Polyamorous girlfriend wants to see ex-boyfriend...am I right to feel uneasy?
I will attempt to keep this short and sweet.
I just recently entered a relationship with a girl I've known for a while. A while back, this girl was dumped by a long-term boyfriend with whom she was monogamous with. About six months later (December 23rd), we started dating.
Prior to me asking her out, she said she had come out as poly. Now, I'll be honest, I had some trouble accepting this. But, in the end, I realized I would be willing to compromise since I had quite an interest in her. We held a discussion about what boundaries we should set if we were to enter a relationship. This quickly turned into an argument when she said she wanted to date her ex on the side.
I told her I would not be alright with this. I would feel threatened that he, as a secondary, was already loved while I, as a Primary, was just starting out with her. She even admitted that she still loved him but did not yet feel the same way for me. I did not see how I could be a Primary while she felt stronger feelings for her secondary...I felt I would soon default to being the extra man to their relationship.
After a couple of days, she told me to forget about her ex. She wanted me and she was willing to drop her desire for him as a secondary. We set new boundaries that said she could see one man and one woman on the side, and, after we both agreed, we commenced out relationship. Things went swimmingly for a week or two.
But just last night, she begged me to let her date her ex. She was pleading and bargaining. And when I told her "No," she continued on. She is very set on dating him (her tenacity itself in this matter makes me uneasy about how it will turn out). She wants to give up her side of the open relationship; she's willing to settle for just dating me and him. But dating him is a necessity. Nevermind the fact that his is what held us up from dating originally, and the only reason we currently are is that she agreed to avoid dating him. I feel almost insulted that, after making such an important agreement, she waited for a couple of weeks before bringing it up again to make it more difficult for me to tell he she can't.
I also still feel threatened. I worry that I will default to being the secondary and that he will become the Primary...perhaps not purposefully, but unintentionally and gradually. She said she would drop him in a second if, after a trial period, I still felt uneasy. But at this point I'm not sure if she would even listen to that, since she's acted about our agreement very lazily.
Am I right to feel threatened if she dates him? What do I do here?
You don't do things you are not willing to do.
You don't sound willing to entertain a "trial period" since you had the agreement in place to begin with. Are you willing to do this trial period thing?
You don't sound willing to stay in the relationship without the agreement. Are you willing to stay in the relationship WITHOUT the agreement she's not going to date the ex?
Where is your willingness at? What ARE you willing to do?
If you plan to stay and see -- could this help any?
If you plan to break up because it's more trouble than it is worth to you and just not a runner -- break up fast and clean. I know that stinks in the short term -- break ups are not known for being fun. But look out for your LONG TERM health and get you to the Healing Place ASAP. Don't drag out a break up. It helps nobody move on to the healing place to let it drag on.
Sometimes the choices in life are "this stinks. That stinks. Which stinks the least then?" You kinda have to answer it for yourself here. What you are willing to do and put up with, and what you are NOT willing to do and put up with.
Me? I am def not up for doing things I really do not want to do. That's not self respecting behavior.
I'm sorry you hurt. I hope you can sort yourself out and come to a decision that best serves your long term health and well being.
Hi Chupacabra (good name)
As GG said - there's no right or wrong. You feel the way you do.
I can certainly understand how you feel. You're not being unreasonable.
It's not really a good sign that she's made an agreement and then tried to swerve it to suit her. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It means that either she's a bit of a pushover and will make agreements in the moment to please someone, even if she knows that they don't suit her. Or, on the worst side, she wants what she wants and she's not entirely moral or honest.
That being said... she could have gone ahead and started dating the ex again, without telling you. So not all is lost.
I think there are a few things to consider here.
For me, if a primary/secondary model is adopted, it's going to take time.
To me... having a primary means that I value and cherish a particular person SO much that I actively *want* to make them a priority. Not because they have the title of being my girlfriend - but because they are compatible enough with me that I want to spend my life with them. I want to commit to them - so I'm willing to call them a primary, a priority, and consider how everything I do might affect that important relationship.
I wouldn't make a new lover a primary, if I were single. In my opinion, it's too soon.
For me, the idea of primary (priority) is completely defined by the idea that you have had time to want to make that commitment. It's a lovely idea to call someone a primary when you first start dating - but how is that going to work in practice? How are you going to want to put their needs above yours, when you haven't yet had enough time to even know if it's going to be a long term thing?
The issue of her ex complicates things.
I do feel that we can't force roles in people's lives. But roles can change by themselves. When I first met my girlfriend, she had a husband and a very important online partner. I never, ever thought I would make it to a primary level... but I fell for her so hard that I just wanted to be in her life. Over time, I became her primary. I became very important after just a few weeks - but to become a real, genuine, completely committed primary? That took at least 6 months - probably more like a year, in reality. Does that make sense?
