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Old 07-26-2020, 12:54 PM
AnonymousChris AnonymousChris is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2020
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Unhappy Communication failure or cheating? is it the same thing?

Hi, I'm new on this site and I'm looking for some advice/support/something. Please bare with me as don't have much experience of the poly lifestyle, or the the lingo etc that you use on here. This is a long post because I want to give some background before asking my questions. Thanks in advance for reading.

Polly and I have been dating or together or something since around last October, and the subject of polyamory has come up a lot in that time. Around late Feb of this year we had a blip and stopped seeing each other briefly, and when we got back together it was on the condition we would give polyamory a go. This was mostly something that was important for me, but we had open and honest discussions about it. She expressed that it was something she was going to find difficult, but we agreed to give it a go. It's both of our first time attemping to navigate poly relationships. And then Covid hit, so that obviously had to go on pause for a while.

During Covid things have been difficult in a lot of ways - neither of our mental health has been great but hers has gone particularly downhill. Covid has cut her off from a lot of her friends so I have been a large part of her support system. Simultaneously, our relationship has sort of gone stale - it's been a long time since we've shared sex or any real intimacy. We've been very supportive of each other and I care about her deeply but our relationship has begun to feel more like a strong friendship. This is something we talked about a lot, and the idea of shifting to a friendship was raised but we never reached a proper conclusion, so things stayed the way they were.

As lockdown lifted, we began to talk about polyamory again. I asked Polly if I could get tinder and start dating, and it was quite a difficult discussion. She expressed her doubts and fears, and we even spoke about breaking up (again with no real conclusion), but she did say it was okay for me to download tinder.
At the same time, a good friend of mine (I'll call her Erin) was over for a short period. Erin and I have a sexual history and she has been very much involved in my previous discussions with Polly about polyamory. A previous time a few months back (I'm not entirely sure when this was but I think early 2020 some time), Polly had agreed that Erin and I could get together on a night out, but it didn't end up happening because Polly got stressed out and so I stayed with her.
Back to now: I arranged to go and see Erin, and told Polly about this. I said I was unsure whether I would stay over. I made the false assumption that Polly and I were on the same page, and that if I stayed over that meant Erin and I would be intimate. Obviously, with hindsight, I should have been more clear about this and opened up a proper conversation about it.

I did stay the night with Erin and we shared sex. On returning from seeing Erin, I revealed to Polly that this had happened and found that she was absolutely enraged. She called me a liar and a cheater (alongside some other choice words) and essentially told me to get out of her life. She felt that I knew exactly what I was doing and had consciously made the decision to cheat on her, showing that I didn't give a damn about her or her feelings. She felt that I had betrayed her trust.

I fully accept that I messed up and I feel horrific because I have caused Polly so much hurt. I think our relationship is probably over but I hate that it's ended like this and I really want to make amends. I don't really know how to start healing things with her - should I be patient and wait for her to be ready to talk to me more? Have I got it so wrong that there's no going back?
Do I deserve the assessment that Polly has made of me? I messed up big time and I am willing to own that and have been thinking a lot about how it ended up like that. But it wasn't intentional and it wasn't malicious. Maybe I was kidding myself that it was okay and I knew it wasn't. Am I a horrible liar and a cheater?
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Old 07-26-2020, 05:56 PM
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vinsanity0 vinsanity0 is offline
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So you talked about poly pre-Covid and she agreed? Then Covid hit so that was put on hold? Then you brought it up again and she had reservations but...? I'm not sure exactly how that conversation went. Was there talk of any sort of rules involved? Then you told her you were going to go out with Erin? How did she react to that?

Based on what you've said, it doesn't sound like cheating to me unless you left something out. Maybe a misunderstanding. Maybe she just had a bad reaction to the reality and lashed out at you.

Sometimes even when we think there is good communication there isn't. When my wife and I were talking about opening up I thought we had a good conversation. I also thought we had agreed to talk more before proceeding. She thought we had reached an agreement. She hooked up with someone. I didn't see it as cheating. I just saw it as her jumping the gun. The difference between your gf and I is I was all for being poly. I just wanted to work out the details a bit more before we started.

