Poly Relationship Turned Awry

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Herstory
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Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:25 am

So my partner and I are both polyamorous and we established boundaries and talked a lot about what a poly relationship for us both would look like. He preferred us both to have partners together whereas I liked to have my own partners that aren’t necessarily involved with him. He was okay with that and consented to it until I actually started having partners. I told him months ago that pride weekend was the time I would most probably be meeting other potential partners and we talked a lot about how that would look like. We talked about boundaries and what he was comfortable with and made sure to follow everything we both agreed on. We also knew before that he was going through surgery that weekend, but he said have fun and be safe, before he went into it. He told me that he wanted me to be myself and enjoy the time spent with others. But when he woke up from surgery, he grew extremely upset with me that I actually did have partners and said that I cheated on him and hurt him beyond repair. He doesn’t trust me anymore and says that he’s not comfortable with a polyamorous relationship anymore, so I told my partners what was going on and stayed monogamous with him. It’s ok for him to change his mind, but calling me a cheater and liar and all the things he did caught me completely off guard because I followed the things we agreed upon and what we both thought we would both be comfortable with at the time, and I think it’s not fair to say that when I tried my best to make sure we were both on the same page. I asked him why he felt this way and he said because he felt like I replaced him with other partners and I was just so confused because I didn’t and tried so many times to make sure he knew that. He asked me “how would you feel if you woke up from surgery having your partner be with others?” And I said “well, I don’t know cause that never happened, but if we agreed on it before, I wouldn’t mind and would be happy for my partner”. It’s okay to change your mind about boundaries, but I don’t think it was fair for him to insult my character the way he did when I literally did what we both agreed upon. I feel like I’m doing something terribly wrong and like I’m a horrible person for having other partners. He says he can never trust me the same way again and I just don’t understand what I did wrong. How do we fix this? We both want to work to fix this, but we just don’t know how. He feels like I cheated, I feel like I’m being unfairly attacked. How do we move on from this and regain our trust in each other?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Sam W » Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:05 am

Hi Herstory,

This sounds like a really tough, frustrating situation, especially because you two seemed to be communicating and discussing boundaries pretty thoroughly and you were taking steps to be conscientious of his feelings. As you said, it's okay for him to change his boundaries or express when something he thought he'd be okay with isn't working for him (he's far from the first person in a poly dynamic to find that out after the fact). That being said, you're also right in that it is so not okay for him to be treating you the way he is as a result. He can feel how he feels, and work through those feelings in a few different way, but if he's actually invested in fixing things, one of the things he has to be willing to do is stop accusing you of cheating or lying. Because, as you noted, you didn't actually do either of those things; you told him what you were planning to do, made sure it was okay and (as far as I can tell) stayed within the agreed-upon boundaries of the relationship.

I do think there are conversations that need to happen about renegotiating or adjusting the way being poly looks for you two. There may also be a conversation as to whether he was having misgivings before he went in for surgery but, for some reason, chose to not share them. But those conversations can't happen if he's still approaching this from the position of you being untrustworthy or actively doing something to hurt him. Do you think you can request that boundary going forward? Or have you tried that already only for him to double down?

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:52 am

I have tried to talk to him about him approaching it in a healthier way that doesn't make it seem like I was trying to purposely hurt him, but he says he can't help what he feels and says he will always feel like I cheated on him, no matter what I say or do. He also says he won't be able to trust me for a very long time and I just don't understand why. I did everything we agreed upon, which should be a reason why he should be able to trust me, and I think it's extremely unfair for him to treat me like an enemy when we discussed for a very long time to ensure we were both on the same page before anything happened. I don't know how I can regain his trust and respect for me. I don't even know how I lost his trust with this whole thing when I ensured I kept our boundaries. I feel like he's projecting his feelings of being uncomfortable with the situation onto me and blaming me for his feelings rather than thinking about this rationally. I don't know what else I could have done but turn back time and not have any partners ever, but that's impossible. I've already apologized so many times, for something I didn't even think is wrong, but I feel like he's going to hold this against me for the rest of his life, and he has said he most probably will. I just feel so attacked and useless in this whole thing. And now he's trying to joke about the whole situation, saying that joking about it will help him forgive me and get over what happened, but it just makes me feel like he's guilt tripping me and shaming me. For example, I would tell him how much I love him and need him and he would "jokingly" say "you don't need me. Just call your other partners so they can give you what you actually need cause I'm just a placeholder". I talked to him about how much that hurts me and he said he would stop, but he keeps joking about it, so much that I feel like it's not a joke anymore. I feel so stuck and hurt.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Sam W » Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:40 am

