“My NP loves to talk about sex. He’s embarrassed me repeatedly by sharing my likes/dislikes despite my repeated requests to stop.
For some reason I thought he could keep his mouth shut about us being non-monogamous, but I did think enough to include it in our list of “rules.” Now a year in, my NP has repeatedly outed us without my permission to friends. He’ll of course say that I was the discloser in some of those situations, but that was only because he set up the conversation such that it was very obvious what he wanted me to say. He’s now outed another friend of ours when she very carefully told him not to say anything to another friend.
I can’t afford to be outed. It could have a serious negative impact on my career. Potentially even career ending. It hurts my feelings that he cares so little about my preferences on this matter despite having professed to agree and understand my position.
Have you dealt with this? Is there anything that has helped?
FWIW, NP is my high school sweetheart, and we’ve been married for 15+ years. Am I that big of a moron to have tolerated this kind of thing for so long???”
I completely understand where you are coming from. I too work in a very sensitive workplace where being outed could mean the end of my professional career in this industry. It sounds serious and incredibly frustrating that your NP cannot respect your own autonomy in who you personally come out to.
You’ve communicated this very specific and important boundary with him, that you feel deeply uncomfortable with the way he treats your privileged information. And you’ve reiterated with him your constant discomfort at each of his boundary breaches.
Boundaries cannot just be imaginary lines in the sand. They have to be meaningful and consequential. The reason you established those boundaries is so that others understand what you are and are not willing to tolerate.
So I believe it is time to move to the next step: boundary enforcement.
Enforcing your boundaries means following through on your conviction, in aligning your sense of self with the data points you’ve been gathering through his repeated boundary violations. It means making due what is owed, and standing by your ethics and beliefs that you hold dear even if the process itself is painful.
Boundary enforcement can be done in four steps.
The first step to enforcing his boundary violation is to recognize and identify the boundary he violated by yourself. Think about the general course of action now that you’ve realized how he has violated your boundaries. You don’t have to have a specific idea on what the consequences of his boundary violations are; but you do need a basic outline of what you aim to accomplish by re-establishing and recommitting to your boundaries.
Sit your NP down and call out what your boundary was and explain how he has violated that specific boundary. Elaborate what his actions and words communicated to you. Since there are previous violations, you may also benefit from outlining the alignment with the previous times he has disclosed the your intimate and personal sex life as well as your non-mono status without your explicit consent.
Then it is time to relate it to how it has affected you. Talk about how this (and many prior) boundary violation has made you feel. Use a lot of “I” statements to explain to him how his words and actions were responsible for the feelings being invoked. There is a lot of hurt, desperation, and frustration in what you’ve already shared with us. So communicate that with him that while he does not manage your feelings, the dispassionate and impersonal way in which he has handled your boundaries necessitates actions of consequence.
The last step is consequence communication. After you’ve outlined the boundary he crossed and explained how that boundary violation has affected you, you need to communicate to him that there are consequences to his boundary violation. This is where your original homework of outlining your intentions in re-establishing and recommitting to your boundaries comes in handy. In most cases, the consequences could look like a simple verbal reminder of your boundary, distancing yourself from this particular connection, de-escalation, or even a breakup if the boundary violation is severe or frequent enough.
Let’s come back to what has happened here for you personally.
Throughout the history outlined in your post, your NP is repeatedly displayed behaviors that which reflect either:
- He is forgetful of your boundaries you’ve communicated with him multiple times and is therefore incapable of treating your boundaries with respect;
- Or, he does not have respect for the boundaries you’ve established or the relationship he is constantly jeopardizing.
Both of those reflect deep underlying character flaws that are displayed through his words and actions which have hurt you. In either way, the best way to approach and address your situation might be to distance yourself from this relationship, at the very least. Fifteen years of marriage is a long time together. And while you can’t take back the vulnerabilities you’ve shared with and through him, what you can do is to create some space for you to buffer your engagements with him until he can show that he can respect the new boundaries you’ll establish with him. Consider un-enmeshing some aspects of your life that you feel like his presence threatens for you. Since the crux of this issue lies on his level of disclosure, you might want to discontinue sharing in vulnerable space with him: issues and topics that he might otherwise share to others without your consent. If he continues to violate your boundaries even after these consequences have been enacted, then it might be a time to escalate to de-escalation or even separation until he can get his stuff in order.
I wish I can speak with your NP a bit more to figure out why he is impulsively disclosing intimate details of his (and by extension, your) life with your mutual friends, especially without your consent.
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.
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