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-   -   What happens when rules are broken? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4129)

phantazmagoria 11-04-2010 03:24 AM

What happens when rules are broken?
Hello. My husband and I are very new to the poly world. A couple of weeks ago, we invited a woman to join us and developed a poly status. We were happy, things were going right, up until this weekend.

We both broken our 2 very important rules.

Mine was communication. I was feeling very distant and withdrew away from them. As a result, I felt left out, which just got worse and worse until I had made myself sick. I am not a jealous person, but in this state, I found myself feeling very jealous and very upset. I mentioned a few minor things to my husband, but never said anything to her. My mistake was thinking that the communication I needed to have was only with him, but it is also with the Third. I hid all of the upset feelings I had from her.

His mistake was playing without me. Our rule from the beginning was to play together, to enjoy together. After a drunken night and when I was in the shower, he slipped it in. One thing led to another, and before too long, it was too late to take it back. She was too drunk to remember, he confessed to me. I feel cheated on.

I know our marriage will be okay in time. I will have trust issues for a while. I will be sad for a while.

My reason for writing is to ask what to do now, after these two rules have been broken? I don't want to end things with her, I want to save that relationship somehow. I have told her already that we need to take a break.

What happens in a poly relationship when the trust gets broken? Is it over? How do you fix?

I appreciate your opinions/advice. Thanks.

Ragabash 11-04-2010 03:56 AM

It can be important to go back from time to time and reexamine the rules that you've set, although that's something much harder to do after they've been broken.

For Tonberry and myself, I try to remember the frame of mind that I was in when I proposed or agreed to any rule. When I was a lot more apprehensive than I was now, the rules we set early on were a lot stricter, and I would at this point in my life I wouldn't agree to any of them, even as the partner without a second relationship.

If the rules were broken, it's good to take a look at why they were broken and why they didn't work out. What sounds like it might work in theory doesn't always work in practice.

To use Tonberry and I as an example, she did *technically* break a rule we set when she entered into a relationship with Sean, because she didn't tell me the two of them were going to be in a relationship. I found out by accident that she was seeing someone, although I guessed who it was almost instantly. The rule about talking first and dating after just didn't work for us, because Tonberry and I are both the type of form a friendship first and then fall in love, and the evolution isn't always obvious.

My advice, to reiterate, would be to try and understand how and why any breach of the rules happened. It may sound like rationalization at first, but in the long run it may lead to a happier, more natural relationship.

redpepper 11-04-2010 04:14 AM


Originally Posted by phantazmagoria (Post 51316)
What happens in a poly relationship when the trust gets broken? Is it over? How do you fix?.

carry on having learned... talk it out until there is nothing more to say and new boundaries are confirmed, trusted and reset. Meh, we all stumble along the way, but we just have to get back up and try again....

the cheating thing bugs, but I am a hard ass around stuff like that... I think your man got a little poly happy and didn't pull in the reins. It shocks me that she doesn't remember. How often does she do that? I hope he used protection!?

Tonberry 11-04-2010 04:51 AM

Raga told me he had posted here, so I wanted to clarify...

I actually wasn't in a relationship with Sean. We were friends and we got closer and closer, and I did things that I had done with other people (without being emotionally or sexually involved with them) and that I was specifically allowed to do, such as sending naked pictures of myself (and I've done that with people of both genders who are just friends. I just enjoy showing off sometimes).
When we started being really close, I got uncomfortable, because I realised I had fallen for him, and I was already in love with two men (Raga and my interest) and falling for a third one freaked me out. I talked to him and told him I needed to talk with Raga first if we were to enter a relationship. He absolutely agreed and urged me to do so as soon as possible. He was adamant he absolutely wouldn't start a relationship with me if Raga didn't agree to it first, as he didn't want to come between us.

However the next day, before I talked to Raga, he's the one who came to me asking how I felt about Sean, and I admitted I liked him and we were close, and he reacted happily so I realised he was fine with it. So I told Sean we were good and could be in a relationship, and from then on we kept getting closer without refraining ourselves.
All the things we did prior to that were things that Raga had specifically told me were fine and things he wouldn't consider cheating if they were to happen (I remember asking him a while back, before we even talked about poly, what he considered cheating and what would be perfectly fine by him. To my surprise, he was okay with a LOT of things, which went as far as taking showers together for instance).

