Sav­age love

The Georgia Straight - - Classifieds - > BY DAN SAV­AGE

I’m a 25-year-old woman cur­rently in a poly re­la­tion­ship with a mar­ried man roughly 20 years my se­nior. This has by far been the best re­la­tion­ship I’ve ever had. How­ever, some­thing has me a bit on edge. We went on a trip with friends to a brew­ery with a great restau­rant. It was an amaz­ing place, and I’m sure his wife would en­joy it. He men­tioned the place to her, and her re­sponse was no, she didn’t want to go there be­cause she didn’t want to have “sloppy sec­onds”. It made me feel dirty. Ad­di­tion­ally, the way he brushed this off means this isn’t the first time. I go out of my way to show him places I think they would like to go to­gether. I don’t know if my feel­ings are just hurt—if it’s as child­ish as I think it is—or if it’s a re­minder of my very low place in their hi­er­ar­chy. I hes­i­tate to bring this up be­cause when I have needs or con­cerns, they la­bel me as dif­fi­cult or needy. Is this part of a big­ger trend I’m miss­ing? Should I do any­thing to ad­dress this or just con­tinue to stay out of their busi­ness and go where I wish with my part­ner?


I’m hav­ing a hard time rec­on­cil­ing these two state­ments, TWO: “This has by far been the best re­la­tion­ship I’ve ever had” and “when I have needs or con­cerns, they la­bel me as dif­fi­cult or needy.” I sup­pose it’s pos­si­ble all your past re­la­tion­ships have been so bad that your best-re­la­tion­ship-ever bar is set trag­i­cally low. But tak­ing a part­ner’s needs and con­cerns se­ri­ously is one of the hall­marks of a good re­la­tion­ship, to say noth­ing of a “best re­la­tion­ship ever”.

It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble that you share your needs and con­cerns in a way that comes across as—or ac­tu­ally is—needy and dif­fi­cult. Our ex­pe­ri­ence of in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, like our ex­pe­ri­ence of any­thing and ev­ery­thing else, is sub­jec­tive. One per­son’s rea­son­able ex­pres­sion of needs/con­cerns is an­other per­son’s emo­tion­ally ma­nip­u­la­tive drama. I would need to de­pose your boyfriend and his wife, TWO, to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion and is­sue a rul­ing.

That said… It’s a re­ally bad sign that your boyfriend’s wife com­pared eat­ing in a restau­rant you vis­ited with him to fuck­ing a hole that some­one else just fucked, i.e., “sloppy sec­onds”. It has me won­der­ing whether your boyfriend’s wife is re­ally into the poly thing. Some peo­ple are poly un­der duress (PUD), i.e., they agreed to open up a mar­riage or re­la­tion­ship not be­cause it’s what they want but be­cause they were given an ul­ti­ma­tum: we’re open/poly or we’re over. In a PUD best-case sce­nario, the PUD part­ner sees that their fears were overblown, dis­cov­ers that poly/open works for them, em­braces open­ness/ polyamory, and is no longer a PUD. But PUDS who don’t come around will en­gage in small acts of sab­o­tage to sig­nal their un­hap­pi­ness—their per­fectly un­der­stand­able un­hap­pi­ness. They didn’t want to be open/poly in the first place and are de­ter­mined to prove that open/poly was a mis­take and/or pun­ish their ul­ti­ma­tum-is­su­ing part­ner. The most com­mon form of PUD sab­o­tage? Mak­ing their pri­mary part­ner’s sec­ondary part­ner(s) feel un­com­fort­able and un­wel­come.

That said… As you (prob­a­bly) know (but if you don’t, you’re about to find out), poly re­la­tion­ships have all kinds of (some­times in­cred­i­bly ar­bi­trary but also in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant) rules. If one of their rules is “My wife doesn’t want to hear from or about my girl­friend,” TWO, then your restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions are going to fall flat. Be­ing poly means nav­i­gat­ing rules (and some­times ask­ing to rene­go­ti­ate those rules) and jug­gling mul­ti­ple peo­ple’s feel­ings, needs, and con­cerns. You have to show re­spect for their rules, TWO, as they are each other’s pri­mary part­ners. But your boyfriend and his wife have to show re­spect for you, too. And if their rules make you feel dis­re­spected, un­val­ued, or too low on the hi­er­ar­chi­cal poly totem pole, you should dump them.

