A solo poly experience of couple privilege: Love and Lost’s story

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January 2, 2013 by aggiesez

The New Year is an opportunity not just to reflect and look forward, but also to recognize the way things are. Sometimes that’s just not a pretty picture.

As I’ve been gathering perspectives on the role of couple privilege in polyamorous relationships, some stories are particularly striking — and heartbreaking. Recently I received the following letter from one SoloPoly reader (who has asked to be called Love and Lost) which epitomizes how poly people who are part of an established primary couple sometimes end up treating a non-primary partner disrespectfully, unfairly, and painfully. It also shows the high cost of acting out rather than communicating clearly.

Couple privilege is the presumption (which can be unconscious or unacknowledged) that people in a primary couple matter more than other partners or other kinds of relationships. In polyamory, often leads primary couples to make decisions and take actions at the expense of, and without fair consideration of, non-primary partners — and without disclosing up front that this is how relationships with them work.

The saddest part is this generally isn’t what anyone means to do, not even poly primary couples. When people get surprised by their feelings and act out based on assumptions of privilege, that ends up hurting everyone. I honestly don’t believe anyone ventures into poly relationships intending to hurt or mistreat others — or not caring whether they do. But intentionality and blame are not the issue here; I’m talking about behavior and responsibility.

I wish I could say the following story is extreme. But the truth is, I’m publishing Love and Lost’s letter because this kind of problem is all too common in polyamory. I’ve personally had more than one committed, long-term non-primary relationship end in similar ways. Furthermore, the majority of poly people I’ve spoken to (over many years) who enter into significant ongoing non-primary relationships with people in poly primary couples have encountered similar problems — sometimes to a lesser extent, but sometimes even worse.

Fortunately that’s not always the case. In fact some poly primary couples are very forthright and responsible when conflicts happen. (Listen to the first segment of Polyamory Weekly episode 327.) Still, at this point, irresponsibility supported by couple privilege is currently very, very common in polyamory.

Experiencing, seeing and hearing about this kind of anguish over and over again was a key motivation for starting this blog. It also was the genesis of my crowdsourced list of how to treat non-primary partners well.

So as 2013 begins, let this story serve as a reminder of where there’s ample room for improvement in the conduct of polyamorous relationships. Because everyone in poly relationships can work to solve this problem. And, as my comments after the letter show, the problem isn’t just primary couples wielding couple privilege; it’s also the internalized shame that many non-primary partners feel, due to the couple privilege assumptions we’ve absorbed as well.

Disclaimer: Love and Lost’s note represents only one side of this story. I do not have input from her former partner and metamour, and I cannot verify any of this information. So this is presented strictly as an example of a common problem. Also, Love and Lost makes some assertions about the feelings and motivations of her former boyfriend and metamour — but obviously she’s not a mind reader. I’m leaving her assertions to stand since my goal here is to represent how this experience looks from the non-primary partner’s perspective; but we don’t actually know what was going on for the primary couple in this case.

Love and Lost writes:

I was secondary-partner to a amazing, loving, wonderful man, who has a wife and two adorable children. I’ve been poly for a very long time and I’ve spent a lot of time as a secondary. I’ve done this before, I know what I’m doing. I was generous, flexible, helpful, and very VERY conscientious about honoring their rules and not taking time away from the family except for the dates.

I got along okay with his wife — we never clicked like he and I did, but we got along okay. I also got along well with their kids, even helped out for a special event by watching the kids.

For most of a year he and I we were so very happy. Finally, about four months ago, he finally told me he loved me. When his wife found out he’d said that to me, she flipped out. She said he wasn’t spending enough time with her, was letting their relationship slide, and she wasn’t happy.

He was spending all of two dates per month with me, with plenty of phone communication in between. He tried to rearrange to please her — cut me down to one date per month and started emotionally pulling away. I was miserable but willing to hold on.

And then he dumped me. He said he couldn’t maintain a relationship with me, not even a limited one. I believe she was still putting pressure on him at home, I have called it an “indirect veto” — where she just put so much pressure on him that he had to end things with me to keep his wife “happy.” For instance, during our one date in that last month, she posted something on Facebook about it being one of those nights where you just HAD to drink.

