#1001: “Let’s open up our marriage so I can sleep with this really untrustworthy person!”

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.

Yours sincerely,
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.)

No?

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.

371 comments
  1. doylist said:

    Word. My marriage is poly. If my wife expressed this kind of discomfort about a potential partner? I would back her up. I know this because it has happened. Someone made her uncomfortable and that was enough for me, because why would I want the woman I live with to be uncomfortable? Why would that not be a priority for me? I am deeply dubious of an “open” relationship where one partner treats “freedom to screw around” over “stability of existing relationships.” Obviously there is no one right way to do poly, no single ideal model for how to handle distress, jealousy, insecurity, or such in all forms – but listening and respecting concerns is kind of. Central. To maintaining any good relationship.

    • Yes! Very well said doylist! Thank you for commenting. I wanted to say something and at the moment all I could think of was “This is exactly how my ex was” and ” Wow! This guy only cares about himself!” -_- Neither of which are terribly helpful as comments, but ar at least validating for the letter writer.

      Also in a poly relationship. Consent and truthful communication are so important.

    • Jules the Third (I think) said:

      +1 to the comments from doylist, incurablejynx, onamission5.

      To have a successful relationship, poly or not, the partners have to listen to and respect each other. Because I respect my husband (and his judgement), and because I want him to stick around, I would totally listen to his discomfort and not go there.

      Cap’s got good scripts, she’s right about your instincts. You might dig more into why your husband wants to be poly, and make sure you see how he reacts when you date before you pull any pins. The stereotype of ‘he wants to fool around but doesn’t want her to’ is out there for a reason, and a person who would accept these boundary violations without having your back is a candidate. Not going to go so far as brigidkeeley, because sometimes people surprise me, but there’s plenty of examples of that around too. Women are not cake (to have and eat too with no agency of their own), they are partners.

      (My experience: 20+ years with my main partner, 10ish of them poly, and many close friends also poly)

    • emmych said:

      A-fucking-men. My partner asked if it would be chill to do flirty fun things with another person they were into (who is, coincidentally, on my no-no list of people I want fucking me or my partners), and I gave a very visceral “NOPE NOT COMF” and they said “okay, cool, I am okay not risking what I already have with you for the potential of what could be with this other person” and that was it, that was the end of the conversation.

      People who do poly and place importance on doing a lot of fucking around with new people at the expense of existing partners squick me the hell out, because tbh it makes me think that MAYBE polyamory isn’t the answer, MAYBE the person who wants to be polyamorous needs to just break up and be single for a while (and maybe go be poly, but with other people who aren’t the partner they clearly do not value enough to respect the boundaries of).

    • Maggie said:

      So much this. My marriage is not poly, but my wife is a huge flirt who likes to cuddle and kiss people. One of the reasons I am okay with that is that the one time I said, “but not THAT person, please, because [reasons],” she said, “Okay, not that person!” and that was that.

    • MJ said:

      I agree with most of what you said, but I’d quibble with the wording, “why would I want the woman I live with to be uncomfortable?” Selfishly, I would have preferred to read “woman I love,” because “woman I live with” sounds like you’re more worried about how your wife’s discomfort impacts YOU.

      • doylist said:

        MJ – I hear you. I didn’t go with that wording specifically because there is more than one “woman I love” and we were specifically talking about my wife. I don’t want ANY of the women I love to be uncomfortable, and that’s got very little to do with the impact on me; I can see how trying to be specific messed with the sentiment I was trying to express, though.

    • Polytastic said:

      I’m also Poly for a few years now. Someone who lies and sneaks around a do tries to make me and my primary keep secrets from one another? absolutely not. “This person is acting shitty” is enough of a disqualifier for both of us.

      • Polytastic said:

        Also, she disrespected you in your home. HARD PASS

  2. I’m pretty sure he’ll both remind her constantly that she denied him His Great Sexy Adventure, Seriously, Why Are You Such A Prude while also secretly having sex with Pandora. Cus why just betray someone when you can manipulate the, too?

    • onamission5 said:

      THIS. Husband is shenanigans and I think he’s into Pandora for the drama, not in spite of it.

      Also this might be a good time to suggest something like The Ethical Slut as immediate future reading material for LW?* I’m not in that scene any more so apologies if the book has issues I am unaware of, but I recall it fondly from a million years ago.

      Linked to the more recent poly relationship version because it’s even more applicable than the original, but the original publication would be a good starting point as well. IIRC Hardy talks a lot about honest communication, mutual respect, and clear, compassionate boundaries within open arrangements, why those factors are so critical, what are red flags, when to trust your gut on bad news bearers (always) and what to do when a primary partner balks at your dating choices (respect their boundaries!).

      *TBH, LW’s husband needs it more, but I suspect he won’t read it past the “don’t pressure/guilt/coerce your partner into agreeing to let you fuck outside of the relationship if they don’t want that/fuck people they don’t approve of” and “don’t goddamned lie to any of your partners” and “don’t drag drama home with you” advice, so I suggest it to LW as a “this is what it looks like when poly relationships are ethical” starting place. Nobody should have to go into this with sole guidance from someone else who’s proven themselves not trustworthy.

      Good luck LW!

      • ashbet said:

        The two books I strongly recommend are “More Than Two” (Veaux/Rickert) and “Opening Up” (Taormino.)

        I especially like the latter, because of the focus on many different types of healthy/happy poly arrangements.

        • Healy said:

          See, I really enjoyed Ethical Slut and HATED More Than Two. I find it ableist, manipulative, and a book that people frequently hold over the heads of their partners in order to force them into certain ways of interacting: “yes but the book said this….” I would recommend Ask Me About Polyamory, because it’s really committed to lots of different ways of being poly, without being judgey.

          LW, I think that what seems clear here is that husband dating Pandora is a boundary FOR YOU. He might feel that he trusts her because of her explanations, but his belief that things are ok does not compel you to accept the risks you see in that relationship. I know in poly communities there are conflicting views around veto power, but it does not presume a hierarchy to say “you dating this human is a hard no from me, and if you choose to do it I will leave our relationship.” You might make the same kind of boundary around drug taking, unsafe sex, cheating, or any kind of triggering behaviour. Husband does not have the right to convince you that your feelings about Pandora are not real. He can ask you to stay present, get to know her better, and see if you come to some different conclusions. But you don’t have to agree to that, you don’t have to let them date while you do that, and you don’t ever have to change your mind.

          Well done for being a boundaries rockstar!

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            Hey, just wanted to validate not liking MTT and say thanks for saying something; I’ve been in a weird situation of feeling like the only person who has a problem with the book that everyone’s been recommending for a while.

            Personally I bounced a bit off The Ethical Slut (the first edition) but really liked Opening Up; I’ll have to track down Ask Me About Polyamory.

          • emmych said:

            Ask Me About Polyamory is amaaaazing <333 10/10, would recommend Tikva Wolf's work, and would also recommend the comic that book is sourced from, Kimchi Cuddles! You can actually read all the comics found in AMAP on her site. 🙂

            I'm in the middle of reading More Than Two atm, good to know it might get weird? I'm still in the beginning parts of the book and really enjoying it, but like… hm hm hm good to know that other people find it Weird if I start getting weird feels.

          • E.C. said:

            Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me given the way Veaux has written publicly about how terribly SAD it was that his (now ex-)wife couldn’t see the time she spent with him and his other sweetie as couple time with Veaux, and isn’t it just so lamentable how broken and selfish she was for not being able to embrace a larger poly web in which relationships were not broken off into discrete units.

          • Allie Jones said:

            Agreed. I’ve had a really bad experience with that book after having to veto a relationship and having the “But there’s no such thing as primary/how can you veto?” held over my head.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            E.C.: Iiiiiiiiiiii am not surprised. A little saddened, perhaps, not surprised.

      • Neurite said:

        My only concern with The Ethical Slut is that (if *I* recall correctly), the book hits pretty hard on the “nobody can *make* you feel anything, you alone can make yourself feel something, and you have to take responsibility for that” theme. Which, in the right context, can be a good message about owning your emotions, but in this case I can 100% see the husband breezing right past all the good stuff in the book that you correctly identified here, and zero right in on the “own your emotions” stuff and turn it into blaming LW for her well-founded qualms. (“I’m not making you feel betrayed and disrespected, nobody can *make* anyone feel anything – that’s all on you!”)

        I do still agree with you about recommending TES specifically for LW, not the husband, with the above caveats about contextualizing those “own your emotions” bits.

        Also, I am old-ish, so I’m likely to recall the original version. If the new version has amended these sections, I stand corrected.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Oh yes this so much – I remember reading stuff like this about a decade ago at the end of a bad, no good poly relationship and trying oh so hard to “own my own emotions” while my partner showed zero concern for my boundaries and feelings and would in fact throw a tantrum whenever I tried to bring them up. Oh hind sight the guy was being absolutely terrible to me and I put up with so much fuckery and manipulation and sadness while trying to be a good poly partner. I know people who do non-monogamy well and respectfully, but given that the OPs partner is already singing the same song as my terrible ex I wouldn’t want them to internalise any more ideas about not being allowed to have feelings and wishes. 😦

          Also I spent a lot of time and energy trying to learn how to make the relationship work (which he did not do a single skerrick of) when really I should have been thinking about whether I was OK with any of his behaviour at all and if the relationship was even salvageable (it wasn’t). I would hate for the OP to do that.

          • Bradamante said:

            Oh my! You could be writing about my last relationship, complete with my ex waving that book in my face and saying “your anger is not good for you, you’re hurting me and yourself with it, and you need to apologize to me and [his weird and creepy lover].” When really my anger was me trying to emotionally protect myself, and me trying to enforce healthy boundaries.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Stupidly, I came to that book on my own and my ex never even read it or even any web pages. I actually wanted him to read about how to do polyamory so that he would do better, but he basically didn’t care enough about the relationship to devote that kind of time and attention. Which on hind sight was all the information I needed about the situation. 😦

        • It’s been a long time, but one of the things I recall liking about TES was that the authors didn’t act as if emotions were something that human beings could completely control. Feeling jealous? Don’t try to force yourself not to. Sit with the feeling and see what happens.

          I hate the “nobody can make you feel anything” platitude as well. It’s patently untrue.

          • Tea Rocket said:

            Whenever I hear someone say that, or one of it’s variations, like, “You choose how you feel,” I always want to punch them as hard as I can in the face, and then say, “Stop choosing to feel angry and violated!” I never would, of course, but it’s always been clear to me that people who say it have lived charmed lives.

          • Chelle said:

            I’ve only read the updated version and I can report that these elements were definitely still there. There was also a lot of what felt like spiritualist stuff around more evolved beings or whatever (????) that I didn’t care for, so I never finished it.

            “More Than Two” was great, though. Would highly, highly, highly recommend.

          • Saira Ali said:

            Haha, Tea Rocket. I have the same desires!

          • onamission5 said:

            That’s one of the parts which was super helpful to me in the long ago days, and I still use it now in a different capacity (in fact I’d forgotten where it came from!).

            TES was a book loaned to me by a dude-friend who was interested in my pants, which he already had access to, but was lying to me about his gf, which I wasn’t then aware of. The funny thing is, I think his intentions were that I’d read the book, get what he got from it, and be just as okay with him cheating on his gf with me as he was. That was not the case. I apparently read an entirely different book than he had.

          • Laetari said:

            I used to believe the whole “nobody can make you feel anything” platitude myself, mainly due to being force fed that little gem. Now, with my little girls, I am trying to find a way to teach them that all kinds of feelings happen and that is normal, but they are still in charge of how they act on their feelings.

          • canadakate said:

            “I hate the “nobody can make you feel anything” platitude as well. It’s patently untrue.”

            THANK YOU!! I needed to hear that today.

          • @Tea Rocket ahahaha I love that idea 🙂 That’s going to cheer me up so much the next time I have to hear that bullshit.

        • Atalanta's Boar Skin said:

          I really liked the new book “Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory” by Dedeker Winston- i don’t adore the name b/c i think it’s a bit limiting but the book itself really took on a lot of issues i felt hadn’t been addressed well by TES and Opening Up. She is the cohost of a podcast called Multiamory that I really really like.

          That being said, this is a husband full of bees.

          Standard advice is that “veto power” is a bad idea because usually if you really need to use veto power, the problem is not with the new person it’s with the partner who isn’t respecting your non-veto, non-putting your foot down feelings. So. Yeah, this.

          • if you really need to use veto power, the problem is not with the new person it’s with the partner who isn’t respecting your non-veto, non-putting your foot down feelings.

            Mind. Blown. I’ve never seen it put quite that way.

        • ashbet said:

          That’s my biggest issue with TES — I also felt that the emphasis on “intimate network” style poly left those of us seeking/trying to work within a polyfidelity framework short shrift.

          (Polyfi is the only way that poly works well for me, in part because of legitimate specific health concerns, and in part because casual sex doesn’t work for me *at all*, and I was interested in finding partners who felt similarly — multiple long-term relationships have been overall good all around, and I’ve been with 2 of my partners for 13 and 9 years, respectively.)

