From Poly Theory to Poly Practice (Help!)
Background: I've been with my boyfriend for 2 years now, been living together about 8 months. When we first got together, he stated that he was not comfortable in monogamous relationships, I knew that I would have some difficulty with this but also was aware, that if given the right support, it's something I could work through.
Until recently, despite his best efforts, my boyfriend was unable to find another partner, you could say that as far as that side of the relationship was concerned we were still in poly theory and yet to experience poly practice. We had talked things over, come up with boundaries, set up decent communication but it was yet to really be put to use.
On my side, I started dating my girlfriend about 7 months ago. My boyfriend feels very strong compersion, and sometimes it was almost as if he were even more excited about it than I was, so we encountered no problems. In fact, they both get on incredibly well and care about each other deeply, but platonically.
The problem is, I don't feel compersion. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean I could never be happy with him being with anyone else, I just don't get the warm fuzzies about it. I was beginning to find, though, that whilst I knew that it would be difficult at first for me, I wanted him to have a partner and was sad when different possible dating scenarios didn't work out for him.
The present situation:
One of my big issues is that I need to expect things. If I don't, I can have quite bad anxiety issues that don't fade even after everything is resolved and rationalised out. We both know this of me. So one of our guidelines is that he let me know if possible, before he gets with someone else, or if not possible, as soon as convenient afterwards. This helps me to be more rational and less anxious about things.
About 7 weeks ago, he went out with some of our friends, I had a large and imminent deadline to work on, so stayed behind. He stayed out all night without telling me he was going to, or letting me know where he was until the morning. I was really worried that something might have happened to him. It turns out he had gotten drunk and spent the night at a girl we'll call B's house and it had gotten amorous.
We had a bit of a fight about this, but got it resolved. He had no idea whether he'd see her again or not and I went home for three weeks over the Easter holiday (not as a consequence, this was always going to happen).
I get back and about 6 hours after I return, he lets me know he's seen her again the night before- not as soon as I'd like to have known, but not too bad. Then I saw he had a hickey on his neck - that he knew about - and this bugged me. It bugged me because at any time his neck could have told me before he did, and I always want to hear it from him directly.
They start seeing each other, and I know I need to take it slow, so we have a chat and come up with a game plan for the foreseeable future:
- Three stay over nights each two week period, which I am informed of in advance, and home by 2pm the next day (this is mostly because I find knowing when to expect someone gets rid of the whole 'waiting around for someone' element which I can sometimes find unpleasant).
- This is to be revised after a 3 week period, when I will figure out exactly what my feelings were, why there were like that and how to deal with them. After this self examination, the plan was to see if I could handle them seeing each other more, or in a more adhoc manner - to basically discover exactly what my limits were and give them as much freedom as I possibly could without it affecting my own emotional well being.
He informs her of this. Her response is to say that if that's the case, then I should have the same restrictions put on my relationship with my girlfriend, to make things equal. This doesn't fly with either me or my boyfriend. Mainly because he has no problem with me seeing my girlfriend and most of the time when she comes over, the three of us hang out. He misses her almost as much as I do when she's not around for a while.
He lets her know that he's not comfortable with doing that and she isn't happy with this. Her and I then talk whilst out with some friends. She says that limitations and guidelines make her feel like I 'slut on the side'. I understand this and apologise for making her feel that way. I then go on to explain that I'm not trying to control her or be possessive, I'm just trying to make sure it doesn't happen all at once as I'm worried that emotionally I wouldn't cope well and that all the relationships in our polyweb would suffer as a consequence. I say, that rather than it being me having a problem with their relationship, it's more about me and my own imperfections that I'm trying to work on. I promise her that at all times I will push myself to the limit of what I'm comfortable with to try and give them as much freedom as I can. We both smile and laugh with each other and hug.
A few days later my boyfriend gets an email from her saying that (quote) 'Your girlfriend is being selfish and you're too scared to stand up for what is right because you're afraid you'll lose her if you don't go along with it'(quote)
So she breaks up with him.
Last night we were all out at a club night where most of our friends go. I saw my boyfriend and her make out and walk down the stairs towards me holding hands. I'm quite drunk at the time, think that they are back together, and given the things that she said about me, was feeling insulted that he'd do that without letting me know first. (Turns out he had meant it as a kind of farewell kiss thing, but I don't find this out until later)
So I snap. I don't become aggressive, I just let her know that I am currently angry with her. This leads one of her friends to call me all sorts of names and say that I'm selfish and controlling and that I've ignored all of B's feelings. The friend won't leave off and let the three of us talk, at this point it's 4am and fed up - so I walk off. My boyfriend and B catch up with me. B tells me that my boyfriend misinterpreted what she said and that she never said or meant anything bad about me, that she didn't remember our previous conversation properly and that she wants us all to talk this out.
Sometimes my boyfriend can misinterpret things (I mean, everyone can sometimes), and I hadn't seen the email at this point, so I decided to give the benefit of the doubt. This morning my boyfriend was dubious about what she had been saying and asked if I'd read the email she'd sent him. That's where I read the above quote. It's not taken out of context and I don't know what other meaning either of us are meant to interpret from 'Your girlfriend is selfish'.
I really don't know what's going on or what I'm meant to do. We're meeting up with her tomorrow. My boyfriend is a mess because he feels like she's being duplicitous but also still cares about her. He also dislikes that she has said those things about me, so he doesn't know what to do.
Any comments or advice?
Part of this was just for therapeutic feeling of putting it all down in writing, but if anyone has any opinions I'd be happy to hear them.
PS - Sorry it's such a long read.