/u/aurorapenguin on /r/polyamory writes…
“…My partner [33M] and me [27F] have been in a polyamorous relationship for 4-5 months. However, he struggles with letting me know about dates on time and I struggle with his lack of structure.
For instance, he texts me today at work that he will meet up with his date tomorrow. We talked about this yesterday and now he is confirming. He will stay over at her place (for the second time) and have sex with her for the first time which is definitely stretch zone for me.
I let him know that I would appreciate him telling me sooner as I always let him know about dates 5 days ahead and I wish he would do the same. In the last few months this has been a recurring issue for us, as he doesn’t plan ahead well and it’s not always possible with his work (so then I try to be flexible and be okay with 1 day notice, but its not my strong suit).
Because of my panic when he texted me at work, we call and then he asks me whether he can 1. Have sex with her, 2. That she can come over at his place for the first time, 3. That she can stay over at his place for the first time. Those are 3 steps that we haven’t been through before. I am fine with each of those separately as long as we can build it up.
It makes me so angry that he does not want to take steps and wants to do everything at once. He always says: ‘You can just say no’ but it’s always so last minute and I hate that. I want to discuss things at least 2 days before. But here I am, discussing this with him over the phone outside my work while in a complete panic.
Why does it feel like he is a little kid who always wants more candy? Whenever I go out of my way to adapt to him and his last-minute scheduling he always seems to add more like now staying over at his place, while its already such a big step for me to be okay with him sleeping with someone else for the first time.
I feel so powerless and so angry. I feel like I have to spell everything out to him otherwise he doesn’t understand.
Thanks for listening, if you have any advice it’s very welcome.”
“You can just say no.”
Those words are harrowing. Those five words symbolize so many different aspects of his personality, his perspective, and your relationship. But before we dive into that topic, let’s first define boundaries.
When it comes to personal and relationship boundaries, boundaries are essentially about creating protection.Vicki Tidwell Palmer, Episode #1, Beyond Bitchy: Mastering the Art of Boundaries.
Vicki goes into further detail about characteristics of sound and valid boundaries, and more importantly what boundaries are not. Her philosophy regarding establishing and defining boundaries are very broad but well-directed.
I personally believe that boundaries are internally driven, mutually communicated, and externally exercised.
Here is what I mean by that. Let’s suppose that I feel very uncomfortable with how openly descriptive my friend is with me about their sex life about your mutual friends. I can sit and assess how I feel and then establish a specific boundary as such: “I will refuse to productively engage in discussing sexual topics with my platonic friends, especially if I can’t decisively determine that other parties have consented to this level of sharing.” Then the onus is on me to communicate with my friend that this is a boundary that I need to establish for my own comfort, and trust that my friend will respect my boundary. I might also communicate why and how I might have arrived to that boundary to let them know it was something that I’ve thought a lot about before coming to conclusion. Now it is on my friend to accept and respect that boundary on my behalf. If my friend breaches that boundary next time, I might kindly remind them that this is a boundary. Repeat breaches of boundaries mean I might distance myself away from this friend until the same level of trust has been earned again. Boundaries mean nothing if they are paper thin, ready to be breached at the next opportunity without any push back. As you see in this example, this boundary was assessed, organized, and enforced by me even if it is partially driven by others’ actions.
Now that we have determined what a boundary looks like, let’s discuss what this means for you and your partner.
It sounds like you’ve done your best to do the first two parts of boundary setting with your partner. You have determined that you need at least five days advance notice for you to do your own emotional labor. You have also communicated such boundary for your partner. And you’ve even kindly reminded him that this is a boundary for you on first breach. He has since then brought up three new things for you to do your emotional labor on, again on short notice. Now it is time to enforce your boundaries. You have to first admit to yourself that you are not a bad person for repeatedly asking for this boundary. After all it is his responsibility to discuss & agree to those boundaries with you, accept your sovereignty over your boundaries, and respect them in order to continue to be involved with you.
Don’t let him get away with saying, “You can just say no.” You’ve already said your no in the form of your boundary. By continuing to push and stretch your boundaries, your partner is disrespecting your own sense of agency in the relationships you like to conduct. That is not a good sign. It is even worse that you feel like he is your kid, waiting for more pocket money for more candy. That is not your role here. Not at five months of dating, not ever.
The pain and anger originate from the mismatching level of expectations. Your feelings are completely justified here.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!