          I think “More Than Two” is a good read for the *LW* (the tools for dealing with jealousy/insecurity are really helpful, although THE ISSUE RIGHT NOW IS HER HUSBAND’S BEHAVIOR, not her feelings), but it does emphasize a fairly freewheeling, relationship-anarchy framework, and tends to look down its nose at rules/agreements/vetoes that involve a hard “no” about certain things.

          • ashbet said:

            BTW — it’s super-easy for me to get drawn into a discussion about “What poly resources have been helpful for me and others?” — but none of that really applies to whether *you*, LW, should have to put up with this situation.

            Reading a book about how to optimally conduct a poly relationship can be useful, but it doesn’t solve the problem of your husband not respecting your “no,” pushing your boundaries, and wanting to get involved with someone who is demonstrably dishonest and unethical.

            Resources are great, but you currently have a Husband Problem (and a Pandora Problem, which is a symptom rather than a cause), and it’s totally okay to want to focus on resolving that, without wading into “how to best navigate poly with this guy,” when it’s unclear if that’s a good idea AT ALL.

          • ReanaZ said:

            I think the thing to keep in mind about capital-letter Rules in poly is that they are often a bad idea. Now, shitty people hear that and thing “Any boundaries you have is just you trying to control me, see this poly resource says rules are bad!”

            When really what we mean is “If you feel your poly situation need Rules, you probably shouldn’t be in it because it sounds like something is wrong.” That could be that you are insecure and not as comfortable with what’s happening as you think and are trying to micromanage that discomfort (rather than slowing down/stopping to leaning into it in a healthy way). Or it could be that you can’t/don’t reasonably expect that your partner will respectfully and thoughtfully navigate your boundaries in a way that respects their spirit instead of their very strict letter. (Often both.) Both of these are crappy and both indicate poly is not right for the situation right now. So that’s why I and many books advocate an approach without Rules, although this logic is twisted and used as a weapon by people who don’t want to do the hard work or just don’t care about your boundaries but don’t want to be called out for it.

        • Saira Ali said:

          I really feel like the “nobody can *make* you feel anything” line has been overused and abused in ~every nerdy and/or poly and/or alt scene I’ve ever been in. Because actually yes, if you fucking break your promises to me repeatedly, lie to me, and gaslight me, yes in fact, you are *making* me feel sad, mad, and hurt. I wouldn’t be feeling any of those emotions if you hadn’t been a fucking choad. What I choose to do with those emotions is on me (in my case, DTMFA) and my lashing out or harming you in response is not acceptable, but don’t fucking tell me my feelings are 100% divorced from your actions.

          Ugh.

          Like I get that it was originally meant to be about baggage or history each person brings into a relationship. Like my being triggered by a stray turn of phrase that happens to use the same vocabulary as my abusive parent used isn’t my partner’s fault, or my feeling insecure because I have unresolved self-esteem issues, or whatever. But it gets taken too far and used by d-bags as an excuse to be selfish and callous towards people they allegedly love, and that’s really not okay.

          • myswtghst said:

            “What I choose to do with those emotions is on me”

            This is the one part of the “you control your emotions” bit that actually resonates with me. You can’t always control how you react (especially emotionally / internally) but you can usually control how you respond, at least to an extent. But none of that excuses people behaving in shitty ways that cause other people to feel shitty.

          • Claire said:

            > Because actually yes, if you fucking break your promises to me repeatedly, lie to me, and gaslight me, yes in fact, you are *making* me feel sad, mad, and hurt.

            Yeah. Plus, what’s the alternative? Trying to train yourself not to feel sad, mad, or hurt by those things is going to be pretty bad for you in the long run. Getting back in touch with those emotions after repressing them for a long time is *hard*.

          • My therapist suggests thinking of feelings like the weather. Wherever you live, it’s going to happen, and sometimes it will be nice and sometimes it will be bad, and it’s unreasonable to expect that the weather will always be lovely. Moreover, except in some extreme circumstances, you can’t just avoid other stuff due to what’s going on outside, or to expect other people to put up with bad behavior from you as a result. What you can do is get an umbrella, or snow boots, or sunscreen, or whatever is appropriate for your situation (coping mechanisms), and get on with your life. Moreover, if someone keeps doing the emotional equivalent of pushing you into a puddle, you are allowed to ask them to stop, and to stand out of shoving distance if they won’t.

          • wordsintheinterim said:

            @whingedrinking – that is an AMAZING metaphor, and with your kind permission I am gonna steal that to remember when I’m low. Your therapist is great; keep him/her!

        • onamission5 said:

          Ah, thanks so much for highlighting the troublesome bits! So TES falls into a similar category as Gift of Fear, then, as mostly good advice with some WTFery thrown in. That’s what I was concerned about.

          • slythwolf said:

            This is a thing I value so much about the comments here. Any author of any book is going to have bias and there’s often going to be WTFery. I appreciate the heads up y’all will usually provide as to what form that takes in a specific recommendation.

          • Emmers said:

            I also like that the commentaries doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on books like this. “How to be a fan of problematic things” isn’t just for genre fiction.

      • Yeah, that ‘Better to ask permission than forgiveness’ view of his? I’d consider the possibility that the reason he likes Pandora is precisely because she validates his wish to see poly as an excuse to do whatever you want regardless of other people’s feelings.

        That’s a problem that won’t stop with getting rid of Pandora, because if he’s looking for people who believe that freedom equals selfishness and lies, he can find more of them in the future. I think she’s as much a warning sign as a problem in herself.

        Good luck, LW!

        • Yolanda B. Cool said:

          You just said, so succinctly, what was bothering me about this. Pandora isn’t the problem, she’s the symptom. _Husband_ is the problem.

        • slythwolf said:

          Yeahhhhhh I’ve been sitting here thinking, “This woman isn’t Pandora, she’s the Jar. The husband is Pandora except he knows exactly what he’s opening up and is counting on the LW to shield him from the fallout he’s choosing to create.”

        • rubymendez said:

          That was the crux of it for me — I think when it comes to buying office supplies, sure, forgiveness rather than permission (unless you’re an office supply distributor and this is priority # 1 for the success of your company). But “forgiveness rather than permission” in this doesn’t seem right to me.

      • Madison said:

        WRT: Honest communication, boundaries, and respect.

        Honesty is the big sticking point here IMHO. Without honesty, any consent given is, at best, still going to be of the uninformed variety – which is true no matter how you structure your relationships. And even with complete and informed honesty, without the ability to freely say “No,” and to have that “No” respected, sincere consent is still impossible for any partner to give. So this whole thing from the jump is sketchy as hell.

        Pandora’s expectations, and Husband’s seeming acquiescence to them, both have a very high probability of driving a wedge of dishonesty and consent violation between Husband and Wife. She is boundary testing him – hard. And Husband is enabling it by refusing to make clear, “I will not lie to my wife on your behalf, or violate her trust by removing her ability to give informed consent, nor will I play these loyalty-testing games with you that allow you to think that my relationship with her is of lesser importance to me.” This is Husband’s responsibility to handle, not Wife’s, and until/unless he is willing and able to do that, I think Wife has every reason to be feeling all kinds of No about this or any other woman.

        Pandora deliberately pushed the knowledge of this secret of hers in between Husband and Wife, and she fully expects that Husband will brazenly and deliberately continue to lie to to his wife about it. This is pitting Husband’s respect for his wife and her boundaries against his respect for Pandora and her secrets, trying to get him to choose and demonstrate which woman he values more – which, at this point, Pandora has every reason to believe is her. If Husband continues to be willing to play along, then Pandora is assured that Husband will lie to Wife not only about this, but about potentially many more things as well. Know that she will escalate the number and nature of things that she expects him to lie to or keep secrets from Wife about, and that she will continue to introduce situations that allow her to test where Husband’s true loyalties lie. It’s good that, as of right now, he has decided that Wife can know this secret. But think about the message this whole thing sends to Pandora. Husband is still allowing Pandora to think that Wife has been kept out of the loop and lied to, and he is recruiting Wife to maintain this falsehood, to support the perception that being honest, loyal, and committed to her is of less importance to him than Pandora’s box (pun intended).

        This is how Husband + Pandora then becomes the primary couple of shared secrecy, and Wife becomes an outsider in her own relationship with Husband, all three of them knowing that Husband’s commitments to Wife are far less important than his staying on good terms with Pandora. It is a series of scenarios just like this, which all add up over time; it doesn’t “just happen” out of the clear blue sky one day.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          Yeah, fuck that. If I were LW I think I’d have a word with Pandora about just how much Husband respected her “vault”. While seriously considering leaving him.

        • Allie Jones said:

          Wow, this is a great analysis. I am bookmarking it because it’s got so much that I’ve been trying to tease out in my own head–especially the idea that, without the ability to give a ‘no,’ consent is meaningless.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        I think he’s into Pandora for the drama, not in spite of it.

        I think you are 100% accurate on this. I can’t see any other way to interpret participating in a conversation to the exclusion of LW right in front of her, and then immediately playing the “so, want me to dish the dirt?” card. That is some deliberate shit-stirring. I suspect that for Pandora and LW’s husband both, the drama is a feature, not a bug.

        I wish I had good advice for that, but I don’t. You can’t really avoid drama (and the attendant confusion and pain) if someone considers drama an actual goal.

        • onamission5 said:

          Husband’s behavior around that dinner is the sort of thing I might expect from a person who thinks having romantic partners jealously fight over him is sexy or otherwise desirable. Yuck.

          • onamission5 said:

            And by “having” I mean “deliberately arranging it.”

      • I think he’s into Pandora for the drama, not in spite of it.

        I had a friend who managed to make a melodramatic mess of his personal life.

        He too was into it.

    • Exactly what I was thinking.

  3. Minflick said:

    Danger, Will Robinson, DANGER!

  4. Drew said:

    “But, honey, it’s just a LITTLE beehive, and you won’t even notice it behind the door here.”

    Dear Letter Writer, this situation calls for your hardest of hard NOs. Being in an open marriage does not mean you aren’t allowed to have boundaries — in fact, I believe it is MORE essential to set and communicate your boundaries, because you don’t have the unspoken “monogamy or death” boundaries of non-open society to use as a default.

    What you have here is a conflict between your husband’s gonads saying “But I reeeeeeeeeally want to!” and your brain’s “But I reeeeeeeeally don’t want you to!” In a situation like this, where trust and intimacy can be so easily fractured, your NO just has to trump his YES, PLEASE. He won’t die if he doesn’t get to Fuck That Lady (shout out to Intern Paul!) and your saying “Not her, not now” is a totally reasonable and, IMO, smart boundary to draw.

    I made it through almost this whole reply without saying “Don’t let him open Pandora’s Box,” but… sorry.

    • Neurite said:

      “Being in an open marriage does not mean you aren’t allowed to have boundaries — in fact, I believe it is MORE essential to set and communicate your boundaries, because you don’t have the unspoken ‘monogamy or death’ boundaries of non-open society to use as a default.”

      Can I have this cross-stitched on a pillow, please?

      (It’d probably have to be a rather large pillow. That’s fine with me.)

  5. Sounds very much like a woman my ex was interested in. I got sketchy feelings about her the first time I met her and nothing she did ever reversed that first impression because she *kept doing sketchy things*. Fortunately, to my knowledge, he didn’t have sex with her, but he did bring up that he didn’t have sex with her a couple times when he was feeling grumpy about becoming my ex.

    • JenniferP said:

      Like how much do you get off on weird power trips if you have to turn your open relationships into games of Secret Squirrel? Pandora reads to me as someone who gets off on doing stuff behind people’s backs. It’s 10% “orgasms and attention are nice” and 90% “It’s fun for me to feel like I got one over on your girlfriend/primary/wife.”

      • Neurite said:

        I have known at least one person who actually admitted that the drawback, to her, of getting involved with people in happily open/poly relationships was that everyone was okay with it, so she didn’t get the thrill of cheating/getting away with something. So yeah, I think your read is spot-on here.

        (Did I mention that I met this person because my then-SO started dating her, and the happily poly relationship she expressed regret about was ours? Yeah, not in that relationship anymore.)

        • Atalanta's Boar Skin said:

          Holy crap this is disgusting. Totally believable, but disgusting.

        • Belle Starr said:

          Ha, maybe LW should pretend to be super into the idea, just to make Pandora lose interest.*

          *This is not actual advice. LW should not do this.

          • No Longer In Academia said:

            Actually, I think that’s pretty good advice. Happy consent, backed up by mild indifference when Husband tries to provoke her by accidentally spilling details. “So the reason you didn’t manage to buy anything for dinner was because you were fucking Pandora? Oh, well, never mind, these things happen.”

            Then while they’re too distracted with one another to notice, LW will have ample time to start things rolling with a kick-ass divorce attorney.

        • Madison said:

          Pandora is also reminding me of LW 948’s sister quite a bit: “Enthralled by striking up emotional affairs with male co-workers… boasts how much these men reveal to her; how little they talk to their wives and girlfriends; or how these men don’t mention their wives/girlfriends to her.” So, yeah, I agree. I think the ‘keeping secrets from your wife’ thing is part of the thrill of the game for some people, and I think Pandora is definitely one of them. Everything being out in the open wasn’t what she wanted. She had to make sure that the existence of this secret was known, because “I know something your husband isn’t telling you” is a vital part of the relationship to her.

        • Myth said:

          Ew.

