Hey there everybody. Newbie here.
Apologies for the post length. If I've breeched any UAs, please let me know - I'd be happy to edit as appropriate.
I've got some questions about how to deal with boundaries. Any thoughts, experience or advice is appreciated. Thanks.
A quick introduction: I am a female, and woman identifying. My partner, let's call him Pretty, and I have been seriously dating for six months. We are both queer. When pressed to use labels, I am pansexual (note, not bi
sexual) and he is pansexual/genderqueer. Because this is all still relatively new to us, all of Pretty's sustained relationships so far have been with women, though he has had intimate encounters with men and male-bodied people. Most, but not all, of my relationships have been with men. We use female pronouns for Pretty when we are in safe spaces, behind closed doors. We essentially have a lesbian-esque intimacy. In bed, I have definite (but gentle, and always explicitly consensual) top tendencies that I've also explored in previous relationships, and he is becoming familiar with his bottom-ness.
Something that I was immediately upfront about is my intention to become a mother, and sole-parent by choice. Becoming a mother has always been a pillar in my identity. It's a biological imperative of mine to bear a child, and I know it's in the cards for the near future. In the fall, I will be 23 years old and will begin trying to conceive with a known sperm donor. Amazingly, Pretty has always been very supportive of this and is excited to be involved as a family member, but not as a "parent". We have talked extensively about this and I am determined to be the sole custodial parent of my child in an extended family/community network. This is the choice that is right for me. I will engage in relationships as though I were a single parent. I am reading a lot about poly family situations. I am very open about this in general, to my families and friends, and I have a lot of whole-hearted support from my community.
That's where we're at.
When we began our relationship, I came out right away as poly, and he was nervous but definitely excited, too, and agreed to try a poly dynamic. He is familiar with poly, since his best friend strongly identifies as such and has frequently discussed it with him for years. I had never had a serious poly dynamic before, so this was new for both of us. We agreed that it would take some getting used to, but that it was important to us to make the effort. We are both radical queers, though, and poly is definitely present in our radical/anti-authoritarian urban community, so it wasn't a big stretch in that sense. We dated pretty exclusively for a while, all the while being open with each other about our crushes and attractions, and we got comfy with each other before adding partners to the mix. We essentially lived together, spending at least six nights per week in my bed. We've been through a pregnancy termination together (it was mutual - we weren't prepared to be parents and it wasn't what I felt comfortable with) and we share absolutely everything. We are very much in love.
I was the first one to branch out and start having "outside" intimacies. In fact, three months into my relationship with Pretty (and about three months ago), Pretty went to visit family and I sort of accidentally gained two additional (though decidedly less "serious") partners in one week. One of them was a dear friend and potential sperm donor, let's call him Mailman - a male/man who happens to be a housemate of mine (I live in a community house of ten people). Another was a new female friend, Roo.
I confessed my crush to Roo via drunkie text at a holiday party. Smooth, right? One thing led to another, and we started to become intimate. This was comfy with Pretty, as he is admittedly less conditioned to be jealous of female partners. Then, one night while Pretty was visiting family, Mailman and I snuggled up and shared some nice kisses. It was very nice and long-awaited, but pretty tough on Pretty for a while. Boundaries stayed in tact, so Pretty was able to cope and Mailman and I were happy with that, too.
Pretty and I had one boundary - no PIV sex with other partners. We realized that this was a pretty typical hetero-normative agreement, but it nonetheless seemed like the best way to make a gradual progression without stepping on each other's toes to start. We both have ideals for a totally open situation, but neither of us were ready for that (particularly Pretty, at the time). And, since we were both doing well at coping and communicating as it was, I was happy to keep that boundary in place until further notice. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it was going. Pretty was spending a night here and there cuddling and flirting with friends, while I was spending a night or two a week with another Love.
Fast forward to the present day. My relationship with Roo is evolving back into a friendship. As partners, she and I communicate in often unhealthy, opposing ways that definitely need more practice. We've decided to give it a rest and work on our connection before we decide whether we want to be sexually intimate again. I doubt that we will. We do very much care about each other and will be good friends, regardless. Mailman is harried and dealing with some stress that makes it harder for him to find time, but we are still very intimate as friends. So, in practice right now, I am essentially exclusively intimate with Pretty. All of this is okay with me. As for Pretty, he started dating a long-time crush of his, Ladybug. I like Ladybug a lot and I'm happy for them. I have been working through it as well as one could hope, I think - with a bit of jealousy and a lot of love. He is very excited about this relationship and wants to pursue it freely. I was very open to that.
Enter Drama :: The other night, he slipped and crossed our boundary with Ladybug, which has been really
tough on us. Tougher than I expected. She was familiar with the boundary but apparently it got by both of them that night, and they went for it anyway. I can't stay outright mad at him - it's clear to me that the boundary didn't work for them anymore. They are falling head-over-heels and he's very passionate about her. But it would have been far
more ideal of him to approach me about it first and open up a dialogue and be patient. He knows this and is obviously experiencing a lot of anxiety about it. I hate to imagine the moment where he decided that it was just okay to cross the line. I feel disrespected and hurt. He's upset that I'm upset, and wants us to be together. But he also wants to continue pursuing a sexual/PIV sex-ful relationship with Ladybug, at their
pace. He says he can't make anymore promises about boundaries, etc... and isn't making any of it an option. I get this. I don't own him and he wants to act on the love he has for her, but my insecurities are getting the best of me. They've been friends for years, but as they've only been dating (and only occasionally) for two weeks, I thought I'd have more time to talk about this and work through it before they moved on to the next step. Though I understand that he has needs and wants to meet them, I feel completely powerless now - to have my comfort levels acknowledged and respected, and to ease into new things with open dialogue and a little fair warning. Then again, I know that if he had really thought that they were definitely facing that progression, and how hard it would be not to act out of passion, I trust that he would have said something. I do understand that mistakes happen. Given that I've been intimate with other partners before, I'm not sure how reasonable or unreasonable I'm being about what is really a technicality. He did come tome and confess right away, with an open honesty and sincere apology. On one hand I want to be the supportive partner, who only has love to give and only acts in love and understanding. On the other hand, I'm afraid that by "allowing" him to just pursue this in spite of the clear boundaries we'd already communicated, and my desire to go a bit slower, we will set a precedent for disrespect and disregard of my feelings. I'm not sure how to feel and I wish I knew how upset I should be getting!
My immediate impulse is to take back some control - to really turn down the volume on my relationship with Pretty and make it way
more part-time, and perhaps even PIV/fluids-free. I have a three-nights-a-week scenario in mind, which would be a powerful change for us. I'm not sure if I'm acting out of resentment or common sense - he wants to seriously develop his relationship with Ladybug and I know that if I don't start weaning myself, time-wise, he
will do the weaning for me. Regardless of how I might want to feel, that scares the living $%^& out of me. I'm ashamed to say that part of me just wants to be done with it, even, since I can't guarantee that my comfort levels will be taken into account, and neither can he.
But then, I LOVE HIM. I LOVE HIM. I LOVE HIM. I want him to be around and part of my family as I become pregnant, give birth and raise a child. A part of me is afraid that he's moving away from me - that he's prioritizing other relationships over keeping ours comfortable and safe, because they're more important. Maybe these are crazy thoughts, but I'm not sure.
What do people think? How could I most adequately communicate/respond/advocate for myself and our relationship? Am I being too
this way or that way?