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Advice – My partner is dating someone who is in a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell arrangement.

“So my primary (F) and I (M) have had a long, thus far happy poly relationship for several years now. We’ve both played outside the relationship but they’ve never been anything serious.

She has recently met a new guy, and she had a crush, and they seem to be extremely compatible and happy together, and I’m so excited for her to have that.

But this guy says he has a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy with his wife. Which is an immediate red flag to me, but it’s ultimately my partner’s decision to be with him, and I let her make it after voicing my concerns.

My question is this: am I right to feel extremely uncomfortable with the fact that this man not only refuses to meet me (my partner and I do not have a DADT policy by any means). In every successful poly encounter I’ve ever had in all my life, it has been accomplished with open dialogue and full disclosure, and every time secrets have been kept it has gone badly.

This man not only refuses to meet me, or to share our phone numbers in case of emergency, he didn’t even want me to know his name or his occupation. He doesn’t like that she tells me when they’re going out together or where they’re going, and the first thing he did after telling her that he didn’t want to meet me is block me on social media, so even if there was an accident or something, I could not even begin to contact him.

Confusing all the more is that, at the beginning of their relationship, he was asking my partner if she would be willing to come to his home to be friends or fuckbuddies with his wife, at the same time he was saying he wouldn’t even meet me to shake my hand and talk about our boundaries, or message me on facebook.

I don’t want to make a huge deal out of the first real happy extracurricular experience she has had in our poly relationship, but these are massive red flags to me, and they make me incredibly uncomfortable. I feel like a man should be able to look the husband of his girlfriend in the eye and shake his hand when that husband is buying them hotel rooms to spend the night in, you know?

Thoughts or suggestions are welcome. This is putting a lot of tension on our relationship, and the happiness I feel for her being with someone she likes is so big that my misgivings almost seem small, but this is the one that doesn’t seem to be going away or getting better.

I just don’t want to cost her her happiness if I’m being unreasonable. He agreed to our guidelines and rules before seeing her, and then changed his mind as soon as they went out.

I just want to know what other people think before I mess things up much more than I already have.”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Blank Space on Pexels.com

Dear Anonymous,

Compatibility is such an odd concept in the context of dating. Humans are so innately complex, conflicted, and compromising that to wrap all the intrigue of sexual, emotional, physical, and circumstantial chemistry into one word feels criminal. And let’s talk about that term: circumstantial chemistry.

Circumstantial chemistry is in essence how well your life’s happenstance matches up with your romantic partner’s own life’s happenstance. For example, we could say that a couple has poor circumstantial chemistry for a romantic relationship if one or both partners are in an explicitly monogamous relationship with different partner(s). When we decide to pursue a romantic connection with another, we should first assess how all four of those chemistry align. If you happen to have really bad sex with your partner, that sexual component of your relationship might not be feasible. If you happen to have really great sex with your partner but they lack other physical intimacy (like cuddling and massaging), you are probably going to have to go find that physical chemistry elsewhere. Circumstantial chemistry often gets left behind. But the truth of the matter is that you are never just dating a person as they are today; you are also dating their history as well as who they could become throughout the course of the relationship.

It can be very difficult to fully understand your circumstantial compatibility especially while you and your new partner are both enveloped in the intoxicating NRE. Even I have had past relationships where I was scratching my own head about how I allowed myself to get in that mess.

Based on what you have shared with us, your partner might not have recognized how little circumstantial compatibility they have with this new connection. The NRE blindspot makes sense, especially since your primary partner never had intense connections like this one before.

Photo by Ichad Windhiagiri on Pexels.com

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies deservedly get a lot of negative criticism around most poly communities.

Often, DADT policies are set in place due to insecurity, emotional capital mismanagement, and poor judgment. DADT policies make it impossible to cross-verify if they are ethically practicing non-monogamy not just from your perspective but from your partner’s perspective as well. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that your metamour is not actually cheating on his wife; either she doesn’t want to know about it or he is incapable of maturely handling emotionally sensitive information with his wife. If he is unable to maintain a connection with you, I get the sense that your partner’s hearsay – that his wife is really jealous – is not as true as his inability to properly manage his own emotional resources. It doesn’t sound like your partner gets jealous about what he has with his wife. So why can’t he maintain a reasonable and sensible connection with you, even if for the simple sake of your shared partner’s safety?

