Husband not abiding by transparency rule, what to do?
My husband and I have been poly for a few years now. Earlier this year, we had a situation with someone he dated a handful of times, I'll call her Mary. She failed to disclose a sexual partner she had before she had some limited sexual contact with husband. The partner she failed to disclose, I'll call him Mike, turned out to be high risk. (Mike was having casual sex without condoms with others. Mary claimed to not know this for a time.)
Even though husband hadn't actually done much sexually with Mary before Mary admitted that she was sleeping with Mike, and then, later on, disclosed Mike's high-risk behavior, I considered that the simple fact that Mary did not disclose the existence of Mike, when she otherwise knew husband very well and had been forthcoming about other partners she had, a breach of trust. She had been willing to have sex with husband before disclosing Mike, he was the one who decided they should wait, and we only heard about Mike's existence days after that, and over a month later, about Mike's high-risk sex life.
I told husband I did not trust Mary as a potential sexual partner for him because of her failure to disclose and poor screening process for partners, but that I was fine with their continued friendship. Mary heard this, freaked out, and dumped husband as a friend. What I knew was, he had asked her to reconsider that, he had really, really liked her, but she wouldn't talk to him.
This all happened about six months ago. I just found out that husband and Mary have been corresponding at length, in secret. Just emailing, I don't think they have seen each other. He knows I am not one of Mary's biggest fans, but he also knows that I am OK with their nonsexual friendship.
Transparency between us has always been a written part of our rules. He knows he is supposed to tell me when he is talking to someone new, or reconnecting with someone significant from his past. And yet he has been keeping this a secret for weeks. This upsets me a lot because we are just getting back on track in our relationship after he broke a promise he made this summer (with a different partner), and compromised my trust in him.
Do I confront him now? Do I wait until he actually sees her behind my back, if he does? I don't get why is is hiding this, he doesn't even have to.
Maybe he wants his life to be private. Maybe you need to adjust your agreements with him and trust he will act in consideration of you. Maybe its time to start practicing safer sex with him and letting him go do his thing. I know that might be hard and even seem impossible, but it could be something to consider by discussing it with him. If it doesn't work for you then perhaps he will agree to keep your agreement above board as long as you don't freak out and express your dislike of her. He likely sees some value in their relationship and had a hard time telling you that because of your reaction. Maybe you should talk to her yourself and see what she is like in order to create a different view of her. Maybe its time for a change...
Are you sure he's actively "hiding" it? She's not "someone new" (he told you when she was) and she's not "someone significant from his past" (they didn't get that far). Maybe they're just chatting as friends and he thinks it's no big deal.
There's a huge difference between deliberately hiding something and just not realizing it's something that needs to be told. He knew that he already had your approval to talk with her, perhaps he just assumed that was enough?
And how did you find out, anyway? Does your agreement allow for snooping through each other's e-mail?
This is probably a great opportunity to discuss with him the level of transparency that you expect regarding any/all contact with lovers, past, present or potential. The fact that you're unhappy about this seems to me to be a red flag. And he might not even be consciously aware that he's causing you to be uncomfortable (he simply may not be thinking this through very well). What will be revealing is his reaction to you if you bring this up with him. You have a right to voice your opinion about his behavior.
I've heard this story before
Your post sounds very familiar. I did a search & found a similar story in these threads -
Maybe it will help you to read the responses in them - unless, is that you?
Fluid bonding is... sticky...
Yeah, OK, pun intended.
Seriously, after having had a quad blow up big time due to the failure of one partner to disclose up front that she planned to have unprotected sex with a new partner right off the bat... And after having had my own husband (at the time) not want to start using condoms with that girlfriend, even she demonstrated an unwillingness to give the quad enough information in a timely fashion so we each could make our own sexual health decisions...
...And after my last longtime poly boyfriend and I surreptitiously had unprotected intercourse a couple of times, at his request and in violation of his agreement with his wife (with whom he was fluid bonded), and me feeling really shitty about that afterward...
I've personally come to the decision that fluid bonding is vastly overrated.
Seriously, if you think about it and experiment, it's almost always possible to find ways to enjoy sex and feel emotionally close to a partner in ways that do not involve fluid bonding. Personally, I greatly enjoy safer sex, it doesn't diminish my physical or emotional experience in the slightest. And for men who don't enjoy wearing condoms, I'm quite comfortable using a female condom.
Really: Not positioning safer sex as an obstacle, and knowing lots of options for it, is part of Being A Grownup 101.