So, this may not be a pleasant thing to consider, but from what you're describing this relationship may be on its last legs. He's telling you that he will probably hold this against you, and be unable to trust you, for a very long time. That's not a sustainable basis for a relationship, period, but eve more so when he's accusing you of cheating on him and not caring about him when in fact you stayed within the bounds of the relationship you two agreed upon and took steps to be mindful of his feelings beforehand.

Too, when you're asking for boundaries or to have your feelings taken in to consideration, like in the case of those "jokes" (you're are correct that they're not jokes, but instead meant to be another way of guilt-tripping you), he's not willing to respect them. That's a very uneven set of expectations, given that he's asking you to let his feelings run the show. He's right that he gets to feel how he feels, but he's missing the part where he could cope with those feelings in many, many ways that don't involve constantly making digs at you or accusing you of things.

Ultimately, you both deserve better than what you're getting right now. You deserve to be with a partner who hasn't decided to hold something you did within the agreed upon bounds of a poly relationship against you forever (and someone who is willing to discuss and troubleshoot the emotionally tricky bits of poly in a productive way). And, if he truly feels he could never fully trust or forgive you, then the best choice would be for him to end the relationship to find a different partner, rather than keeping you around to blame. Does that all make sense?

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Wed Sep 04, 2019 9:22 pm

So I talked to him again and he seems a lot more calm and open to discussing everything with me and agreed that he will stop projecting these negative feelings onto me. We will be going to therapy soon to resolve the issues we have concerning communication and boundaries. Thank you for all your help. :)

Sam W
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Sam W » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:41 am

You're welcome! And glad to hear that he's willing to put in some work around this issue.

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:07 am

Hey. So we’re doing a lot better now. But I feel like it’s too better... I’m not sure if that makes sense. So after we talked things out he just completely changed his demeanor and is now acting like nothing ever happened in the summer. I mean, it’s good that he moved on, but I thought it would be a longer process that we would have to work through together. I feel confused and taken aback by this sudden change. It happened from one day to the next. I don’t know if maybe I’m just overreacting and reading too much into things or if he’s just trying to swallow everything he feels and move on like nothing happened. I know I haven’t fully forgiven him for some of the very harsh things he said to me and the harsh things he did to me. I don’t know how he could move on so quick from everything that happened. Is it normal?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Sam W » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:15 am

Hi Herstory,

Yep, what you're describing makes sense. A sudden and complete switch in demeanor around this situation, especially when you feel like you're still processing some of his meaner behaviors, can easily make you feel off-kilter. Can you give me a sense of what the conversations you two had right before he made this switch looked like? Did they involve him taking responsibility for his feelings and how he treated you? Did the two of you talk about how you wanted to move forward, including where the relationship stands in terms of it's polyness? Or was it more like you talked about once, and then the next day he acted like it had never happened?