The emotional fallout has been long and hard. He abandoned our perfectly good, happy, healthy relationship because of pressure from his wife. Then, she suddenly declared that our relationship was never meant to be close or loving, or have any commitment. He internalized her ideas, treated me so coldly and distantly he basically turned into another person. He never made any effort to maintain the friendship with me he’d claimed to want following our breakup. Now we don’t even speak.

I feel like a toy. Like I was never real, like he never loved me — if he had, I wouldn’t have been so very easy to abandon. I’m not even real. I’m not deserving of love, or consideration, or even gentle treatment. I got my heart broken, and it was my own fault for loving a married man.

She came first. I knew that. I even encouraged him to put her first, and I told her their relationship mattered to me too. But when it came down to it, she never gave me that same consideration. My relationship with her husband was never an asset or a blessing to her — it was only something she tolerated, for a while. Once she’d “had it,” she got rid of me.

Of course, I’m aware that he let this happen and made his own choices — but that doesn’t really help. I was happy, he was happy, and she was not. But she didn’t just express her dissatisfaction: She made HER problem MINE as well as HIS. She took my loving, tender, passionate boyfriend — and when she was done “expressing herself” he decided he had to become someone else, someone who didn’t love me.

I had been happy — really, genuinely, brilliantly happy — with my two dates per month. So was he. But it wasn’t real, or maybe my love didn’t matter. I wasn’t real. I was only pretend, right? It’s my own fault for letting myself be a toy, right? Secondary-toy.

Now I wonder if I should give up polyamory. I can’t do this again. I can’t love and have it ripped away because of someone I’m not even dating — to know that I’m disposable, that the primary partner can kick up a fuss and get rid of me. It’s happened before, I’ve been directly vetoed. But this relationship lasted so long and we were so happy, it’s wounded me to my core. Ripped my heart out.

Still, it’s my own fault, right? For loving someone with a ring on their finger. I just keep coming back to it, saying to myself, “I was happy.” But it doesn’t matter. My happiness, my love, doesn’t matter, because I’m disposable. Secondary.

That’s my story. That’s why I’m still grieving, hurting and trying to figure out how to cope through the holiday season without telling my family about my relationship with a married man. Because I was happy. And at the first bump in HIS road, he threw me away, “thrown under the bus” as one of you wrote. I was happy. But I didn’t matter.

Why does this happen?

Too often, individuals and couples enter into polyamorous relationships without first getting clear on how they feel, their desires and needs, their existing commitments and boundaries, and what they are actually (not just theoretically) willing and able to offer to new partners. Also, often they haven’t considered their options for handling inevitable bumps and shocks. Most importantly, often they don’t clearly commit up front to owning and working through their own difficult emotions.

In fact, typically people who are new to polyamory (as well as some longtime poly folk) assume they’ll just wing it and figure out all this stuff as they go along — which means their partners often end up serving as crash test dummies.

Of course, solo poly people can (and often do) fail to do this kind of groundwork. But when an established primary couple is involved, couple privilege creates a power disparity that often goes unacknowledged (or even denied) by everyone involved until trouble strikes.

When trouble hits in polyamory, too often the default response of poly primary couples is to severely curtail or summarily jettison non-primary relationships — without necessarily discussing options and solutions directly with non-primary partners.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible — and, I’d argue, far healthier for everyone involved in the long run — for everyone in a poly relationship network to commit to working through difficulties together while keeping all of the relationships intact.

This usually involves recognizing that differences and conflict will arise, and agreeing up front to get input (and, ideally, agreement) from everyone involved about possible changes. It means being willing to own your own stuff, especially insecurities and fears, and to try to work together. It means never forgetting that all partners, including newer ones, are human beings fully worthy of respect and consideration.

This process certainly isn’t comfortable, especially the first few times you try it. But if you’re committed to being poly, it helps immensely. Usually poly relationship problems can be resolved this way — I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it.

