NonMonog>Poly: First secondary, primary cheated, what the hell do we do now.
I’m one of two queer girls that were monogamous for a year, but from day one talked mutually about wanting to be open. After a lying episode (described below), we opened up a little, limited to group situations, and after that a few brief, casual triad relationships. I still have some issues trusting her since the lying, and lately we’ve opened the conversation to dating separately, thinking it's been long enough, and we are strong enough together to do so. And we're finding... we’re not.
She went out with the ONE PERSON I'd asked her not to become involved with (this person is known in our community for seeking ways to break couples up and bragging about it). They go out and they make out. I didn't find out about it for weeks of my partner acting shady. I didn't even know they hung out together until photos surfaced on Facebook and an unsaved number was popping up on her phone rather frequently. I confronted my SO. She admitted omitting that this girl was present while she was out that night, said they just danced, but after a month of prodding her she admitted they hung out until 5am and made out on the dancefloor. Pre-nonmonogamy. While kissing isn't a big deal, it was shiestyness and the weeks of lying that made me feel the worst, and made me doubt the most. I felt nuts, like my gut was dead wrong and I was just acting crazy. Now, I'll never be 100% sure she didn't cheat on me that night.
That was a year and a half ago. Since then, we only date people together, which has been a weird, sexy, exhilarating, and super bumpy road.
Recently, we met someone that was more interested in my SO than me, and my SO asked to date her solo. This would be the first time either of us had a secondary. I got crazy. I got insecure. I started to panic. I feared the works: losing my partner, that things would move too fast and she’d fall in love and leave me. Everything.
My partner was sweet. She listened, she reassured. Still scared. I asked they slow down the relationship, and not sleep together yet. This new person was traveling, so she was leaving town for weeks on end. With each trip, my SO tried to maximize her time with her before she left again. They only went on two dates alone; the other times they hung out I was there, and not really by choice. My SO would be like: hey they’re having this party, we should go. Or, hey can this person meet us now, while we’re out together, just to hang out? And I was finding myself bending, because I genuinely liked the girl, and her intentions seemed on par. But I was spending every other day around the two of them, even when I expressed that I was struggling. I was letting myself be manipulated out of my comfort zone repeatedly, and I was starting to resist and resent.
I ask again for things to slow down. They didn’t. The girl was around a ton, and when she was out of town, me and my SO were fighting. They had very little alone time, so my partner thought they were going slow. The fact that we spent so much time with her socially didn’t strike my SO as “seeing” her, and she seemed unable to resist this new person regardless of how I was feeling. I get NRE, but I was begging for mercy and was getting none.
I wrote a list of boundaries. They were tight, but subject to change as I got used to things. There were limitations around weekdays vs weekends, what time she gets home (so we can have a check-in after dates, before she falls asleep), zero hooking up. Just while I got comfortable.
But my SO wanted to fuck her, and she wanted to do it before her next trip, which was coming up fast. I stuck to my guns. She would be back, why the rush? But she pushed, and I agreed they could hang out more than planned. Things between them became more intense, and my SO reapplied pressure. I said I still wasn’t ready, but told her, "If you want permission, fine. Fuck her. But I am not okay with it." I said "if you need it so bad, so soon, then just do it." At that point, my feelings didn’t seem to be much of a factor anymore. I gave up.
I told her I’d have to heal in therapy after the fact, instead of handling it at a pace that felt safe. I told her if they hooked up, she was NOT to come home after (we share a place), nor the next morning, and that I didn’t want to smell another girl’s nether regions on her, ever. I was triggered. She saw that and calmed down. She assured me that she knew better, wasn’t going to do that, and just wanted to spend time with the girl before her trip. So I gave my blessing that they go out alone, again.
I was really proud of myself during this date. I stayed busy, took care of myself in positive ways, kept calm. My SO stayed in touch, and I felt secure. She came home and I was happy to see her and I wasn't in a negative head space.
I had MADE IT! I got past the demons, she stayed within bounds, and I was going to be okay with her seeing someone else. It felt really, really, good. Like I just climbed a mini Mount Everest in my polyness.
