Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Secretly Non-Monogamous -- And Secretly Non-Confused

Dear Viny,

I am not poly, nor have I ever been in a poly relationship. But I am not quite monogamous. I have a history of having what one would call multiple significant others without it being defined as such, to anyone. Looking back now, I know that yes, I had a partner and a boyfriend, but at the time I didn't know.

Now, I have decided to explore polyamory. I would like to explore it with the person I am in love with (and vice versa), who I have a very intense, intimate relationship with, though we are not together.

In fact, he's in a relationship, with a strictly monogamous woman (will not even discuss "alternative" relationships, and the one time it was brought up with me present she openly scorned it) who he knows that it's only temporary with: he's got feelings for her, but in a idealised, puppy love, idolisation way, which I don't see to be healthy, and he has admitted it's probably not, but it will help him know what he really wants in the future, because being with her would be a stable relationship, which he's not used to.

It's all very frustrating, because she does not trust me around him and I am very hurt by him, and it doesn't make it any easier that he and I share a house together, just the two of us.

What doesn't make it any easier at all is that since they got together (it's a very new relationship, less than a month), he and I have continued to be our usual intimate selves, and as we've discussed, for a long time we have been in a non-committed, non-monogamous relationship, and we still kind of are.

But she doesn't know. She knows that he wants to explore alternative relationships in the future, and that he has not been that faithful in the past, but said she will help him work through all that --   meaning help him be strictly monogamous, which he's told me he does not feel is right for him.

I don't feel like what we are doing is wrong, as it's how we've been for a long, long time. He is in love with me, and I am with him, which she knows and apparently accepts and respects. We have just chosen to work on our own growth and development as individuals before we try a proper relationship with each other, and in the mean time, other relationships can and should happen for us to continue to grow.

Should our friendship dynamics change just because of his new relationship? Should we put up boundaries? Is he cheating on her by being close with me? Even if he's not, is it wrong that she doesn't know that we're still physically close and intimate?

Any help would be wonderful.

Non-Monogamous and Confused


Dear Confused,

Let me see if I have this straight. There's this guy, and you're in love with him, and he's in love with you, in an emotionally intense and physically intimate sort of way, and this is how it's been between you for a long, long time. Oh, and you also share a house together, just the two of you. But you're not “together.”

(Wait...say what? Is there something I don't understand about the meaning of the word “together”?)

Okay, moving on: this guy, whom you may or may not be together with, has very recently begun dating a woman who identifies as strictly monogamous. And although he is sure strict monogamy isn't right for him, he has decided to pretend to give it a go, temporarily, because he desperately wants to try out what it's like being in a “stable” relationship.

(Um, yeah...sounds super “stable” to me. Kind of like, oh, I dunno, dropping a good-sized chunk of cesium into a glass of selzer water....)

Enough of that. Sarcasm stings, I know. I'm sorry. I hope you will forgive me for those snarky parentheticals, but I just could not resist. I have to call it like I see it. And the way I see it is this: you are, and have been, in a long-term relationship with someone who is currently refusing to acknowledge that fact, even to himself, because he happens to be besotted with a woman who would drop him like a flaming hot potato if she understood what was really going on between the two of you.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Confused, but your situation is actually pretty clear. It's classic. Your guy – no, you don't own him, but the two of you are together – is looking for ways to rationalize being unethically non-monogamous because he wants to keep you in his life AND he wants to keep fucking his new girl. At least for a little while longer. (Because, you know, stability.) Meanwhile, you are buying into this crazy-making bullshit because you love him, and the last thing you want to do is issue some stupid “her or me” ultimatum. Partly because you don't believe in making someone you love make that kind of choice, which is commendable, but also because – just admit it – you are secretly afraid he might end up choosing her over you

Your confusion is merely a smokescreen, sweetheart. You're hiding behind it because it's the only thing between you and sheer panic.

Let's take a couple of deep breaths now, you and me: breathe IN, breathe OUT; breathe IN, breathe OUT. Keep doing that until you feel the fear subside. It might take a while.

So. You're in a really tough spot, and all I can tell you is that ethical is rarely synonymous with easy. I wish I could give you step-by-step instructions for how to get yourself out of this emotional jam, but you're going to have to be your own guide. Luckily, you already have the answers to your own questions. The knowledge is inside of you; you only have to access it.

I suggest you find some time alone, as soon as possible, to reflect on where you are now, where you want to be five years in the future, and how you plan to get there from here. Go somewhere you won't be disturbed. Turn off your cell phone. Sit there in silence for a good long while. Take out a pen and a piece of actual paper, and write yourself a letter. Be as honest with yourself as you can, but don't be unkind. Put your fears into actual words. If you start feeling too agitated to think straight, take breaks to breathe. After you've written down everything you have to say to yourself, decide what course of action you want to take. Then follow through with it.

Periwinkles and starry twinkles,


  1. Thank you, Viny. You're right, I am in sheer panic. Not because I am afraid that he will choose her over me, because he refuses to choose between us - he says if either of us want to walk away, he will not stop us, but he will not choose. I have chosen not to walk away, because in the long run we will help each other a lot more than this situation will damage us. I will think on all of this, and write a letter to myself and figure all of this out.
    I may come back with more questions, and I hope this doesn't turn out to be damaging.
    - Non-Monogamous, but Not-So-Confused Anymore. :)

    1. Refusing to choose is a choice: it's choosing to take no action, hoping that someone or something else will solve the problem. But it doesn't absolve him of responsibility. What he is doing is unethical, period. That doesn't mean he's a bad person; lots of us have withheld information from romantic partners, potential or current, because we are afraid of losing them if they knew the truth. Still, not OK. The dilemma this poses for *you* is whether or not you want to force his hand by setting your own ethical boundaries and sticking to them. Examples: "If you want to keep being sexual with her, and you are not willing to tell her about me, then I will no longer be sexual with you"; "If you want to keep being sexual with me, you must tell her about us, and if you do not tell her, then I will tell her." In either case, it's basically the same thing as giving him a "her or me" ultimatum, even though you aren't asking him to be monogamous, because the monogamous woman he is dating is almost certainly not going to agree to a polyamorous relationship.

  2. If he doesn't want to choose, that's fine. He's non-monogamous and doesn't feel like he should have to choose. No problem.

    The problem is the only one of the women in this situation actually knows the whole story, and can actually make an informed decision. The other woman is being lied to and cheated on. Not OK.