Of course, it is also totally valid for a poly primary couple to decide that they might prefer to address conflicts or insecurities by curtailing or ending non-primary relationships (various flavors of “veto power” or strict hierarchy). This can happen for a variety of valid reasons, including parenting priorities. As long as this is a conscious decision that gets communicated up front to non-primary partners before anyone gets too invested in the relationship, then everyone can make their own choices about whether and how much to get involved. However, when the option of ditching the non-primary partner is presumed rather than discussed, that’s when a lot of unnecessary heartache happens.

Of course, people often only discover their own boundaries when they trip over them. When that happens, it’s important to communicate clearly with everyone involved about what’s happening; to own what’s going on for you. Even if that means admitting: “I/we thought I/we could handle a long-term loving committed poly relationship, but I’m/we’re just not ready yet and may never get there.” That may feel embarrassing or humiliating to say, but it’s fairer and kinder than just bailing on someone — or than acting out in ways that sabotage the new relationship.

In my experience, working tough stuff out collaboratively is almost always the best approach. If you reflexively bail whenever someone freaks out, you will never learn how not to freak out. Also, this strategy typically leads people to shirk responsibility, by blaming the demise of a non-primary relationship on specific partners or situations. This means you’ll almost certainly repeat your destructive patterns, causing similar damage in future relationships. Everybody loses that way.

Sometimes after everyone involved has tried hard to solve a problem, they reach a consensus that the situation is truly untenable or that differences are irreconcilable. Sometimes, as in K’s story, it turns out that some partners aren’t really willing or able to offer what they thought they could offer. In those cases, an intimate relationship might need to end.

Internalized shame and blame

What saddened me most about Love and Lost’s letter were her heartfelt remarks about how she feels ashamed about and blames herself for the demise of this relationship — not because of her conduct, but simply for loving a married man.

It might be tempting to think that someone who’s chosen polyamory consciously would not adopt such a self-punishing stance, but our heads and our hearts often aren’t on the same page. Especially where strong social conditioning is involved.

Love and Lost’s reflexive shame and self-blame occurred even though she made a conscious decision that the social expectation and veneration of monogamy isn’t necessary and doesn’t make sense for her — and even though her former boyfriend presented himself to her as wanting (and being available to have) a honest, loving, deep and significant non-primary relationship.

The flip side of couple privilege is the internalized self-loathing that non-primary partners often feel. I have a lot of compassion for this since I’ve struggled with it at times, too. It’s horrible enough to be abandoned by a partner — but when you abandon yourself, you are truly bereft. It magnifies the grief of a lost relationship and can leave you feeling even more hopeless.

In this society we’re all marinating in couple privilege from the time we’re infants. We absorb the presumptions that reflect the standard social relationship escalator that defines which relationships — and which partners — are “real,” “serious,” or “matter.” If you’re not riding that escalator, the social default assumption is that you can’t (or shouldn’t) expect to be treated with respect; not by your partners and metamours, and not even by yourself.

Internalized self loathing is the dark underbelly of any kind of privilege; it’s the cruelest effect that privilege visits upon those who lack it. It’s the gay Christian who believes God says that being gay is “wrong” and worries about going to hell. It’s the woman who berates herself as being both greedy and inadequate for “wanting it all” by having a career, a marriage, and a child. It’s the trans woman who cries when strangers make cutting remarks; how could she have dared to try to “pass” as a “real” woman in public? It’s the octogenarian who burns with shame when his children express disgust upon learning that he has (or wants) a lover — he’s “too old” to be sexual.

…It’s the poly person who feels guilty, foolish or worthless for daring to love another poly person who already has a primary partner — since a lowly “piece on the side” can’t possibly merit respect, not even self-respect.

This is why polyamory often is particularly challenging for solo people who don’t have (and who maybe don’t want or aren’t seeking) a primary partner of our own. Even if we consciously disagree with the presumptions and norms of couple privilege, often we still have strong emotional responses rooted in internal messages which tell us that the way we love is wrong, or harmful. At some level, many of us feel that that we cannot love this way and expect to matter or to be treated well. So when our relationships end painfully, we may feel we brought this on ourselves (at least partly) for being poly — at least, for being poly without the safety net of a primary partner).