She took off her jacket, went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and came to bed to snuggle. And then she kissed me hello. Friends, my SO has perfect skin and never wears makeup, so NEVER washes her face, except in the shower. And she had washed her face. My ears pricked. She brushed her teeth, too, and since she was making out with someone, I appreciated that courtesy. But when she kissed me, all I smelled was vagina. I’m a lesbian. I know pussy when I smell it and I can smell it a mile away. I looked her dead in the eyes. Did you guys hook up? “No.” She kisses me again. Are you sure? “I swear we were just hanging out, I did NOT hook up with her.” Am I completely nuts, or do you smell like vagina?
The record stops. She sits up. She lies once: it was just fingers, over her panties. Again: maybe under them. Again: I might have “kissed” her there, a little. She comes clean (maybe?): she ate her out in the bathroom stall minutes before texting me she was on her way home. She lied to the girl that it was “okay" to hook up.
It was not. She knew it, admitted it, but it was too late. All the stuff from the first lying came rushing back, on top of some very serious baggage of mine from past relationships, and I was floored. I was repulsed. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. I rationalized, then became irrational. I was completely and utterly beside myself.
Also, when she came home from her first date, I smelled the same thing on her hands, and she insisted it was her own, from changing a tampon. As I’m writing this, I’m starting to re-think that excuse for the n-th time. I didn't buy it at first, but then eventually believed her that time. And have even since asked, just to be sure, but again: I’m never going to know what happened that night, and who knows what she didn't tell me from their last date.
She violated my trust something fierce, and even my health. She shit on my boundaries, down to the worst one. She said she never should have agreed to them, they were too strict for her, and that feeling “controlled” only made her want to break more rules. She was afraid I would “never” get over my fears and she would “never” get anything she wants out of poly, so she just did what she wanted, figuring I wasn’t going to let her have it, ever. She didn’t trust me to ever grow, which has been a common theme when things don’t go smoothly: she accuses me of not really wanting to be poly, saying I lie to keep her around. I take huge offense to that, and she knows it, because of all the positive work we’ve done over the past 1.5 years.
She and I have our own personal demons that created this toxic, negative cycle (more on that here, in a post I created about negative cycles), and we’re owning it. The third party freaked that I freaked, and backed out, so the relationship is over. And I’m super relieved, but my partner isn’t. And I am still left with the scar of what went down to work through on top of everything else.
Our therapist says what we need to do next is rebuild trust. My SO needs to be able to trust that I can grow, and I need to trust that she can handle tight bounds until I get comfortable with her dating people without me. SHE says she has zero boundaries about me dating or having relationships with people other than her, but I always feel like that’s a lot of her trying to guilt me about having so many of my own boundaries for her. Like, she allows me do to do whatever I want (which is permission I’ve never asked for and never take advantage of when she’s not around), so why can’t she.
Leaving her was certainly on the table through all of this, but now that the situation is in a calmer place, we will be staying together and working it out. We did have a strong mono relationship, and we are pretty successfully nonmonogamous. It's poly that's new, and proving quite difficult. We’ve agreed to take 6 months (give or take) to heal, and better understand how our relationship will work.
My question for the forum:
But how do I learn to trust her? How do I get her to behave in trustworthy ways? I can’t control what she does (obviously), but I think I deserve to have a say in how things go. Were my rules too strict? If she were your SO in their first secondary relationship, would her infidelity be a deal-breaker for you guys? If not, and/or if you’ve experienced similar, how did it pan out? Any insight would be helpful.
Why are you still together? Srsly. It sounds to me like neither one of you are ready for a serious relationship, either mono or poly.
It may work best for you if you split and each attend to your own issues. Once you've got a handle on those, then you'll have a chance of working out your joint issues.
Grrl, I feel for you. Sounds like a very hard place to be. :(
There are, as they say, plenty of fish in the sea; and plenty who will worship you properly and not do things in the first place to violate your trust.
She didn't have an 'oops.' She consciously and deliberately and knowingly made a decision to a) violate your trust, and b) lie to you about it, and c) blamed you for her behaviour (your boundaries were too stiff).