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Thu Sep 19, 2019 1:28 pm

We talked about how I felt about him saying the things he did about what happened in the summer. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable with the way he reacted to the situation and that I wanted to have a productive conversation where we both talk about what happened without judgement, but also without intentionally trying to hurt the other. I also told him how I didn’t like how he told me that he conditionally loved me and how he said that if I didn’t have polyamorous relationships that way he wanted, then I didn’t really care about him or love him. He said that all of that was true and that he accepted responsibility and spoke out of anger. The only thing he didn’t agree with was the part about him establishing the poly relationship. He truly felt like what he was asking for was not a lot and that the least I could do was do it for him. But I told him that establishing boundaries in a relationship is about communicating, not mandating your partner. To me, it felt a little controlling and like we weren’t working as a team to build our relationship. He acknowledged it and that was that. We still have not talked about how we want our relationship dynamic to look. Every time I try to talk about polyamory, he says “I don’t know why you have to talk about it. I already accept you. Just do what you want.” But that’s not what I want. I want to have a conversation about it with him and work on building things together. I’ve just been confused because first he tells me he wants to be monogamous or nothing and now he’s telling me everything is good and that I can do what I want. It just seems so sporadic and I don’t really understand it. Maybe he did cope with his feelings, but Im not so sure he did.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Heather » Thu Sep 19, 2019 2:45 pm

Hey there, Herstory. Like Sam, I certainly understand why you're feeling all the ways you are, including with what you add in this last post. I'd be feeling those ways, too.

Unless he just does not want to be in a poly relationship, period, what it sounds like to me is that he isn't actually interested in doing all of the work -- read: primarily a lot of communicating and negotiating -- to be in an open/poly relationship. If you think he doesn't actually want this, that's a different conversation than the one I'm about to move into, so by all means, we can switch gears to talk about that if needed.

I'm going to say what I am here assuming that he does actually want to do this.

Him being disinterested in or unwilling to do the work required for poly to work well is obviously a problem for a whole bunch of reasons, including because the way he's setting this up right now is really setting YOU up to have to take all the responsibility. With where things stand now, it looks to me like if you sought out any interactions or relationships outside this one, you'd be doing it without any actual agreements or boundaries about this relationship, so if he doesn't like what you choose to do, it'd be all your fault, essentially (a lot like it sounds like it went so far). You also would have to be guessing at what he wants or is okay with in everything but the vaguest of ways, and that obviously is a terrible position for you to be in. Perhaps obviously, I'd suggest that you not seek out any outside interactions/relationships until all of this gets worked out, presuming you want to stay in this relationship.

I wonder what would happen if, when he says he wonders why you have to talk about it, you say something that makes clear that you have to talk about it, because consensual nonmonogamy means you two have to make a bunch of agreements to be sure that whatever you both do really is okay with you, and to protect your relationship. Have you said something like that already? If so, how did he respond? If not, how about trying that and seeing where it goes?

Also, I'm sorry if I missed this in past posts, but do you have any sense of what his education and background is with open/poly frameworks? I ask because it sounds like, if he actually DOES want to be in a poly framework, he doesn't know or understand what doing that well for everyone generally involves and requires. "Just do what you want," after all, obviously is not a set of clear agreements. If he doesn't actually know anything or much about how to do this, and you do think he actually wants to be in a poly relationship (rather than merely accepting a thing he doesn't want because you do), do you think he'd read a book or two if you gave them to him and asked him to?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:34 pm

Since the incident, I haven't had any other partners. My personal definition of cheating is having relations with other people without your partners' consent, so I do not plan on having any other partner's until this is resolved because my partner and I don't have clear, established boundaries or consent.

In regards to him, he's told me he has only ever been in open relationships, but not a polyamorous relationship like the one I prefer to be in. He told me that he and his partners would never speak about their other partners with each other. They could basically do whatever they wanted with other people, but the condition was that neither of them knew about it. He once had a relationship where his partner would tell him who she slept with, but he felt like she would cheat on him because she would tell him after the fact and wouldn't wait for him to know (she basically had partners without his knowledge or consent). He says many of his partners cheated in his past (although I'm not quite sure how you can cheat in an open relationship when you agree specifically not to talk about other partners and that you have the freedom to do what you want whenever you want as he says, but I never asked so I don't question it). He also said he's had extremely bad experiences with open relationships and doesn't want them anymore because he says people only use him for his body. He started having monogamous relationships after a bad experience he had with an abusive partner he had an open relationship with. However, before he met me, he told me he had multiple partners like he used too, which doesn't make sense when he told me he never wanted to be in another open relationship again and he was... What he says doesn't match up sometimes and I get confused about it.