        • Blue Meeple said:

          You know, sometimes I forget that there are people in the world whose thoughts and motivations I can never truly comprehend, because they think things so completely alien to me, but right there, that is one of them. I…I can’t even wrap my head around how someone could think something like that, and then SAY it.

      • Chelle said:

        She reads that way to me too.

        I was explicitly cool with my now-ex-fiancé having other relationships so long as he kept me in the loop about them and yet still came home to find he and my now-ex-best friend fucking in our bed after they’d both cancelled group plans because they “weren’t feeling well”. Turns out it wasn’t their first clandestine hookup, and she wasn’t his first secret affair.

        Some people really really really get off on the whole thrilling/dangerous/shameful/sexy secret thing, and the manipulation, and so on. Is there a fetish that’s like the opposite of cuckolding?

        • S said:

          I think it’s just called cheating. (I mean, if you were to like…look for erotica of it. Which exists.)

        • Carrie said:

          Huh, sounds like you dated my ex. Apparently cheating was the actual draw for him, more than the sex qua sex.

        • Nic said:

          I, too, have been cheated on while in what was supposed to be an open relationship. Crazy that he never happened to mention an interest in ANY of the other people it turns out he was sleeping with.

          Yeah. This is TOTALLY a thing.

      • Oh, totally! That’s how this woman was, too, it was very much a power trip. Everything was calculated so that other people could find out she wasn’t holding to their agreements. Her husband had mentioned that he had some hesitations about a couple of the guys she was thinking about sleeping with, and his girlfriend did their laundry, whereupon she found evidence that the original woman was having sex with the guys despite telling her husband she wouldn’t. It was obvious and she knew that the girlfriend would notice, she just got off on lying and sneaking and being sketch as fuck.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yep. I knew a (horrible, terrible) guy who was poly, and wanted to get involved with a woman, and his wife would have almost certainly said yes if he’d asked… and he deliberately didn’t ask because sneaking around and doing something “bad” made the sex hotter, apparently.

        (I mean, if this is someone’s fantasy, then go enjoy all the cheating roleplay you want. You can roleplay all kinds of things that would be very wrong to actually do. But “it gets me off” is not an excuse for actually betraying people.)

        • aebhel said:

          Or, I mean, you negotiate relationships with no primary, or you negotiate that your primary partner doesn’t get veto power over your hookups… there are just so many ways to make the basic scenario work in an ethical way, why be a jerk about it?

          • Turtle Candle said:

            Oh, yeah, absolutely. I just meant that for if your kink is specifically cheating (not just sleeping with other people).

      • Lapis Lazuli said:

        Remonds me of the Marina and the Dianonds song “Better than That”

        I’m not passing judgement on her sexual life
        I’m passing judgement on the way she always stuck her knife
        In my back when we were starting out
        Suspicious from the start

    • Drew said:

      “Your sadfeels about not banging the woman I asked you not to bang are certainly not making me less certain about our decision to break up.”

      • RIGHT? Like… there was a lot wrong, and he’s a good guy, but it just didn’t work for me. Primarily because I figured out I’m a lesbian, but even if not… there were a lot of things wrong, and that’s one example. His thing was, “You said I couldn’t with her but then you found someone and now we’re breaking up!” And I wanted to point out to him that her shenanigans since then meant if he had slept with her, he’d be involved in her drug dealing and gang nonsense, at the very least. Like, she’s shown since then that she’s bad news to even be in the same county as, let alone the same bed, but he seemed to ignore that in favor of “You said no but we’re breaking up anyway!” Well, now you’re free to, dude, have at it! Mysteriously, he hasn’t. Hmmmm…

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          hahaha “mysteriously, he hasn’t” indeed oh dude

        • Cue Junior Brown on this woman:
          (Junior Brown, My Wife Thinks You’re Dead)

      • YES. Exactly.

  6. ashbet said:

    *NOT VERY INTERNAL SCREAMING*

    This is so similar to the way my now-ex got together with the woman he left me for, holy shit.

    “But we just have this DEEP EMOTIONAL CONNECTION (and also a burning desire to rub our unprotected genitals together despite your very justified concern regarding her health/relationship status!)”

    I’m immune-compromised — I had *exceptionally good reasons* not to want my partner to get involved with someone who was HSV+ and involved in an endless open chain of sexual and “play” partners.

    The difference is that he and I had been polyamorous/polyfidelitous for 6 years before he met her — I didn’t have an issue with him entering into another relationship, I had an issue regarding *this person.*

    (We’d had ground rules from the beginning about “no partners with incurable transmissible diseases” and “no partners in ‘wide-open’ situations where it would be difficult to verify STI testing by all people involved.”)

    LW, your husband isn’t the same person as my ex, so I’m not trying to project… but, to be honest, as someone who has been mostly-happily poly for going on 20 years, he is not treating you well.

    Someone who is that blasé about their new partner being involved in cheating is likely to engage in behavior that you aren’t going to be comfortable with on an ongoing basis.

  7. Hooboy. My poly isn’t everyone else’s poly, but “You’re taking from me this thing I want” feels really sketchy to me given the previous behavior of “I don’t have to ask for consent if she hasn’t explicitly said no, wheee!” Like, let me get this straight:

    – if you don’t say No to something, you’re okay with it.

    – if you do say No to something, you’re being a big meanie and taking away a thing he wants.

    It… kinda sounds like… he wants to do whatever he wants and doesn’t particularly care if it makes you miserable or unsafe, so long as he doesn’t hear about it? I hope I’m being uncharitable in this estimation! But yeah, that… sounds not good. I’m so sorry. 😦

    • It’s “Heads I win; Tails you lose”

      This guy is not a good partner, at all.

    • RiverSongTam said:

      Sounds spot on to me.
      The one being uncharitable here (to put it mildly) is LW’s husband. Way to use poly to take away your partner’s ability to say ‘no’ to you, dudebro.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Oh yeah. I’ve seen that element all over. Weirdly, more often with chores than sex. (If you don’t remind me to wipe down the counters I won’t do it because I’m a manly man and I ~don’t see crumbs~. If you do remind me to wipe down the counters you’re a nagging shrew and I won’t do it on principle.) But it for sure comes up in sex negotiations too, and it’s sending up all kinds of warning flags for me.

    • I think you just explained “yes means yes” over “no means no” in a very accessible way!

  8. Jamethiel said:

    Oh dear.

    The trouble here is not so much Pandora, although she’s horrible (that rubbish about having veiled conversations: it’s incredibly rude. The boundary breaking stuff: she is not ethical in her sexual behaviour and you don’t want her anywhere near your primary relationship. Your instincts about not trusting her are absolutely valid! I would not only not want her near any of my relationships but I also wouldn’t want to hang with her. Good job there, instincts!) The issue is that your husband isn’t respecting your boundaries and that is extremely not cool.

    The thing is, you made a commitment to each other. If you then decide to modify that commitment/your relationship by mutual consent, that’s also completely fine but the consent does have to be mutual. Which basically means that a no is always, always more important than yes. If there’s a no, consent isn’t mutual. You can’t logic your way out of a no and I feel really, really strongly that your husband shouldn’t be trying. And that is what he’s trying to do: he’s trying to negotiate his way to a yes from you, and that’s not ok, fair or right. This is probably a discussion that you should have with him.

    The Captain is right. It’s a fair bet that with the way your husband is behaving right now, that he will quite possibly have sex with Pandora whatever you say about it. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you’re okay with having a relationship where he doesn’t take any notice of your boundaries.

  9. Caveat: I have not been in an open relationship and I am not poly. With that in mind…

    LW, I don’t think that you and your husband are in a good place to open up your marriage right now. Your description of him as someone who “thinks it’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission”** is the antithesis of everything I know about building successful poly relationships. How are you supposed to trust someone who operates like this to honor your feelings and to make sexual/relationship judgements that truly take your feelings and boundaries into consideration? I know you described him acting that way the first time you tried to open up your marriage (with the implication that you have resolved those issues and decided to try opening up the marriage again), but from where I’m sitting, it looks like he is still operating in that mode. That mode is NOT SAFE for you emotionally, and it’s not safe for your relationship.

    LW, you are not crazy. Your instincts are in 100% working order. This woman sounds like a big ol’ drama bomb (she excluded you from a conversation WITH YOUR HUSBAND in YOUR OWN DANG HOUSE) and instead of admitting that, your husband is complaining about you not allowing him to fuck her. What the actual fuck? He’s also making claims about his ability to judge character that are patently false: he’s watching this woman behave unethically in another poly situation and he thinks that’s…fine? That it’s evidence of having “good character”? Come on, bro INDEED. I DO NOT THINK THAT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS.

    LW, I think that you and your husband need to close your marriage again and get some couple’s therapy. From your description, I don’t trust your dude as far as I can throw him, but his actions don’t intimately affect my life. They do affect your life. You can’t open up your marriage without 100% trust, and you don’t have that now (nor should you: your dude is acting shady). I want to commend you for listening to your 100%-awesome instincts and for advocating for yourself; frankly, I think your husband needs to step it the eff up to become a deserving partner to you.

    **I think this a pretty shitty, entitled attitude in general — and applied to sex/relationships specfically — and I would find it difficult to maintain a relationship with someone operated in this mode. In anything other than an emergency room setting, you NEED to ask permission before you do something with other people…that’s what consent is all about.

    • Boo Boo said:

      Yes, thank you. There’s lots of lovely advice here about how to have an open marriage but frankly I don’t think is a marriage that SHOULD be open, because it sounds very much like a horny dude trying to get away with cheating (and thereby confirming the worst stereotypes about open/poly relationships). Poly-evangelism needs to wait for another relationship.

      • If he asks permission, it’s poly. If he asks forgiveness, it’s cheating.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          That needs to be on a pillow.

      • Holy hells yeah.

        I am not poly but my ex is, as of 9 years into his relationship with me. Part of the reason we are not together anymore is that it was more important to him to have a romantic / sexual relationship with the people of his choosing than to make the (imo reasonable)
        concessions to my well-being that I asked for: tell me when your feelings about someone else are changing, include me in any decisions that affect me, remind me regularly that there are things about me you value, and if I ask you to try a less-stressful-to-me approach to a situation that still meets your needs at least consider it.

        He said that all of those requests were reasonable, but once he started dating other people he did not honor them.

    • SeluciaV said:

      I DO NOT THINK THAT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS.

      This. So very this.

      Dear LW, I am sorry you find yourself in this position. Your husband – regardless of whether your marriage is mono or poly – is supposed to love and honor you and the promise you made to each other. That’s clearly not happening here if he’s more concerned about *Pandora’s* feelings (“you can’t tell her I told you her seeeeeeecret!”) than about *your* feelings (“honey, this person is sketchy as fuck and I don’t trust her”) which is NOT EVEN A LITTLE OK.

      I don’t feel like you should have to argue him through why this is a bad idea like you are two barristers in the court of relationship boundaries, but…….. It might be worth asking him – since he’s so keen on demonstrating to you that he’s really thought this through (spoiler alert: he hasn’t) – what his definition of “good character” is. Because either as wee_ramekin said, he’s VERY CONFUSED about that definition or it’s just word salad he’s tossing at you to get you to give him what he wants. No sane person who defines “good character” in any kind of way most of human kind recognizes could possibly make Pandora’s actions mesh with that definition. She is the embodiment of BAD character.

      And you know, now that I’ve written that sentence, I’m thinking to myself – why the fuck does that matter? Yes, your reasons for not trusting Pandora and not wanting her within a country mile of your relationship and sexy bits is completely justified and on point. But you know, even if she was fucking Princess Diana or some kind of modern day saint, if YOU don’t feel OK about having this person in your poly relationship that is enough. Period. Who she is and why she behaves the way she does and the potential danger she brings to the table are not really the issue – the issue is you said “no thanks” to a person in a relationship where mutual consent is like the #1 rule of the land.

      I’m so sorry you are dealing with this and that you are in a place where a person who is supposed to love and respect you is making you feel bad or weird about your boundaries and doesn’t seem to respect your comfort level or feelings about this. Good luck to you – and may you find some peace here, whatever that may be.

      • MsM said:

        Yep. Most of the successful open/poly relationships I know allow for hard vetoes: if one partner’s not comfortable with the new interest, then the new relationship doesn’t move forward. No further debate required. If the veto gets trotted out for everyone, then they talk about what’s going on with that. But the general assumption is that the person putting their foot down has good reasons, and everyone’s energy is better served by finding a partner who doesn’t raise red flags than trying to argue them into putting up with this one.

        • PolyCat said:

          I just want to jump in briefly on this comment. I have been poly and in poly communities for some time (about 7 years, so obviously not as long as some, but not a newbie), and I would strongly argue with the statement that “most successful open/poly relationships allow for hard vetoes.” Some do, but in my experience, the majority of successful open/poly relationships rely on discussion instead of vetos. The utility of “no further debate required” is actually not that high — most people find that things work better if they can discuss instead of threaten.

          • You’re assuming that vetoes and discussion are mutually exclusive, and they are not. Yes, in an unhealthy relationship, one or both partners can wield their veto as a weapon – “you can’t do this because I say so, end of story”. But the thing about unhealthy relationships is that they’re unhealthy no matter what the trappings. Monogamy can be a tool for control and abuse, and so can so-called “rules-free” polyamory*. A veto isn’t saying, “My partner has control over my decisions.” It’s saying, “I respect my partner’s input on decisions that also affect them and do not proceed without their consent.”