Just give her time to collect her thoughts. It could be that she realizes poly isn't for her. Then you'll have to decide what you want to do
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:43 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Posts: 7,821

I'm sorry you struggle.

Let me repeat back what I understand in my own words. You correct me if I get it wrong. I quote just to block it off. Blue is mine.

  • You
  • Polly, your GF (that you feel more strong friendship for but don't actually break up with)
  • Erin (your FWB?)


You and Polly were dating since Oct, broke up, but got back together in Feb with this agreement.

we got back together it was on the condition we would give polyamory a go. This was mostly something that was important for me, but we had open and honest discussions about it. She expressed that it was something she was going to find difficult, but we agreed to give it a go.

(Maybe next time stay broken up and NOT get back together. Maybe notice it is not two people "joyful yes"? There's being ok with handling some bumps in the road. Then there's ignoring that things will be difficult and jumping in anyway. I wonder if on her end she was trying to stay in your orbit and not break up? So agreeing to whatever? I wonder if maybe on you end you felt bad breaking up with her if you knew that she hasn't built a support network with other people? )


This is something we talked about a lot, and the idea of shifting to a friendship was raised but we never reached a proper conclusion, so things stayed the way they were.
You started to feel more "friends" about Polly, but didn't break up with her properly. Led to other problems later. (Next time maybe be more decisive.)


Misunderstanding about "one time consent" vs "global consent."

In early 2020, Polly had agreed that Erin and I could get together on a night out, but it didn't end up happening because Polly got stressed out and so I stayed with her.
You assumed this was "global consent" and because you are newish to poly, didn't stop to clarify. You hooked up with Erin. You did the right thing and informed Polly that since the last time you were with Polly, you had a sexual encounter with Erin.

(Some people put the agreement as "tell me if you sleep with people" and I put it at "Before you sleep with ME again, tell me if there's been new people since we were last together." )


Polly (even though she agreed to practice poly with you) is wigging out now that you have actually "gone there." Acting out, having a tantrum, rage thing. Calling you a liar, cheater, and telling you to get out of her life. Doesn't sound like she wants to discuss.

So maybe you both didn't talk enough about HOW to handle times of conflict or "when things are difficult."
Is that it? If so... here is what I suggest. I mean this kindly, ok?

Since you were feeling "strong friends" for Polly anyway since things were going stale in the relationship romantically? And since Polly is not giving you ANY space for "I'm a newbie too, I'm trying" and taking it so personally? Then acting out at you and spewing outburst?

It's possible she's not as poly friendly as the thought she could be. And maybe you are finding your "better as friends only" vibe is getting stronger.

So I suggest you be firm this time. NOT keep doing "we talked lots but arrived at no conclusion" circles with her. Make a solid decision FOR YOURSELF to be ok not being together any more and let it be done.

Could tell her something like... again I quote just to block it off...

"I'm sorry this happened this way. I'm very sorry to have inadvertently caused you pain. It was not my intention. I thought I had your global consent with Erin since last time you agreed. I didn't realize it was a one time consent. In future, I have learned I need to check in with my partner on what kind of consent it is and not assume.

I accept you want to call it quits. I don't know how else to make amends other than to accept your decision to break up with grace and not bring you more problems.

I don't think we are a good fit to practice poly together. I don't like not being given space to be a newbie and have my learner mistakes happen in safe space. I do not like being yelled at and accused when I make honest mistakes. (What you will NOT put up with, assuming you don't like being yelled at for honest mistakes. But since breaking up, could leave this part out and not bother with it any more because does not apply. But remember for future dating to lay that out.)

I did enjoy our time together. Thank you. (Be polite.)

If you change your mind and want to try being exes and friends I'd be open to that. " (what you are up for, IF you are indeed up for it. It's ok to be totally done with Polly stuff and just skip this line too and ONLY be exes with her and not try to be friends.)
Apologize. Then check out and leave ball in her court.

If she does nothing and it ends up at just "plain ex" become ok with that and chalk it up as a learning experience.