When he met me, he told me I was the first person he met that "fulfilled him completely" and the first time he was in a relationship where he didn't want anyone else. I told him from the very beginning that I was polyamorous and he told me he didn't care, that he loved me and that, in fact, he was poly too. However, I don't think he really understood what polyamory was, the way I practiced it, because I think he assumed it was anyone who had open relationships, but it's not really, at least to me. I explained it to him several times and he said that he was completely fine with it and didn't mind that I was polyamorous at all, but that he wanted to be monogamous with me. That meant that I could have relationships, but he wanted to be only with me. But whenever we make love, he always asks me if he's the only one I want and I get uncomfortable because as a poly person, I do want more than one person, but when I tell him that, it seems like he gets disappointed. He also told me he wants me to be polyamorous and to be myself, but when I actually am, it's like he doesn't want me to be. His signals are confusing. He also asks me how he's different from my other partners as if he's nothing special to me, but I've never made him not feel special. In fact, I spend a lot of energy ensuring that he feels special.

He's clearly not experienced with the open, consensual polyamorous relationships I have. He's had much different and, in my opinion, extremely unhealthy relationship dynamics that aren't based on communication and boundaries. I feel like he hasn't fully overcome his past and may be reacting to what happened in his past rather than what's happening in the present moment. He denies it, but I truly believe that he isn't over what happened to him and is why he reacted so poorly to me having other partners.

I'm willing to work with him and he's willing to work with me. We enrolled in couples therapy to see how we can resolve this issue. It's just taken long to get an appointment because there is very little availability, but we should be going in three weeks. This situation is extremely painful for the both of us, but we both are willing to work through it.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Siân » Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:40 am

Hi Herstory,

It sounds like you are working through a lot of really difficult things here.

I agree that your partner doesn't seem to be versed in how to have healthy polyamorous relationships. I am also wondering if he really knows how to have healthy relationships full stop. A lot of the behaviours you are describing - the cruel "jokes", making you responsible for his feelings, making you feel guilty, shutting you down when you try to talk things through, making you out to be untrustworthy, telling conflicting stories about his past relationships - sound to me like emotional manipulation and are raising red flags to me. Even the "you're the only person who..." things he says can be manipulative when combined with all those other toxic behaviours.

Also, it sounds like this is taking a toll on you, on how sure you feel of yourself and making you work really hard to constantly reassure him and make him feel special when, by the sounds of it, he's not putting in any work himself.

I'm sure he also has great qualities - after all, you wouldn't be with someone who doesn't - but it might be worth a pause to think about whether this relationship is really serving you. I feel like the issue here runs deeper than how compatible your relationship models are, and is more about how this person goes about being in a relationship in the first place, and how you deal with conflict together - the polyamory may just be the catalyst that brings the issues to light. Does that sound about right?

Perhaps before you meet your couples therapist, it would be helpful for you to think about how you would feel in a great relationship, how you'd like a partner to engage with you and work with you so that you can really start distinguishing the "how we relate to eachother" stuff from the "how we open our relationship" stuff. What do you think?

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:24 am

I just remembered, but another thing he’s done is talk a lot about people who “want him”. Like, he’s constantly telling me about how he has so many people who want to be with him and always telling me about the people who want him. It makes me feel uncomfortable for a reason I can’t explain. I told him to stop, and he did, but for some reason it still affects me today, maybe because it made me feel like I’m replaceable and worthless cause I don’t have ten thousand people chasing after me, as he tells me. I’m not sure.

In regards to what I want in a relationship, I want a partner who can healthily communicate their feelings to me. Who respects me, loves me the way I am, and is willing to work through problems together, without chastising the other person. I feel I would be happy if he would own up to his mistakes, which he has, and also worked through them with me through communicating, which he’s trying to do but hasn’t been doing a good job of. I just want a partner I can solve problems with together in a way that doesn’t drag us both down.