            * A concept I do not believe even exists in practice. There are always “rules”, even if you don’t call them that, unless your partner could do literally anything and you wouldn’t leave them.

          • They said “Most of the successful open/poly relationships I know,” not “most successful open/poly relationships.” That’s a pretty crucial difference there, so please don’t conflate them.

            Also, as whingedrinking said, “You’re assuming that vetoes and discussion are mutually exclusive, and they are not.” They are so very very not indeed. They may not be open to negotiation, but that’s a far cry from not being open to discussion. But if negotiation rather than discussion is what you meant, then yeah, you’d want to not get into a relationship where a hard no was part of the shared toolkit. That’s OK. People get to build what works for them. Knowing what works for you can be very useful, as long as you leave room for other people to be different.

            I have seen the “no vetoes!” thing lead to less rather than more discussion. I have some skepticism about it, since I’ve also seen it lead to browbeating and “more evolved than thou” preaching. That left a bad impression, but I also know that my sample may be skewed, and that there are some people for whom it works well. Mixed relationships in terms of veto/no veto can be a bit of a challenge, though, so talking about it before it’s a live fire exercise is a very good idea.

            I’ve been out about being poly since May of 1992. Before that, I was out about being non-monogamous, because I hadn’t heard the word polyamory yet.

    • kaberett said:

      she excluded you from a conversation WITH YOUR HUSBAND in YOUR OWN DANG HOUSE

      I feel like there’s an important point glossed over here, which I’m going to add, which is WHILE SHE WAS BEING INTRODUCED TO YOU AND THEORETICALLY ON HER BEST BEHAVIOUR.

      This is someone who does not care at all about your comfort or your wellbeing. You have seen how little she cares about the comfort, as other folk have said, of someone she’s *actually* sleeping with.

      Your husband does not appear to care that she doesn’t care about your comfort or wellbeing.

      I… have very little time for emotional intimacy and vulnerability with people who will stop giving a shit about me the moment something new and shiny comes along. (This is further complicated by the ways in which my mental illnesses various mean I’m ridiculously prone to feeling rejected/unwanted/like an unwelcome interruption *at the best of times*, but… you know what, it’s possible to pay attention to that and realise when you’re being unreasonable, and it Does Not sound like it’s what you’re doing here, and honestly mostly what it does is make me put up with shit long past the point where I should have got out because What If I’m Just Overreacting Again. I believe you. I think your instincts are good.)

  10. Seriously, I have been poly my entire adult life — more than 20 years — and not only is this Pandora sending up big red fucking flags, honestly your husband does not sound like someone who is currently competent to do poly well. Like, this is not the way to do poly. Not everybody has to do poly the way I do poly, of course, but seriously, pushing against your primary partner’s No that way is Not Okay. I’m with the Cap’n, dude is gonna fuck her regardless of what you say and/or try to make you feel horrible for saying he can’t. His boundaries look almost as bad as hers.

    • Vicki said:

      I don’t think LW’s husband is currently competent to do any sort of relationship well, poly or mono, romantic or simple friendship. Poly may up the ante on “you need to communicate,” but we didn’t invent that..Communication means paying attention to the other person as well as saying what you want. LW’s husband isn’t paying attention to what she feels or wants (except as an NPC setting arbitrary difficulties between him and his goal). He isn’t paying attention to Pandora, not beyond “she wants to have sex with me,” or he wouldn’t be trying to say that he knows she is of good character and expect LW to believe that. (That’s the charitable reading, where the alternative is actively lying to LW.)

      My advice to LW would be, think about whether you want to be with this guy at all. In the meantime, don’t have any sort of unprotected sex with him: based on known behavior, I wouldn’t want to count on her to disclose an STD infection, or count on him to tell you or insist on condoms if she did tell him she was being treated for something.

      If someone’s guideline is “better to ask for forgiveness,” it’s worth thinking about what they’re likely to expect you to forgive.

      I’m poly, and my most basic guideline is that I check in with current partners about possible new ones, because my partners are valuable to me.

    • Blue said:

      The thing that struck me about his push-back was how he put the onus on her to deal with her concerns – the implication being that if she chose not to take those steps, she wasn’t making a fair and reasonable effort to make this open relationship work. And I’m no expert here, but that seems uncool and manipulative.

    • Jennifer said:

      This is reminding me of a friend of mine’s relationship where I swear he only wants to fuck the crazy women that she can’t stand. Like he specifically wants to spit in her face about it.

  11. Katamari said:

    “he keeps harping on the fact that….I am taking this away from him”

    Yes. Exactly. You as his wife ARE taking away his ability to fuck whomever he wants. Is this something he thought he was entitled to?!

    • (fistbumps)

      I’d actually say that *his decision to get married* took away his ability to fuck whomever he wants. Something that I think we can fairly assume he was aware of at the time he got married. Because that doesn’t happen to suit him right now, he’s getting all butthurt and acting like his wife’s being a great big meanypants for not giving him permission anyway… so, dude, how did you think marriage was going to work?

      • THIS. The LW is not threatening to have him put to death, she is not pumping him full of mind-control drugs or chaining him up in the basement. If fucking this other woman is SO IMPORTANT that he’ll regret it for the rest of his life if he never sees her naked – he can! But then, of course, he might have to put on his big boy pants and end the marriage, or at least run the risk that the LW will do so. And you couldn’t possibly expect him to do that! /sarcasm

  12. Your husband sounds like this for me:

    Yeah, lets open this marriage again, this time with small steps, good communication and boundary settings.
    But if you communicate something I don’t like then I’ll give you a hard time about it because I only agreed to this so you would be chill, but actually I just want to fuck this person and you have to deal with it

    This doesn’t sound like a person to have an open relationship with. Ever.

    I’m curious, but is this just a ticket for him to do whatever he wants or would you have the same opportunities? And how would he deal with it?

    In my experience this kind of behaviour comes from guys who just want to be able to say ‘I never cheated, I’m such a great guy’ and can’t deal when their partner has a desire on someone else. Because ‘hey, I just wanted to have sex with other people, why are you making this about yourself now’

    Wish you all the strength you need to go through his ‘but why do your boundaries also have to affect ME?’

    • Neurite said:

      “Yeah, lets open this marriage again, this time with small steps, good communication and boundary settings.
      But if you communicate something I don’t like then I’ll give you a hard time about it because I only agreed to this so you would be chill”

      Sorry for leaving oodles of comments, but this is just *such* a spot-on translation of what it sounds like is going on.

  13. RC said:

    Past behaviour is a better predictor of future behaviour than anything someone can say. She has demonstrated she is not a good partner.

    • And husband has demonstrated that he is entirely unlikely to keep his word. But he still expects LW to cover for him.

      • sistercoyote said:

        Yeah, as others have said: Pandora is a symptom, not the problem. The husband made of bees is the problem.

  14. DR said:

    Boundaries do not equal rules. A rule is “you can’t do that.” A boundary is “if you do that, I may leave.”

    This dude wants to fuck her, badly. So, what can you do? Nothing, you can’t control his actions or hers, BUT you can control yours – you can leave because of his lack of caring about your comfort or his inability to see the red flags flying around his face. You can leave because you don’t want to be involved in the envitable drama and possible cheating. But setting a rule or a veto is going to make that magic vagina even more tempting to your husband, or make him extremely resentful.

    It sounds to me like his mind is made up and he’s going to sleep with her, with or without your permission. So, what are you going to do about that? How will you handle that? That is the only thing you can control in this situation.

    • PD said:

      Seconding DR.

      This situation has nothing to do with Pandora and everything to do with your husband. He engaged in that shitty conversation in front of you, demonstrating that he is already enjoying putting you in a bad position in relation to another potential partner. He’s showing you who he *still* is.

      • Manattee said:

        Yup. At some point Pandora and husband had a fun, flirty conversation where she told him this stuff and asked him keep to it a secret. Instead of saying ‘well actually I don’t keep this sort of secret from my wife ‘, he sold out the LW and agreed. He also didn’t back up his wife at dinner.

        He then also broke his promise to Pandora by immediately dishing the secret to wife when she left.

        Husband is not respectful to any of these women.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          Yuup! I’ve had friends tell me they’re going to tell me something but I can’t tell anyone else and I’m like…”you know I tell partner everything right?” and then they’re like “ok cool!” or if they say “you really really can’t” then I get to decide if I can hear the secret and agree to their terms or not.

      • Angle-a said:

        Yes to you only having agency over yourself.
        Yes to him already marginalising & betraying you, the physical is incidental.
        He is so not walking with you & for that I am sorry.
        Pandora is just the current whiteboard for this message.
        Bummer. 😔

      • Angle-a said:

        Yes to you only having agency over yourself.
        Yes to him already marginalising & betraying you, the physical is incidental.
        He is so not walking with you & for that I am sorry.
        Pandora is just the current whiteboard for this message.
        Bummer. 😔

      • Solestria said:

        Very much this.

        I have an ex partner who did a lot of triangulation between me and my then-metamour, which was hugely damaging all the way around, while putting lots of the issues onto me. And I was not an angel in that situation, but he was a terrible poly hinge. Even before we broke up, I was thinking about how that was how he conducted his poly relationships, and was that really what I wanted my relationship future to look like?

        Pandora isn’t actually the problem here, husband is. Believe him when he shows you that this is how he does poly. He has consistently disregarded your wellbeing, is choosing someone who likes disrespecting her metamours, he gets away with whatever he thinks he can, emotionally manipulates you when you aren’t behaving as he wishes, and wants you to keep his secrets for him.

        Is he actually a good partner to you otherwise? My ex, who is not a terrible person, was not a good partner for me, and our issues were extensions of those reasons. You may want to look at his behavior here and see if it’s actually out of character for him otherwise, because I suspect you don’t have a poly problem so much as a partner problem.

        Good luck to you, LE. It’s hard, and I wish you all the best.

    • Another boundary is “if you do X (‘have a sexual relationship with Pandora’ in this case), my opinion of you will plummet.”

      I believe that’s the LW’s boundary here. “I won’t like or trust you as much” is a big deal in most relationships.

    • Kay said:

      This times a million! Reading this letter, the only reply I could think of to his shitty argument was “You can absolutely do whatever you want, I can’t control you. But if you sleep with her it will be considering cheating for me and I will leave you.” In my most “this is not a dramatic fit, I am stating life facts for you” tone of voice.

      And if that didn’t shake the fear of God into him and reveal his obvious love and prioritizing of our relationship that had somehow become lost in the “I want to sleep with this hot woman” haze immediately, then I’d leave him anyway. Done!

  15. Am I the only one thinking husband is already the 6am hookup with Pandora? I don’t think he will sleep with her. I think he already has.

    • LR said:

      totally agree, they’ve already slept with each other.

    • Jackalope said:

      Yeah, that was my thought too.

    • Charlene said:

      I suspect he is, or once was. I don’t think this guy is poly; he’s a cheater who likes to make LW feel insecure.

    • I think husband and Pandora have had some sexual contact. It is possible that the contact wasn’t PIV intercourse.

    • B. said:

      Yup, this reads to me as if Husband is hooking up with Pandora already and trying to bully the LW into giving him the go ahead post-fact.

      LW, you don’t have a Pandora problem, you have a Husband problem. Pandora be Pandora, it’s your husband who is trying to shove her down your throat.

    • I absolutely think they’ve already slept together. I also very much doubt they’re going to STOP, even if they’re discovered.

      • slfisher said:

        Whether or not he’s fucked her, he is emotionally intimate with her and is emotionally cheating on his spouse with her.

    • Angel said:

      Yeah, I was going to say that I’d put money on him having already fucked her.

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      Yeah, that train has already left the station.

    • Yes! So glad I’m not the only one. He’s being so defensive and insistent because he has already repeated the mistake of the last time they opened up the relationship. He’s trying to get retroactive permission for a relationship he has already begun.

    • ioethe said:

      You are not alone.

    • unagi said:

      Yeah, that husband really reminds me of a (long time ago)ex who supposedly had an open relationship with me. So she’d tell me when she was fucking someone I liked well enough, but would lie when she was fucking someone I didn’t like. Or hated, or despised, she didn’t always display good taste imho :-). The cheating was part of the attraction at least some of the time. And I did know for pretty much every one, and didn’t like it one bit. I’ve done poly where we had real 3-way relationships, whether we all ended up in bed all together or not. And I’ve done poly where we were simply being honest about what else was going on. But poly with people I actively dislike is not something I ever care to do again.
      Anyway, I also think it’s already a done deal. Sorry LW, your main option now is whether you’re OK with being lied to, whether you’ll be able to trust him again, what you want to do about it… If you get a choice.

  16. neverjaunty said:

    LW, the way you describe poly in your marriage is that it is very driven by your husband’s desire to fuck other ladies, whether or not you are OK with it.

    Have you had other partners? If so, how did that go? Was your husband as chill as he expects you to be? Or did you maybe not bother trying because you knew he’d raise a fuss?

    Everything he is doing signals that all he wants out of poly is a veneer of your permission for the cheating he is 100% going to do anyway – and I would lay even money that he and Pandora have already slept together.

