastly, don’t blame yourself for being afraid. You’re allowed to be afraid, especially given what’s happened to you. See if you can find a polyam friendly therapist that might be able to work on some self-soothing techniques with you when your anxiety starts kicking into overdrive.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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