“I was in a relationship with C, during which we lived together and planned to move in officially. We had always been explicit about wanting a poly dynamic where we can love other people too. I really fucking love this person, I could see myself growing old with him.
C was also seeing H. There was some tension due to the fact that I lived with him, I was his nesting partner, and she felt kinda excluded from that. I also had some insecurities but I talked them through with C and worked on them alone. I asked if I could meet H after 5 months of them seeing each other, and we did end up having coffee together at the flat one day, it went pretty well. I wanted H to be able to come over to the flat, be included, and for us to be able to say ‘hi’ at events, that kinda stuff. We don’t have to be friends or anything, but since I lived there and she had expressed she wanted to come over I felt like it was a good move to have coffee and just chill out at least once.
A few months later, I left the living situation. It wasn’t the right time for us to move in together, for loads of reasons. There was a lot going on. Relationship fizzed out with C for a few months. I found a new place, new confidence, new independence. C and I started talking again, and I realized that I was still very much in love with C, and he is still in love with me. Great!! I thought. We’ll be able to finally have a real shot at a relationship, without living together, with a better dynamic! H will have less insecurities about me being in the picture because I have my own place and it’s a much more symmetrical situation.
C went to H with this, and she basically categorically refused and said that she didn’t want a poly relationship anymore. This was heartbreaking for me.. H wrote me a letter, in which she says that she doesn’t want a poly thing, but that she feels like she has to because C loves me. I was worried about this, and replied via email saying that poly dynamics should always be a consensual thing…
Since then, H said that ‘maybe it could work’ but only if her and I open a direct line of communication so that she can ‘trust me’. She seems very insecure and I understand. However, I feel like my boundaries are being crossed. I feel very vulnerable right now. I’m all for meeting my metas and even being friends, but this is weird as hell. I’m not even a real part of the dynamic and she wants to meet me to ‘have a chat to see if it could work’.. She’s sent me 3 emails.. Saying she ‘doesn’t want poly’, then she says ‘maybe’ but ‘when she’s ready’, then now it’s ‘ maybe, but only if you open up emotionally to me via email/agree to a real life chat’… I feel completely lost and very weird and sad.
Am I the problem or is this weird? I feel like my boundaries aren’t being respected. She feels like her needs aren’t being respected. How would you react to these requests? I feel like this communication is a lot. I haven’t even been able to rekindle my relationship with C yet. I’m usually so open to the idea of being friendly and communicating with metas, but this feels kinda weird and controlling. I don’t feel like I should have to prove to my potential meta that I’m trustworthy before even entering the dynamic. I don’t know what to do.”
TL;DR – Poly relationship revisited after a few months. His other partner refuses to consent to a poly relationship.
Dear The Lone Pill,
It’s not just you. This is weird.
But I do think that everyone had a part to play in this really difficult situation here. H for being a bad metamour. C for being a bad hinge. And you for allowing this person to consistently cross your boundaries. Let’s start with H.
There is a term in the poly-verse called cowboy/cowgirl. Mistress Matisse used it on her Stranger column – the Control Tower – here. Cowboy/cowgirl is defined as “a monogamous person who meets someone who openly identifies as polyamorous, becomes romantically involved with them, and attempts to “cut them out of the herd,” meaning: persuade them to sever existing relationships and embrace monogamy.” Part of the cowboy/cowgirl
It appears that H very closely fits this definition of someone who is deeply monogamous who is attempting to lasso C out of the herd. H is staking her claim on her relationship with C over those few months you and C were apart. H is weaponizing her insecurity and jealousy to stomp all over your and C’s boundaries. I agree with you that ethical non-monogamy should start with consent, but consent only works if it is enveloped in good intention from those who provide it. Ethics and consent go hand-in-hand. The way that H is lashing out and pinning her consent on a workable friendship with you is outrageous for more than one reason.
For one, you’ve already successfully displayed what kind of metamour you would like to be. You had coffee with her after five months of their relationship. You’ve also repeatedly communicated that you would love to maintain a friendship with her in a more “kitchen table poly” situation. But most importantly, you’ve previously displayed that you can have a successful relationship with your shared partner C. The time period of separation and realignment between you and C does not involve H at all.
In addition to all of these, she is continuing to push and pull on your boundaries by sending you letters and emails about how she is and isn’t okay with polyamory. That is all really inhumane and dispassionate. I wonder if she’d feel differently if the shoes were flipped and someone else was doing this to her relationship with him.
That leads me to my next discussion point; C is not being a very good hinge partner.
I have said so in the past and it bears repeating here. It is the hinge partner’s responsibility to maintain and manage their respective relationships. It is C’s sole responsibility to determine whether or not he wants to be polyamorous. He can be mindful and approach his authentic self with caution, as to not upset his relationship with H beyond repair. But that is still his own decision to make. He is his own autonomous person, able to pursue relationships in his own way. Should he decide not to pursue a relationship with you – as it appears he is doing so – it is a decision he needs to own rather than deflecting on H’s comfort level or her consent.
C has made some really obvious mistakes along the way here.
First was in not doing his homework with H prior to discussing what kind of romantic space that you and he can occupy. He might not have known the full extent of your feelings for him, but he definitely knew of his. He could have started the discussion with H earlier to make sure that he was preemptively creating a snug space for a relationship with you. Instead, he waited until the issue was hot at hand, after the feelings were shared.
He then made a mistake to not take any responsibility for the fallout when H did not react well to his feelings for you. I’m not sure if they have ever discussed veto powers. But the way she has reacted to pin her consent against his relationship with you and suddenly not being okay with polyamory tells me that she is in essence asserting her veto by continuing to strangle the life out of his connection with you. That’s his responsibility to assert the emotional load on what relationships he wants to pursue.
But I think the most important issue here is that H does not get to “categorically refuse” and not want to be a poly relationship anymore. That is C’s prerogative to pursue the relationships he wants to pursue. H’s prerogative here is to accept that as part of him, or move on so that she can pursue a monogamous relationship with a monogamous person. It is C’s responsibility to recognize, enforce, and follow through on that sense of autonomy in his relationships. Not H. Healthy kind of polyamory is not permission-based; it is acceptance-based.
Then let’s talk about your boundaries. It is clear from your reaction that your boundaries are being stepped on. But I’m unsure what specifically those boundaries are. Maybe we’ve already outlined them above (i.e. sense of autonomy over your relationships). But these feelings of hurt from overstepped boundaries mean very little if …
- They are vague;
- Non-verbalized; Or,
So it is time for you to sit down and recognize what some of these boundaries are. Then communicate with both C and H about what those boundaries are. And stick to what those boundary violations mean to you, your & C, and you & H.
I talked about in this previous column that the best boundaries are “internally driven, mutually communicated, and externally exercised.” Recognize that all you can do is to mindfully set your own boundaries, communicate those said boundaries to affected parties, hope that they’ll follow your boundaries, and hold them accountable if boundaries are broken.
Honestly, seeing how emotionally charged everything is, the best thing for you to do here is to create some distance between you and H. At least until she can have a more reasonable dialogue with you about what your relationship with C is supposed to mean. If that means you have to give C space to work things out with H to hammer out what polyamory means to them, so be it. But I don’t see how continuing to engage with someone like H who is belligerently engaging in bad faith discussions with you is healthy for you, for C, or for herself.
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