  17. stellanor said:

    I find your husband’s assertion that he is a good judge of character suuuuuuuuuuper questionable.

    • Drew said:

      It’s not questionable, it’s total manipulation. “I’m a good judge of character – look, I chose YOU! – so you should totally trust me when I say Pandora is all right.” Now, if you say you aren’t comfy-cozy with Husband fooling around with Pandora, he’s made it about your trust in HIM, not about whether Pandora is a hive of bees in a lady-suit. (Spoiler: she is so made of bees, she sweats honey.)

      • Hive of bees in a lady suit XD This made me laugh harder than I probably should have.

        • NotPiffany said:

          It’s a little unfair to the bees. Hubby and I have started keeping bees this year. Non-Africanized bees are actually surprisingly chill. Plus they’re useful (even the Africanized ones). Yellowjackets, on the other hand, are pure evil, produce nothing we want, *and* they look a lot like bees, so they give bees a bad name. People like Pandora and the LW’s husband give polyamory a bad name, so I submit that they’re more like yellowjackets.

          • Drew said:

            I accept and endorse this correction. Yellowjackets are assholes.

  18. Daffodil said:

    “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 kind of “if you have a problem with my behavior then that’s on you” attitude makes me see red. Partly because it’s very difficult to unpack and respond to in the moment. “If you have concerns, just trust me” does exactly nothing to address those concerns. Talking with Pandora would accomplish…. what, exactly? Make her change her ways? Yeah right. Either way, it makes you responsible to solve the problem and absolves him of doing anything about it. Which, when you’re in a relationship, that’s not how it works.

    What happens if you say “One of my boundaries is that I’m not okay with either of us seeing people who are willing to cheat”? I think that’s an entirely reasonable boundary to have. Pandora’s and your husband’s behavior has already gotten you much too far into a web of secrets and lies that ethical poly relationships are designed to avoid.

    • Or, ‘Hey, Pandora. I don’t like or trust you, and I’m making it very clear to Husband that I don’t want you in either of our lives. What he does with that is up to him, but just before you decide to play it to your advantage, I should let you know that he told me the secret you asked him to keep, the same night you talked about it in front of me; he did it without any goading from me, and he asked me not to tell you he told me. Just think over whether you like him for that.’

      I mean, he said take it up with Pandora, right?

      • canadakate said:

        I love this! I am so done keeping there kinds of secrets–ones detrimental to me but oh so helpful to sketchy people.

        • canadakate said:

          *those* kinds of secrets.

  19. I am so yucked out by both Pandora and your husband right now.

    SELFISH!!!! He is so selfish!

    Yeah, this is just so wrong. I’m not saying poly or open relationships are wrong. I’m saying THIS, the way he is treating you and trying to put all the blame on you, so he is free to endanger you with his skeezy desires for an untrustworthy person who is so darned blatant about her lack of trustworthiness, or concern for other people, and I just completely lost my train of thought for this sentence, because I am too yucked out to think properly.

    Please get tested for STDs, because right now, I do not trust your husband as far as I can throw him, and I have a bad back.

    • ashbet said:

      I hate to have to frame it this way (because STI testing is important, responsible, ethical, and necessary in the open/poly/dating world)…

      …but get STI-tested NOW, so that if you wind up in divorce court over this, you can prove that you didn’t have an STI before your husband’s Exploration of Pandora’s Box, and if he HAS infected you, then you can ask for damages.

      Cynical? Yeah, but it’s the result of hard experience :/

      (Through a miracle of sheer good luck, my ex didn’t pass an STI along to me, but it was a serious risk due to his behavior in that situation.)

    • ashbet said:

      I hate to have to frame it this way (because STI testing is important, responsible, ethical, and necessary in the open/poly/dating world)…

      …but get STI-tested NOW, so that if you wind up in divorce court over this, you can prove that you didn’t have an STI before your husband’s Exploration of Pandora’s Box, and if he HAS infected you, then you can ask for damages.

      Cynical? Yeah, but it’s the result of hard experience :/

      (Through a miracle of sheer good luck, my ex didn’t pass an STI along to me, but it was a serious risk due to his behavior in that situation.)

    • My first thought when reading this was “Would I want to be intimate with this guy and feel safe doing so?” The answer to both was HELL NO. LW, please take care of yourself and know your feelings and concerns are absolutely validated. Just because husband is willing to trust Pandora and accept any consequences that come outta her box does not mean you have to as well. He is disregarding your feelings and your sexual health, and that’s not okay. Get STI tested, and take whatever steps you need to be safe and healthy. Good luck and hugs if you want them.

  20. Kaz said:

    In addition to what everyone else has said (which, seriously, what everyone else has said!!!), it strikes me that:

    – you say you have talked about baby-stepping your way into an open relationship. Talked about. Baby steps.
    – a previous attempt at an open relationship went wrong because your husband just charged ahead without consulting you.
    – ….and yet, husband is talking about having sex with Pandora like it’s a god-given right and you’d be completely out of line to say no. That would be iffy in a relationship that has been happily open for decades where the partners have agreed that they don’t have veto rights. There is no freaking universe where it should be in the stage you’re currently at, with the history the two of you have. I hate to say it, but your husband’s attitude is pretty worrying re: opening up your relationship… and re: your relationship, period.

    • Rocketship said:

      I suspect he wants LW to stick to baby steps, while he takes huge flying leaps that he’s going to *pretend* are baby steps and will get all huffy if told otherwise.

      Oh wait, that pretty much already happened. LW! Those are not baby steps!! Those are giant adult-man-who-knows-full-well-what-he’s-pulling steps! Do not be fooled!

      • They’re only baby steps to the extent that he said, “trust me, baby” before he took them.

  21. EllenS said:

    Why, exactly, does your husband think she told him about this secret hookup in the first place? Here is what happened:
    1) She tested him to see if he’d keep secrets from you.
    2) He agreed.
    3) He is now recruiting you to cover his broken promise to her, at the expense of his relationship with you.

    So, um… I think we passed the point of having boundary conversations with either of them about ten miles back.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Exactly this. Husband immediately went for “oooh we’re such good friends and I keep your secrets” and teamed up against the LW. TO HER FACE, IN HER OWN HOUSE

      • B. said:

        And then, as soon as Pandora left, he did an 180 turn and betrayed Pandora’s trust. It looks like he’s trying to keep Pandora and LW from speaking with one another, which is an asshole move because a) isolation tactics are abusive, b) he changes his tune depending on which way the wind blows, to his own benefit and against LW’s and Pandora’s, and c) that is not at all the way to go for an honest, respectful open relationship.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          And heaven only knows just what lies he told Pandora about LW before this dinner took place… not to excuse Pandora’s disrespectful treatment of LW in her own house*, but might explain it somewhat.

          * Nothing makes me see red worse than being disrespected in my own damn house. I really feel for LW.

          • aebhel said:

            Yep. She’s a jerk, but it sounds like the husband isn’t treating her very well either.

  22. (Apologies in advance if this double-posts. When it didn’t post, I edited it a bit, so this is the final version of my comment.)

    Hi. I’m poly and have been for a long time, through some wonderful times and some awful times.

    Major sympathies to you, LW. That situation sounds like it sucks rocks through a bad bendy straw.

    If your husband tries to spin things to suggest that you need to trust him in order to prove something (like your love to him, or that you are chill Not Like Those Other Girls, or whatever he says the stakes are), don’t get trapped by that one. He’s not acting trustworthy. He’s doing the opposite of building trust with you.

    Other people have said very good things here, so I’m going to look at a heretofore unexamined piece of your letter. It’s the bit that happened after Ms. Drama Dump Crypt Keeper went home. Your husband asked if you wanted to know what they had been talking about. You said yes, and he told you. Then after he told you, he said you couldn’t tell her that he had broken her confidentiality and told you.

    They’re giving you a very accurate sample of what being involved with your husband while he is involved with the Drama Dump Crypt Keeper is like. They are also finding out if they can train you to act like them around boundaries and secrets.

    Earlier in the evening, Drama Dump Crypt Keeper set a boundary, even though she did so in a kind of yucky-to-you fashion. When you asked what the hell was going on with their cryptic conversation in front of you, she told you flat out that there were some things she wanted to keep “vaulted” and that she didn’t want to tell you what the conversation was about. She may have been annoying about it, but she was setting a boundary.

    Immediately after she left, your husband broke the boundary that she had just set.

    I’m not saying this to defend her! I’m saying it because here is your husband showing you very clearly what’s OK with him. He has demonstrated that he will break boundaries of someone who just set them.

    He also managed to get you entangled in it. I understand wanting to hear; I’m not sure I would have resisted easily, and if I had managed to resist it would only be due to thinking really hard about times such things had gone very wrong, and your mileage on the whole thing may vary a lot. In this case it did turn out to be information that tells you more about her character and ethics and behavior. But at the same time, when he spilled the beans and then immediately told you that under no circumstances could you tell her, he put you in a “we now have a secret from her!” game with him.

    That’s a huge red flag for me. Such a game is probably not a place you want to be anywhere near. It has really bad ramifications in all sorts of directions. There are thorns and traps there.

    I wish you so much good luck in this situation. You know where you don’t want to end up. (It just sucks that no matter how well we set boundaries, we can’t make somebody else want to respect them and treat us well. That part is their choice. If their choices have a bad pattern, that’s a thing to look at.)

    I wish you clarity and strength, and really good friends with excellent bullshit detectors.

    • Vicki said:

      Also: “if I tell you, will you agree to keep this a secret?” can be reasonable, because you get to say “no.”

      “Would you like to know what’s going on?” “Yes.” “OK, it’s xyz. You can’t tell anyone you know this” isn’t, because it doesn’t give you a choice.

      It would absolutely be reasonable for LW to pick up the phone and tell Pandora “as soon as you left, my husband told me all about what he’d promised you he’d keep secret, and then demanded I pretend he hadn’t.” Not because Pandora necessarily deserves that information, but because LW’s husband doesn’t deserve secrecy of that sort.

      • code16 said:

        Those are really good points about the secrets thing

  23. Goober said:

    I don’t think your husband wants an open marriage. I think he wants to be single, and a player, but have a live-in maid. If I were you, I wouldn’t be asking myself “What’s in an open marriage *for* *me*?” so much as “What’s in this marriage *at* *all* for me?”

    I’d be asking him that, too. His (likely non-) answer could be very informative.

    • Fwiw, when I asked that same question of my ex, post poly bomb, he was horrified that I expected there to be something in our new relationship dynamic for me.

      In retrospect, that response was telling. I don’t think it is wrong to expect relationships to be mutually beneficial.

      • I am physically incapable of rolling my eyes hard enough to fully express my disdain for dudes being shocked that women might possibly want a relationship change to also benefit *them* in some way. I’ve seen way too much of that and it’s just pathetic. Also profoundly irritating: when those dudes finally get their shit together, do the new thing in a way their wives actually like, and then act like they’ve discovered some amazing bizarre counter-intuitive secret to making changes in their relationship. Who could possibly ever have guessed that when you take a person’s needs & wants into account, they’re going to be more willing to try a thing?!

  24. Ria Hawk said:

    I am getting the distinct impression that his idea of ‘baby steps and communicated boundaries’ about opening your relationship up again are very different from yours. You said before that he was operating on the principle of ‘it is better to ask forgiveness than permission’, and that wouldn’t fly (which, good on you). I have a feeling that what he’s operating on now is ‘I asked for permission, what’s the problem?’ In other words, the read I’m getting on this is that asking you about it was just a formality and that he never really had any intention about honoring your ‘no’ because well, he asked, didn’t he? (In my experience, to a certain mindset, ‘if you don’t say No before it comes up it’s okay’ is nearly identical to ‘well, you never specifically said you had to say Yes when I ask’)

    I’m not in an open relationship myself, so please take this with a grain of salt, but from everything I’ve seen, an attitude of ‘I do what I want and it’s your fault if you don’t like it’ is… sort of the exact opposite of what you want in a healthy open relationship. I have grave doubts about your partner being mature enough to handle an open relationship. Especially since his response to ‘I’m worried about this person doing the EXACT SAME THING SHE’S ALREADY DOING IN ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP’ is ‘well, I’m a great judge of character and oh btw you can’t talk to her about this’. That’s a non-starter.

    And while I agree with the Captain in the likely outcomes of his current behavior, that he will either sleep with her regardless or whine about how you made him give up the Great Sexual Adventure, or whine about it while sleeping with her regardless, it’ might be worth getting yourself tested, because there’s a non-zero chance they’re involved *already*.

  25. Kitty said:

    Wow. So many, many bees.

    Husband has already proven himself pretty untrustworthy in steamrollering ahead with poly stuff in the past without checking with LW. So why on earth should LW trust his judgement now??

    LW I’m so sorry you’ve been backed into this corner. I really hope you can find a way to resolve this situation in a way that makes you comfortable and safe. ❤

  26. Red Wombat said:

    Being willing to soldier forward regardless is awesome in draft horses, old-timey expeditions to the North Pole, and a certain kind of war movie. It is super-duper not awesome in sexual encounters. We do not soldier forward regardless in those. We do not have a stiff upper lip and handshakes all around as we go forth to do the deed. We do not make a heroic last entry in our journal and die of frostbite post coitus and get toasted by the Explorer’s Club at the next meeting. We do not announce that that we are going outside to screw and may be some time. No. Full stop.