There is a very fine but important distinction to be made here between what is ethical / consensual and what is not.

Setting personal ethics aside, it is important to recognize when someone is pushing on your boundaries. And your metamour definitely neglected your and her pre-existing agreement when he “agreed to [y]our guidelines and rules before seeing her, and then changed his mind as soon as they went out.” And your partner has failed you in failing to uphold the agreement that she has previously agreed to with you. He doesn’t just get to unilaterally uproot the guidelines and rules he has already consented to. If he wanted to change any rules, it should have been a discussion or a negotiation so that their newfound deep emotional connection is adequately represented in her life.

You mentioned that this is the first time your partner connected deeply with a person outside of her relationship with you. And I get the feeling that she is not used to setting boundaries with other people, especially if they are pushy. An experienced polyamorist would have recognized the boundary pushing, communicated what they saw, then re-establish and enforce the boundary. For some, this skill to develop, communicate, and enforce boundaries come with time and practice. For many, it is a very painful development process.

Your metamour too has a right to establish and communicate his own boundaries. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like he was very clear to establish his communicative boundaries with you, something you’ve been doing your best to respect. But it doesn’t mean that those boundaries have to be compatible with yours. It sounds like you want to be closer with your metamours (as evidenced by your previous experiences) while he wants to maintain a DADT not just with his wife but also with your partner as well.

But this part really confused me. How can he maintain a DADT policy with his wife while also asking your partner if she’d be open to becoming friends or fuckbuddies with his wife? It sounds like it is at best another instance of him pushing his boundary, and this time it is with his wife. If they’ve agreed to a DADT arrangement, then it falls on your metamour’s shoulders to do the emotional labor associated with extreme compartmentalizing that comes with DADT relationships. He doesn’t get to talk about or much less introduce his partners to each other. That is the whole point of DADT policies. By asking your partner to be friends or fuckbuddies with his wife, he either…

  1. Changed that agreement with his wife without properly communicating with you and your partner, or;
  2. Is disrespecting the boundary he previously agreed to with his wife before he met your partner.

Either way, those should be dealbreakers in and of themselves.

Photo by Alina Isaieva on Pexels.com

And now let’s talk about what you can do.

Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that your metamour’s intentions behind implementing DADT with his wife was disingenuous at best. But the more surprising aspect of this relationship is that your partner has appeared to agree to a DADT arrangement with your metamour as well, even though that is not the type of relationship that you’ve ever had with your partner.

I think you can do so much better than looking at him in the eyes and shake hands before he takes your partner off to a hotel room. You are not entitled to any kind of engagement with him if he doesn’t want to interact with you. However, you are entitled to having a healthy and happy relationship with your partner. And if their agreement (which clearly comes at your self-sacrifice) is causing you great harm and distress, you need to be forthcoming about how your partner’s enabling of your metamour’s actions have hurt you.

In the comments, you mentioned that your partner tends to be very passive in her relationships. Her passiveness is not suitable or healthy for non-mono relationships. What will happen when she decides to forgo the next really important boundary because he pushed? What happens if he engages in sexually or physically risky endeavor with your partner without implementing proper safety measures? Where is the line?

You say that your partner is your primary partner. It is time for you to kindly remind your primary partner that you will not accept your own boundaries being trampled on by her secondary partner. And it is time for your partner to stand up for what she believes in. You too are entitled to your own boundaries, just like she is entitled to her own relationships and he is to his DADT agreement. Even if that is his own right, you do not need to make a personal compromise on behalf of your partner’s relationship of questionable ethics.

So. I agree with you. These appear to be massive red flags to me as well. And I don’t think you are making enough big deal about how many dealbreakers he presented in a very short amount of time.

Good luck.

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 teatimetomato@gmail.com.

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