Wishing you strength.
I'm sorry, since I know this isn't what you were asking, but I agree with the other posters. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Why give her the chance to fool you a third time?? It's one thing to screw up, to make a mistake, even to cheat -- its wrong, but it can be explained as a mistake of passion. But lying to your face, lying while in bed with you, not giving a fuck about whether she makes you feel crazy? That's just someone who doesn't respect you and either doesn't know how to be an ethical, loving partner or doesn't care enough to.
You deserve better than that. If you rebuild trust with this woman and then she does this AGAIN, how will you ever trust anyone in the future? I wouldn't be so hard on her if she had shown any interest in honesty whatsoever at any point, but instead she's done everything she can to lie to you when convenient. Worse, she threw it back on you and tried to guilt you into believing that you were the bad guy by telling you it was your fault because your boundaries were too strict (if that was the case, she had the option to not agree to them). That's bordering on abusive.
Again -- You. Deserve. Better.
Your question is:
How can I get her to be trustworthy?
My two questions to you are:
Why do you think you can "get her" to be anything?
Why do YOU want to STAY with a DISHONEST person?
I have to be honest... I think that your guidelines were far too strict.
Poly is supposed to be about nurturing the needs of both partners, not just the needs of one.
I hate cheating and lying. I can't stand it. I try never, ever to lie to my partner. But...
Sometimes lying is a sign of immaturity or a lack of integrity. Sometimes a person lies when they are simply fed up of dealing with so much trouble. It doesn't mean they want to lie... sometimes people can feel between a rock and a hard place.
I don't agree with what your girlfriend has done at all. But I can see why she has done it.
I really don't want to offend you at all... but this part struck me...
Sometimes we think we're overcoming something, but all we are doing is hiding from it.
My girlfriend recently slept with someone. The first person outside her husband and I, over our 1.5 year relationship. The dating stage was hard for me. The first time she slept with the guy was hard for me.
She told me afterwards that he was an ok lover, not top 5, not awful. I was disappointed. I'd rather not know anything. If I can tell myself "he's the best lover she's ever had" and still not feel threatened, then I'm really getting somewhere.
Do you know what I mean?
Incidentally, after her first date with this guy, my girlfriend told me that she couldn't wait any longer. 1.5 years of experimenting and failed dates and she was 'chomping at the bit' to sleep with someone else/him. She told me that if she couldn't do it soon, she was worried she'd end up breaking a guideline as she wouldn't be able to control herself.
That doesn't mean she was trying to force me. It means she was getting her needs on the table and saying "I cannot take this any slower."
That gave me the final push to suck it up and deal. And that was great. The waiting was more torturous than the event and I could finally deal with the reality.
Incidentally, our guidelines are things like:
- try not to have sex on the first date / try to wait until other partners have met them
- be considerate of time frames, get in touch if you are going to be over an hour late
- be kind to each other and soothe other
- understand that all parties feel stress about a date (not just those left at home)
- understand that we are human and we can act on impulse
These are the guidelines we had from the very beginning of our real poly, about a year ago. We're looking at adapting and loosening some of them.
Our strictest guideline is 'no overnight stays', as we want extra sexual partners, not extra people to be in love with and we feel overnights are too intimate. However, this rule has been adjusted in certain circumstances.
I really am all for guidelines, especially if they help to deal with feelings in the beginning. However, when guidelines essentially give you an excuse to run from feelings, they are dangerous.
I really don't believe in hard rules.
I don't know if this is going to help, but my SO and I have a number rating on things. We do this to be lighthearted, but also so that we know where we stand on grey areas. For example, I was recently invited by a girl I'm dating to come and meet her friends, then stay over, as we were meeting at night and I would miss the last train.
My girlfriend seemed to go back and forth on this, then I eventually asked for a number in terms of her comfort level. 0 is "couldn't be happier", 5 is "this could be a deal breaker for our relationship"... she was feeling at a 4, for various reasons.
Knowing this, I changed my date to an earlier time, met her friends, but didn't stay over. We compromised.