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:39 am

He also says that a lot of his behavior this summer was because he was going through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery and he wasn’t in a good mood with everyone.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Sam W » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:50 am

Hi Herstory,

I think I might be able to shed some light on why that felt so uncomfortable. Talking about how many people want you is a tactic people use to remind their partner that they have lots of options besides them, so their partner better make sure to do exactly as they want, or they'll leave them for one of the people apparently lining up to date them. Which is a great way to make that partner feel insecure in the relationship. I'm glad you were able to tell him to knock it off, and that he did. But it does fit with the larger pattern of behavior where he does things specifically to emotionally manipulate or wrong-foot you.

I also have to say that it feels a little bit like he's setting you up for a no-win situation. He says he doesn't want to discuss what poly looks like for you two, and that he accepts you and you should do your own thing and gets annoyed when you try to actually talk about things. But you know from experience that if you do your own thing, he's very likely to flip out at you again. In other words, he's built a situation where no matter what, he gets to be mad at you.

Those are both really clear, basic things to want in a relationship, and it's great that you know they are must haves for you. I do think it's worth asking yourself how long you're willing to stay in a relationship where one (or both) of those things are absent. How long are you willing to give him, and how much actual effort would you need to see on his part in terms of communicating in a healthy way, to feel like the relationship is worth staying in?

Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:37 am

We've finally got to a point where we can talk in a healthy way to one another, but I just feel so angry and resentful towards him and I don't know why. He realized how unhealthy he was acting towards me and has stopped and we've been able to have meaningful and productive conversations about our feelings, which is good. But now I have this feeling like I was betrayed by him and I don't trust him like I used to. What he did was extremely toxic and cut me very deeply, but I want to move on from it. I just don't know how, especially when I'm scared he's just going to do it again. I also don't really trust his intentions anymore. Now that he's taken out his hurt and pain on me in such an unhealthy way, I'm scared all of his intentions are to hurt me, which I know isn't true, but it's how I feel as a result of everything that happened. He says he won't do that to me again because he knows better now, but I just don't believe him. How do I regain trust in him? How do I move one from the toxic things he did? How do I stop myself from thinking he's out to hurt me?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Siân » Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:59 am

Hi Herstory,

Im glad that, for now at least, he is engaging with you in a more productive way and owning up to some of his mistakes.

I also want to take a second to point out that the way you are feeling - scared, hurt, betrayed - are normal and, frankly, healthy. Those feelings are a part of how you look after yourself; they're the little danger signals that tell you something is wrong. They can help you keep yourself safe if you listen to them.

One way you can move on from the toxic things he did is to move on from this relationship full stop. Sure, he might learn how to be a supportive, loving partner in time but he doesn't have to do that on your time, at a great emotional cost to you. I know that you're invested in this, and as I said before I'm sure he has lovable qualities too, but sometimes the only thing worse than leaving a dysfunctional relationship is staying in that dysfunctional relationship. Can we take a moment to really consider if this relationship is one you should be in at all?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Heather » Fri Sep 27, 2019 7:03 am

Just coming in to strongly second Siân here.

You feel the way you're feeling because, IMHO, based on his behaviours and how he has still not even taken responsibility for them, you *shouldn't* trust this person nor should you set aside your feelings about that behaviour. I don't think doing so would be in the best interest of your emotional well-being or safety.
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Herstory
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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Sun Nov 03, 2019 1:58 pm

