Dear Captain Awkward,
Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.
So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room.
Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.
For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.
At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?
Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.
This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.
So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.
Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box
Dear Sick of Dealing,
You feel backed into a corner because you have been backed into a corner.
You confronted the weird behavior at that awful-sounding dinner party, you trusted your (excellent) instincts and gathered your thoughts and then told your husband “Hey, Pandora is telling you who she is, which is someone who does not honor agreements around sex. I am not cool with that!” You have not been vague or unclear or unreasonable. You have been a rock star of boundaries and keen observations about the likelihood of emotional fallout and poor condom diligence.
Is there a version of ethical fun cool open relationships that allows for you to say this?
“Look, I deeply dislike Pandora and from what I’ve seen she is a shitty friend, lover, and dinner guest. I wouldn’t trust her to water my plants when I’m out of town or drop a letter in the mail on her way to the bus stop. My strong preference is that she is nowhere near our lives from this moment onward. But clearly you want to fuck this person real bad, so please go get it out of your system with a minimum of fuss, a maximum of safer sex precautions, and zero amount of making me sit through dinner with her ever again or pretending that this is okay with me.
(I imagine you wearing something kind of awesome and dark and voluminous and sweeping dramatically out of the room after delivering this speech. Your eye makeup – if you wear eye makeup – has never looked more perfect than at this moment.)
I like your script better: “COME ON, MAN!”
“BE SERIOUS, BRO.”
Pandora’s “Oh, my private dramatic secret jokes are definitely not designed to make you feel like a weird date-crasher in your own house, teehee, why would you think that?” game at dinner at your place was a classic Mean Girl power move. She cast her and your husband as a sexy team with sexy secrets and you as the one prying into “the vault.” Fun!
Unfortunately for you, your husband the one who is like “Yeah, but her boundaries are good enough for
my emotional connection with her my deep desire to have sex with someone I know is probably terrible (but also have you still be cool about this.)” He knew exactly what she was doing with this other couple before that awkward dinner and he still tried to make Pandora happen in your life. He also told you her secret (good, not great, but better than lying more) but now expects you (?) to keep that secret (?) so Pandora won’t be mad at him for telling it(?) and for you (?) to also somehow confront her (?) about her poor boundaries in a way that will make the situation all cool so he can sleep with her?
Am I parsing this correctly? And there was something something about him “being a good judge of character?” Except he brought the “Heyyyyyyyy, I make agreements with people about sex and then break them when it suits me!” lady to your house? And he thinks there is a way forward here?
If you veto Pandora I predict they will either be secretly fucking before the clock strikes August or he will heroically not fuck her while reminding you of his enormous, heroic (so heroic) sacrifice weekly for the rest of 2017. Fun!
I guess my questions are:
- What’s appealing about trying an open relationship again, right now, with this guy, for you?
That was gonna be a list but actually that’s my whole question. What’s in this whole situation for you? Pandora is clearly looking out for Pandora, so who is looking out for your heart and your comfort level and your health and your right to have informed consent? Who is treating your feelings and (excellent, fully-functioning) instincts with importance and care? Right now it kinda sounds like “Mostly just you” and that sounds…well…the word “lonely” comes to mind.