The idea of poly is to promote each other's freedom. Whilst compromise is essential and we should be considerate of our partner's feelings when we are the active poly people.... we also have to be considerate as the inactive partner.
If you do decide to continue in poly together, I'd strongly suggest that you both start putting things out on the table and trying to reach compromises. If she's saying "I need this now" and you're saying "I cannot handle this now", then a compromise would be "can you wait another week?" If neither can compromise, you basically have a deal breaker situation and you have to confront that.
All of your responses are on point with where I was last week. I was house hunting (I still am, we're moving apart regardless of whether we maintain a relationship), reaching out to friends, working out logistics to move out, calling my mom to come to SF to help me move and help me find peace in this process while I left her. So I agree with all of you. And I've been in monogamous relationships where nothing this severe happened and I still didn't stand for it, even for a second.
The only defense I have is that she's one of my favorite people, ever. She's one of my best friends, before this was the first person everyone I know also loved for me. She's a great match, and this is two times in almost three years that she (who is 24) has lost control of her clit. We've also slept with people together, we have another mutual partner who is out of state that we care about dearly, and we have future plans.
I'm not ordinarily the kind of girl to let someone walk all over me this way, and as far as I know (and I know this sounds nuts, but I can literally see when she's lying, she's plain shitty at it), she has only crossed me like this twice. And I agree. Fool me once, fool me twice. I do! I see all of that. And she's owned it, plenty. And we DO know we're not ready to be dating other people alone, so we're not now, obviously. But she's keeping it on the table, that at some point, that's a poly freedom she'd like to enjoy, and is willing to work on it. She says she didn't know the magnitude of what all of this would do to me because I gave her "permission." I see it as an excuse, I See her trying to essentially get away with murder.
But you guys, this is just my side. I did send a lot of mixed signals, and I was no angel through any of this. Every time she came home from any date, I was a total nutjob, except the time I described above. I was jealous and stormy and emotionally charged to the hilt. Just hearing she wanted to have sex with this girl sent my tummy into somersaults. At one (DRUNK) point, I told her I was totally cool with them sleeping together, and when she brought it up the next day, revoked it. I jerked her around a lot. NONE OF THIS JUSTIFIES HER BEHAVIOR, I know. But I wasn't really easy to deal with or even understand, and I got really nasty, lots of times, well before her bout of infidelity. She also says that she didn't feel her feelings were a factor, but her feelings were desires for another person, so I felt like they could wait. Was that dickish or totally justified? I felt pretty justified. I still do.
As far as "making" her trustworthy, I worded that deliberately. I know I can't change her, but I though maybe I went about expressing myself in a shitty way, and maybe there was a perspective I could give, or some approach I could take, that would make trust less of a breach of her privacy and more something worth striving for. She's owned up to fucking up, and she has owned up to being manipulative. She's asked why I bother to be with her just like you have, and there are times I can't answer.
The bottom line is, this relationship is important to me. She's young, she fucked up twice in 3 years. And to me that is NOT excusable, and I am certainly not over it. But I'm wondering if anyone here thinks it's fixable. It's up to me if it's worth fixing. But if I were, say, married with children and this happened, I feel like people would be a little more diplomatic in their responses?
Could this be a situation where I need to be less invested, perhaps not as a primary, and relinquish control? Because other than these incidents, our relationship is stronger than my post lets on. I've been in some really awful ones, open and not, and this one isn't anything like those. We both certainly need our own shrinks, that's in the works. But today, versus last week, I'm looking for other options than calling it quits. It might sound naive, and if this was a friend of mine, I'd be all about that friend high-tailing it out. But I'm not into it. What do you do when you don't want to leave?
Sparklepop, just saw your response, following up after this one. I think your points are valid too, and you're spot on re: immaturity. But is one month really that strict for a first secondary? More on that after this reply...
All of these are exactly the perspectives I was hopingfor from you guys! Thanks!
Yes, I was avoiding my demons. I saw my boundaries as a list of demons to get over, and getting over all of them at once was too much to swallow.