Also, sometimes solo people — poly or not — feel that if we don’t have a primary partner or aren’t seeking one, there must be something deeply wrong with us.

It sucks to be undermined by your own feelings rooted in social programming. And that can layer on a further amount of shame: if you “know better” it’s easy to expect that you should “feel better,” or at least differently.

Of course, we’re not helpless victims of society, our partners and metamours, or our own psyches. There is much that solo people can do to stand up for ourselves in any kind of intimate relationship — and also much that all poly/open people can do to recognize and respect solo people and the relationships we have. I will be writing more about this in future posts; but the earlier SoloPoly guest post by David Chastity is a great example.

But for now, as 2013 begins, Love and Lost’s story stands as a snapshot of an important part of polyamory as it often exists today. Couple privilege and internalized shame often join forces to make poly relationships especially risky and painful for solo people. It’s why many solo people who prefer polyamory abandon it, even when we’re perpetually unhappy in mono relationships — something that often shortchanges monogamous partners as well.

There is room to improve this situation — to change our assumptions about couple privilege and how they drive our behavior. Simply discussing couple privilege, acknowledging and respecting the perspective of non-primary partners, and getting clear about your own stuff can go a long way on this front. I am hopeful that this is possible, and even likely. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother writing this blog.

Room for improvement is always a good thing. Embrace it — and notice and appreciate progress in your life, loves, and community.

Happy New Year.

18 thoughts on “A solo poly experience of couple privilege: Love and Lost’s story

  1. scattered_kisses says:

    God, her story breaks my heart; it strikes so close to home, and her words directly echo my thoughts and feelings from a similar situation. I’m tearing up as I write. And I’m afraid to become close to a new friend, too, because I like him and he has a primary. Fear shouldn’t dictate a relationship, but this is the real world. Hugs and sympathy to everyone who’s been there.

    • aggiesez says:

      I know, I had exactly the same reaction when I got this letter — and I published it with her permission because this situation is so damn common. Sorry you’ve been there too. But maybe by speaking up about it more, we can all help to make this less common in the future.

  2. SHG says:

    A lot of times when I hear stories like this, I hear people mention being respectful of existing rules and boundaries. And that’s a good thing of course. Polyamory works well when there is a lot of respect all around. But I am curious what these rules are? I’m *not* an extremist to say that nobody should *ever* have rules or anything like that. However, I suspect that having very many rules is an indicator to having strong attachment to what a non-primary relationship will look like.

    When I was newly with my partner, I wanted to be (and I was!) very respectful of his marriage. I still am. This hasn’t been difficult. They didn’t have too many rules, but they did (and do) have expectations about being able to nurture their relationship with each other. When he and I did things that would impact her (such as setting up scheduled date nights), he always checked in with how she felt about it. But she did not have rules about *me* and what I’m expected to do, such as when and where I was allowed to kiss him, etc. I believe this comes from having a certain degree of acceptance and non-attachment as to what my relationship with him will look like.

    I don’t believe she would ever have been okay with him being with somebody who disrespects her. But, seeing that I treat her and their marriage with respect, she doesn’t need to control me.

    The analogy I make is this. If I trust somebody and like them, I will invite them to dinner and provide good hospitality. If I don’t trust them, I won’t invite them to dinner. But I would not invite somebody to dinner and then chain the silverware to my dining table to prevent them stealing it. (I’m not setting this up as a direct analogy where people are possessions that can be stolen. Just using an example where trust comes into play.)

  3. Bob says:

    Oh this story absolutely breaks my heart in half to read it. Because I know that deep down inside, so many of us fear exactly this when starting a relationship (not just solo poly’s either, attached poly’s often have the exact same fear when beginning to fall for someone, my married girlfriend certainly did).

    I know how lucky I am that my partner’s husband has been so wonderfully welcoming. And he knows how much I value their marriage, and I show it not just in words but in deeds. I get the strong feeling that he wants me around when I am around. All he as ever asked of me is to good and kind to his wife and to not suddenly disappear for no good reason at all, a few boyfriends have abandoned her this way and I can tell it hurts him when it happens.

