“A friend [24F] has been dating this guy [27M] for years. They’re in a mutually decided ‘poly’ relationship where he fucks around and she knows, but since shes monogamous by nature, she doesn’t fuck around but she claims she doesn’t mind him doing so, but doesn’t ask him about it. (She feels bad about it but she does it for him) it’s not very healthy.
Anyway, couple of days ago I met a friend who’s friends with her bf. She looks sad and angry and tells me how he told her (friend I just met) and another friend how he isn’t sexually attracted to her (his gf) and though “they have progressed in the bedroom” he’s not attracted to her. He then proceeded to hit on another girl there (also friends with his gf) and tried her have sex with her. I felt disgusted over the fact that he discussed something as such in a distasteful manner with other people and hit on his gf’s friend. He claims that he “loves” her but many a times it just doesn’t feel like it. I feel terrible having this knowledge, and not telling my friend. Should I? Or should I let this go on?
I should mention that she knows he’s not sexually attracted to her which is why she lets him fuck around. But she thinks she loves him, she has never dated anyone else, doesn’t know much better. And he does love her. To some extent. I don’t even think I can much comment on how toxic that is on it’s own but we refrain from giving her advice now because she goes into hiding if we do. But this feels like a nail in the coffin. I’m terrified of them getting into a marriage like this.”
Dear Can’t Help This 4,
You’re a really great friend. I can see how deeply you care about her well-being and look out for her best interests. You appear to have a pretty intense insight into her relationship with her boyfriend. So I do think that closeness shapes a lot of your perspective regarding their relationship dynamic.
Let’s talk about their “poly” relationship. Their relationship is what is known as a mono/poly relationship. I’ve talked a bit about mono/poly relationships in my previous column here that I think both you and your friend could stand to learn a bit more about. One of the biggest challenges that face mono/poly relationships is in its inherent imbalanced dynamic often externally appear as abusive. There isn’t enough information here to determine that their mono/poly relationship dynamic is abusive or toxic. If he is weaponizing his disinterest in sexual reconnection with his girlfriend to put her down, then that could be a sign for an abusive relationship dynamic. Another thing that I am noticing is that they appear to have a very parallel or almost don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to his poly relationships. That is somewhat common in mono/poly relationships, especially if the mono-half is very reluctant to try non-monogamy themselves. I’m not even sure that his version of non-monogamy would classify as true polyamory especially if he is only developing casual connections with other folks. That’s more on the open relationship end of that spectrum. You can read about variations of ethically non-monogamous relationships here if you’re interested.
I also sense a lot of misunderstanding and prejudice regarding non-monogamy in general. Different people love and do relationships differently. Consider that some of your perspective regarding your friend’s relationship might be affected by your close friendship with her. You really do know an incredible amount of detail for someone who is not a direct part of their relationship. The weird way he’s been talking about your friend to other people is intriguing and reveals a lot about their relationship dynamic. But it is ultimately not really your business to know, or to deliver. Since you already know she doesn’t really want to hear much from him, she might not really want to hear about who he’s dating much from her friends either. Also, you might not know the exact specific agreements about their poly dynamic either. No two poly relationships are going to look the same.
The core of this issue isn’t non-monogamy, but the way that they are completely miscommunicating about their respective needs. If he is having a sexual disconnect with his girlfriend, he should be communicating that with his girlfriend, not to any of his potential hookups. That is just in bad taste. At the end of the day, this is their relationship issue. As a friend to someone in conflict, you have to walk a very fine line between being endlessly supportive and mindfully compassionate. If you do decide to approach her with what you’ve overheard, make sure that you are doing so not because you do not approve of their relationship but because you genuinely are concerned about her well-being.
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!