Hi! So things have gotten a lot better since the last time. My partner and I resolved the issues from the summer, but now we’ve hit another dilemma: we both don’t really agree how to have a poly relationship. I want to have a relationship of open communication and honesty, where we talk each other about our partners and share whatever experiences we feel like sharing within the boundaries we establish. He wants an open relationship where we both have other partners, but don’t tell each other about them. He says he doesn’t want to know about my other partners and whenever I’m with him, that I’m only with him. I guess it’s something I can do, but I just don’t believe having no communication will really work out long term because I feel it doesn’t leave room to talk about boundaries or be open with each other. I’ve never tried it before, so I don’t know, but that’s how I feel. He also believes that sex should be reserved for people you have romantic feelings for and doesn’t really understand why I want other partners at all. And he has this mentality where if I’m having other partners, he’s going to have other partners too, but I don’t think that mentality is healthy. You have other partners because you like them and want to be with them, not because your partner has other partners besides you. And he proceeded to tell me that since I’ll be seeing other partners, he’s going to sleep with his business partners to “get a better deal”. But that’s not what polyamory is... I talked to him about it and he agreed it wasn’t right, but I feel a little stuck with this situation because I don’t know how to have a healthy polyamorous relationship with him where I don’t tell him anything and I don’t know about what’s going on in his life... I also want to make sure he’s doing this for the right reasons. Do you think keeping the partners I have from my partner will be healthy? Is it possible to have that kind of open relationship without it turning unhealthy?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Heather » Sun Nov 03, 2019 2:42 pm

Hey there, Herstory.

I think that you have been super clear, from the start, that you do not WANT a DADT (don't ask, don't tell) situation. I also agree with you that what he's asking for really isn't consensual nonmonogamy, because if you two don't communicate about the whos/whats/wheres and such, then this all isn't actually consensual. And no, nonconsensual nonmonogamy doesn't tend to go well for relationships.

I'd agree that without communication, this really isn't what most people mean or want when they talk about polyamory. I hear you saying you two have resolved the issues, but honestly, it sounds to me like one big one remains here, which is that you two really don't seem to be hearing each other, and seem to be locked in a power struggle over this. You want one thing, he wants another, and neither of you wants what the other does.

Personally, I strongly wouldn't advise you to agree to anything in a relationship you very strongly do not want. I don't think people agreeing to things they don't want like this is going to create or nurture a healthy relationship. There really isn't middle ground here with something like this where what you each want is simply radically different. It also sounds to me like he still really doesn't ant this. I'd even say what he's saying to you about business partners sounds like....well, sounds like him being manipulative or just trying to goad you in some way. It doesn't sound earnest to me, it sounds...vindictive? I'm struggling for words, but I can certainly say it all doesn't sound healthy or good.

I'm sorry to say this because I know you're invested in this relationship, but. What you two want is just so different -- he still sounds like he wants to be in something monogamous, and you still sound like you don't -- and the communication around all this sounds so broken down or at a stalemate AND some of it just sounds unhealthy in terms of the dynamics when you try and work this out, but it's just not sounding to me like you two are compatible when it comes to a romantic/sexual relationship. I can see that you (I can't speak for him since we only hear from you) have been trying very, very hard, and over a considerable amount of time, to try and make this work and find some middle ground. But I think that despite all of your best efforts, you sound like you're in the same place you started here, where you just don't want the same things, and where neither of you is going to be able to get what you each want or need.

On top of that, something about the way he's framing things with you just does not sound loving or healthy to me. It sounds manipulative. I feel like he knows he keeps offering you something you don't want, like he's stayed pretty snarky about the whole thing, and also like he knows -- or thinks -- you'll probably cave and just settle for what he wants eventually. Or, agree to something that he knows or suspects will make you miserable. It just all sounds pretty dysfunctional and busted to me, which again, I'm sorry to say.

Can I ask you to say some about why you want to stay with this as a romantic/sexual relationship so badly you'd stay in what really feels, to me, like an endless struggle that's always had a bit of a nasty edge to it? On the whole, I have gotten the impression that this relationship has just offered you more struggle and pain than anything good, to the point that it's been outright emotionally abusive. Why stay in this, or stay in this as this kind of relationship? You clearly have interest in seeking out other relationships regardless, so why stay in this one instead of seeking out others where you both can be in them with people who want the same things you do, but also who treat you better?