I was very nervous about telling Raga how I felt about Sean, and guilty because I felt it was just "wrong" to love three men, so I realise how my attitude could have come off as having broken rules and feeling guilty about it, but I didn't think I broke any rules... I would say I came close to though. Because Raga confronted me before I talked to him myself, and even though I provoked that confrontation by leaving hints, I wasn't as straightforward as I should have been, and I take it as a lesson to communicate more in the future, and be less worried and ashamed of my feelings.

I guess that's not very helpful in this specific thread. At the very least it still shows people can move forward even if rules are broken. While I didn't realise Raga felt I had broken rules, he still felt that way and went past it.
I think it also shows how communication is essential. If I had talked to him earlier, or if he had told me he thought I was breaking rules, we wouldn't have had this misunderstanding.

That brings me to another point, actually... You might break rules unintentionally, if you interpret them differently. You might feel you didn't break rules but have a partner feel that you did. I think that's why the rules should be as clear as possible to begin with.
I'll talk to Raga about it a bit more, but maybe I did break the rules as he understood them and if that's the case I need to apologise for it. I don't think "I didn't mean to" is a substitute for owning up to hurting someone.

EDIT: speaking of being clear with rules, I remembered something... (my post is starting to get huge lol).
A few days before I was to meet Sean in person for the first time (beginning of September) he called me, drunk, and told me how he had just made out with a girl who wanted him to come up to her room with her and have sex, and that he had refused because he wasn't sure how I'd felt about it.
At the time I said nothing because I was happy he had refused, and I realised we hadn't established rules about what was okay and what wasn't. But I didn't feel so good about the making out part, and mostly it was because it happened maybe a couple of days before I could meet him, and at the convention where we were supposed to meet originally and I couldn't make it.
I felt bad that someone else got to make out with him before I did, at the place where I was supposed to be.
I ended up bringing it back after that. I didn't mention it at all when we met and spent some time together, and to be fair it was off my mind. However it came up about a month later, and when I mentioned it he was genuinely surprised. He asked me to describe everything he had told me, and he swore he had no memory of any of that, that he knew it was no excuse, and that no, he would never had thought it was okay to make out with someone else and tell me after the fact.
I realise then just how drunk he must have been, and got upset that he got that drunk. But it was a good opportunity for us to talk about our comfort zone, what we were okay or not okay with the other person doing. I had lots of talks like that with Raga before I even met Sean, but I had never had talks like that with Sean.

Because we hadn't discussed it, and I hadn't told him I wasn't okay with it, I don't feel like Sean broke a rule, and I'm completely over that. (He says he would understand if I had left him over that though. He's still beating himself up big time for what happened, and that he seems to kind of remember now).

I think you can get past rules being broken. First there is the circumstances. Is there reason to believe they got carried away? Is there reason to believe they didn't realise what they were doing? Then the rules themselves. Were they spoken and decided on beforehand? So many people just assume other people are on the same page, when really they might not be. Were they relevant at some point but the situation changed since then?
And then there is the attitude of the person. How do they feel about what happened? Are they genuinely sorry? Is there reason to believe they'll never, ever make that mistake again?

I personally trust Sean completely because now we have talked about the rules together, we are on the same page, and I know he feels terrible about what happens and would make sure it never happens again. Also, it wasn't that severe. It was just making out, there is much worse. All of these things make it so that I don't even consider he broke any rules anymore.
Also, the fact he told me right away played in his favour. And even drunk, he thought about me, and refused to follow her to her room, and instead went to his room and called me. I feel very good about how things went. It would have been so easy for him not to tell me, and then to forget, and I could have heard about it from friends he was with at the time. THAT would have been pretty bad I think.

phantazmagoria 11-04-2010 01:13 PM

I am having a hard time with his broken rule. Yes, I believe I forgive him, but forgetting is harder ... and I can't stop thinking about it. It makes me soooo sad.