    I want my story out there alongside the equally important cautionary tales to serve as a reminder to all that it can be very good, very rewarding for everyone, and nurturing beyond belief to be in a relationship with a partnered person.

    At the same time, I know from reading so many other stories how incredibly lucky I am that I have not lived those nightmares.

  4. Her story made me so very sad. And I loved SHG’s silverware analogy. So true.

    Both of my boyfriends are married and one has children that I love and adore. I get to see them both once or twice a week and I talk to their wives and other girlfriends often. I feel incredibly lucky that we have really open lines of communication. We have our bumps in the road like any other relationship, but I think due to the fact that I talk and meet with the other women often, and we really like and respect each other, it makes all the difference.

    I am really sorry that Love and Lost had to go through this. Heartbreak is always tough. I would just say don’t give up. Work through it and keep your chin up. There will be someone out there who has a really healthy and loving relationship, where you won’t be the third wheel as a secondary. I know those kinds of relationships are out there for you.

  5. Gisa says:

    I am so sorry to have heard of Love and Lost’s situation. I know her feelings all too well. I have experienced the same kind of discarded pain and am still coping with it. I am/was with a couple who have recently broken up. Although I am still friends with my guy, our relationship is not the same, and may never be the same. And truthfully, I wonder if one day it’ll all just end.

    As you had previously mentioned, a non-primary partner’s time with a primary couple is vastly limited. I live about 1 hr 10 minutes from my lovers. So while in the beginning I may have seen them almost every other weekend (for an overnight stay), it soon became once every few weeks and eventually, once every month or two. Still, like Love and Lost, I was utterly and blissfully happy during our “dates”. But I had often felt “shafted” about not being given enough time to physically be with them (this didn’t necessarily mean physically intimate, but rather being able to hang out and do mundane things like watch a movie or go to dinner together).

    I had always, and still do, respect their relationship, but deep down, I didn’t know if I was truly polyamorous or just pretending to be, or even worse yet, pretending to be polyamorous in favor other than being named “piece on the side”. A part of me still wonders whether they really wanted to have a girlfriend, or if she was just tolerating the “fun” situation until she had had enough. When the breakup happened, I had felt my heart shatter into pieces. I always felt that my seeing them was directly contingent upon them being happy as a couple. I had felt that this may be the end of my relationship with one or both partners. Although I have always been closer to my guy, I never wanted to lose either of them. I finally felt that I had a family who accepted me for my kinks and all. And I was not ready to give that up.

    Although this is my first venture into polyamory, or what I would assume polyamory would be, like Love and Lost, I too wonder if I should give up polyamory in favor of the more socially accepted monogamy. I am also not ready to go back out and deeply love two individuals equally and have that ripped away because someone became insecure. I’m not ready to become a disposable toy again.

    While I have recently “come out” to a coworker (and thankfully she has accepted every part of me and this situation), what hurt the most, was suffering in silence. I did not fully speak about my “relationship” when it was happy, and worse yet, I was not able to speak to anyone when it fell apart. My family and friends didn’t understand why I had become distant. So until I came out, I suffered in silence and bathed in self loathing – how could I let a smart girl like me fall in love with a couple (or an individual in that relationship) that may have only wanted a toy, and not a loving relationship, all along?

    I know that any relationship, both monogamous or polyamorous, has many wonderful highs, but as a non primary, the lows are very deep. I want to give polyamory another try, but I am afraid of that deep seeded “am I a toy?” feeling, the ever present (if even subconsciously) couples privilege, and possibly having my heart broken again.

    But love is always worth a try, right? I just wonder how many times you can try before you should give up.

    • aggiesez says:

      Gisa, I’m so sorry you’re hurting.

      I’m wondering: during this relationship, how much clear communication did the three of you have about what each of you wanted/needed and how you felt? When time with you was cut back, did you have input on that?

      First forays into unfamiliar territory are often confusing and unpleasant or painful. It can be hard to get your bearings and figure out and say what you want and need.

      Never forget in any kind of relationship that you matter as much as your partners — and you deserve their respect and consideration. Speak up for yourself and hold your ground. And be willing to recognize when someone you love isn’t treating you well or fairly. Letting that slide never helps, not if the relationship (poly or otherwise) is important to you.

