Episode 18: Monster of a Metamour

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

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

Episode 18 – Monster of a Metamour

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

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

Podcast transcript

Letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

What to do with a controlling metamour

I’ve been in a non monogamous relationship with my girlfriend (A) for almost a year now and I have been having some major issues with her other partner (T). It’s a long story but I really need some advice on this before I make a decision on this.

A and I have known each other for almost a decade but we finally became an official couple about a year ago. Within the months we’ve been together, her other partner, T, whom she’s been with for almost 4 years now has made my relationship a mental and emotional roller coaster. At the beginning A explained to me their guidelines and how poly[am] relationships work. Being open minded and wanting to be with A, I accepted the guidelines and we became a couple.

A wanted both of her partners to get along as she hoped that we could all live together if I lasted for about a year into the relationship. I tried to be friendly with T but I always got this negative and awkward vibe from him. I honestly had no interest in him but I respected him from a distance. After a while I finally told A that I feel like she’s forcing us to bond and its causing me emotional distress. She was upset that she couldn’t get what she wanted but she accepted that it would be best to keep us separated.

Neither T or I want anything to do with each other and I was content with this. Everything was okay until we all went on a camping trip together along with some of their friends. Things took a turn for the worst and A and I were on the point of breaking up. After we took some time apart, we talked about what happened that night and how we felt and came to a deeper understanding of one another. We decided not to break up but to use that night as a lesson that would make our relationship stronger. But for T that wasn’t good enough. He refused to let A continue being with me and said that we can only be friends. T was on the brink of leaving A if she continued to be with me.

Despite us being on good terms, A was afraid to tell T because she feared not only would he leave her but kick her out of the apartment. I still live with my family (whom they don’t know of my relationship with A nor my homosexuality) so her living with me was sadly out of the question. I told A to choose him so that she can have a place to stay. So for a long emotionally damaged month we were just friends… I begged her to talk some sense into him that he can’t control a relationship that isn’t even his. But after she did, he gave her rules that both her and I HAD to follow or else our relationship was over.

One major rule being that I was not allowed to set foot in their apartment. So A and I went from seeing each other 1 to 3 times a week to once a month or two months. And on top of that we have to come out of pocket in order to spend time with each other for more than a day. Its breaking me emotionally because my needs are not being met with the distance. Mentally because I stress out over how I can possibly progress in my relationship with this many obstacles. And financially because I can’t keep spending money just to see my own girlfriend when I need to be saving to get where I wanna be in life.

But talking to T myself is pointless because he told me himself that I should be grateful that he allowed us to still be together. But also that he never liked me (even before we officially met) and that nothing I can say or do will change his mind. And A recently brought to my attention that T has been talking badly about me to all of her friends to the point where they don’t like me despite them never meeting me/knowing me at all. Her friends mean a lot to her and she wants to bring me around them but because of what T has done she feels she can’t.

She is aware that our relationship is strained and that its not going to progress because T refuses to let go of what happened while we were camping (even though what happened wasn’t technically my fault but that’s an even longer story all together) but is also conflicted because she doesn’t want to lose him. She said she’ll talk to him on a “good day” but who knows when that will be. T suffers from really bad anxiety because of how he was raised, which I understood seeing as I lived a very similar life myself (I also have anxiety and depression) But we deal with our demons very differently.

He relies on marijuana to keep his emotions under control, bottles up emotions, repeatedly vents without seeking a solution to the problem. While I prefer to analyze my emotions, find the reason behind it, recognize the triggers and find a solution to the problem as well as accept my issues. I understand where he comes from but we butt heads too much to find a solution to this problem.

And A fears talking to him again about me because she thinks he might leave her this time. In all honesty, I may end up walking away from all of this… I love this woman with every fiber of my being but in the corner is this bad omen she calls a boyfriend. I don’t know how much more I can take. And it being that A and I are almost a year together, things will become more serious between us. I don’t want to get this far into our relationship just to give up on it all. I don’t want to give up on her.

I do apologize for the length of this, but I needed to explain as much as possible so that I can get the most accurate advice. What should I do? How should I go about handling this?

First, I want to say how sorry I am that you’re in such a difficult situation without a lot of options. There a few issues here that I want to address:

  • Isolation and abuse
  • Rules, boundaries and vetoes
  • Dealing with mental health struggles in polyamory

Isolation and abuse

There is a lot to unpack here and some of it I think could be potentially excused by people who are new to polyamory especially if, as you say, they’ve grown up with a difficult background and struggle with anxiety and expressing their emotions.

However, there is a huge problem here that no amount of mental health struggles or lifetime of difficult experiences can really excuse and that’s what is, to me, a clear attempt by T to isolate his partner. I wish you had gone into detail about what had happened at this camping trip which might make the boundary of him not wanting you in the house more understandable, but it’s when you said that T is attempting to spread rumours about you to your partner’s friends so they don’t want to meet you and that T says that you should be ‘grateful’ that he ‘allowed’ you to be with his partner… all of this is very worrying.

I’m not an expert on abusers. I know that one of the first things abusers do is attempt to isolate their victims by driving wedges between the person their abusing and the people they could reach out to for help. And this quite often happens so slowly and subtly that the person being abused may not realise it. His manipulation of the situation and the language of ownership he uses over your shared partner is especially worrying. It makes me think that he is doing this purposefully and, as soon as you’re out of the picture, he will focus on another friend A has. And another. And another. And perhaps their family. Until no one is left but him.

I can’t say for sure if this is what will happen, but I do have to say that this is a red flag that is worth paying attention to. And it is for this reason that I’m advising you on how to approach your partner about this, which leads me to the next section.

Rules, boundaries and vetoes

Had there been no signs of isolating A and T was just a reactionary jerk, I would have advised you to put more effort in making sure A actually puts their foot down and sets their boundaries with T and less effort into worrying what T does. But the problem is that, if A is slowly being sucked into what will eventually become a seriously abusive relationship, you demanding that A get rid of T for what he’s done will just make you like T in a way, another person putting demands on her.

It is fundamentally ridiculous that T has any say in A’s relationships. I don’t even personally feel that such a setup can be described as ‘non-monogamy’. Non-monogamy requires the consent of all parties to work. When one person decides for someone else who they can date and see in such a way where they claim they are ‘letting’ their partner date other people, that’s not non-monogamy. That’s just abuse and control.

You both don’t get along, and that is fine. It would also be fine for T, as unfair as it may seem, to not want you in their shared house — that is T’s house just as much as it is A’s and, depending on what happened at this camping trip, I can see it being reasonable for them to want that. However, the language T uses around this makes at seem as if they own their partner, which isn’t really acceptable. And if T wanted to say to A that he disliked you so much that he would dump A if they continued to be with you, that’s not necessarily controlling or a problem — T does not have to smile and nod about everything a partner he has does and he is allowed to not want to date A if he dislikes you that much.

But he isn’t allowed to treat A as his property. I would normally say that you need to expect A to stand her ground more. Unfortunately situations like this do arise and sometimes, if someone forces someone to essentially pick between two people, they have to pick. I would have also advised you to consider that, when A decided you are ‘just friends’, to accept that she had made this choice and consider moving on. But the fact that T is speaking in this way and being manipulative makes me think that it’s not that easy for A to leave T, and it won’t be. On average, it can take someone up to seven times to leave an abusive partner. And she may also be dealing with her own mental health struggles as well, which brings me to the next point.

Mental health struggles and polyamory

I write a lot about how struggling with mental illness impacts non-monogamy because growing up in certain environments can make it difficult to do some of the things that polyamory 101 advice suggests you can do easily. People can take it for granted when they grew up in a loving, supportive environment how much that impacts their ability to communicate and negotiate their wants and needs.

But I want to make it clear that acknowledging that mental health plays a role in how we communicate or the struggles we face in no way means that individuals are not responsible for their actions. T may very well struggle with a lot — a great many people who hurt other people do have their own challenges. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. But that doesn’t excuse his behaviour here.

The bottom line is that he is a controlling partner and that’s not acceptable, regardless of his mental health problems. If he’s going to take responsibility for that, then he has to be willing to take some steps to change his behaviours, but something tells me that he is not going to do that. All of the things he’s done in terms of the demands he’s made on A, the controlling of her relationship, the manipulation of others against you, as well as the comment about you being grateful he’s ‘allowed’ you to be with her are really, really telling and no amount of mental health struggles someone has excuses that.

So what do you do with an abusive metamour?

Right now, you’re in a very difficult situation, but I think that it would be wise for you from an emotional standpoint to separate yourself from it, as painful as it can be, while still holding some space for A to reach out to you if she needs help. Sometimes an abuser will make other people’s lives so difficult around the person they want to abuse that they leave, and that’s the goal. And from that you may want to stay around and make sure that A is okay, but fundamentally you also have your own mental health and well being to think about.