    In some ways, I guess–err–yay, you found out there’s problems on the first potential hook-up this round? Because you said “No, this one is skeevy” and he’s having a tantrum about it? That’s…well, you can see that there is trouble there.

    It really sounds like your husband does not have your back here. I don’t know much about poly, but I know that all my poly friends in good relationships have partners who have their back because that’s what ANY good relationship needs.

    (OH GOD, I WANT TO SCREAM RUN, RUN FOR THE HILLS, RUN LIKE YOUR ASS IS ON FIRE AND YOUR HEAD IS CATCHING but that is not helpful but seriously LW this is a bad scene and your instincts are rock solid RUN)

    Ahem. Good luck, LW.

    • JenniferP said:

      Love your categories of when soldiering on is good. Just say no to Sexual Dunkirk!

      • neverjaunty said:

        I mean if it were a band, maybe, since that is a great band name, but as a relationship model? SO MUCH THE NO.

    • mrs__peel said:

      “We do not have a stiff upper lip and handshakes all around as we go forth to do the deed.”

      (dramatic pause) I…. may be some time.

    • Polaris said:

      This is excellently worded and very good advice. I have nothing to add, but I can’t let “We do not announce that that we are going outside to screw and may be some time” go unremarked because it’s the most amazing reference to that line I’ve ever seen, and I’ve read Discworld.

      • Utterly agreed! I have come back to reread that line and chortle at least three times now. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

  27. meadowphoenix said:

    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

    I am 100% sure your husband tried to rules-lawyer your relationship in these multiple attempts, which is why there were multiple and he didn’t learn “oh I should ask OP if she would be okay with this” after the first time. Forget about the sketchy potential gf, your husband has shown he will act in bad faith in the past. And continues to shows that here with this dinner party where he didn’t insist that Pandora refrain from a conversation she didn’t want you to participate in. And here, when he treats your compliance as a fait accompli without which you must not ~trust him or are being ~unfair (what? WHAT?) and which your concerns will have to be alleviated with a conversation in which you cannot actually address your concerns (because despite the fact that he shouldn’t be making promises like this to her now, he DID and he BROKE THAT. Your husband can’t even respect boundaries with the person he’s stepping all over yours for). This is all your husband’s soiling, and his own problems with respecting boundaries. Pandora is indeed trying to open this (dick in a) box, but your husband put all this shit in it.

    Couple’s therapy, if that is something you’re interested in, might help here.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I think is actually the crux of the problem – Pandora is just the logical outcome of what happens when you are trying to have a poly relationship with someone whose default is that “if I haven’t been explicitly told no, it’s a yes!”

      If the husband doesn’t screw it up with Pandora, it’ll be with whatever dodgy but alluring person comes along next. The issue here isn’t Pandora specifically, it’s that the husband is operating in bad faith at the outset.

      LW, sorry, I don’t see you being able to have a healthy poly relationship with your husband.

      • canadakate said:

        I don’t see the LW being able to have a healthy relationship with their husband, period!

    • onamission5 said:

      That quoted part. I don’t think Husband has moved away from it even a little bit, I think he still wants that and right now with the Pandora thing he’s testing just how close he can get to the way it was before LW shuts it down. And the shittiest thing about it is that for LW, if she’s not constantly running massively anxiety producing hypothetical disaster scenarios on every conceivable permutation of things that Husband could do wrong, it makes anything he does to betray her trust HER FAULT because she didn’t think of it in advance and tell him not to. Husband isn’t taking responsibility for anything or anyone, to my mind, he’s making it all about the women in his life who made him make his decisions. He’s expecting LW to do emotional labor for three people.

      • onamission5 said:

        He’s expecting LW to do emotional labor for three people– and for Pandora to eventually take most of the blame.

        • NotPiffany said:

          I don’t think he cares if it’s Pandora or the LW who takes the blame in the end, so long as none of it gets on him.

      • ashbet said:

        “And the shittiest thing about it is that for LW, if she’s not constantly running massively anxiety producing hypothetical disaster scenarios on every conceivable permutation of things that Husband could do wrong, it makes anything he does to betray her trust HER FAULT because she didn’t think of it in advance and tell him not to.”

        Yup — this came up with my ex during the rules-lawyering.

        He said, genuinely aggrieved, that when I told him I wasn’t comfortable with unprotected PIV or PIM with this woman, he didn’t KNOW I’d have a problem with unprotected naked grinding against each other’s genitals with fluid transfer.

        I said “I didn’t ask you not to share needles, either, because I trusted you to behave with common sense!!”

        (The issue was exposure to her *KNOWN* STI, which absolutely could have been transmitted without penetration.)

        The answer was that he Really Wanted To Fuck This Lady, and therefore was going to absolutely disregard how I felt about it, in the end.

        (We’d had 6 very good years together, but he/we went through some Major Life Stresses, and then he was dealing with mental-health issues, and this was his first new relationship after a bad bout of depression — it’s not that he was a shitty partner the whole time we were together, because he wasn’t. But the feelings associated with the New Shiny caused him to completely check out of our relationship, and that’s what killed us in the end. If he’d behaved like this from the beginning, I would never have dated him!)

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Yeah, I think Pandora and the specific situation around her is really just a dog whistle – this is going to happen with the next person (and the next, and the next…)

          I have zero judgement re: polyamory and I have many friends who have happy and healthy polyamorous relationships and I’m not opposed to eventually being in one myself, BUT I just don’t think this guy is someone the LW can have that type of relationship with.

          • this is going to happen with the next person (and the next, and the next…)

            I want to second this because I think it’s a really important point. Even if husband does agree not to pursue a relationship with Pandora, and even if he doesn’t hound LW about it for the next 10 years, I would honestly be amazed if he finds another partner who LW doesn’t have any totally rational and completely justified problems with. Selfishness and bad judgement don’t just go away because the current object of the selfishness and bad judgement is out of their lives.

  28. Neurite said:

    I’ve seen past Awkwardeer comments pinpoint when, exactly, in the letter their shoulders went up around their ears. For this letter, for me, this happened right around the “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” part – which was a problem, because as I read on, my shoulders wanted to crawl ever higher, and, well, they were already around my ears.

    By the time I was maybe 2/3 in, I scrolled back up to see if the Captain had given this one the “Breaking Up” tag. Which is not what LW asked about, and pretty much a presumptuous knee-jerk reaction from me, but… aaaaaaugh.

    Look, there’s a reasonable discussion to be had in poly relationships about how exactly to balance things out along the “things not explicitly okayed are off-limits” vs. “things not explicitly nixed are okay” spectrum. 100% of the latter can obviously lead to badness, but extreme versions of the former can veer into impracticality – at some point, you gotta be able to extrapolate to “if kissing their right cheek was okay, then I figure kissing their left cheek is also.” But these would be discussions done in good faith about how to find a fair balance and to handle possible honest misjudgments. “Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” makes it clear that this wasn’t an honest misunderstanding about whether Y falls under the umbrella of already-okayed X and is thus okay – this is someone who *knew* that Y would not be okay with their partner and tried to get away with it anyways.

    And other commenters have already called this out, but UGH UGH UGH on “you are taking this away from me.” Dunno if other poly Awkwardeers have the same deja vu reaction to this phrase, but I feel like it’s the mating call of the folks who think that “poly” means “I get to do whatever I want, right? What do you mean my partner’s boundaries, don’t be such a buzzkill”.

    On a happier note: LW, I wish I could high-five you for “COME ON, MAN!” That was the only point of the letter that did give me a huge smile.

    • Neurite said:

      (Okay, promise this is my last comment for tonight. Clearly this one hit a nerve.)

      I was pondering a comeback for LW, along the lines of “damn straight I am taking this away from you – you are not a toddler, you can wrap your head around not getting every single shiny thing you want!”

      But then I realized – when I do have to take something away from my *actual real toddler*, sure, he sometimes bursts out crying and acts like the world is ending… and then after a bit of time (and some calming/holding as needed), he gets over it and finds something else to do and calm himself down with.

      Dude is exhibiting *less* maturity than a toddler.

  29. David said:

    Let me ground my perspective here by identifying as a poly dude.

    SKETCHY!! JMFC SKETCHY!!

    That is all.

  30. code16 said:

    I saw a few people mentioning this upthread, but I want to state as its own thing that aside from Pandora not being honest in her relationships, LW’s *husband* is already being dishonest in his relationships – in that he promised Pandora he would keep a thing secret, then promptly didn’t (and apparently didn’t even mention at the time it was a secret, which, not that it would be ok if he had, but that’s kind of extra things right there), and now is trying to get LW to curtail *her* actions (and being controlling about her relationships with other people in a way that is specifically trying to keep her from talking to friends about bad things he’s doing) so that Pandora doesn’t find out that he broke the promise to her.

    Which is to say, he made a promise to her, immediately broke it, and is now actively trying to hide this.

    That does not say trustworthy things.

    • B. said:

      Not at all, indeed!
      Thank you for pointing this out. That was really creeping me out but I couldn’t pinpoit why, exactly. You are right that the husband is trying to control LW and how she talks to others, and that strikes me as an isolation (aka clasically abusive) tactic.

    • Dear LW,

      To my mind your husband’s unreliability shines through when promising Pandora he wouldn’t tell you about her adventures, and then in pressuring you to keep schtum with your friends. (Yeah, I think he’s being all around skeevy. These two actions are such clear indicators of untrustworthiness though)

      I think husband should have told Pandora that he doesn’t keep secrets from you. His subsequent demand that you not talk about what Pandora does shows one or more of the following:
      – He thinks Pandora will drop him if he doesn’t follow her rules
      – He doesn’t care that he’s asking you to restrict your (not even sexual) friendships
      – He (maybe temporarily, maybe always) places his wants over the requirements of his marriage
      – He is already a couple with Pandora.

      About the last point: it’s possible they haven’t performed whatever sex acts you and he think of as sex. Clearly though, they have private jokes, and a history together – however brief – that allow them to act as though you are on the outside of The Relationship. This is unkind even when a new friend isn’t a potential (or actual) sexual partner.

      I’m with the Captain. What do you get out of opening the relationship? Is it worth dinner with Pandora, and a glimpse into your husband’s unsavory side?

      Jedi hugs if you want them.

  31. Jordan said:

    LW you are so on top of everything I COMMEND YOU SO HARD. I’m just sorry everyone else around you is shitty and the worst, and pretty much trying to pretend you AREN’T on top of things and the only one being reasonable with an actual solution.

    Good luck.

  32. LW, your intuition and understanding of poly ethics is spot on, well done for holding to your integrity with all this manipulation going on.

    My Dom and I had a few situations of exploring a potential play partner scenario with two different ladies at different points in time. Both had issues, either about maturity, safe sex or cheating or a combination thereof. It sucks to realise that all that sexy fantasising and flirting went into a possibility that wasn’t one we could act on.

    Ultimately, opening up was important enough to my Dom to assess things and say ‘let’s wait until we find a woman that isn’t sketchy and in whom we feel secure and trusting.’ Waiting sucks but at least our first experiences won’t he regretful. He didn’t want sexy times that sabotaged our openness at my expense. Or his. Our ethos is, if we invite you into our lives, it will be with the same reciprocity and care that we give each other. So no drama.

    Vetoing this isn’t a failure or your inability to be cool. It is making a statement that you do not think lies and cheating belong in your life. If hub cannot get on board with that, then it’s time for him to do some work on himself that doesn’t involve Pandora. Or her box.

    • B. said:

      “Vetoing this isn’t a failure or your inability to be cool”. Quoted for truth.

      Even though not all poly people agree on veto rights, it sounds like the LW really doesn’t want her husband to have sex with this lady, and that seems like a perfectly legit boundary to set.

      Even if she and her husband disagree on veto rights, at least she should be able to bring it up for discussion and be listened to by her partner, instead of having her feelings dismissed and being told she cannot discuss her misgivings with her friends (!).

  33. As some others have pointed out, I think this goes wider than ‘Should my husband sleep with this woman?’ or even ‘Should my husband and I open up our marriage?’

    You have just had an exchange that goes approximately like this:

    You: Please don’t do This Thing that would really bother me.

    Him: How dare you!! How dare you take away from me my right to do This Thing! You are being absolutely unreasonable and spoiling my goodtimes and you should just deal with me doing This Thing!

    Which… immediately makes me wonder how often that sort of exchange is an issue elsewhere in your marriage? I mean, This Thing could be his decision to take a new job, wallpaper the living room, leave the toilet seat up after using it… and this would *still* not be a good or healthy way for him to be treating you. So, the issues over To Open Or Not To Open may be the symptom, but it does seem like the problem is a lack of respect from him for your feelings.

    • Jake said:

      So very, very much this.

    • fjionna said:

      Yup, this. It took me getting OUT of my marriage to be able to see it, but once I got that little bit of distance and objectivity…wow. I quickly identified it as a recurring theme going back to the earliest days of our relationship.

      • fjionna said:

        And, in my experience, getting out is sometimes the only solution. You can’t have a relationship when there’s a Mexican standoff of whose happiness is more important.

    • it does seem like the problem is a lack of respect from him for your feelings.