Therefore, I chosen not to have unprotected penetrative sex with anyone, ever -- with the exception of some manual and oral stimulation, and then only after we've established trust through safer sex and had a clear discussion about our respective risk factors, boundaries, preferences, etc.
In my experience, the relationship pitfall about fluid bonding is not whether people do it well or consistently -- but that people often fail to communicate about it clearly and promptly. Especially if fluid bonding is an important symbol in your relationships.
Fluid bonding is often used as a stand-in symbol for many thorny issues: emotional investment, life commitment, relationship status, etc. It's rarely just about sensual pleasure or rationally considered health risks.
Personally, my own relationships are much less drama-prone (and, frankly, health risk prone) since I decided to take fluid bonding off the table for all my partners. I feel freer to say what's going on for me, voice my questions, insist upon clear answers, listen openly to what partners and metamours say, and flexibly negotiate options and solutions when issues arrive.
I understand that people who have a primary partner often consider fluid bonding an important part of their sexual connection. I'd ask you to consider in that case: What does fluid bonding really mean to you? Why do you want it? If it was a wiser choice to do without it (even with a spouse or long-term committed partner), could/would you do that and still keep your relationship healthy?
He cannot be a mind reader. You could let him know your feelings are upset, your trust in him is shaken up, and you worry about follow through on his promises. Could he please explain himself?
And see what happens.
You own your baggage, he owns his baggage, and you deal with what is in front of you in as calm a way possible because the relationship needs tending and care.
I find this:
He may not even know why he kept their emails hidden. Talking through it in a supportive, constructive way can potentially help him to sort through his own feelings about Mary.
Just did a blog post about the trouble with fluid bonding
This thread got me thinking about the complexity, uncertainty, and stress fluid bonding (and negotiating and communicating about it) often adds to relationships, especially in a non-monogamous context. And especially because it seems typical for people to just start doing fluid bonding without really talking about this decision much -- not just the sexual health aspect, but the emotional and relationship meanings it holds for people. And once people have been having fluid-bonded sex, they often don't question whether they should keep doing it -- even when doing so is bringing them lots of misery.
As I noted earlier, personally I don't do fluid bonding -- mainly because it makes my relationships and life simpler and less stressful, and because I thoroughly enjoy safer sex. It's all "win" for me. (YMMV, of course)
So I fleshed this out into a blog post on SoloPoly.net:
Why fluid-bonded sex is, um, "sticky"
It's gotten some interesting responses.
Thanks to the folks in this thread for getting my gears going on this!
When my husband and I were first dating, we didn't have sex for at least 6 weeks into our relationship, even though he basically never moved out after our first date. We knew it was a different and special relationship right off the bat, and we wanted to deliberately take it slow. When we did have sex, it was unplanned, i.e. we knew we wanted to wait, we waited a long time, and we didn't discuss "ok, this is the night we're going to have sex." We just did it when it felt right. And we didn't use protection.
We had certainly discussed sex plenty before doing it. We had both been recently tested (we didn't demand paperwork because we trusted one another), we were both using protection with everyone else. But we didn't even discuss whether we would use condoms or not.
That was SO weird for me. I had always been so obsessed with condoms. Not using a condom was practically unheard of in my sexual vocabulary. So what was even weirder for me was that I was perfectly fine with it.
Now I'm not recommending this for everyone. Actually, I'm not "recommending" it for anyone. You have to do what feels right for you. We "got lucky" and everything's been fine. We've both been tested recently and everything still checks out. I did have an abnormal pap smear once, which means I may or may not have had HPV. But when 80% of people have had it, and 50% of people have it at any given time, it's not exactly something you can trace back to one specific partner. You can get it with condoms, anyway.
We've never once used the term "fluid bonded" to describe our relationship. I find that term so hokey. I honestly don't see how a latex tube makes any difference in your level of intimacy and commitment. If you think it does, then I believe you have a solid misunderstanding of intimacy and commitment. But that's my opinion and I digress.
For us, it was mostly that he didn't like wearing condoms (I hear that's pretty common with men) and neither of us felt that our safety was in jeopardy by not using them.
We do have an agreement to use condoms and rubber gloves with any other partners. People don't often think of rubber gloves in terms of "safer sex" but that's just silly. So by the definition of the phrase, I suppose we are "fluid bonded," because we have unprotected sex together but not with others... but I still refuse to describe us as such. :cool:
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