The action of leaving this relationship, whether it is or will become abusive or not, has to rely with A. You cannot force her to leave him. You cannot force her to recognise that T is not a good person for her to be with.

And the more you try to force her to see or do either of those things, the more you will become like T in terms of trying to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. She has to take that first step. You cannot take it for her.

What you can do, is make absolutely clear she knows that she can call on you if she wants to escape from that situation and that you will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Even if she may feel angry at you for leaving this situation or feel sad, if you make that clear, you will give her what she needs if and when she decides to take that first step.

If you’ve never read “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, I definitely recommend you read it ASAP. It will give you some insight into the mind of people who behave like T and it will also give you some good insight into how to help people in A’s situation. Everything I’ve learned from what I’ve read on abusive relationships, regardless of how ‘serious’ they are, is that you cannot force someone into leaving a partner who is trying to control them like this.

You may be very tempted to stay and I can understand that, but I really do think that it will only do you more damage in the long run. The best thing you can do is separate yourself from T and this situation, provide an escape route for A when she wants to escape this situation, and go your separate way. It will be much easier for you to provide support and help when A does decide to leave T if you are in a good place. Choosing to be witness to more of T’s manipulations and behaviours will not do anything but bring you down and won’t make it any more likely that A will leave. In fact, I think staying around would likely make A not understand how serious T’s behaviour is and might just create an environment of complacency.

I know this isn’t the most desirable outcome for you and I know this might be very difficult to hear, but I think that this is the best way forward for yourself and, eventually, for A. There isn’t anything you can do to repair their relationship, force T to get help for his issues, or help A realise what’s going on and really, some of that stuff isn’t and shouldn’t be your responsibility. It’s going to be difficult for you to do, but I do earnestly think it will be better in the long run.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Episode 9: Winning Gold Medals

Are you giving your partner a gold medal for doing something they should be doing anyway? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Episode 9 – Winning Gold Medals

Are you giving your partner a gold medal for doing something they should be doing anyway? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

You should also be able to find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

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:

Me and my boyfriend are together for over two years and living together for almost one, both of us had previous experiences with non monogamy so it was a non brainer and since the beginning we have an arrangement of being each others primary partner and having secondary sexual partners.

But maybe because it is my first long term relationship it is also the first time I experience jealousy, we mostly deal well with it with lots of communication and all, but I fear I may be taking some of the fun for him and it makes me feel really bad because he works hard to give me the most amount of fun.

One of my biggest issues is that he doesn’t really like having one night stands or casual sex, he prefers friends with benefits because he needs to enjoy talking with a person in order to want sex. I actually have no problem with a friend with benefit he has since before we started dating, my problem is when he is flirting with someone new.

We actually had an argument over the last person he was interested in because he wanted to bail on a date he had with me to have a date with her, we solved it but in the end he stopped pursuing her, because of the argument but also because he was already losing interest for other reasons. Well it was almost a year ago and after that both of us only had sex with someone else when we had a threesome.

For context neither of us really had tons of sex before it, I had with 5 people and he had with 2 and the fact we live together now also plays a part in making it harder for either of us to have sex outside the relationship. But I can’t stop feeling guilty about how I reacted when he was looking for someone and feeling that I am the reason he doesn’t look for other people anymore, My boyfriend tells me he is fine, because I have a higher sex drive he is very much satisfied with me and does not feel like looking for other people at the moment and says it is okay if I do, I actually feel ungrateful because he knows and respect me so much that he will go out of his way to help me feel comfortable with my sexuality and with the fact that I am a highly sexual person, he introduced me to a non monogamous community and loosed up one of his rules in the relationship.

He does all of this and I could not even give him some support in his pursuit, in the end I feel a bit sexually frustrated because I miss having sex with other people but at the same time I feel too guilty to have sex with other people, I really don’t know how to deal with those feelings.

Response:

So there’s a couple of things going on in this one. First off ,it’s not uncommon and it is absolutely on 100% fine that you and your boyfriend are different in terms of how you like to do relationships or even hookups. That’s absolutely fine. I am in a similar situation but reverse. I’m the kind of person where I don’t really do casual hookups or things like that. I kind of prefer to have relationships with people and that’s… It’s even weird to say that to me because I feel like saying that means that the relationships that my domestic partner has with the people that he considers more casual aren’t as deep when they may be. But I kind of like to have that you know… we’re in a “relationship” and there is… what it means to me is there’s like more emotional support, you know?

There’s a bit more commitment in what it looks like. My partner isn’t really like that. And it’s not to say that my partner doesn’t want to have relationships but it’s just that he likes casual things and that has a benefit for him. And that’s ok like… I think in the situation when you have kind of different motivations, it’s sometimes hard to understand one another and that may be why it’s hard for you to understand or feel like you can really believe when your boyfriend’s like “I’m not really interested in looking for anyone right now. It’s it’s not something I’m that concerned about.”

I think I still have the same kind of situation with my domestic partner where he’s sort of like, “Oh you should just go out me people”. Like…occasionally I get the urge to do that but sometimes it’s just like, do you know what? I just don’t really feel up to it. It can be quite hard. I’m not saying it can’t be hard to want casual things. I don’t know how hard it is because it’s not kind of where I’m coming from. But I kind of feel like from my perspective like… because I’m very romantic in how I pursue things it can get quite sad. And you know if you put a lot… if you want kind of the emotional investment and you kind of need that in order to have sex with someone… if you kind of emotionally invest in someone and then they pull away or it doesn’t work out it can be quite like emotionally difficult.

So I’ve definitely been in that situation. So I think firstly, a way to kind of dial down your guilt is to realise that your boyfriend has different motivations and that’s ok. And you don’t have to have the same motivations. And also you aren’t an imbalance. You know you might be interested in having more casual sex. That doesn’t mean that you… I kind of feel like you’re always almost weighing this up as a you know a tick box exercise, the way you kind of say say like I’ve had sex with five people, he’s had sex with two. Like it’s not a competition and you always don’t have to come out equal in terms of how many people you’ve slept with. If I had to come out as equal to all the partners that I had…  it just would never work. Just because I don’t tend to have casual things and that’s cool. That’s fine. So that’s like a first thing that will help.

A second thing that kind of jumped out at me is obviously the issue that you’re having is you mention two things: one, when your when your partner flirts with new people, that’s when you kind of have experience the jealousy. And then the other thing you mentioned was that your partner wanted to bail on a date with you, to have a date with another person. The first thing is the that jealousy and that fear over new people is totally… it makes total sense. I know a lot of people tend to feel like your emotions aren’t logical or that logic and emotion are two separate things but actually it’s quite logical in many situations to be emotional. Because you know, we’re not Vulcans. We’re human beings. A new person coming along… it’s something new and that’s scary and that’s an unknown and that is going to trigger a lot of fear. And that is totally understandable. So it’s actually, even though you kinda see this as jealousy… is a jealousy?

Are you really… I mean, we can split hairs about this all day because I have had discussions were I’ve split hairs about this all day… to me jealousy is wanting something that someone else has. That is to me what jealousy is. I feel like being afraid of losing a partner isn’t jealousy and I feel like such so much of the beginner non-monogamy advice is so much like… jealousy jealousy jealousy and when people in polyamorous relationships get asked questions by journalists and shit, the first thing that they ask is “Aren’t you jealous?”. Jealousy is like the big scary boogie monster that we’re trying to run away from and I sometimes think that any bad emotion, any sadness, any fear just gets automatically tarred with this jealousy brush even when it’s not actually jealousy.

I don’t think you being afraid of new people with jealousy. I just think you’re afraid of new things and I think you’re just starting together in this relationship. You don’t have your foundations set with each other, so you’re already going to be anxious about that. This relationship is new even though you’ve been together for a couple of years. It’s still new in some ways and I think you’ll find in my experience at least over time those fears get less and less. Because you’re kind of… once you’re with somebody for a bit of time and you have seen that they’re there for you and you’ve weathered problems and you still come out of it at the other, you stop feeling so afraid. But it’s perfectly logical to be afraid.

But another big thing here is, it’s not going to help your fear if you actually have situations where you are being replaced by someone. A big thing that I tried to… an exercise I try to encourage people to do is… would this bother you if it were a friend? That’s kind of a thing where I think it’s a good way to figure out: is it the person or the behaviour that’s actually bothering you? Because I kind of feel like if your partner bailed on you on a date you planned together for going out with a friend, you’d still be upset. So is it really about this person? I mean obviously like it being another romantic interest adds a little bit kind of a twist to the knife, but it doesn’t necessarily… it is not necessarily a nice thing for someone to do. And I think that’s a discussion that you need to have with your partner.

What are the priorities? Where… and maybe you guys need to think about you know… you choose polyamory for different motivations and sometimes it’s gonna be really really hard to understand each other’s motivations but you can get together and say, “ok what does it mean for us to be (if you call yourself) primary partners? What does that mean in real physical terms?” Does that mean that you can’t rearrange dates? Does it mean that you know… It’s kind of up to you what that means but you have to decide that and you have to understand your priorities and share your priorities and then situations like this won’t happen.