From my perspective... whatever she wants is ok. Whatever you want is ok, too.
If she wants her ex (or rather, wants to see if they can work it out), that's what she wants. In my opinion, it's not really fair to say "nope, you can't have what you really want, because it makes me uncomfortable". For some people, poly isn't about just being able to date multiple people - it can very well be about having feelings for more than one *specific* person and wanting to explore both relationships at the same time.
If I were in your shoes? I'd either let the relationship go... or put it on hiatus, whilst she explore things with her ex... or continue, but not under a false security of the term 'primaries'. I genuinely don't think that will work, for what my opinion is worth. My leaning here would be to give it space for a few months, at least, and let her work out her thing with her ex, so that you don't get hurt in the crossfire.
How long did they date? What about an agreement to let the ex enter as a secondary after you two have been dating as long as they did? If that seems too long, maybe wait just a year or so, giving your own relationship time to get established. I generally like having at least 6 months between initiating new relationships so that I can actually connect to the new person. If she can't wait even that long he's clearly more important to her than you at this point, and you may as well focus your energy elsewhere if you're not ok being the secondary.
I understand that you feel threatened by her dating an ex -- but I don't think you have any basis for it. I really don't see how it is your place to tell her whether she can date others, or whom she can date. Why would you or she think you have any authority over what she can and cannot do? I don't even know why she is asking and begging you for permission, when she is her own person and, even in the monogamous world, the beginning of dating someone is often non-monogamous until things develop into a commitment.
In reality, how many times have you even been with her in a dating sense? It's not even a month of seeing her, and you seem to have a completely unrealistic idea that you can boss her around.
Furthermore, if she does decide to see you both (which is totally her choice), and you decide to continue seeing her (because, ultimately, you can only decide for yourself), don't get caught up in worrying about who is primary and who is secondary, who is already loved and who is not - titles and labels don't mean anything in practice and all you can or should do is be the best person you can be and treat each other with respect and caring. Many poly people do not care about nor use labels like primary and secondary, and looking at them like some kind of indication of your place in someone's life is an illusion and a real trap.
I think you need to wake up to the reality of the situation.
I think it's less about the labels of primary and secondary and more about wanting to start off on equal footing.
If you've been mono you're whole life and then suddenly enter a relationship were the other is poly it can be quite a lot to adjust to.
When I first got with my partner (H) he was still very much in love with his ex. At first, I found this difficult and had a lot of trouble.
The reason being start-of-new-relationship-anxiety. I am at my absolute most insecure and anxious at the start of a relationship, as I think, a lot of people are.
I think it would be reasonable for someone who has never experienced poly before to want to take it slow.
H and I, when we first started dating agreed that, for the first few months at least, he wouldn't date his ex and that we would ease into it as I adapted to being in a poly relationship. (for unrelated reasons, they didn't actually end up dating in the end, but the point stands)
I think expecting a mono individual to be okay with their partner dating an ex straight away, when they're only a few weeks into the relationship, is unrealistic. People need time to adjust.
I would suggest either trying to strike a compromise where, for a given number of months, they don't date/date platonically whilst you properly get to know each other. If this is isn't acceptable to her (or you) then it sounds like you have clashing hard limits, in which case, a break-up (as much as it sucks) would probably be the wisest option.
But I'm coming from the perspective of her interpersonal relationship skills, not just the model she may want to share with you not lining up with the fav model you want for yourself.
Chupacabra, you do not have to be willing to do anything you do are just not willing to do. Not even "try it out first and see" like she pushes for. If you are not willing to "try and see" -- don't. Maybe you WOULD be willing to explore other open relationship models with her if you felt more comfortable and safe with her as your partner.
Here's something I wanted to lift up:
If the polyshipping agreements she made with you were not the right fit for her when you were in your negotiation talks before starting the new polyship together? Why is SHE agreeing to do things she's not really willing to do in the first place then? Giving you false information (a lie) just makes for more "messy" later -- as you are now experiencing. And it makes her seem kinda flaky, or not respectful. Def not raking in trustworthy points.
A partner you have a hard time trusting -- that's not sounding like great polyshipping partner to me. :(
It's only been since Dec 23 -- there's not a whole lot vested in here. If her polyship offer does not sound yummy to you, it is ok to just pass it up and nip it in the bud. Seek elsewhere. You could say "Thank you for your offer, but I do not want to participate."
"Compromise" does not mean going ahead and doing things you are not really willing to do. That's not self-respecting behavior. Why'd she do that? Make agreements to hard limits she's not willing to honor? And then asking you to be doing things YOU really do not want to do? When you clearly say "no?" That is not respectful, and that kind of behavior on her part does not help build up trust either.
You are unhappy here, and signing up to do stuff you do not want and are unwilling to do is supposed to lead to happy how? It just sounds like leading to more unhappy for yourself.