(In the event I'm just missing the greater value of this relationship, or somehow misunderstanding stuff in a big way, I'd say that at the very least, you two need to pull someone else in to help medicate and resolve this. In other words, I think you're clearly at the point where if you're not ready or wanting to move on, and want to try and work through this, you're going to need a qualified third party to help you, namely, a couples counselor who is both queer and poly inclusive. If that's the way you want to go with this, I'd/we'd be happy to help you try and find someone local to you.)
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:27 pm

Hi, Herstory.

I think Sam W, Sian, and Heather have had amazing responses to you, and I completely second all of their questions and suggestions.

I want to ask something of you in a pretty plain manner. You don't have to answer this to me or on the board, but I do hope you'll think about it. This is a deceptive question in that it will appear easy to answer and you may even have a defensive reaction to. I'm not sure how long you've been with this person, but it's clear you care for him and are committed to being committed to him. So let yourself have whatever first reaction you have, then take some time to really sit and think on this question.

When was the last time you were happy in this relationship? Not a moment of happiness. Not when you pretended to be happy for other's sake. But the last time you were truly, actually comfortable and happy being in this relationship, when you couldn't help but enjoy your time together and look forward to what the coming days would bring without all this pain and hurt and frustration and confusion hanging over you.

So that is my important question, but I have some others as well.

You've been committed to monogamy for a while for your partner's sake now. But what about other relationships? Friends? Family? Have you been connecting with people other than your partner? You've been trying couples counseling and going through this difficult time. It can be easy to withdraw and let other relationships slide to the wayside when all our energy is being drawn in one direction. Especially if you haven't been, please take some time to spend with other people who love you and care for you who aren't directly involved in this ongoing situation with your partner (ie, people besides your partner). You don't have to tell them what you've been going through, but it would perhaps be good to talk to with other people, even aside from these forums (though these forums are an important resource).

How about your own hobbies and passions? How much time have you put into them in the past few months? Is there something new you've been wanting to try? Just get out of the house! Get some time away from this situation and do fun things that you enjoy. It sounds like you could use some breathers, and pursuing your own interests is healthy to be able to do. If there's nothing that gets you out and about and doing things, then look into some. Is there an issue you care about that you could look into volunteer opportunities for? How about joining a new gym or checking out art classes/events that local studios offer? Does anything catch your eye on Meetup?

Doing these two things can help you re-connect with yourself and give you some perspective about what you want for your life.

Finally, I do want to come back around and address your questions of reconciling what you want from a polyam relationship and what your boyfriend seems to want, and I'm going to do so with the following statement: two people can truly love and care for each other and still not be compatible in certain types of relationships. You want a healthy polyam relationship with good communication and well-defined boundaries. Your partner wants... you and to have you and to know he has you but possibly leave himself open to living out fantasies of cheating on you while giving himself a loophole where maybe it's difficult to call it cheating? (Obviously, he can't speak for himself here, but what he wants seems to be defensive and all over the place, making his desires come off as more of a desire for drama and unhealthy relationships than something healthy and stable.) These don't seem like compatible desires to me.

Your partner is telling you who he is through his actions (you taking him at his word that he consented to the same type of polyam relationship you wanted when apparently he didn't really mean it, lashing out in anger at you by calling you names, being noncommunicative/defensive and dismissive about openly communicating with you, etc.). Yes, he went through some very scary and harsh health stuff, and that could absolutely wear on him. You two put in lots of time and work and seem to have mostly moved past that stuff. You say he took accountability for hurting you - did he ever genuinely apologize? Did he ever actually says the exact words "I'm sorry" with no ifs, ands, or buts tacked on? Has he committed to a more open and honest relationship with you or is he falling into the same pattern where he doesn't really say what he wants and proposes unhealthy relationship models?

I'm getting off onto a tangent, but the point is: take a look at the actual amount of growth your partner has displayed in this relationship. Has it been much? Is he asking for anything different than he was in the beginning? Is his communication more patient and more open than it was int eh beginning? Looking in your relationship from an outside perspective with limited knowledge, it doesn't really seem so. If your partner kept this same behaviors and traits and relationship desires, would you be happy staying committed to this relationship for the next year? The next five? The next ten? Twenty?