But when you have situations like this happen, then you are going to be even more logically afraid that someone is going to come along and replace you. Because you’ve grown up… I mean correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t know if you grew up in a different society than mine. But I would say most people in the same societies that I’ve grown up in, if monogamy is kind of the default, the idea is that you know being replaced is a thing that can happen. And that you know it’s a competition. And monogamy and and dating is all about being the best to attract the best partner. Even though that’s not actually the way people choose partners. But that whole thing is still going to be running in your head. So you’re still going to be afraid. And then when your fears can I come true… when you’re literally being replaced it’s going to reinforce them and it will take a while for you to dial it back.

Now this… the second thing I want to say is… or the third thing rather… Your partner, putting aside this whole bit in consideration for you… when you are replacing… I don’t know what the circumstances around wanting to replace you, or you know wanting to cancel your date for another person was. Maybe this was the only night this other person could do it. I don’t know. That was a bit inconsiderate but everything else to your partner is doing… like you’re kind of giving him this shiny gold medal for what this person *should* be doing.

You’re acting like he is going above and beyond. He’s not, with all due respect to him. I’m not trying to say he is not being a good partner. He is being a good partner and it’s what he should be. He should be emotionally supporting you. He should be not holding a grudge over you for you having a bad reaction. He should be supportive and helpful. He should be trying to work with you even though you have differences in how your sexuality works. He should be being supportive and you’re kind of acting like he’s been… “Oh my God he’s *so* helpful and I’m just as terrible human who has feelings and needs!”.

No no no no no no no no. He is doing what he should be doing, so stop acting like… first of all, stop acting like emotional support is like… a give and take where everything has to equal out. Sometimes one person needs more emotional support than the other. As long as that imbalance doesn’t continue throughout the entire relationship or for a very very long time and it isn’t a permanent fixture then sometimes a little bit imbalance just happens because… Like for example, say you know next week someone passed away in your family and you’re really really upset. You would need more emotional support at that time and it’s not like… He would be a terrible human being if he was like, “Ok I gave you all this emotional support for when your family passed away. I’m going to need to collect on a debt”. That’s not how this works.

It’s not a debt. It’s not… you know, you weren’t a bad person for having feelings or for making… even if you have no reason to dislike this person. Even if it was an outburst and you shouldn’t have reacted that way and yada yada yada… you allowed to be human and make mistakes. And that’s kind of part of living life and he has to… if he wants to have a relationship with someone that… you know if anyone wants to have a relationship with someone that isn’t you know… I mean, I guess you can have a relationship that doesn’t have any form of emotional support whatsoever. That’s fine if that’s how you want to do things. Doesn’t sound like that’s how you’re doing things.

So stop giving him super uber amounts of credit for just doing what he should do. I know you feel like all this guilt but like think about where this guilt is coming from. Because he is doing what he should do and you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about that. You don’t owe him anything. You don’t owe him recompense for you know… it is not how this works. If you stop thinking about it as a competition then you know it makes you go “oh ok well he’s doing what he should have been doing, so why do I have to feel guilty about the fact that he is not going out having loads of sex with other people?”.

First of all, that’s not what he wants to do anyway and second of all like… it’s ok to feel like a little guilty. Like I’m not trying to urge you to stop all emotions in that way either. But if you… I think maybe you came from a situation in your life where you’re not used to people doing the basics of what they should do in in terms of emotional support and I’ve been there so I get that. I’ve been in that situation of like “Hey this person doesn’t hit me. They’re great at relationships.” But that’s not where you want to be, because this is what should happen.

Except for the whole ditching you for another person thing. That’s not what should happen. But the whole… being supportive of you should happen. That’s a good thing, so stop making it seem like he’s slaving every day over a hot stove while you’re out cavorting with the local bar… I don’t know. I’m trying to come up with a stereotype and it’s failing. But my point is he’s doing what he should be doing so don’t feel guilty about that. And the last thing is that you’re going to feel guilty and sometimes when it comes to bad feelings or feeling bad.. I shouldn’t say “bad feelings”. It’s not “bad feelings”. It’s feeling bad. You just have to go through it and it will get better. In my experience, whether it’s sadness, anxiety, all of that like… the only way to deal with it is to deal with it. So you’re going to feel guilty. Accept that you’re gonna feel guilty and try and your best to cope with it.

Because the thing about anxiety is that if you give anxiety an inch, it will take a whole damn mile and everything else to be honest. It will take more than a mile. If you try to avoid the things that make you anxious, you will just…  the amount of things that you can be around will shrink and shrink and shrink. And the amount of things that you have to avoid will grow and grow and grow. So… you’re going to feel guilty so just… try going out. Try meeting someone. Try having a casual thing and experience it. Feel the guilt. You’ll feel guilty but you’ll come out of it at the other end and I think when you realise that it doesn’t destroy everything and that you’re ok and that your partner isn’t resentful and it’s ok, it will get better. But I think if you avoid it… you keep avoiding it’s just going to keep… that guilt’s just gonna stay right where it is. So yeah unfortunately, you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and go through it.

To summarise like… it’s totally ok for you and your partner (or partners) to have different motivations, different reasons why you do polyamory or different ways of doing it. It’s ok that you’re into more casual things. You just have to kind of re-remember when you’re thinking about your partner that he doesn’t want the same things as you. So the fact that he is only had sex with this many amount of people when you’ve had sex with more is ok. If he doesn’t want that then he doesn’t want that. So try to remember that. Both of you are valid in what you want. It’s just you want different things and it’s really hard sometimes. I have a hard time thinking that…and I think any time you do have that kind of… it’s not incompatibility but it’s a difference in how you’re reasoning behind things. I think just bears keeping it in mind and remembering.

Second thing is that whole like being replaced… you know that bailing on a date with you to have one with someone else… again I don’t know what the circumstances were around it. Maybe that… he was having a date with someone and that was like the only night they could make it but you need to have a discussion about priorities and about what happened. If you need a polyamory friendly therapist, find one. But I think you need to address that and figure out why that happened and talk about your feelings about  it in order to figure out how to stop it from happening again. Either by you working out circumstances were it ok to cancel or re-arrange dates or figuring out like… ok Tuesdays is our date night. No other plans on that night. So work that out.

Third, stop giving people gold medals for shit they should be doing. That I think will help your guilt a lot to be honest. Because I think so much of your guilt comes from the fact that he’s done so much for you and you’ve had this bad reaction like… your reaction is understandable and what he’s doing is what he should be doing so… stop giving people gold medals for things that they should be doing anyway.

And the last but not least, like when it comes to some of this guilt, you’re just gonna have to bite the bullet and go through it. I think once you kind of realise that what’s happening should be happening and he is… other than bailing on you.. he’s being really supportive and that’s what he should be doing, maybe some of that guilt will kind of dial it back a bit. But I do think that you might just… sometimes brains are trying to help and they’re not helping and you kind of have to go through it come out at the other end and say “hey I felt pretty freaking terrible but I survived and nothing terrible happened and I’m ok”. Sometimes you just have to do that with some of these feelings and then your brain will realise, “oh ok I don’t need to sound the alarm for this”.

I really hope this helps and good luck!

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Episode 6: Polyam in the Middle

What happens when your kitchen table polyamory attempt goes awry and you’re left with two loves who can’t see eye to eye. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below or on Libsyn.

Episode 6: Polyam in the Middle

When an attempt at kitchen table polyamory goes awry and two of your loves can’t see eye to eye. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

You should also be able to find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

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 have been married to my anchor partner for many years but we only opened up as Poly about a year ago. I entered into a loving relationship with my second partner a little less than half a year ago. she is also new to poly but has had a fair bit more experience than us.

in any event early in the relationship mistakes were made and conflict arose.. a few times. as the dust settled my it ended up that my second partner told my anchor she did not want to be friends with her and just wanted a civil and friendly courteous relationship.  which from her perspective was a fair boundary. my anchor and I prefer breakfast table poly and has a different interpretation of what that means.

So in the breakdown of their friendship my anchor got quite hurt feelings and feels that she cant trust her any more. this is fair because some things were said and implications made that were kinda mean and hurtful to her. I don’t believe any of it was meant to be hurtful but there was a lack of sympathy and gentleness.

My secondary partner wants little to nothing to do with my anchor partner because she finds her emotionally needy, dramatic and feels that no matter how hard she tries to assure her that she is not a threat she will always be perceived as such. so she set a boundary with my anchor and said I no longer have the energy to be friends with you so I am going to take that off the table.