      This! So much this! Pandora isn’t the problem, opening their relationship isn’t the problem, but how husband treats LW? That’s definitely the problem!

      If my husband said to me “Please don’t do This Thing that would really bother me.” I can’t imagine not taking that very seriously and likely not doing the thing. I mean, he’s my *husband*, I wouldn’t have married him in the first place if I didn’t care whether or not he was happy. I don’t know why LW’s husband is acting like he doesn’t care whether or not she’s happy, but that’s definitely how he’s acting.

      As a bit of an aside, that’s why I’ve always kind of side-eyed the concept of vetos. If your partner doesn’t take it very very seriously when you tell them “Hey I’m concerned about x because y and would prefer you didn’t do the thing”, there’s a serious problem in your relationship and it’s not one a veto can solve.

      • Jules the Third (I think) said:

        Sometimes vetoes are just shorthand for the discussion. My husband and I don’t use the word ‘veto’, but a fast ‘nah’ and ‘don’t do it!’ has happened more than once. To be sure, it was eventually followed by conversations like ‘we know that person in this other context and you disliked their behavior then, you just didn’t make the connection tonight’ kinda discussions, but in the moment, there wasn’t time / space for a discussion.

        The key is that was after several years of cheerful polyness, where we had evidence of each others’ judgement and trustworthiness. Don’t side-eye any tool categorically, just assess whether it works for you and your partner(s).

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          That’s how I’ve always meant “veto”–it doesn’t (necessarily) mean not talking about it or not explaining your reasoning or not considering the other person’s feelings, it means that at the end of the conversation one person can still say, “I need you to know this is non-negotiable to me.” There are good and bad ways to have a veto agreement just like any other relationship agreement.

          • slfisher said:

            The problem is there’s an implied “Or what?” after that. “This is non-negotiable” — so what happens if the partner decides to go with Pandora afterwards? I’m kind of dealing with this myself; my partner is with someone I don’t feel is suitable or appropriate on many levels, I expressed this concern, he is with her anyway. I’m not worried about his leaving me for her, and I have expressed that I don’t want to hear anything about their relationship because I don’t want her drama in my life. That said, he still is involved with her, and I’m not prepared to break up with him over it at this point. But that is the problem with vetoes, which is why we don’t use them per se.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            slfisher: I mean, you’re going to have to look deep inside yourself to find the answer to that one. Like, if I were in a hypothetical relationship with veto power and I said, “I have to veto that,” and he said, “Well, I’m going to do it anyway”, then… what?

            There’s always an “Or what?” There’s always a question of “Is this enough to break the relationship over?”

            I hope you guys find a resolution.

        • This is academic for me since I dabbled in poly during my largely single period period but can’t currently be bothered to look for other partners, but that said:

          Assessing whether it works for me and my partners is why I side-eye the idea of a veto. It doesn’t work for me and therefore won’t work in any relationship I’m in. For me if I told a partner “Please don’t do This Thing that would really bother me” and he didn’t say either “oh crap, I didn’t realize it would bother you that much, I won’t do the thing then” or “oh, I explained badly, here’s why it won’t add drama to your life/generally make you miserable/wreck your plans if I do the thing” and I then felt like I had to use a veto, that’s a serious problem. Basically I see a veto as a last resort for when I’m not being listened to, which makes having to actually use a veto a serious problem in my relationship. I expect my partner to listen to and resolve my concerns about a situation without me having to resort to a veto.

          On the other hand I think we may all be doing some semantic hairsplitting – if your veto is more of a “hey wait a minute, we need to discuss this first” I think I’d be fine with that. I just expect my partner to give a shit what my problem with a particular situation at the “hey wait a minute” stage and before the “no seriously, do the thing and I’ll leave” stage.

  34. rydra_wong said:

    “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.”

    Just a hunch — I would personally advise against saying anything like this, because I strongly suspect that LW’s husband is the kind of dude who will then go and fuck Pandora and then turn round with “BUT YOU SAID I SHOULD GET IT OUT OF MY SYSTEM” when the LW continues not being okay with it.

    And “but I also said I really wasn’t okay with it” means nothing to a rules-lawyer determined to latch onto one turn of phrase.

    • If the LW says it, and the husband takes her up on it, as long as he does it by the rules she sets out, than it’s unfair of her not to work at being okay with it afterwards. It’s not fair of her to set it up like a trap. But I don’t think the LW is going to do that – I think she’s not okay with it under any circumstances, which is totally reasonable! and I think that she should therefore pick the No Way, Jose script.

      • Kacienna said:

        I really don’t see it that way. There have been much more minor things where I’ve said to my husband “This is not okay. I know it’s going to happen/has happened, and I’m not going to end the relationship over it, but it’s not okay.” There have been times where I’ve said about something I’ve done “This isn’t okay. It has to happen now because of other issues, but I screwed up and I know it’s not okay, and I don’t expect you to be okay with it.” These were cases of making conflicting plans and having it turn out that our original plans with each other were the ones that had to be scrapped for Reasons, not nearly as big a deal as sleeping with someone your partner really doesn’t want you to sleep with.

        tl;dr – I think there’s a space between “This is okay with me” and “I will end the relationship over this.”

        • tl;dr – I think there’s a space between “This is okay with me” and “I will end the relationship over this.”

          This

        • sconn said:

          She could maybe say, “If you do it, it will be 100% without my consent.”

          • bostoncandy said:

            Personally, I am very reluctant to use the “consent” concept at a remove. I think it can put breaking of relationship agreements on par with violating personal consent, at least conceptually, and that feels like a pretty big problem to me.
            I might say instead, “I’m not on board with this. If that’s something you don’t care about, then I think we need to have some pretty serious conversations about our relationship. If you do care about that, how are you going to show me you do?”

  35. In an open relationship you ALWAYS have the power to veto the introduction a potential third party. If your husband doesn’t understand that, then he’s not ready to be in an open relationship.

    • Jake said:

      I really don’t think this is true, and I know a hell of a lot of poly people who absolutely don’t operate this way. That said, the husband’s total lack of interest in or regard for his partner’s comfort, and his willingness to participate in dishonesty, are enough bad behaviour to be going on with without making absolutist pronouncements about how poly relationships have to be.

    • neverjaunty said:

      No, that is 100% not true. Not everyone has an automatic veto in their agreement to be poly. And for a lot of people, that veto ends up being really dysfunctional – a substitute for talking openly and honestly, or worse. I’ve seen rather too many het “poly” relationships where the dude got to do whatever he wanted, but as soon as the lady was interested in someone else, out came the veto.

      • Carrie said:

        The One Penis Policy rides again–though I’m sure there have to be dudes who’ve brought out the veto over female-bodied potential partners as well.

        • Here to testify.

          • Kacienna said:

            Choice of words is amusing because of the etymology of “testify” and because I am twelve ;-P

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        Well, I mean, even if your agreement is “I don’t have veto power over your relationships,” you still always have the right to say “If you [insert action] with that person, I will leave.” You never have to agree to be in a relationship with someone who is fucking/fingering/frottaging/fellatioing/fancy hat making with someone you don’t want them to.

        Abusive people, jerks, whatever will use any set of rules or lack of rules to their advantage, that’s what makes them abusive people or jerky partners. Vetos are really easy to abuse, but *waves at letter* so is a sense of “You can’t tell me what to do!”

      • In a healthy relationship, there’s veto power whether you call it that or not – “I will take your feelings into account before I do something, and if it’s something that I know would bother you X amount, I won’t do it” – or at the very least, an unspoken “If you upset me more than X amount, I will leave you”. And even if you do call it a veto, you can’t ever *actually* control someone else’s behavior short of sedating them; they can always choose to disregard you. Monogamous people have a pre-emptive veto by definition – “you can’t ever have sex with someone other than me” – and monogamous people still have sex with other people, or end the relationship in order to do so.
        On some level, no matter what your relationship style, you have to have faith in the other person/people to act with compassion and integrity, to respect your boundaries, and basically not to be a dick about whatever limits you and they set. In my case, I agreed to the condition that my partner’s consent is necessary before I sleep with someone else, because I trust him not to use it to be an asshole.
        If that’s there, you’re probably good, and if it’s not, well…Basically, people who use vetoes dysfunctionally are going to be dysfunctional no matter what the trappings. “You can’t have sex with that person…or that one, or that one, yes of course I want an open relationship, I just don’t approve of any of the people you like!” is a dick move, obviously. On the other hand, some of the most abusive relationships I’ve ever seen have been ones where one or more parties declared that they didn’t believe in rules. If they say, “We don’t act by fiat, we have *discussions*”, then those discussions will be ones where people try to logic one another into agreeing, or otherwise talking them out of their feelings, or whatever. “I never tell my partner who they can sleep with” becomes in practice a lot of sulking, manipulation and even outright sabotage – because instead of the limit being “you need my consent to fuck someone else”, it becomes “I can never express how I really feel about the people you fuck”.

        • Sure, any rule can be abused or misused. Some rules are easier to abuse than others, and some rules don’t work for specific people or specific relationships.

          But ‘having a veto’ is a specific thing in poly beyond the actual, effective veto of “….or I will end the relationship” that (as you note) exists in monogamous relationships, too. AOne place it often *doesn’t* work well is in relationships where there is anxiety or a power imbalance, precisely because even for those with the best intentions, it can be a get-out-of-anxiety-and-awkward-processing-free panic button. And for people whose intentions are not so great, it becomes a tool of control.

          YMMV, of course. Having or not having a formal veto is not something that indicates how functional or healthy a poly relationship is, is all I’m saying.

    • Vicki said:

      There are relationships where that is true only in the limited sense that if one partner tells the other “I want to get involved with this new person,” the answer may be “I dislike that enough that if you do it, our relationship is over.” There are people who don’t want to have that veto over a partner’s choices. And others where it’s “tell me why it bothers you, and we’ll see how we both feel” (where “that person abused my best friend” is different from “I just have a bad feeling about this”).

      But in this case it wouldn’t matter if LW and her husband were the pnly couple in the world who had agreed to give each other veto power. They did agree to that. Husband’s legitimate choices are to accept LW’s veto of Pandora, or tell her “I know I gave you a veto, but I can’t live with that. If you put any restrictions on what I do with other people, we’re through.”

      “OK, you can have a veto… *waaah, no fair, how can you ask me not to sleep with a known liar and cheat, don’t you trust me?!!!” is not a reasonable way to treat your partner.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Also! They are in the first early “baby steps” of open!!! They are not long established open with deep trust around one another’s judgement.

    • hummingbear said:

      The word “veto” puts my shoulders up over my ears, and other experienced poly folk I know have the same reaction. We don’t have vetoes, we have conversations. I refrain from doing things, sexual or otherwise, that would hurt my husband or other partners, not because they invoke parliamentary procedure, but because I *actually care about the people I love* and I don’t want to hurt them. If I say, “I REALLY want to do X” (where X is take a road trip/ look for a new job/ paint the living room/ sleep with Joe) and my husband says, “Nope, you can’t! Veto! Welp, guess that’s the end of that!” I’m going to get pissed off and resentful. If instead he talks to me about how that makes him feel uncomfortable, we’ll have a conversation about why, and if there is any way to address both of our needs, and if there are any underlying issues that need to be discussed. Maybe the knee jerk reaction to the road trip is because he’s feeling neglected and like we don’t spend enough time together, and we can plan something else that meets my need for adventure and his for together time. If Joe is his ex’s current partner and he’s feeling insecure because Joe makes more money or something, that might lead to a talk about those insecurities. And while I’m still not going to sleep with Joe if it will make him completely miserable, the discussion goes beyond Joe and is valuable either way. (If it turns out everything I really want to do makes him miserable, that’s a whole different conversation.)

      To the extent that poly can improve a couple’s relationship skills*, it’s exactly because of these sometimes-tough conversations that lead to new levels of honesty and intimacy. Part of the point is to push past the assumed conventional structures that protect us, but can also prevent us from having to confront underlying issues. The LW is a case in point – if Pandora vanished off the face of the earth tomorrow, this couple would still have serious problems to deal with.

  36. NameChange said:

    “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.”

    Wait, wait, so she wants him (and by extension, you) to agree to keep secrets but is not keeping her own agreements re: sex with this other couple? Bees. And the beekeeper sounds like she wants you to care for a few baby velociraptors, too.

    “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”

    It’s manipulative. I think this pressure on you was planned, at least on her part. Whether your husband is being manipulated into this behavior by her too or is planning along with her to manipulate you, I don’t know. But I get the feeling Pandora has a track record of trying to compete with and manipulate other women in relationships, not just you and the woman in this other couple.

    I’m not poly, so I can’t give you advice for handling the relationships involved. But, it really sounds like your husband is overjustifying how this is so OK with him. He should not be forcing you to live with the baby velociraptors he willingly took in.

    • unagi said:

      I would totally disregard indirect instructions from Pandora and talk freely about her behavior to my friends. If that leads to this festering pit of dishonesty to be exposed, then, well.. Do you really have anything to lose by being honest? What do you think your friends will think when they find out you kept this information from them (and they will find out, people always do eventually)?

  37. Cyberwulf said:

    Your husband needs to stop thinking with his dick.