If she calms down and reaches out agreeing you are both better off as "exes and friends?" and you are willing? Be ok leave it there. Be nothing more than that. If you are not willing, say thanks but no. Just good exes is good enough.

Do I deserve the assessment that Polly has made of me?
No. Because you say you are both poly newbies and you sound like you had a genuine misunderstanding. I don't know why she wants to participate in something that will take her way far out of her comfort zone in the first place. She could look out better for herself if this taxes her so much.

I also don't know why you have to ask her if it is ok to put Tinder on your phone. You are poly dating. You don't have to be an asshole about how you poly date, but you also don't have to walk on eggshells, YKWIM?
It should be no surprise to Polly that she is participating in a polyship. She agreed to that on getting back together.

In future with other partners, you might want to read stuff together first and be more sure you are on the same page for how you will practice poly together AND deal with the bumps in the road. Not spin out so spectacularly.



And remember to talk about how to make space for newbie mistakes and how to handle conflict or difficulties respectfully. You set your personal boundaries for behavior you will and will not put up with and ask them for their boundaries.

So you don't end up with another one screaming at you.

Cut yourself a break on this one because it was honest mistake on your end.

And next time you start to feel more "friends" than "partner" -- don't drag it out. End it sooner. And def don't get back together with people if things seem murky or like they are saying whatever to avoid the break up.

I hope you feel better airing out some. I am sorry this ended up like this.


Last edited by GalaGirl; 07-27-2020 at 02:32 AM.
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Old 07-26-2020, 08:21 PM
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kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
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Hello AnonymousChris,

I am going to say communication failure -- not cheating. After all, Polly (and you) agreed to try polyamory, and part of polyamory is sexual openness, isn't it? Yes, you could have stopped to confirm: "Can I have sex with Erin?" ... but she could have also clarified: "I'm not ready for you to have sex with Erin." Without your prompting. So I guess I will say that there was a communication failure on both of your parts.

Right now, Polly is not ready to have a rational discussion about that. She just wants to believe that you cheated on purpose, not sure why she wants to believe that, but she does. If she calms down later and gets to a point where she can join you in a rational discussion, then you can do that. But right now I would just give her some space. She wants to be broken up with you right now. Respect her wishes.

Possibly Polly does not want to admit to herself that she can't tolerate poly, and to avoid that, she wants to make it your fault that poly did not work for her. This would be a subconscious process, so it's not something she could admit to. But it might help explain why she is so adamant about you being a "liar" and a "cheater." Of course, the gaps in your communication with each other are also a part of that.

I don't know whether Polly will ever back down, from her current position that you are a horrible person. She may feel that way forever. She may *need* to feel that way. If she does have a change of heart, eventually, I assume she knows how to get in touch with you? So you could tell her, "I would be willing to get back together someday," and just leave the ball in her court. If she is really okay with poly!

In the meantime, take care of you.
Kevin T.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
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Old 07-27-2020, 02:34 PM
MeeraReed MeeraReed is offline
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Let Polly break up with you. Let her be angry. You can apologize for hurting her and tell her that you really valued your time together, but that you agree that you two aren't suited to be together.

Polyamory is never going to make Polly happy. She's monogamous. She's expressed her doubts to you. Clearly, the idea of you having sex with someone else is terrible for her.

No, I don't think you cheated. But I don't think you should be trying to have a non-monogamous relationship with a mono person when the relationship isn't very good anyway. Time for both of you to walk away. Seeing someone since last October, including Covid time, isn't very much. Apologize for hurting her, and let the relationship be over.

For future reference, I would be very annoyed if my partner's past sex partner (Erin, here) was "very much involved" in the discussions about me opening my relationship.
Introvert, happily doing solo poly & relationship anarchy.

Elijah: Extroverted partner of 9 years. Lives almost 2 hours away from me. Yay, alone time for me!
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Old 07-27-2020, 07:35 PM
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FallenAngelina FallenAngelina is offline
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Originally Posted by meerareed View Post
i don't think you should be trying to have a non-monogamous relationship with a mono person when the relationship isn't very good anyway.
^^^ this ^^^
~ Karen
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