So here I am stuck, deeply in love with each woman, fully able to see each others perspective but unable to help repair the damage. They are completely unable to have grace for each other and seemingly incapable of seeing each others perspective. from my position they are both right and both made mistakes and so did I. My anchor is now hurt because we both want kitchen table poly and now I am in love with a woman who does not want to be friends with her, and my other partner does not want to put energy into something that feels like a lost cause and an unending source of drama.

I feel it would be devastating to end a relationship with someone who treats me so well and loves me so beautifully, she brings me profound happiness when we are together. She loves and respects me and I bring a lot to her life as well. From my perspective in our relationship she has done nothing to deserve me breaking her heart.

On the other hand my staying with her is causing my wife to feel un-cared for, misunderstood  and it is a constant stress-or in our relationship. the three of us have a lot of combined friends so social gatherings are now super strained if the two of them are invited to the same space or event.

So, how can I make this situation better, I don’t care if they aren’t buddies. I don’t see it as an issue as long as they are nice to each other and treat each other with kindness and grace.

Response:

So there a few things going on here. First of all, what the heck happened? You know, you’re kinda tiptoeing around the issue. You’re not saying what was said and I think that is a big deal to me because, we both have stories from each side. One side saying, “Oh these people are…  this person is too dramatic” and the other person is saying, “Oh, this person really hurt me and I can’t trust them anymore”. Which is quite a big thing you know. It’s one thing for like things to get out of hand. One can call each other a dick head or whatever and the other to be upset about it. But it’s quite another thing for someone to not trust them anymore.

So it’s hard for me to really know who is… not necessarily “in the right” but who is necessarily… Specifically whether or not your wife has… it’s understandable for her to feel betrayed by you  continuing to have this relationship with this other person/. Because from my perspective, your relationships are your relationships and it’s not really anyone’s business. However the big thing that you’ve said… and you’ve said “breakfast table polyamory” and “kitchen table polyamory”… And I actually looked this up because I had no idea what this was.

And for those people who don’t know, so “kitchen table polyamory”…  let me actually see if I can pull up an official definition from what I got from when I looked it up… kitchen table polyamory was basically the idea that like you.. hold on, let me… kitchen table polyamory… and I’m going to say polyamory because I don’t say “polly”… the idea that even if you don’t have a direct romantic relationship with your partner’s partner they’re still important to them and thus like family to you.

This is one of those moments that I have where my complete difference to so many people in this community really stands out because the term “like family” and the idea of it being like my kitchen table where I grew up is not a good thing to me. I wouldn’t want my relationships to be anything like the relationships I have with my family or what happened around my kitchen table growing up. But I get the gist. I get the idea that you’re still close. You have a close friendship and it’s a nice idea but I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to get along in that way.

And this is the thing that… you know people say when you’re get involved in the polyamory community usually people say “There is no right way to do it, there’s no one right way”. But stuff like this makes it seem like, while there may not be a right way but there is an ideal that people are aiming for. And I get the idea like it’d be great if everybody got along and there wasn’t any fighting and there wasn’t any drama and people just loved each other. Wouldn’t that be great? And if ifs and buts were coconuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

I think it’s slightly idealistic, and maybe that’s because of who I am. Because I mean…  I know that you’re not dating me but I know from just who I am that I can be an extremely disagreeable person. I don’t get along with people very easily. I don’t really like socializing and I have put myself in this position in the past, forcing myself to be friends with someone just because they were dating my partner and it made me freaking miserable and I hated it. And I actually I became more bitter and I said like one of the cattiest and horriblest things I’ve ever said to a person is something that I said to a met amour because she was basically forcing me to be friends with her and I didn’t want to do that. And I hated it and I resented it.

So it’s never a good… it’s a nice ideal to shoot for but to make it so much that you are not allowed to have a relationship with somebody else unless your anchor partner is best friends with them… is just it’s not really fair and it’s not really realistic. And like you said you’re now put in this position where it seems like you’re in the middle and you know when one person is has a fair boundary and now it seems like your wife is kind of saying you kinda have to split up with this girl or she feels I’m uncared for and misunderstood… And you know, it’s hard for me to say because you know on the surface just looking at the situation it does seem unfair.

It’s not as if… I don’t know what what your secondary partner said. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know went down. Maybe your secondary partner completely insulted her and because I’ve also been in situations like that. I’ve also been in situations where my partner is friends with someone who insulted me on a massive level to the point where I don’t talk them anymore and I’ve blocked them and I don’t want to be around them. And I don’t even want to hear my partner talking about them because I don’t like them. And it took me awhile to get to a point where I didn’t feel like my partner, you know, being friends with them was some type of a betrayal.

Because it does sometimes feel like that. If you’re with someone and they witness you being hurt, you would hope that… if you witness someone hurting your wife, you know, coming up to your wife and saying, “You suck. Fuck you.” You would kinda, “Hey!”. It’s not necessarily your business but, you know, it’s your partner. To a certain extent, it’s not necessarily that you have to make a rule that no one’s allowed to ever be mean to your partner or that you’ll never be friends with anyone who doesn’t like your partner because people don’t like each other sometimes.

But it’s that… you know, I can see a situation where this secondary has said something that’s really hurt her and you haven’t stood up for her in any way, if it was personal, and her feeling a bit betrayed by that. Like I can also see that side. Because even… they don’t have to get along and your right, it’s not an issue that they aren’t best friends and they should be treating each other with kind of “grace”. Well, I don’t know “grace” sounds a bit meh… But at least being, you know, civil and friendly and not insulting one another. I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to expect but at the same time… I really want to know what was said.

Because there are people in my life who have insulted me or hurt me to the point where I don’t want to be friendly with them. I don’t even want to be courteous with them. I don’t ever want to see or talk to them and that’s my boundary. And it does… if my friend were to date them or if my partner were to date them it would hurt a little bit. So yeah, on the whole I see what’s going on here.

First thing is… you and your partner really need to talk about this “kitchen table polyamory” thing. This is what you both want but is it… you need to discuss that. What does that mean? Is it something that you both want to the point where you’re going to destroy any relationship if not everyone’s best friends because it just doesn’t seem fair or realistic to either of you. So you need to talk about that. Independent of this relationship with this other person you need to think about what that means, because it’s also, if you think about it, it’s also really fucking daunting for someone. Think about you going out to date a new person. Imagine if, not only you have the stressors and you have the kind of whole emotional situation of meeting someone new and starting a relationship with them and you know.. How do we feel about it other and how deep is this going to go? And what’s going to come of this?

And then on top of that you also have to be best friends with their their partner? It’s not really fair and it’s a really awkward ass situation to be in as a “secondary”. It’s kind of a shitty situation to put a secondary in cause maybe they’ve got their own business and their own things and they’ve got plenty of best friends and they don’t want another best friend. That’s perfectly fine so I think you guys need to discuss this because I get the idea and it sounds nice but just because it sounds nice doesn’t mean it’s realistic or that it’s a fair thing to ask of someone coming into relationship or even a good expectation to put on yourself.

Because it’s very possible that in the process of wanting this “kitchen table polyamory” thing you’re putting someone under pressure to be best friends with your wife and that’s actually causing these conflicts, to be honest with you. Like me being forced to be friends with someone will cause me to have a conflict with them more than it would if I just was going to be courteous with them in and you know just like every other other person that I meet. So you might want to think about that one.

Second thing I think that… I think it is hard for me to say whether or not the feelings of betrayal are unnecessarily founded or not. I think that both sides can have boundaries because right now  the only person that has put forth their boundary, and a fair boundary, is your on your girlfriend or your secondary. She’s put forth a boundary that’s perfectly fair. She doesn’t have to be friends with your wife. She is fine. She’s established that she doesn’t feel it will work. She doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s willing to be courteous and isn’t trying to start anything on. But that’s her boundary and that’s fine.

But you know what? Your wife can also have some boundaries too and maybe your wife’s boundaries are… I don’t really want to hear about this person so… if she’s so hurt by the situation that she’s doesn’t feel that she’s able to be civil and friendly and courteous. Then maybe what she needs to do is say, “You know what, I don’t want to really see this person. You go see them. Visit her house or go out. You go see her separately of this. I don’t really want to talk about it very much. If we’re in the same space or events, we will… maybe we’ll pretend like each other doesn’t exist”. And maybe that seems stupid but you know… if that’s going to make your wife feel better because she doesn’t feel capable of pretending to be friendly with someone who’s really hurt her, then I think that’s also fair.

Like I said, I’m in situations now where my partner is friends with someone who I fucking hate to be honest with you because they were intensely rude to me and I’ve blocked them on Facebook and I don’t see them. If I saw them I’m not gonna like… punch them in the face but I certainly won’t talk to them. I certainly won’t acknowledge them and I certainly won’t be friendly or courteous to them and if they came up to me and said something I’d probably say something like “You know I don’t like you. Why you talking to me? Go away.” And I’m… I’m ok to do that because I feel hurt by this person and I don’t want to speak to them. And until they are going to apologise to me for what they said I don’t want anything to do with them. And that’s fine and my partner can be friends with that person.