But when you say "of course you could cope," you're missing that I wasn't coping at all, whether she was following bounds or not. So I agree, she was between a rock and a hard place. And I was heavily triggered.
I did not intend for the boundaries to stick forever. It was what I needed to pace out this experience because it was waking things up in me that I hadn't anticipated.
You're right, her needs should be equally important. So what do you do when you're struggling hard and they go ahead and meet their own needs against yours?
Yes, freaked out about all the ways she could be better, stronger, prettier, more fun, and on and on. And I was fully aware that those feelings are natural, and needed work on my end. But every time I looked up, more was happening. I didn't feel I had any time to adjust.
I do see that she's human and has her own set of needs. And I think bunchy girls (and dudes) have a challenge of initiative on their hands that more passive gender roles (like femmes and straight women, and yes I'm making awfully broad generalizations but bear with) don't have to worry about. For instance, she is the one who asks people out, while I wait to be approached. She is the one to make first moves, I tend to wait until someone woos me. So I could see that the pace was, in essence, asking her to protect me in ways she isn't equipped/obligated to, while at the same time asking her not to be herself on a date. And herself is to sleep with people. Fast. I know cuz that's how it was when we met, and that's how it is when we date.
I never intended to give her such hard rules. But yeah, I freaked, and when I did, she asked what I needed to feel secure. So I was like, for now, let's try it within these bounds. I honestly thought (though she didn't believe) that it would help me with the next steps. And if she stuck to them I could trust her and start to feel safe to take them down. Was that a wrong approach?
Personally, I'd rather have my bed to myself for once than sleep next to someone who's been fucking someone else just an hour before. So I'm not sure why that needs work, but am all ears if you want to elaborate.
I love the rating system. I'll definitely give that serious thought, it sounds like something we really needed then, and could be useful in the future.
I was actually heartbroken that it had to end because I struggled. Well, because I struggled and she fucked up. And I told them both, I was sorry it turned into this, and that I really wasn't pleased with how it ended. Yeah, sure I'm feeling much better now, and safer. But I do not feel good about removing a positive experience from my partner's life. I actually never did veto, but I talked about it an awful lot. And she does hope to have that freedom again in the future, so it's not really over in the scheme of things.
How exactly does one "confront" a "deal breaker situation" in a productive way?
Not sure how useful this is...the more a person breaks agreements in new poly, the more nervous you get that they will keep breaking them, so the more information/reassurance you ask for, the more agreements you try to make, the more chances (with a person like this...) that you will be disappointed.
I think the therapist wasn't useful, asking you to rebuild trust while you were already IN the process of rebuilding trust. I think your partner needs solo therapy, and in your place, I wouldn't trust them anymore.
And when you are new to poly? No you probably don't want to sleep with somebody who just fucked somebody else an hour ago until you have a week or two to process. That's the whole point of the initial big list of agreements, and asking for and expecting excess care to not hurt your partner, as far as I'm concerned. One you realize your partner isn't a cheater or going to break your trust, that stuff can really fade into the background and become unimportant, but it IS a big deal for a lot of people at the beginning when they are dipping their toes in.
I wouldn't worry about your "hard rules" I'd worry about your partner agreeing to them, then breaking them, then lying about them. Some people will give you flak for having so many "rules" in the first place - but I am like that..start small, and things relax quickly once you feel safe and like you can trust your partner.
I'm often surprised that people on forums (mainly fetlife, but here too) will say that it is YOUR fault for being too ruley when your partner agrees to what you ask, then breaks their agreements, therefore its your problem instead of the "lying/doesn't know how to speak up for themselves" partner. Maybe that's because it's the partner going WTF? that posts, I don't know.
For me, it would be a deal breaker. Half safe sex agreements/half lying to me TWICE. My husband broke our agreements in our first attempt at poly, and it was a deal breaker - we remain good friends but I can't trust my heart to somebody who does that. I cannot trust anybody that lies to my face, and I find it hard to believe that somebody who will lie to my face twice, then make ME do the work of bringing the truth to light, to be anybody that is near ready to be honest and trustworthy.
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