am i cut out for this/ boundaries?
A brief background on me- I’m 31, queer (female identified, mostly date queer women and trans men), and have had a lot of experience with dating, but not a lot of good luck with polyamory. I strongly believe in polyamory and have read all of the required books, but I have in the past been either:
1. involved with minimal-verbal-communcation types: my longest was 8 years, and despite my constant asking to negotiate a polyamorous situation, she would not agree to it and said she was not comfortable with it. I chose to stay with her and comply with her desires to be monogamous. Ironically, at the end of 8 years she “cheated” on me with someone else and kept the affair a secret for about a month before I found out and broke up with her (for the reason of her dishonesty and other unrelated relationship deteriorations, included our poor/incompatible communication).
2. Otherwise, and mainly in the past two years, I have dated people who said they were polyamorous, but in the end presented “boundary setting” as something one sided (basically- they would or wouldn’t communicate that they were with someone else, and negotiations around boundary setting were not allowed when I attempted to discuss them—very similar to the typical “we are new to dating each other and don’t owe one another any explanation” sort of scenario). These two situations became messy and ended as both individuals were more seriously seeing someone else by the end and not giving me the time or negotiation I needed.
Recently, I am facing the situation once again. This guy Tom (name changed) and I started dating in the beginning of April. He came on very strongly for the first two months (texting me, calling me all the time. Long visits, as we live about three hours away from each other). He had been poly in the past and I have been wanting to. From the start, we established boundaries around safer sex, sharing information and being honest if and when we had other dates. We were still building a relationship and deciding where it was going. I have one date who I see once a month on the side (nothing serious emotionally, just making out and hanging out, she’s in an open primary relationship) and Tom hadn’t been seeing anyone at that point. I started to develop more serious feelings for him and it seemed mutual based on the frequency of our communication and the things that we shared. I was very clear with him, though, that I didn’t want to define our relationship for at least 6 months because I wanted to get to know him well, first. I have also had bad experiences in the past with partners who wanted to commit too quickly and thought this would be the healthiest way to build.
A few weeks ago, I very consciously noticed that Tom stopped texting and calling so much and when he did he seemed brief and cold with me. I started to talk to my friends about it, not sure if I was just being insecure and the honeymoon was tapering off, or if something was truly “up”. I wanted to feel it out on my own terms before I brought it up to him. Tom very soon after called and brought up that he wanted to “go solo” and hang out with friends at a big annual gay pride party we were both planning on being at, which I respected. He then said he wanted to make out with others at the party. I immediately responded that I didn’t feel comfortable with this in a shared space (we were so rarely in the same space as we live in different cities, so it didn’t seem like a lot to ask). Because the party was a big yearly event that most of my friends would be at, I didn’t think it was fair to ask me to skip out. He then told me that a past date would be back in town in two weeks and he would be having a date with them. He would not be able to see me at all in july and would be traveling out of the country in august. He said his needs to make out with others at the big party were “his needs”, that he was stating them for me to know. I told him about my boundaries concerning shared space and not being with others in shared spaces and he just repeated that he was stating what “he needed”. I then brought up that I’d felt he’d been pulling away lately and Tom lashed back, saying he didn’t want to be in a relationship, mumbling, “you’re not someone I’d be in a relationship with”.
More conversations followed, but communication was touchy and didn’t get far. I was hurt by what he said. I didn’t want a relationship right then and there, but that possibility is something that I wanted. He started then referring to our “relationship” as “casual”. Since then, I have asked for space from our dating until he’s back in september. He did not have time to see me in July because of his other date and will be out of the country in August. It did not seem possible to negotiate the boundaries I needed to negotiate. The situation was getting me nowhere and it felt as if I’d been relegated to a lower priority for him, without stating that.
The kicker is that he wants to be friends, we still have friends in common, and still run into each other—he emailed me before pride weekend saying that he was looking forward to seeing me, and came up and hugged me when I was working at one of the march events. The big party happened this past Sunday and I received another email from Tom saying that his out of town date would be in town early and would be coming to the party with him and that he wanted to tell me, out of respect. I was very confused and a little hurt, as he’d said he didn’t want a date for the party, but now he would be bringing this date. The night of the party, I saw them walk in holding hands, right by me. I would like to think they didn’t notice me because it was fairly dark, but I’m not sure. I decided to leave as I felt hurt and confused and didn’t think I wanted to deal with that anger on top of being slightly drunk in a public space. I emailed Tom a day later telling him about my experience at the party, and related hurt and confusion. I decided it was important that he know what had taken place on my end. I have not heard back. Obviously, I need space from the situation no matter what.
Overall, in terms of our past dating situation, I don’t think that Tom is was addressing my need for boundaries, but I am wondering how reasonable my boundaries are? I am very much feeling like throwing in the towel on this dating situation, but am not sure if I can build a friendship with Tom, either. Perhaps it’s all too fresh. I would like to understand it more and don’t want to throw in the towel in terms of polyamory—but am wondering if my expectations are off because this isn’t the first time I’ve been in a situation like this (my needs aren’t being met, someone else is very clearly asserting their needs and getting them met). Does this mean that polyamory doesn’t work for me, or is it that I’m just falling in with people who aren’t compatible with me? I appreciate any insight, very much!
This appears to be a classic case of varied levels of interest. Tom wants only a casual connection while you want something quite different. It has nothing to do with being poly--that sort of conflict arises in mono relationships, too.
As for the folks who purport to be poly and yet avoid open, honest communication, well, that behavior serves as warning that you don't want to get involved with them. Seriously, there are lots of folks who claim to be poly simply to provide cover for their bad behavior. We have a recent thread on that sort of thing over in General Discussions.
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