You know, there was a period of time where it was hard for me and I felt a little betrayed because I wanted my partner… I feel that way towards my partner. You know, if people insult my partner, I have a really hard time wanting to stay friends with them. If people hurt my partner… maybe it’s none of my business technically but it is my business because it’s my partner. I’m just… that’s how I am. I’m that way about my friends. You know, when people… it’s kind of almost bad because people attack me or insult me or insult my character and I’m willing to forgive them but the second they come for people that I care about… you know, that’s it. I am really… people hurting my partner or hurting my friends is not something I take very lightly.

So it’s hard for me sometimes to accept that… ok my partner understands that this person hurt me but doesn’t feel like it’s any of their business and doesn’t… you know, has this friendship with this person that they value and maybe doesn’t have a lot of friendships. And feels like they want to hold onto this friendship. I don’t… I know that nothing can be gained by forcing my partner to stop being friends with that person and I think that’s what your wife also needs to realise is that… her feelings of being misunderstood and uncared for and that someone’s not sticking up for her after she’s been hurt are perfectly valid.

She’s allowed to feel that way but she also needs to look at the situation say honestly would forcing you to break up with that person work? Would it work? Would you not be extremely resentful? Would you not be hurt? And she needs to kinda look at it from that aspect and you might want to talk about this with a polyamory friendly therapist together and work through these issues. Because it took a bit of talking between me and my— and this isn’t even someone might that my partner is dating. I think if it was someone… if they were dating this person it would probably be a little more difficult but I would still want to work through. We’d still sit down and we talk about it and I’d say “This person really hurt me”.

But when my partner explained to me, “Yeah, I do understand that they hurt you and I don’t think that was right. I don’t have a lot of friends. This is the value I get from that friendship and I don’t want to end it because I get a value from it”. And then I was able to understand and go ok.. Is forcing my partner to… control who they’re friends with or control who they date… is that going to inevitably work in my best interest? Maybe I’m coming at it from a completely selfish standpoint. But is it going to work? It’s not going to work. My ultimate goal isn’t to control who my partner dates or is friends with. My ultimate goal is to be happy and for them to be happy and for us to have a good relationship.

And I know that if I force them to not… you know, if I force them to break up a friendship that means something to them, that’s going to cause resentment. So you know, t’s a balance. If it gets to a point where your wife just literally feels like the fact that you aren’t angry that this person said these things to her… it might be something that for her is not workable. And that’s her boundary and that might be be a conclusion that she comes to. But I think that you need to think about explaining… “This is a relationship I value. I get a lot out of it. She has these boundaries. What are your boundaries? I can not talk about her. I can make an effort to try and go to things with you and go to things with her and not try to force you to be in the same environment”. Find out what boundaries would make her feel better.

But she needs to understand that forcing you to break up a relationship isn’t… she could do it and I think it would work. Like if she said “It’s me or this person,” I think you probably would pick her. But would that fix the situation? I don’t think so. Maybe she’d be happier because she’d never have to see this person again but you’d be miserable and maybe that is a hard limit for you. Maybe being forced to get rid of this relationship would damage your intimacy together so much that it’s not repairable.

So I think you guys need to talk this through with it with a polyamory friendly therapist. If I had a bit more information about exactly what was said, I think I’d be able to give a little bit more of an idea of whether or not… but either way like, if your wife feels these things, her feelings are valid. And you have to, whether or not they are “logical” or whatever, it’s important to recognise them and it’s important to work with them rather than against them.

But you need to kind of work out what boundaries can you put in place for her.. Or what, sorry, what boundaries she can put in place that will make her feel better. I don’t think from the other side… I don’t know what this secondary said, but I don’t think it’s… it’s certainly not an unfair boundary to say “I don’t want to be friends with you”. Because equally I think if you put your secondary partner in a position where she’s forced to pretend to be friends with your wife she’s just going to get resentful and then she’s probably eventually going to get sick of it and leave.

So yeah I I think you need to have a talk with your wife and decide about this “kitchen table polyamory” thing if that’s a realistic thing you want to aim. And also think about ways to make her feel that you do care for her and she feels misunderstood so… you know, try to understand her. Try to understand the situation. Try to make her feel like you understand her feelings and do that with a therapist that can help a little bit, if you can find someone. But yeah, that’s basically what I think would help out the situation and I hope that it helps. I’m really sorry that you’re going through this. It sounds really difficult and I hope that I hope that this helps and good luck.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Too good to be triad

I’ve been in a relationship for almost nine years, well, not exactly in 2017 we broke up. After the birth of our child life became hell, we had tons and tons of arguments, but the worst part for me at least was that she did not want any more sex with me. She suffered every time we had it, she started to hate man and liking women more (she always had crushes for other women, we had a couple of one night stand threesomes in the past). We always had more hetero normal friends and couples than any gay/lesbian friends, except for a small group of friends of hers that were lesbans, however after our child was born, she started to hang out only and ONLY with gay people. The relationship became alcohol abusive and violent until one night i found her in bed with another women and we ended b

My self esteem was on the ground, i felt so attractive and so gross for the fact that i turned my ex-wife into a lesbian! I even had some suicidal thoughts, but of course, when you’re a father you have to keep your shit together, i was able to recover my self esteem, and started dating again, and after some months when we fought about tuition and some separation issues we started to hang out again super nicely, she worked at home with another girl (which i suspected was her partner from day one). They seemed happy, and we had a really cordial relationship when i came only for visit one or two days in the month.

I had a lot of sex, at first due to insecurity problems i had to pay, but after a while i was again full of confidence and tinder girls and club girls and old girlfriends started to appear in my sex life that was before that destroyed.

I went to do a masters degree in germany for most part of this year, there i met an old girlfriend, there was always a sexual tension between, we knew each other from college, we started dating, and wow, what a relationship, more sex that i ever had, and not only the amount of it but also the quality of the orgasms, of the excitement, of the desire.

Eventually my ex-wife realised i was in a relationship and she started asking if i was happy, if i had forget about her etc etc. I said i was and that i really cared about her and our child, that i really used to love her very much, we cried over the phone, she said she wanted to pick me at the airport with our kid and ask me if we can try it again. I said to her it is too late.

Soon after she came out with her new girlfriend (which was of course the nice girl she works with). We started a life outside the capital city with my new girlfriend, but sometimes we have to go to the capital to do stuff you cant do in town. At first i stayed at some friends house, and only went (without telling her) to my ex wife’s house to play with my kid and say hello. Until one night i stayed there with them and had a couple of drinks, they both said that they have a crush on me, that they think i’m the best man on earth but that they are both into girls rather than men. I said i feel flattered but i cannot be with someone i cannot have sex with. Her new partner (the coworker) said to me, “i could have sex with you every day, you are handsome and smart and i think you are very attractive”. We laughed and i left, but of course with the whole idea in my head.

Later we started to have kinky video chats, they would answer my video phone calls without any clothes off, they would have sex on camera for me to watch, it was impossible for me to hold up any more.

In my next visit we ended up having sex, we were all pretty nervous so it wasn’t great (and i will tell you later why not), but it still was very romantic, with a lot of love and care, we cuddled and slept like babies, i never felt so loved in my life. We talked, my ex wife said i should break up with my GF, the co-worker said i shouldn’t cause it wouldn’t be fair cause right now (for working reasons) we cannot be together as a family (the three of us). So we ended up concluding we would keep the secret.

Two days ago we had another series of encounters, and this time it was mind blowing, awesome, the most pleasant, the most amazing, the most… i have no words to describe sex i ever had in my life. It was kinky but still with lots of love and respect, it was quite heavy to see in one moment, one on top on each other, rubbing their bodies, moaning of pleasure while i only watched but even if it was a little akward i swear i did not feel jealous in any moment, cause i felt i was being treated with lots of respect.

Now we have a plan, i have to finish a lot of stuff away from the city, i have to build a life here, that will take a couple of years, the thing is that nobody lives in this little town and i don’t want to be alone, that is why i don’t break up with my GF, cause i need her, but she would never understand this polyamorous thing. The idea is keep the triad until we can all move to the countryside and live the life we want without anyone messing around.

But i’m afraid

i’m afraid of hurting my new GF, she has been nothing but nice and complacent with me.

I’m afraid of being alone here

I’m afraid of going to a crazy party with my triad and that they end up having sex with other people without an invitation for me at the party (this is like feeling jealous, i don’t like jealousy i think this is the key for non monogamists)

What will my friends and family say? They already have a problem with my ex wife being a lesbian because a kid should have a straight couple as parents (yes both friends and family are huge conservatives, i’m not).