My wife said she didn’t care who I slept with soon after we met. At the time, I didn’t want to sleep with any­one else. But we even­tu­ally be­came monogamish—it started as me tex­ting her a fan­tasy while I was at work, and that fan­tasy was wait­ing for me when I got home—it was fun but it wasn’t some­thing I needed. After a cou­ple years of play­ing to­gether with oth­ers in pri­vate and in clubs, she said she wanted to open our re­la­tion­ship. I got a girl­friend, had fun un­til the new re­la­tion­ship en­ergy (NRE) wore off, and ended things. Then my wife got a great job on the other side of the state and I stayed be­hind to get our house into a sell­able state. Right now, we see each other only on week­ends. I also got a new girl­friend. The NRE wore off, but we still re­ally like each other and we’ve dis­cussed be­ing long-dis­tance sec­on­daries once the move is com­plete. Here’s the prob­lem: last night, my wife con­fessed to me that be­ing in an open re­la­tion­ship was mak­ing her mis­er­able. Not just my cur­rent girl­friend, whose mo­nop­oly over my time dur­ing the week could be a le­git­i­mate cause for con­cern, but going back to the pre­vi­ous girl­friend I saw only one night a week. I told my wife that I would break up with my girl­friend im­me­di­ately. My wife is the most im­por­tant per­son in my life, and I don’t want to do any­thing to hurt her. But my wife told me not to break up with my girl­friend. I don’t want to string my girl­friend along and tell her ev­ery­thing is fine—but my wife, who doesn’t want to be poly any­more, is telling me not to break up with my girl­friend. What do I do?


Your wife may want you to dump your girl­friend with­out hav­ing to feel re­spon­si­ble for your girl­friend’s bro­ken heart, DICKPICS, so she tells you she’s mis­er­able and doesn’t want to be poly any­more, and then tells you not to end things. Or maybe this is a test: dump­ing a girl­friend you didn’t have to dump would sig­nal to your wife that she is, in­deed, the most im­por­tant per­son in your life and that you will pri­or­i­tize her hap­pi­ness even when she won’t. Or maybe she’s watched you ac­quire two girl­friends with­out land­ing a boyfriend of her own.

But there’s a mid­dle ground be­tween dumped and not dumped, DICKPICS: tell your girl­friend what’s going on—she has a right to know— and put the re­la­tion­ship on hold. Get the house sold, get your ass to your wife, and keep talk­ing un­til you fig­ure out what is going to work for your wife going for­ward: com­pletely closed, open but only to sex­ual ad­ven­tures you two go on to­gether, i.e., “play­ing to­gether with oth­ers in pri­vate and in clubs”, or open with GFS (and BFS) al­lowed. Good luck.

I don’t know if I’m poly or not. I mean, Jesus H. Christ, this has been so dif­fi­cult. How do I know when to go back to monogamy?


I don’t think you’re poly, POLY, be­cause I don’t think any­one is poly. I also don’t think any­one is monog­a­mous. Polyamory and monogamy aren’t sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions, IMO, they’re re­la­tion­ship mod­els. And if the polyamorous model is mak­ing you mis­er­able, POLY, it might not be right for you. But you should ask your­self whether polyamory is mak­ing you mis­er­able or if the peo­ple you are do­ing polyamory with are mak­ing you mis­er­able. Peo­ple in aw­ful monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships rarely blame monogamy for their woes—even when monogamy is a fac­tor—but the stigma against non­tra­di­tional re­la­tion­ship mod­els, to say noth­ing of sex neg­a­tiv­ity, of­ten leads peo­ple to blame polyamory for their mis­ery when the ac­tual cause isn’t the model, POLY, it’s the peo­ple.

On the Lovecast, polyamory, Dom/ sub re­la­tion­ships, and Won­der Woman: sav­agelove­ Email: mail@sav­ Follow Dan on Twit­ter @fakedansav­age. ITMFA.ORG.

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