How much of your life are you willing to invest in a relationship where the desired boundaries of your relationship don't seem to be something you and your partner have in common?

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:24 am

I am still with him because I love him very much and I think he’s trying his best to be understanding of me with the past that he’s had. I would very much appreciate references to therapists who are queer and polyam friendly. My partner does not like therapy because he says he doesn’t like to be psychoanalyzed and judged and because he feels like he’s airing out dirty laundry to the public. We tried the couples therapy and he’s just reluctant to try it again, but maybe a counselor that’s queer and polyam friendly would be better for us. If you could refer me to an individual therapist that is queer and polyam, I’d appreciate that too.
I am trying my best in this relationship and I feel like I’m not getting the basic respect I deserve from him. But he says I’m also messing up because I treat my friends better than I treat him. He says he feels neglected every time I hang out with my friends whenever he’s around and he’s told me he’d rather just not hang out with my friends anymore. He also feels like I don’t treat him with kindness and understanding like I’m supposed to. I told him I’ll try to treat him better and not be so hard on him because I think he’s right. Maybe my behaviors is what’s causing him to act this way.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Herstory » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:29 am

Also, in regards to the happiness question, I honestly don’t feel happy at all because I’m going through a major depression. So I’m not only not happy with him, but not happy with my family and friends in general. I’m not in a very good state of mind. The last time I was truly happy with anyone and anything was before this summer. I do try to do things to keep occupied. I volunteer planting trees at my school, I am part of a club I love dearly, I am working on projects I care about, I’m trying to be with the people I love besides my partner, but I’m still somehow just sad.

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby Heather » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:59 am

Herstory: I'm on the road for work this week, but when I am back in my home office Sunday I'll see about finding you some possible therapists. You're still in or near Miami, right?

Honestly -- and I'm sorry to be so blunt about it -- I just think you're in a relationship that's going to be unhealthy no matter what you do because the person you're in it with seems, to me, to very clearly be a person who is not bringing a healthy interpersonal dynamic or state of mind to the table. I disagree with you that you are treating this person poorly -- unless there are things you have not posted about here. I also disagree that his past is something you have to account for in the way that he seems to suggest, and you believe, you do. I think that's something he's simply found out he can excuse his behavior with. I think you agree with him about these things because I think it's very clear that you're deep in an emotionally manipulative, controlling and abusive relationship and are in the state of mind that people tend to be who are being manipulated, controlled and abused in that kind of relationship.

I'm so sorry that you're in something like this and that this has gone this way, I truly am. I do personally think the best thing for you to do would be to start planning to leave this relationship, so you can stop being in something so unhealthy and that seems so clearly will only continue to make you more and more unhappy and trapped. But we also respect what you want to choose here.

That said, I certainly think that if you want to pursue therapy with someone queer and poly friendly, alone or together, that would be a good thing. Even if you find out that he just won't go, or he does go and pulls any of the stuff he's been pulling in front of the therapist, maybe that will give you some more information for making your choices with when it comes to this, you know?

Lastly, I'm not surprised you're sad and depressed. I know this isn't the only player in all that, but it's normal to feel bad when you're in a relationship and with a partner which/whose clearly are unhealthy.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Poly Relationship Turned Awry

Unread postby SpaceCowboy » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:52 am

Hi Herstory. Just wanted to say that this really stuck out to me: "Maybe my behavior is what’s causing him to act this way."

Making you think that *you're* the "problem" in the relationship and that *you* are the reason why he is treating you poorly is a very common manipulation tactic. At the end of the day, HE is responsible for how he treats you. You are not responsible for how he treats you. In any relationship (romantic or otherwise), people need to take responsibility for their own behavior, and it seems like while you do, he does not. You are giving him a lot of grace here and it does not sound like he is extending the same grace to you.

Of course being in the right relationship does not *solve* mental health issues, but I would say that in my experience a relationship that actively makes your mood and mental health worse on a day-to-day basis is not a healthy one.


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