But most important, i’m afraid my ex wife will stop loving me at one point, cause t this point i’m starting to develop strong feelings for her again, and for our new partner too. Everything has been amazing till now, but everything is like that at the honeymoons. I really want to be with them, it is like a dream, but i’m afraid in the end it will be like that… a dream

Everything is new for me, i had thought for a triad for a long time but i didn’t even know the term triad. So a little advice would be very helpful, thanks a lot.

There’s a lot going on in this situation, but I’m going to try and address it all in these points:

  • Honesty and consent
  • Better self-awareness
  • Red flags and red marquees
  • Polyamory priorities and children

Honesty and consent

First and foremost, you need to be honest with your current partner who you’ve been cheating on. I understand that you don’t want to hurt her, but you’ve very likely already have. And there’s absolutely no point regardless in keeping this from her, regardless of what path you choose down the line.

One of the reasons I don’t say ‘ethical non-monogamy’ is for the same reason I don’t say ‘breath assisted swimming’. By definition, non-monogamy, as with monogamy, should be ethical and if it’s not, it’s cheating (and if you’re not breathing and swimming, it’s drowning). What you’re doing right now is unethical by monogamous or non-monogamous standards and it’s not fair or right to continue to lie to your current girlfriend. She’s consenting to a relationship with you on the basis that you’re exclusive and she has the right to informed consent and the choice of not being in a polyamorous relationship if that’s not what she wants.

Even if your girlfriend was amicable to the idea of polyamory, the fact that you’ve cheated on her and continued to lie to her might mean that, regardless of relationship styles, she will not want to pursue that with you. And even if she tries to pursue this with you, she’s going to be in an extremely difficult position to try and cope with newly becoming polyamorous on top of having metamours who encouraged her partner to be dishonest to her — and two of them on top of that. Especially if everything works out and you all end up living together in the countryside, that’s an incredible amount of pressure to put on a person all so that you can have your cake and eat it too — and it’s really not fair to her.

Tell her the truth. She deserves to know.

Better self-awareness

I’m not sure if you realise how obvious it was from the start that your ex was behaving inappropriately towards you, but from the start when she was asking you to try again once you were in a relationship, the red flags began flying to me. Throughout this entire interaction between your ex and her new partner, you had several opportunities to stop this in its tracks. You had several points where you could have put up clear boundaries that stopped this from happening. And you didn’t.

You said at one point ‘it was impossible’ for you to hold up, but I think part of you willingly walked into this situation and knew very well where it would end up, but you don’t seem to have the self-awareness to realise when something is clearly going too far outside of the remit of what’s acceptable and not acceptable. And regardless of what relationship style you choose in the future, this is going to continue to cause you problems. I’d honestly suggest you find a therapist who can help you better identify these situation when they happen because I don’t really feel like you’re as beholden to other people swaying you as you’d like to think.

Red flags and red marquees

Putting aside the ethical issues with cheating, I think you need to take a good honest look at your ex’s behaviour throughout this entire situation and ask yourself if this is the behaviour of someone you want to trust your life with. In the first instance, you broke up because she cheated on you and you say the relationship ‘became alcohol abusive’. I’m not sure if that means she or you became abusive, or both, but clearly there is a history between you both of dishonesty and damage.

You suspect that her current partner has been someone she cheated on you with the entire time and the second she learns you’re in a new relationship, she starts trying to get back together with you again. Despite knowing full well you are in a monogamous relationship, both she and her new partner take advantage of the fact that you are over at their property just to see your own child, and do their very best to convince you to cheat on your current partner.

And after successfully getting you to cheat on your partner, your ex tells you that you should break up with your current girlfriend — this is the biggest red flag of them all. If your ex wants polyamory, there is absolutely no reason to convince you to not only keep this a secret from your partner but also to break up with her. Which makes me wonder what the motivation is to separate you from your current partner.

You say that your plan is to move away from the city, perhaps away from some of the people you regularly rely on, and be in the country with these two people, which sounds to me like isolation, not a good thing. Is this actually polyamory she’s trying for? Or does she just want to, for some strange reason, collect you and keep you along with this other person who’s perfectly happy to engage in toxic behaviours along with her.

Is this really something you want to be a part of for the rest of your life? Is someone who has a history of demonstrating that they have no problem cheating on you with other people or helping you cheat on your partners someone you can trust? Is this someone who is setting a good moral example for your own child?

I get the fear of being alone, but sometimes being alone is part of life. It’s almost better for a person to experience being alone and learn how to be comfortable and happy within themselves than fall into toxic and abusive relationships or even just relationships that don’t make them happy because they think it’s better than being alone. Because the truth is, no horrible relationship is better than being alone if that’s what you need to be. Especially if it means going down a road that, in all honesty, does not look good for you.

Polyamory priorities and children

Throughout this whole process in deciding what to do with your life, it’s hard to see where you’re prioritising your child in all of this. I know this is a relationships advice column/podcast and you’re obviously going to be primarily focused on your romantic relationships but I’m slightly worried in all of this that your main priority seems to be sexual connections and excitement in what you decide to do with your life. I could be wrong about this, but that’s why I’m highlighting this.

Likewise, I’m unsure that your ex is prioritising your child in these exchanges either. You were together for nine years. I’m not sure when the child was born, but they could be anywhere from eight to nine years old and dealing with a lot of change in their life. Forgive me if I sound critical of either of your capabilities as parents because that’s not what I’m intending, but I’m really wondering what conversations have been had with your child about how things are changing. I’m wondering who is watching the child when you’re all three together and if the child is really being prioritised in all of this.

People are welcome to manage their relationships however they’d like, but I personally feel very strongly, based off my own experiences of dealing with people coming in and out of my life as a child, that when a person has a child, unless they decide to sever all of their parental ties, they need to prioritise their child above all of their other needs and ensuring that the child has a good life which includes a collection of stable adults to rely on. I don’t agree with your conservative family in that children need a ‘straight couple’. I don’t even think children need two parents. But having one dedicated parent that’s putting them first is much better than three parents who are not considering them as a huge priority.

I think it’s worth thinking about your child in all of this. If you’ve had previous issues with abuse or alcohol problems with your ex and your child, is your child safe in this environment? How would they cope with a move out to the countryside? What about their feelings if you try it with your ex again and her new partner and then you decide it doesn’t work? Have you considered how they might explain the situation to friends visiting their house or how you might explain the situation to them? It just doesn’t seem like the child is a big priority here and they really should be.

In summary

I think the first thing you need to do is be honest with your current girlfriend about your infidelity because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of your choices. Then I think you need to take a good hard look at your ex and her current partner’s actions and really think about whether or not this is someone you can trust with your heart again. Someone who cheats on you and helps you cheat isn’t exactly going to be completely trustworthy in the future. And then I really think you need to think about your child in all of this and how this impacts them, because they seem to have been left a bit by the wayside.

Definitely look towards seeing a therapist in the future to help you gain more self-awareness in identifying some of these patterns before they seem inescapable in the future.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Episode 1: Thruple Trouble

The first episode of Non-Monogamy Help is now out! Have a listen below.

Episode 1: Thruple Trouble

What do you do when you start dating a couple and things don’t seem to be going right… but that’s actually going according to plan? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. We’re working towards getting full audio transcription of our episodes. Please let us know if you need a transcript for this episode.

 

This episode does not yet have a transcript.

Please support this podcast and column

Even just $1 a month makes a massive difference, so I’d appreciate your help. In exchange for your support, you get the podcast and columns early and other bits of fiction-y goodness I put on Patreon.

Please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation.

Do you have a relationship question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

How to get a partner to tell the truth

I have a question that has been eating up my insides for close to two years now. I have reason to believe my partner is living as non monogamy but has forgotten or is in complete denial, to actually tell me this. What should I Do? I do not and will not live a lie while they look for other partners. I am monogamous. Otherwise, I will remain single, with out this partner. I can’t do it. I am starting to resent and I’m afraid, staring to hate my partner for not being open about their true wishes. We were always honest in the beginning, and I still am. But I’m 98% sure they are not. What should I do and how do I get my partner to communicate, to be truthful?

I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this.

People do not “forget” to tell their partners they are non-monogamous. Maybe once I could see that being an excuse. But other than that, what they are doing is cheating on you. That’s not non-monogamy. That’s cheating.

If you want to be monogamous, then you cannot date someone who does not want to be monogamous. You absolutely can be alone and I would actually advise you to, as scary as it may be, be alone than be with someone who is not giving you the relationship you want. If your partner is not being honest with you and you are unhappy, you should break up with them and find someone who makes you happy.

You cannot, unfortunately, force someone to tell you the truth if that’s not something they want to do. You’ve only been with them for it sounds like two years. You have plenty of time to find someone else. I would cut your losses and find someone who treats you better. Or better yet, spend some time alone and learn to be comfortable with being alone. Then it will be easier for you in the future to leave people who are not treating you the way you want to be treated.

I hope this helps, and good luck.