      • Gisa says:

        Thank you Aggie. Your kind words and support mean a lot as my heart begins to heal.

        Although brief (approx 6 months), I believe that a relationship is not determined by the duration, but rather the emotional involvement. At this time, I am still friends with my male partner (although it does not feel the same) and no longer friends or as close with my female partner.

        During the relationship, I was always much closer to my male partner than his girlfriend, but we all got along well. As this has been my first venture into, what I assume it to be, polyamory, I was always uncertain of what I should and should not do. I was nervous about overstepping any boundary with my female partner. I had felt so honored that she was willing to share her boyfriend with me, so I never wanted to do anything to hurt that trust. I am a very submissive type and never really spoke about what I truly wanted. Which, in hindsight, is a terrible thing to feel and withold from my partners. I had met my partners online and I don’t think any of us had any inkling that it would evolve into a very loving, affectionate and caring partnership. However we never sat down and talked about how we felt and where we wanted to take this. My male partner preferred to let things grow organically than to try to define it – that it is what it is.

        Everything from my female partner came through my male partner. I never actually heard her speak it. And I believed every word. As I read more articles on polyamory, I wanted to speak about what I wanted with both of them present. To really understand if this is truly polyamory (defined or not) or if this is just a fun little addition in the sack on the side (which I was not looking for). However, again, being submissive, I was afraid to voice these opinions because I was afraid to lose them. My pseudo-family.

        We had initially began seeing each other almost every other weekend, but soon after, as the “honeymoon phase” faded and we all settled back into life, life took over. I didn’t pay too much mind as we all had to live our lives outside of each other. But I began to feel lonely and not given enough affection. I felt left out. I missed my partners sexually, but most importantly, emotionally. Unfortunately, I was never given any input on how much time I can spend with them. My time spent with them was directly related to their happiness. If they were having an arguement, I wouldn’t be invited over. But even when they weren’t fighting, they (rather she) had made plans to see her friends (which I respected) and I was, presumably, not allowed to spend time with my male partner. This I felt was unfair, because I always made a point to make sure that I would never do anything behind her back. But, again, I respected their decision.

        Looking back, I believe that this relationship was more of a “V” rather than true polyamory. To this day, I felt like I was tolerated by my female partner instead of affectionately “loved”.

        Overall, while I am happy that this brief relationship happened, I am sad that I never had input or control over how much affection I deserved or could give. That I never felt like I could speak about the direction our relationship was headed.

        I am very interested in trying polyamory again, for all it’s wonderful highs, but as a non-primary partner, we are at a disadvantage from the beginning of being treated unfairly when you are invovled with a primary couple. Lesson to be learned by all non-primaries: to be a stronger individual, take control over your affection affection (given and received) and to constantly communicate your feelings, both good and bad.

      • scattered_kisses says:

        “Looking back, I believe that this relationship was more of a “V” rather than true polyamory. To this day, I felt like I was tolerated by my female partner instead of affectionately “loved”.”

        Please know that both a V and a triad are equally valid polyamorous relationship models and that your choice of words is demeaning to others. I *strongly* encourage you to learn more about polyamory and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

      • aggiesez says:

        Yes, a V is a valid configuration for a poly relationship. I think there are a lot of myths and stereotypes about polyamory that lead to common misunderstandings by people new to poly — especially the assumption that everyone in a poly network needs/wants a sexual/intimate relationship with everyone else in the network. The reality TV show “Polyamory: Married and Dating” unfortunately strongly fostered that stereotype, for example.

        And as Gisa said, this was her first poly experience and she didn’t know what to expect, what was possible, or what to ask for. That’s also common.

        I personally didn’t construe her word choice as demeaning, but I understand why her words make some poly folk cringe. I think it reflects a lack of understanding — and she does seem to be working on that. Learning to think about relationships outside the monogamy box is hard; I personally don’t fault people for not getting it right off the bat.

      • Gisa says:

        You are correct, scattered_kisses and Aggie. Unfortunately, I had written the previous reply on a few hours of sleep and the preferred word of choice was not used. However, that does not excuse the incorrect usage of the word. I apologize to you both and to any of the readers out there. I know that love comes in many forms and configurations; each with its own validity.

