Are we really ready to be "polyamorous" or just too messed up to try?
Hello, I am Giles. I am a straight man and my primary partner, Violet, is a bisexual woman. We are both in our 30s, but trying poly for the first time, and it isn't working: we have not real "rules." For instance, one night we were having drinks with a male friend of hers and she asked me if it was okay to kiss him. I said, “Sure!” thinking that maybe we would have a threesome. But instead she asked if she could go home with him for a little while and could I meet her back at the house? I told her I was feeling anxious—it was all happening too fast for me to process. However, I decided that I would have to face my feelings on the subject with or without her sleeping with him, so there was no sense in forbidding it. I couldn’t understand why I it took me so long to process the speed at which this all happened, and knew that one of the rules I wanted was to simply know in advance.
Some other rules of my were: no messing with monogamous couples or friends, no casual or stranger sex, no discussing my personal life with other lovers, safe sex for intercourse and oral sex, no “veto” power allowed, but any “red flag” concerns about relationships would be discussed beforehand, we would be “fluid bonded” to each other, no sudden breaking of dates, shower and change the sheets if the other is coming over directly after a date has left, and let the other know if a relationship goes from simply dating to something serious.
Violet said she shuddered at words like “primary” and “boundaries,” but acknowledged the spirit of the agreement. What she feared was that the relationship could be hurt by my “abandonment issues,” my envy of her fantastic sex life. Luckily, I’m never possessive. Things went along fine for a while.
Then a weird thing happened, which completely threw me off. She and a submissive man she'd been on one date with had set up a separate profile on a dating website—he was pictured, but all correspondence would go to the “Mistress” (Violet); she would do things to him that others requested, possibly even meet them for coffee and determine if they could watch her do things to him. It’s not the acts that bothered me, but the fact that she never once discussed with me a relationship that would be so special and involved. I envied this man because apparently any threesomes happening would be with him, not me. Indeed, lots of people emailed her with inquiries. She promised to set up something similar with me, but I still felt odd that she chose him first and didn’t tell me until later.
Then another weird day. We had been drinking martinis with a mono lesbian couple, some good friends of mine who were very attracted to Violet. Because the couple had been recently fighting about some issues in their relationship, I reminded Violet that we should not get involved. And yet all parties consented. Then the making out and feeling up began. When it was clear that Violet preferred one of them, the couple began to fight and cry. I told her to stop drinking for the evening so that the dust could clear. But an hour later, she was pouring another drink as the couple still fought directly behind her. So I did something horrendous. In my anger and frustration, I grabbed her drink, poured it into the toilet and threw it in the bathtub—it shattered loudly. Violet told me she was really scared of what I had done and said she felt that I would escalate this to hitting her. I’ve never thrown a glass in my life, nor have I ever hit someone—ever. I assured her this was just an immature response to a crazy situation. But in my mind I recognize this as an abusive gesture that shouldn’t have happened. I pleaded, “Slow down! Let’s not add any new complications, okay?" I reminded her of our “no friends” rule and mistakenly said that only a “sociopath” would disregard right and wrong. I regret saying this—the word is too strong.
But Violet had already pre-planned to travel to see her submissive guy. Our couples therapist said to Violet that it would be wise not to add any new lovers before the rules were settled. Violet technically followed this rule, but still went on dates, even going so far as to make out with someone. Because she sees kissing as little more than a handshake, she felt she hadn’t strayed from the rules about not adding a new lover: “I didn’t sleep with him.”
Sometime around this incident, Violet had an allergic reaction to the mixture of alcohol and clonazepam, her anxiety medication. We were walking along the sidewalk when she started having respiratory problems and her muscles gave out, so she fell to the ground and wouldn’t respond. I had to slap her cheeks on both sides until she came to, and luckily she eventually did; I didn’t have to call an ambulance. But in her delusional state she cried, in a wounded tone, “You hit me! You HIT me! You can never take that back!” I began to realize that her intense fear of “being controlled by men” dated back to physical abuse she has suffered at the hands of men. But she rarely discussed them.
The relationship with the submissive man fizzled out because there was “real love” between them and he wanted a monogamous relationship. She began to tell me about men who would never stay with her because she would “lose” them to her agreement with me, and that I should remember how much she was willing to do this for me: I was still The One to marry. But for some reason, I couldn’t let my issues go and I had badgered her. How come I didn’t know they were so close as to move from dominant/submissive “fuck buddies” to romance? Why did she get involved with people who were not clear on our poly relationship? The more she spoke of loss, the more tired of all the drama I was. I made the mistake of calling some of these relationships “cheap” and this upset her greatly because, she insisted, no one should judge another ‘s capacity to love another person right away. I said that alcohol seemed to play a big role in her life, and was she an alcoholic?
The arguments continued. Instead of talking to her therapist about her drinking and anxiety, she focused on my behavior and how it made her feel. She came out of it with the idea that I was possibly an abuser or one in training. Or that I was too needy. This floored me. Suddenly, it was not she who had been reckless, but me. True, I had thrown a glass and called her some very blaming names, but abuser? Needy? All I wanted was to slow down and figure out our boundaries again. Then she said, “Maybe you’re just monogamous, Giles. You don’t seem to want to date anyone else and you are too focused on me—get a life!” I defended myself, saying that I was not ready to add anyone new until the crises in our relationship resolved.
One day she said, “I hope you’re not mad, but I slept with someone new, a teacher where I work. I know we weren’t supposed to add new lovers until we finished up the document, but the rules don’t seem to help our relationship. You’ll get upset either way.” In the meantime, she began messaging and dating a whole bunch of other people. Worried that my recent behavior was too controlling and potentially abusive, I acquiesced, saying, “Forget everything. Forget the rules for now. I want to prove I’m not jealous. Just be safe. But please at least tell me that you are going to do something like this, even if I don’t like it.” When I called to see how she was doing, she said she couldn’t talk; she was on her way out the door to meet a man she had instant messaged only a few hours earlier. I said, “Wait! We should talk about this. This is stranger sex, and it doesn’t feel right.” “Don’t do this to me,” she said. “This is ‘me time.’ We can talk later.” It was then I realized that no matter what I did, she would simply see me as controlling.
Later, we argued again. I said, “I see you as someone who is barely able to exist in these boundaries, someone who doesn’t enjoy them at all. Boundaries are supposed to bring you freedom; they aren’t supposed to be scary, but safe. I believe you see boundaries as as a necessary evil, something you’ll do so that you’ll have me.” She would find some hole in my argument and turn it around on my glass-throwing or name-calling, which, since they did happen, I couldn’t deny. I said, “You can’t distinguish safety from control.” So then that means I’m saying she’s stupid. And around and around.
Recently she admitted to some unsafe sex practices. So now I’ve made a decision not to be “fluid bonded” with her. In her most recent therapy session, she decided that she can’t stop thinking about our arguing and that she needs a few weeks off. The last thing I asked her was, “Is there anything left that makes me special, the 'primary'? How differently would you behave if you weren’t with me at all?” Her answer was this: “You don’t see all that I do for you. I’m willing to show you off as my partner, on Facebook and in marriage, I’m willing to go on vacations with you and deny others the request for monogamy.” My reply: “But I need more than that. I want some private things to be special. I want better communication and for you to respect at least some rules other than the ones that also benefit you—don’t you get pleasure out of seeing my boundaries honored?”
Do we have different definitions of polyamory? Would our “issues” break up any relationship, poly or not? What seems to be the root problem here? Her alcohol use? My envy, arguing, and slow processing speed? All of it? Are we both just narcissists?
Last edited by Giles; 10-12-2011 at 10:43 AM.