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Polyamory and needs

Before a month ended my last relationship which was with a solo polyamory person. He has been such for many years while for me this was the first such kind of relationship.

I grew up in a family which members have various type of relationships — from strictly monogamous to polygamous and polyamorous. So for me this situation wasn’t something I didn’t understand. Even the contrary I found it completely natural. For me it was important to be with a partner with whom we have mutual understanding and show respect, love and appreciation. I believe that all of this is a standard necessity in any kind of relationship (might not be right though).

We started with his statement that he is a solo polyamory person who doesn’t want to have hierarchy in his relationships because he is against a situation in which one of his relationships might dictate the rest. I was aware for all of his partners, I have always had friendly and positive attitude despite the fact that I never had the chance to be introduced to them (we have planned this and it never happened).

One of his partners was one of his closest friends. He used to describe their relationship as mainly platonic despite his need to change this. We had many conversations of how he could do this and I tried to be entirely friendly in discussion his problems with her, most of the time I showed only sympathy and when he needed an advice I was there to give it.

At some moment apparently what he wanted slowly and gradually turned to reality. Our meetings changed from spending a Friday evening and part of one of the days of the weekend to 2–4 hours a random day once in a week or in 10 days. He almost stopped initiating conversations except when we used to meet face-to-face. Here is the place to admit that in personal meetings our communication was flawless but only then. Outside of that we rarely had any unless I started it. We stopped having any dates outside his home. For months it was like that — one evening after work in 7–10 days.

Initially I thought — ok, maybe everything will get better with the time. But it didn’t. The communication deteriorated with every single day. He had some unfortunate events in his life — a health accident and he lost his job. I do understand that he was through very tough period. Therefore for the almost 6 months we have been together I didn’t allow myself to tell him more than 4–5 times that I am not happy with the fact that we spent together less time than we have initially agreed to. Twice I was strongly upset and I appreciate his patience and understanding.

Until we got to the day which was our last date. I wanted to cheer him up and to organise an evening which might distract him from his problems. We haven’t talked with each other for almost a week. And all of the sudden he started to tell me about a very sad situation his abovementioned partner had the last week. This became the main topic of our conversation. As much as sympathetic person I could be, I felt offended. I have done my best to make this evening pleasant for him, haven’t bothered him for a week (he needed time alone) and at the end in the few hours we had I had to be in the role of a friend but not a lover and a partner.

Later for the first time since we’ve been together he insisted each of us to go in their own home. I believe that then I made the biggest mistake in our relationship. Feeling intuitively that something was deeply wrong I became very upset and said that I didn’t want anything else except to spend some time with him. I wish I have never done and said this. That was the last evening we had together. After I left his home on the other day, in 4 days he sent me an e-mail in which he wrote that he didn’t see any future for us in the romantic context.

I just feel that I never wanted to lose him. And the most painful is that the fault for this was entirely mine.

I would be more than grateful if you tell me your opinion for this relationship.

I’m sad to hear that you think this situation is your fault when it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong.

In so many of the letters that I get, I see many people whether perhaps due to cultural influence or because of things they have survived in their lives, interpret some of the concepts in polyamory as “no one has any needs ever”. This is, yet again, one of the many problems I find with people who insist they do not operate any any form of hierarchy.

Fundamentally, I just don’t believe that is true. I believe that we can love and value multiple people in ways outside of the typical way that monogamous culture sets forward — but I do believe that because of our limited time and resources, we absolutely have to make real decisions about how we spend our time and what we prioritise in our lives. For pete’s sake, our own mental health and well being should be at the top of our own life hierarchies because we can’t help anyone as well as we can when we are fully healthy.

The thing that confuses me about this situation from the beginning is why your partner, if he was/is solo polyamorous, is involving you in the matters of his other relationships in ways that might put you in awkward positions. Of course we talk to our friends and partners about people we’re interested in. I would likely tell my domestic partner if I had a date with someone or if I had a crush on someone, but you seem weirdly over-involved here. He has this drive to change one of his platonic friendships into a romantic and/or sexual relationship and he’s relying on you for support and advice when… especially if he is solo polyamory and has limited time, you should be focusing on your connection, not his problems with other people.

Which isn’t to say he’s not allowed to have feelings or he has to compartmentalise them and pretend to be happy when you are together, but there are plenty of ways of cheering people up without being personally involved in their relationships and he got you way more personally involved than you really needed to be. What he needed for his angst about his pursuits was a therapist to speak to, not a partner.

And then it looks like what happens is he has a classic case of “sparkly shiny new person” and then promptly neglects all of his other relationships in favour of sparkly new person. And you are even willing to deal with that… over a period of six months, prohibiting yourself from even mentioning to him that you are unhappy, even though you very plainly are. And even though you have all of this self control, nothing changes… but you are happy with his patience and understanding?

You had every right to upset that, after a week of ignoring you (and I’m sorry but you speaking with your partner is not bothering them), you finally allow yourself to express your needs and his response to that is to then ignore you for a further four days and then break up with you via e-mail?

Goodness… this is an absolutely disgraceful way of handling this. He was downright neglecting you, but the important thing I want you to learn from this is that in some ways you were allowing him to neglect you. A lot of people in polyamory seem to think that they’re not allowed to have needs, emotions or feelings and that expressing these needs or emotions or feelings is “controlling” someone else. And add the whole “you are responsible for your own feelings” hogwash and you get this horrible cocktail where people constantly suppress their needs and feelings for someone else to be happy until they, inevitably, burst.

It can be very, very hard to know when an emotion is “legitimate”. I have been there. And I struggle so hard with this. The way I experience emotions is that they all kind of slap me across the face at once and then immediately after having them, these horrible voices in my head tell me that I am being dramatic, that I am overbearing, that I am controlling, and that I am ridiculous, etc. I struggle so hard to understand if my feelings are “legitimate” or my concerns are valid. Sometimes I have to ask people for help on this. I ask friends and I ask my therapist. And I am trying very hard to be able to feel confident in my own needs and emotions when I have had them invalidated throughout my life.

It’s not going to be easy for you in the future to understand that your feelings of unhappiness are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, especially if there have been people in your life who have dismissed the seriousness of your feelings or been uncaring to you about your needs. But what you need with this is a partner who can understand this. I have my moments where I don’t say what I need until I burst and I’m emotional and sad and crying and my partner has to deal with that — but my partner understands where this comes from and I am making and have been making good progress and trying to express my needs and feelings in healthier, constructive ways and let my partner know when I am unhappy when it happens, rather than waiting until I just can’t take it anymore.

Your partner was not supportive. Not throughout your entire relationship and honestly, when he decided to leave you, he did you a massive favour. You deserve better than this and it is not your fault at all. You did everything to try and be accommodating and, even if you could have done better at telling him when you were unhappy, the way he decided to manage this was very, very poor.

The pain is there because it’s sad and that’s legitimate, but it’s not your fault. Definitely seek out a polyamory friendly therapist who can work with you on identifying when you’re unhappy and trying to assert your needs to your partners. I feel like some of the pain you experienced could have been avoided if you were more explicit about what you needed earlier. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have bailed on you, but he would have probably done so a lot earlier because you wouldn’t have tolerated being used as his therapist instead of a partner. Your own therapist will be able to help you identify these behaviours in future partners and know when to demand more for yourself and when to even leave people who are not giving you the communication that you deserve.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Can you be monogamous in polyamory?

I found your blog and I’ve never been so happy to see anything in my whole life. I have a poly[am] boyfriend. For the past 6 months we’ve been monogamous(I was under the impression we were not). My bf decided he wants to have a more hierarchical relationship style with me as his primary. (I however am very monogamous but I’m open minded and I love him to bits so I decided to give a poly-mono relationship a go).

The conversations we had about it were nebulous as he’s always trying to leave all his options open. He always wants to eat his cake and have it. Ultimately, he said to me his secondary relationships would be casual relationships. After that conversation I had somewhat of a mental breakdown because my mind was telling me not to agree to it cuz historically, I had never been prioritized by him so what would change now? But my heart was saying well now he wants you to be his only girlfriend so why break up before even giving this new relationship style a chance?

I spoke to him about it and after him getting defensive and me ugly crying at him he realized that what I was saying is true and he said that he’ll do better. Regarding doing better he tries for like 2 days then reverts right back to his old self. On his free time he plans outings without me, he falls asleep on phone calls, he never texts me, never tries to make conversation with me. And I can’t be telling him every 2 days that he’s slacking off. The times that I talk to him about it he gets defensive and says things like he doesn’t know what I want him to do. I once said that it’s not fair that he asks me for whatever and I try my best to accommodate him but he hardly does the same for me. His response was that he knows it’s not fair but I’m the one that chose to be in a relationship with him.

