Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Unrequited Love: My Metamours Wish I Didn't Exist

Dear Viny,

My husband “Scott” and I opened up our marriage almost 2 years ago. I've been seeing my boyfriend “Charles” for over a year and a half, and it's been a wonderful dating experience. My main struggle in this relationship has been, and continues to be, that Charles' wife, “Jessica,” does not want to get to know me. We met once at Charles' request, but only for 20 minutes because that was all that Jessica wanted. I don't feel a great need to be pals and hang out all the time with her, but I do feel that a certain degree of compassion can be gained by some sort of regular get-together. I want very much to express my caring for her and to let her know I understand who she is as the lovable woman Charles married. I want her to know that I care for her and her sweet family. Without any opportunity to communicate, we may secretly be as suspicious of one another as we want, and it almost feels as though we are vying for Charles' time and energy from opposing sides of the fence. I dream instead of being a united front, both of us on the “make Charles happy” team (his words).

Part 2: My husband struggled for a year with us being open, despite the opening up being his idea. Scott was worried that my connection with Charles was a sign that our marriage did not have the right kind of foundation (I disagree – I like our marriage and am grateful for the many ways we connect with one another and with lovers). So when Scott started dating “Megan” a few months ago, I went into it gently and supportively, having had his support for my relationship with Charles all this time. I was also a bit wary, though, given Scott's shaky assumptions about our own connection. The first problem is that Megan is single and very monogamously-minded. She simply cannot wrap her head around the fact that she has a deep and important connection with a married man. Working with Megan's struggle to accept the poly-ness of this situation has been stressful and causes me to worry that she secretly wishes and plans to have Scott all to herself. Add to it that she refuses to meet me because she'd rather me not be here at all...this is just more than I can support. My husband is out all the time with her and runs at a second's notice to put out the fire any time she cries about this. It is really out of balance, and he is feeling pulled by the opposing forces of two women who love him but aren't necessarily working together for the good of the whole group...we just want him to ourselves, at least right now. This isn't fair to him. I spent some time resenting her and thinking that she was just trying to make my life hard. Then one day, I learned that my inquiry into a job that might cross paths with hers caused her to cry, and I was overcome with compassion for her. I realized for the first time that she is truly having a hard time with this. It occurred to me that she is a deep-feeling, lovely soul who happens to have found a meaningful, intimate connection with a married man despite her personal wishes and ethics about it. Having felt that compassion for her, I can't go back to resenting her. I really feel for her. Now my problem is that I wish she would meet me, so I could explain that I see her side of this.

I have two metamours who prefer to compartmentalize their relationships with the men I love and who do not want to get to know me. I just want to have some time with them to let them know I care for them and to affirm we all want the same thing: for our men to feel loved and be happy. Am I selfish or wrong to want some degree of togetherness with my metamours? Maybe they are happier pretending away reality, and I should move as slowly as the most reluctant part...? My men are trying to behave as compassionately as possible, and although they don't want to push their other partners into meeting me when they aren't ready, they have both been gently pursuing the idea with my metamours. So what can I do now? Is it best to wait for everyone to come around while my men do their gentle work of getting my metamours on board?

Help me out of the cold and into my metamours' hearts,


Dear B,

I am impressed – and touched – by your letter, and I only wish your metamours could read it. If Jessica and Megan were able to see you for who you really are, I'm sure they would love you.

Of course, that's exactly the problem: they aren't able to see you. They aren't even looking. From your description, it sounds like both of your metamours have their heads deep in the sand of “Let's pretend she doesn't really matter.” Never mind that nothing grows in that sand. Never mind that it's desert all the way down, a fucking wasteland of miserly misery. At least it's better than the existential terror of “Maybe I don't really matter.”

We all want to feel like we matter. Unfortunately, many of us have been taught to measure our self-worth according to how much other people are willing to sacrifice to be with us – which explains why the idea of being someone's “one and only” is so appealing. The twisted logic goes like this: If my lover is willing to forsake all others, past and potential, then I must be incredibly valuable. (“See, I am worth more than all of the rest of them put together! I matter most!”) In contrast, if my lover gives up nothing to be with me, I might be worth nothing. Unless I can prove my value – typically at someone else's expense – I will worry that I am worthless.

No wonder your metamours don't want to see you: seeing you would mean facing their own fears.

Your situation is regrettably common, B. Far too many people in open relationships seem to think they can avoid anxiety by avoiding the people they imagine are causing it – an approach that's just about guaranteed to backfire. As strange as it might seem, meeting your lover's other lover(s) is actually the most effective antidote to the ickiness of jealousy.

You seem to understand this intuitively. The question is, how can you put your knowledge into practice? How do you meet someone who wants nothing more than to keep hiding from you? How do you help someone who doesn't want your help?


I don't have a good answer for you. There's not a lot of direct action you can take, given the circumstances. You are probably going to have to wait for Jessica and Megan to change their minds about how they want to handle being involved with men who are also involved with you. Your best bet for hurrying this process along is to try to convince Charles and Scott to use their influence to hurry the process along. To that end, it might be a good idea to see whether there is any reluctance on their part: do the men agree with you that it would be in everyone's best interest for you and your metamours to get to know each other better? Do they share your dream, or are they dubious? (In other words, are they pushing gently out of care and concern, or out of lack of conviction? It's an important distinction.)

While you are waiting, you have important work to do: your relationship with your husband is clearly suffering right now. You used the phrase, “This is just more than I can support,” and that's a big red flag. A phrase like that means a line has been crossed. You need to figure out where that line was, and hike right back to it, on the double. Maintaining your personal boundaries is not the same thing as putting your needs above those of others. Quite the contrary: good boundaries are actually a crucial component of compassion. Let your husband know what you need from him in order to support his other relationship, and then expect him to follow through. If it turns out that you cannot support his relationship with Megan unless Megan is willing to meet you, definitely tell him so -- with the understanding that meeting this particular need may not be within his power. In that case, you will have to approach Megan directly. Write her a letter explaining how you feel. Ask to meet her. Let her know that you're making this request because she matters to your husband, which means she also matters to you. Perhaps she'll listen. 

Mallows and willows,


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