So she's agreeing to things she's really not willing to do. She's asking you to do same. Two people doing stuff they really don't want to be doing in relationship doesn't sound like healthy relationship to me.
If you still want to give it a try, get the agreements and expectations nailed down for sure. Make sure all agreements serve the wants, needs, and limits of all players. Agree to your conflict resolution method. None of this Muppet Show chaos business. Play like Star Wars Jedi here or don't bother.
Sigh. I'm sorry things are hard for you. :(
But no matter what, choose what is best for your health and well being in the long term. It's on your to discern if this is worth the risks or not.
My husband and I have been married 3 years, together 6. Today, he asked my permission to do something (I forget what). My literal response was "I don't own you, you can do whatever you want." If I don't get to own my husband after 6 years and a marriage certificate, you sure as shit don't get to own your girlfriend after 2 weeks.
If you tried to pull something like that with me, back in my solo poly days, I'd have your ass booted out the door so fast you'd get whiplash. Consider yourself lucky she hasn't said good-bye, and get your act together.
Is it wrong to feel threatened? No. Does your insecurity make it ok to be possessive and domineering? Also no.
That doesn't mean you can't have boundaries. But if she wants to date her ex, it's her life. If you don't like it, don't be a part of it. That's what boundaries means.
I guess I should clarify that we've known each other for four years, during which we were VERY close friends. We became intimately involved around the beginning of December and made it official on the 23rd. During the majority of our friendship I was attracted to her and only just recently allowed myself to act on this.
I take it "intimately involved" means you become lovers?
That still doesn't change the basic conflict:
Possible ways to go:
That's basically it. Note we haven't even entered the bit of "what does the EX even want?" Maybe ex doesn't want to be in polyship at all with either of you!
But that's on the ex to state.
YOU can only speak from your own willingness. So do not go doing things you are not willing to do just to be with her as her dating partner/lover. That's not the path to happy in the long term.
Again, I'm sorry you hurt. This isn't easy. But remember you can keep ON being friends. You were already friends before. Were friends while being dating partners/ lovers. You can keep ON being friends AFTER having been dating partners/lovers.
Just that the dating/lover bit may not work out here after all if she wants to change the agreements.
You both agreed to honor this:
She asked you to change the agreement to the ex. fair enough. People can always ASK to renegotiate. It doesn't mean you get it. It means you get to ASK if your partners are up for it or not.
You say not willing to participate like that in a
She offered to close it down further to
You say you are not willing to participate like that. Given that she's not shown any follow through on previous agreements so far, what's trustworthy about her offering to agree to a NEW thing -- to drop him if you don't feel ok later? She has yet to build trust on her word with you.
She's "begging and pleading" now, rather giving you any other offers in negotiation. That is unflattering behavior. Rather than acting out, she could be calm about this and negotiate to a new offer or just terminate her relationship with you in a kind way because she wants to see the ex and you are not willing so it won't be a runner here. Be friends. Play like grown ups here.
Since she's willing to drop him at any time? It would be more trust building for her to offer:
But she's not giving you that option. Maybe she hasn't thought of it to be able to offer it. ( Is she assuming HE even wants to participate in all this in that blue way? Their previous arrangement was a monoship!)
If you are willing to try it in the blue, present that as your counter offer and see if the ex is down with that offer before all agree to fly under those colors. But do NOT present this to her as a counter offer unless you are really willing to try that on!
Given her offer on the table so far? The one of
Well, you are within your rights to say "Thank you for the offer. But I'm not willing to participate in that just like that. You are free to date him. But not date me concurrently in that polyship shape if that's the only offer on the table. You have not built enough trust with me in your agreement keeping for me to feel comfortable with that at this point in time. "
If she wants to date him, go on ahead. But she can't force you to date her while she dates him. Your willingness to do things is YOURS to decide.
Gotta keep it real here and do what is best for YOUR health.
So even if she's making it hard to keep on telling her "no, you are not willing to participate like that," stick with it.
Participate only in the things that you are willing to do and help you to feel happy and comfortable.
Not in things you are not willing to do and help you feel unhappy and uncomfortable. Why pick behavior that leads to unhappy and uncomfortable feelings? That makes no sense.
All relationships have some give and take. And yes, we grow when we are willing to take some risks and push our own boundaries a bit. But some risks we are just not willing to take because they push us too far too fast.
It is on you to discern if this offer and its risks is an offer you are or are not willing to take. If what she offers you is enough return on your investment.
So first up -- are you willing or not? Or could you be willing with qualifiers? What would those be?
If you need help developing a counter offer and need feedback on that -- post your counter offer draft then for people to help you refine that. (Mine in blue is just one example if you want to take it there.)
Otherwise walk away and take it to the break up option because you already know this is not going to feed you in they way you need feeding.
You don't control her. She also doesn't control you.
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