He says that he’s like that because he’s always been self-reliant and none of his past relationships were as serious as we are so he had never felt the need to be communicative or expressive with feelings. What I’d like help with is I’m the most serious relationship he’s had and I’m not sure he knows how to be more committed than he’s used to. He’s explained that his past relationships didn’t work out because he didn’t know how hard it was to maintain relationships. However based on what I know he never tried to learn. My concern is that he was barely being a good partner when it was just me. How on earth will he keep up with more than me?

I’d also like some advice on how a monogamous person can have a fulfilling relationship with a polyamorous person. A mono-poly[am] relationship is far from my ideal but I’m still trying to see if this is something I can be happy with for the long term.

I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through with this, but your problem here absolutely is not whether you’re polyamorous or monogamous — it’s a fundamental lack of communication.

One of my favourite quotes is by Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”. I wholeheartedly believe that if someone ever says to you in an argument or at any point in a relationship that it is your fault that they are behaving the way they are behaving because you chose to be in a relationship with them, you take that statement exactly as it is.

This may be a simple mismatch of compatibility. It might be that your partner is more suited to other people he might describe as “self reliant”, but if he were truly “self reliant” in the full and proper sense of the word, he would not continue to drag this on and on. He would recognise that he is incapable of meeting your needs, be honest with you about that, and allow you to go about your ways and find someone who is capable. He isn’t self reliant. He is selfish. Big difference.

You are forcing yourself into a relationship style you do not want for someone who has repeatedly demonstrated to you that you are not a priority in their life. Ask yourself if you constantly want to have to do this for the rest of your life. You’ve only been with this guy for six months and already you’re having to remind him to communicate with you… it’s just not a good sign, whether someone is monogamous or not.

Honestly, you really need to stop investing so much of your emotional labour into someone who is so unwilling to even meet you 1/4th of the way, let alone half. You deserve so much better in this world and you will not have any kind of fulfilling relationship with someone who treats you so poorly. I dislike telling people what to do in terms of breaking off relationships, but this is very clearly a case of where you absolutely and fundamentally deserve better. I would go your separate way and find someone who deserves you.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.

Emotional support and polyamory

I am a 45yr old female (monogamous). Nearly a year ago I met a man who is 43 yrs old and identifies as polyamorous. I had never heard of it and was curious. At first I dismissed it as being an excuse to have several partners (sexual) but after he explained it to me (looking back his explanation was very much like what I’ve read about it rather than something from his own heart/mind) I started to
understand and despite reservations I began a relationship (of sorts) with him. He is a retired SAS soldier and seemed very put together — owns his own apartment (I too own my own home) and not at all flaky or insecure — this was very attractive to me. Our first date was amazing — Id never felt so comfortable and at ease with someone who I was also attracted to romantically and I felt like Id known him forever — our first kiss was incredible, it was difficult for us both to say goodnight and not take things to the bedroom.

A couple days later we had our second date and he stayed the night with me — again, amazing, it was an incredibly intimate and passionate experience and I knew then that I would develop feelings for him quickly. At first he was very attentive, communicating often, when he went away a couple of weeks after we met — I got “I miss YOU” texts and compliments and desire was conveyed, when he returned and I picked him up from the airport, he grabbed me out of the car and kissed me so passionately I nearly crumpled in a puddle, needless to say that night was very satisfying. But then things started to change. He travels alot and went away again for 3 weeks, longer than before. Not one I miss you text and his flirtyness had dissipated and his communication could have been mistaken for a friends texts rather than a love interest.

When he returned however we were as hot and steamy as ever when we were together, but when we were apart I often felt out of sight out of mind. I would discuss with him but he would say things like, that’s just me, I know I’m bad at that, or I’m weird like that, or maybe i’m wrong for you cos I can’t do that etc etc. so this doesn’t become an epic story I’ll bullet point the pros and cons or good and bad in our relationship.

Good
– great sex! (amazing)
– very affectionate when together
– funny and intelligent conversation
– interesting stories
– open to most experiences
– can laugh at himself and act the fool
– loves his family
– isn’t possessive or jealous (outwardly)

Bad
– he doesn’t initiate any time together — unless he is working in my town (we live 2 hours apart) in which case he used to stay with me all the time (now he splits his time between myself and another)
– i’ve stayed at his place 3 or 4 times — he’s stayed at mine dozens and he never invites me to stay at his although says I’m always welcome.
– he very rarely interacts with me on social media (i.e. he was in America for 3 weeks and posted about some show he went to…many people commented, myself as well — he “liked” and replied to everyones comment but mine! weird)
– i used to send sexy photos and he would respond with something sweet or an emoji or whatever, I don’t send them now as the last couple of times he didn’t even respond to them, nothing.
– i will say I miss you, he nevers responds in kind, ever.

I have initiated a couple weekends away which have been great but the whole time we have been seeing each other he has never suggested a weekend together, or invited me to his for the weekend — if not for my organising the odd night/weekend together the only time I’d see him (i believe) is if he was coming to my town for work and would stay with me. we have talked about how I feel very little — he avoids heart to hearts but he knows I’m happy if he lets me know when he’s in my town next or when we will be catching up in terms of his schedule.

I feel torn — last week i sent him a bogus “You are a Winner” text, saying he had won first prize in a competition which was a weekend with me — i did this because I have to have an operation in 3 weeks which will mean no relations for six weeks (he knows about this) so of course he needed to claim his prize that weekend or the following. clearly I had put a little thought into the weekend and the message delivering my idea, his response was “Can’t sorry”. I was gutted. Ok if he’s busy, can’t help that, but no reference to my idea or to when he can do it or suggestions for an alternative.

I don’t know what to do — he is so attentive when we are together yet when we are apart its like I don’t exist. Please help me…I’m an intelligent, capable woman who has had a rough time (i was abused as a child, raped by my sisters boyfriend at 16 yrs) and it took years of therapy and an awesome relationship with someone who gave me confidence to express myself sexually to come to terms with the sexual side of my nature (that was 15 yrs ago). I was celibate for 6 years prior to the relationship I’ve written you about — I wanted to meet someone who blew my mind before I got with anyone again and this guy has certainly done that. He knows of my history and was incredibly kind and caring about it. I don’t need to spend every minute with him and I like that we have time apart, I just want to feel like he looks forward to our time together as much as I do and has regard for me over and above the physical.

First off, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. It sounds incredibly frustrating. I think in this case there might be a mismatch here about needs and unfortunately it sounds like he’s not being clear with you about that and honest.

Before I go into that, I want to clarify something in what you wrote initially. He introduced you to the subject of polyamory and, like many people in the community, he gave the whole spiel about how it’s not about sex it’s about love and whatnot. But the truth is that… polyamory is kind of an excuse to have more than one partner and that’s not really a bad thing. A lot of polyamorous people are trying to define themselves in contrast to the swinging community.

If you’re unaware of it, the swinging community is usually comprised of married couples who swap partners or swap with singles for sex. It’s focused mostly around sex and not about building relationships. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of polyamorous people have felt this pressure to define themselves against it and to emphasise that they want to build relationships and not just have sex. But the thing is, what someone considers a “relationship” is very subjective, because it all comes down to people’s needs. You could have partners who were friends with benefits who were pretty much the same as what would be considered “swinging”, but the people involved define it as polyamory. It’s really up to individuals.

I’m not saying this guy this intentionally to lead you on, but it does fundamentally sound like this is the type of relationship he wants to have with you. And it sounds like you want a lot more than that. Rather than dropping hints about this, I think you need to come outright and say what you want out of this relationship and see if he can provide that.

His means of interacting is a little bit strange to me and a bit cold, but it might necessarily be that he doesn’t have feelings for you, but this is the amount he is willing to and can engage with you in a relationship. It might be that, because you are new to polyamory and don’t have any other partners, you are expecting a level of emotional support and interaction that you would from someone you are in a monogamous relationship with where you both rely on each other as a primary source of emotional support and romantic interaction and, if he has other partners, that’s probably not the case for him.

It’s of course possible that he’s just not that great of a partner, regardless. Some people who are monogamous are terrible at providing emotional support. But either way, your needs are your needs and at present, he is not meeting them. So you either have to reassess your needs and decide if his lack of response to you is worth the other benefits he offers or if, ultimately, you’re going to be unhappy and unsatisfied over the long term.

The big thing I think you need to ask yourself is if polyamory is what you want. It’s possible to be a monogamous partner to a polyamorous person, but I do think that you absolutely have to accept that your partner will not have 100% of their attention on you because that’s just part of what polyamory is. You might find if you do some soul searching that you can tolerate some of the lack of support you’re getting for this relationship and you may be able to find this elsewhere either in non-romantic relationships if you want to remain monogamous or you might search for another romantic relationship to fill this need. But ultimately, that has to be a decision you come to yourself.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

Do you have a question?

If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

To read new columns, subscribe to the newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

If you would like to support me and get these columns early, please become a Patron or make a PayPal donation. Patrons get access to podcasts and columns 5 days before they are posted.