I tell myself mistakes happen. We can move forward. Time will heal this.

But I can't stop thinking about it.

CielDuMatin 11-04-2010 01:27 PM

Broken trust is something that everybody needs to acknowledge and strive to mend. It can be mended, though, especially if there is no pattern of betraying trust and if everyone involved wants to work at it.

Your inability to express your misgivings is very very natural - I think our society tends to have an attitude of encouraging folks to "keep it tin" and to "suck up and deal" - those are habits that need to be broken in any relationship, whether monogamous or poly, as far as I am concerned. There are many ways to do this, depending on the nature of the three of you (amongst others whether you each tend towards extroversion or introversion) - one way is to actually schedule a group meeting at regular intervals, and encourage everyone to talk about how it's going (not just the bad stuff, but everything) - people should never be punished or told off for having negative feelings. I feel it's important to generate a team atmosphere - the feeling that you are working on stuff together.

What your husband did is very definitely breaking the agreement that was in place - and I'm sorry "I was drunk" is no excuse. You need to re-examine your "rules" that you have in place - either you can keep them without problem or you can't. If you can't then it needs to be renegotiated.

So, when you say that your rule was to "play together" does that mean that there is no sex without all three of you being there and involved? So you and your husband aren't having sex without your girlfriend present?

phantazmagoria 11-04-2010 01:48 PM

that is right. our rule (as husband and wife) of play together was that all three be there and involved. Yes, we have sex without her. she was okay with it, understood.

I realize this is probably not what the true definition of poly is ... because we do not have an individual relationship with our Third. Maybe it's more of a swinging thing or a friend with benefits ... not sure.

We are newbies and still finding our way. that is why I don't want to just give up with this.

GroundedSpirit 11-04-2010 04:40 PM

Hey Phanta,


I'm sensing some insecurity in your arrangement. That's ok - we all have various levels of insecurities we have to work through. I think that's a big purpose of having 'rules' in the first place - to shield people from their insecurities.

Now it's a little hard to be sure from your post but I'm assuming you 3 had all slept together prior to this incident ? Correct ?

Because I think that matters. I think it's sensible for many 'couples' to want to be present together for at least the FIRST sexual exploration. There s always a lot of insecurity around that.

However, I think that beyond that first time, and if all went well and it was a positive experience for all, a rule like that needs evaluating. It has the potential to take the spontaneity out of the sexual connection, and I think even you would agree that spontaneity can be one of the nicest parts of sex.

So - again assuming this was not the first time - I'd step back and ask myself.......

"Why (truly why) does it matter " ? What am I afraid of that I might be left out of ?

Try for an HONEST answer - then discuss it openly.

The trust broken thing............well, I think there's a lesson in there too. Or two. Maybe about alcohol (or other loosening agents). Maybe it's about clear communication and how different people will understand the same words/terms differently, and consequently potential varied actions resulting from that understanding.

Seriously, I wouldn't turn a molehill into a mountain here. I think there's no real harm done, but an excellent opportunity to see how things can go askew despite the best of intentions. Lessons. Talk it out, get some further clarity and let it go.


CielDuMatin 11-05-2010 03:13 PM

OK, first up - there is no one "right way" to do poly.

If the rule in place is that the married couple can have sex without the third but that if the third is involved then it has to be you as a couple, then so be it. That doesn't make it not-poly suddenly - if it works for everyone involved, then that is absolutely great.

HOWEVER - the mere fact that they went ahead and did it indicates to me that it's NOT something that works for them (and like I said "I was drunk" is never an excuse) - if they did it, then they did it because they wanted to.

I would strongly suggest that the three of you sit down and talk about this, and revisit it. Maybe that "we only play with her together" rule needs to be changed.

polytriad 11-05-2010 03:24 PM

I can get behind RP on this one...no reason to dwell....reevaluate things and come up with new bounderies. Ask yourself if realisticly you could complay with some of these rules? What happens in the heat of the moment...Pause...lets pick this up when ..... gets back...that can feel somewhat unnatural. What has worked for us is nothing can happen one on one that has not happened in our triad...

Sending you positive energy

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