        What I had meant to say, was what scattered_kisses mentioned – a “triad”. This term was introduced to me when I went into the relationship and I continued to learn what that term meant – to us. However I failed to use this correct terminology when describing my relationship and when writing the previous reply.

        I loved my relationship with my partners, “V”, Triad or another other way that we preferred to define it. Again, my male partner preferred to let our relationship evolve organically rather than to define it. So while I wanted to try to define it (particularly regarding emotional attachment to each other), I felt that I was unable to do so for fear of losing them both if I pressed too hard on the subject. Coincidentally, I had an argument with my male partner regarding this very subject.

        What I personally wanted from this relationship was to love both equally (which I did) and be loved, equally. As much as I personally (including my male partner), wanted to be a Triad, I had always felt a disconnect with my female partner. However, I had and did respect that. As previously mentioned, we did not expect this relationship after the first meeting. While I wanted to be emotionally closer to my female partner like I was with my male partner, I could tell that this bridge would not be forged. This is what I wanted to convey and I apologize to you, scattered_kisses, Aggie and any and all other readers out there who are in relationships of all types. Love comes in many forms :)

        Again, our relationship definition may be different from someone else’s; we tried to love together and unfortunately we did not reach this ultimate goal.

      • scattered_kisses says:

        No worries, Gisa. I think there are a lot of couples out there genuinely seeking a third for a triad type relationship, so you should not feel discouraged. There’s a lot of love in the universe for you. :)

      • Gisa says:

        Thank you scattered_kisses! While I am still friends with my male partner, I know our dynamic has vastly changed. There is no happiness without a few bumps in the road. Poly or not, and I agree with you, no one should be discouraged from trying again – love, in all its various yet beautiful forms, will find its way.

  6. Stabbity says:

    Still, it’s my own fault, right? For loving someone with a ring on their finger. I just keep coming back to it, saying to myself, “I was happy.” But it doesn’t matter. My happiness, my love, doesn’t matter, because I’m disposable. Secondary.

    I really identify with this. In my case, it really was more directly my fault because I stupidly (so stupid!) trusted the friend I briefly dated when he said he and his partner were polyamorous (as opposed to being open only to sexual but not emotional involvement with other people). If I had asked her directly how comfortable she was with her partner getting emotionally involved with me, maybe I would’ve figured out she wasn’t actually at all comfortable with that and saved myself a lot of pain.

    I was definitely treated like I was disposable, and it still hurts. I thought my friend really cared about me, making it an especially nasty shock when he dropped me like a load of bricks when his partner was unhappy with us being involved. Never ever again will I believe someone who says their partner is perfectly fine with them getting involved with me (without talking at length with their partner), never again will I have anything but a strictly platonic friendship with anyone whose partner has a veto.

  7. My heart goes out to all of the people effected by this. I remember having fears and insecurities I didn’t expect come up when my husband told his girlfriend that he loved her, and when he committed to not adding any more partners, saying she was enough. I felt.. upset and jealous and insecure. I knew of course that we had decided to be poly and knew that I hoped to love people and to be loved, and I wanted this for my hubby too. But when it actually happened I was shocked at my own reaction. I talked it over with my husband and his girlfriend. She was so helpful to me, relating her own times of insecurity and making me feel reassured. I felt like we were partners too, in loving him, and that made me feel a lot better about their closeness and connection. I was even able to find compersion about it. My husband is pretty terrific and I’m glad he found such a wonderful woman who gets how much he deserves to be loved and how much he has to give.
    My relationship with my husband had to change, but it didn’t necessarily have to lessen anything for me. I could gain the support of this lovely woman too, and give her mine as well.

    I don’t do poly exactly as my husband and his girlfriend do. I don’t want to commit to my boyfriends or girlfriends. I enjoy my freedom and my ability to pursue more connections, but I respect that the way either of us do it is okay. They felt the need to commit for a while as they explore this emotional connection and love, and that’s okay too. I’m finding that what the boards keep saying is right, communicate, communicate, communicate.

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