    I see a lot of moaning on other sites about not shaming people for having sexual needs and why oh why are people branded with a scarlet S for Selfish for getting their itch scratched THIS IS WHY. This kind of behavior. There’s very little difference in “well I wanna fuck this lady and I know what I’m doing so babe be cool” and just cheating on you. It’s about what he wants, fuck your feelings, and from your letter it seems like he’s done this before. In fact I would question whether he did close his side of the relationship back up, LW.

  38. Traffic_Spiral said:

    Wow, no.

    Pandora is a spiteful drama queen that gets off on not only violating the relationship rules of the couples she’s with, but rubbing it in their faces afterwards by making vague comments and insinuations that she then follows up with “but I must keep things private so I won’t explain what I was hinting at.” Definitely do not get involved with this lady.

    Your husband is a self-centered manipulative jerk that feels his need to get his dick wet in strange is worth blowing up your marriage for. That’s why he’s always trying to push past boundaries by saying things like “well, we never specifically said we couldn’t” and “nah, this huge red-flag situation is nbd,” and “whyyyyy can’t you let me just fuck around with Bunny Boilers??”

    I’d say that he’s probably cheating on you already or will be soon, and you should start getting your ducks in line for the divorce.

  39. Lily said:

    Look – my oldest relationship (6 years) began with me saying: “Just to be clear, I never again want to be in a monogamous or hierarchical relationship. This will not be a traditional relationship. I can be with you, but you will never have the right to dictate or veto who or how many other people I sleep with.”

    (This is not the same situation as you because you started from a monogamous relationship that opened up, are – as I assume – heavily entangled which you decided based on the fact that you considered your marriage stable and exclusive, etc).

    Still, *if a person I know and trust for several years told me that they thought someone was unsafe, I wouldn’t date the other person.* It’s not that difficult. I trust both my boyfriend and my girlfriend, I consider them great and intelligent and wise people, so if one of them saw a problem, I’d likely think that they saw it more clearly than me. (Helps that none of them ever tried to undermine one of my dates.)

    It’s pretty simple, really. If a person you trust a lot tells you that they see something problematic, you at least consider it. And if you really like and care for a person and they were pretty unhappy in a situation, you don’t bring them into that situation. Maybe you break up if you are incompatible, maybe you discuss it, but you just don’t go over their head.

  40. slfisher said:

    The other thing I would add, not for this situation because I think that ship has sailed but in general, is that the “under what conditions should we open up our relationship” discussion should never be held when some new strange is waiting in the wings. Too much pressure and the discussion will be too focused on the specifics of that person.

    • Saturnalia said:

      This point is so very important!! Figure out the structure, the broad brush strokes of how you paint an open relationship, when it can be purely based on *the people in the existing relationship* and their needs. Sure, some of the nuance won’t be clear until you have a specific example of a new potential relationship, but the bulk of discussion and decision making should happen when lust isn’t a factor.

      Signed, someone who has tried to discuss this topic in the wrong ways at the wrong times with the wrong motivations.

    • Cassandra said:

      “the “under what conditions should we open up our relationship” discussion should never be held when some new strange is waiting in the wings”

      TRUE

      • *applause*

  41. Tea Rocket said:

    LW, I am neither polyamorous, nor have I ever been in an open relationship. However, here is a summary of all the things your husband has done, based on your letter:

    Took a cavalier approach to previous attempts at an open relationship with you, preferring to push boundaries rather than respect or even define them.
    Convinced you to consider reopening your relationship, because he really wants to sleep with Pandora (“they have an emotional connection”).
    Invites Pandora over, and then proceeds to have an obviously coded conversations with her in front of you, making you feel uncomfortable and excluded in your own home.
    Promised Pandora that he wouldn’t tell anyone about her unethical activities with the husband of another couple she’s involved with.
    Tells you anyway.
    Insists that Pandora’s behavior with this other couple isn’t really that bad (it is).
    Insists that Pandora’s demonstrated lack of respect for other people’s boundaries is somehow not going to be a problem for his relationship with you, effectively telling you that you should ignore your instincts about Pandora and listen to his instead.
    Responds to your discomfort with and reasonable objections to Pandora, insisting that he’s an excellent judge of character (citation needed) and pulling a variation of, “If you really loved/trusted/respected me, you wouldn’t object to my doing this thing I really want to do.”
    Demands that you keep Pandora’s unethical behavior secret, even though he did not, and you never promised Pandora anything.

    I’m sure you love him, but this does not sound like a trustworthy man who is capable of having a healthy and happy open marriage. This sounds like someone who is selfish and entitled, and who wants to sleep with people who aren’t you without the guilt and consequences that go with cheating, but also without the actual work that goes into an open relationship (long discussions about rules, actually respecting boundaries, etc.). Opening up a relationship is a privilege, not a right. You are not taking anything away from him by saying you don’t want him to be with Pandora. His track record suggests that if your husband were able to pick someone who didn’t bother you, it would be by accident, rather than design.

    I’m also concerned that your husband’s approach to relationships (asking forgiveness rather than permission) may carry over to other aspects of your life without your being aware of it yet. Are you sure he doesn’t take the same attitude to spending money? “Borrowing” money from your savings? Spending large sums or giving large sums away without discussing it with you? Making other kinds of unilateral financial decisions? Hopefully he has just the one, Pandora-shaped blind-spot, but it’s possible the issues here might be indicative of wider ones that can ruin your marriage. Please be careful and take whatever steps you need (therapy, separate account, seeing a lawyer, all of the above, none of the above) to protect yourself.

  42. It kind of reads to me as if you and your husband are talking at cross purposes here. You’re saying: “The woman has treated me badly in my own home, and I know that she is behaving very badly towards another woman who is supposedly her friend and with whom she has been (?is still being?) intimate. I do not want my life entangled with hers.” And he is saying: “Chill, babe, I’ll be OK! I am confident that she’s OK for me and this is what I want.”

    I wonder whether it’s worth a try at saying to him very frankly: “Dude, this isn’t about you. This is about me and the boundaries I need to feel safe in my/our marriage, and I need you to listen to and respect that.”

    There’s not an enormous amount in the OP that gives me faith that the husband will respect this, but it might at least frame the discussion differently and cut out some of the ‘but I’m an excellent judge of character’ distractions.

    • thisgenlioness said:

      This sounds like a very charitable reading to me. And there certainly are cases where a miscommunication has people talking at cross-purposes and answering questions that aren’t the ones being asked while leaving the ones being asked unaddressed. In those cases, maefuller, your script is awesome.

      I wish I had any faith that was what is going on here.

  43. Squirrel said:

    To the letter writer, some concise words from the polyamorous world:
    1.You have a partner problem, not a metamour problem. As long as your husband continues as he is, you will keep having people like Pandora in your life.
    2. Do not have unprotected PIV or PIA sex with this man. Protect yourself from his bad decisions. Getting yourself STI tested too.
    3. You can set a boundary that Pandora not be in your house when you are.
    4. Make friends with experienced polyamorous people. Look on meetup.com or Facebook for groups near you. They often have discussion groups and social events. You need people to give you support and feedback.
    5. What are you doing with your life that’s awesome? Do more of that. Build your friends network.
    6. Good partner selection helps make sure you deal with fewer problems. Your husband does not select good partners.
    7. Would your husband be ok with you dating other men? If not you’re in for a world of issues later on when you want to do the part that would be fun for you and hard for him.

  44. The LW needs to get tested immediately for every STI and (if she can afford it and hasn’t done so already) get on PrEP or PEP. Pandora could very well be passing on more than sketchy ethics (as could any other human being on planet Earth).

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Oh definitely. The chances of this guy screwing around are pretty high.

  45. JB said:

    I kind of feel like when a relationship is getting into rules-lawyer territory of who’s ALLOWED to do stuff or has a RIGHT to do stuff, that’s a big old red flag. Like… your partner is not the mean teacher you’re trying to find loopholes around. They’re your partner. The concerns should be what is going to make each other happy, or at least comfortable.

    I mean, yes, when your relationship takes a turn for the uncommon, there are often negotiations and boundaries. Some of those boundaries are so hard they may as well be rules. But there shouldn’t be rules-lawyering. Doing a thing that you know damn well makes someone very unhappy because it’s not technically forbidden under clause 14 subsection k is not a loving thing to do.

    • JB said:

      “You” = general-you, not LW-you.

  46. Jake said:

    LW, you don’t have a Pandora problem, you have a husband problem. I’m sorry to say. Your husband is demonstrating his lack of regard for your boundaries, and his unwillingness to be completely open and honest with you, both in his own behaviour, and in his choice of a new partner who is similarly lacking. I can’t say anything for sure, but IME people like that don’t change.

    A little over a year ago I was blessedly dumped by such a dude, after 12 years together, because my expectations that he tell me what he was thinking and feeling, and not keep secrets or lie to me, were not expectations he was willing or able to live up to. Your story is chillingly familiar. Last I heard he spent most of the past year pulling the same bullshit on some other girl.

    LW, I have a question for you. What Pandora is doing by participating in this other dude’s infidelity is deeply Not Cool. What your husband is doing by giggling with her about it and asking you to keep it a secret is also Not Cool. My question is, what if you told the truth? Because everything about the way you have been recruited into this woman’s bad behaviour and asked to tacitly endorse it by participating in the lies about it reads to me as gross and unfair to _you_. It also tests your boundaries. If you’re willing to ignore your excellent instincts about this secret, that’s both information for Pandora and husband about how easy it will be to step on your boundaries, and a weapon they can use against you when you get mad at them about a different secret. This is a trap. Don’t walk into it.

    I don’t mean go straight to that other dude’s wife and tell on him (although it would probably be entertaining if you did), but I do mean speaking your honest truth, even if it means not safeguarding a secret you should never have been asked to keep. I mean going to Pandora and saying “I feel like I can’t possibly trust you to respect my feelings or tell me the truth because I know you are acting dishonestly and with total disregard for the feelings of another metamour.” I mean going to those mutual friends you want to be able to talk to about it and talking about it. Not for gossip, but to get the emotional support you so clearly need and that your husband is not there to provide you. Because one hugely important thing in poly (and mono) relationships is open honesty about your own feelings, and while you can’t make either your husband or Pandora practice those things, you can practice them yourself.

    The goal here is not to set fire to this delightful powder keg Pandora has been busily filling, but if this is the spark that does that, just remember the resulting conflagration is not your fault or responsibility.

    • JenniferP said:

      This is very wise.

    • B. said:

      I love this comment. Spot-on and kindly said, Jake.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      If you’re willing to ignore your excellent instincts about this secret, that’s both information for Pandora and husband about how easy it will be to step on your boundaries, and a weapon they can use against you when you get mad at them about a different secret. This is a trap. Don’t walk into it.

      Yes, yes, yes. There are so many layers of boundary testing here. One is “will you tolerate being treated unkindly and disrespectfully to your face in your own home?” (Because locking you out of a conversation in front of you, and teasing you with, ‘oh, hee hee, it’s personal, your husband knows but I can’t share with you,’ is both disrespectful and unkind.) One is “will you be Chill about someone else’s betrayal of a partner?” One is “will you lie/keep potentially disastrous secrets to help us?” And of course they’re all leading up to what your husband is testing at the end, which is, “if I want to get with a partner who makes you feel uncomfortable and unsafe, will you give in and let me?”

      I have had this done to me SO many times due to socialization to perpetually be the Chill Girl, who tolerates bad behavior because she’s cool and with it and not like those other grasping, nagging, shrieking, prudish harpies. It’s soooooooo not worth it. I’ve come to learn the value in raising a glass to my failure of the Chill Girl Test; viva la harpies.

      • QoB said:

        My partner regularly calls me the Queen of the Harpies… as a term of endearment. *shrug* I’m all about embracing it

    • Forrest said:

      >> Your husband is demonstrating his lack of regard for your boundaries, and his unwillingness to be completely open and honest with you, both in his own behaviour, and in his choice of a new partner who is similarly lacking. I can’t say anything for sure, IME people like that don’t change.

      I agree with all of this, except the part about “people like that don’t change”. I think it is definitely possible for basically decent people to trick themselves into thinking, “but waaaaah, I fancy her, I really want to sleep with her it’s SO UNFAIR let me count all the ways that it is unfair and tot up all the things which make it totally reasonable and fine you are definitely the one who is being unreasonable here because because!”

      This is the point where you, LW, go, “nope, you are prioritising your pantsfeelings over me and that is not OK and you need to snap the fuck out of it.” He – hopefully – goes, “but but but but – no, see you are wrong because, um – because … oh crap</E.” *sheepish face* Like, I have definitely been in the zone where I’m coming up with justifications and self-deception strategies and sitting on the Couch of Plausible Deniability to justify myself, and then my partner jumped into my line of sight and reminded me that she was an actual person with emotions and rights rather than a mere obstacle unreasonably preventing me from Doing The Thing With The Very Hot Person, and I was very ashamed of myself, and I’m now much better at noticing the early signs of talking myself into that zone.

      But then there are also people who never do have that copping-yourself-on moment, because they are not basically decent people, they actually are the gross version of themselves which will consistently prioritise their desire for sex over their partner’s well-being, safety and comfort.

      Only you know which your husband is. Given that this is not the first time that you’ve done this dance, though, it’s not looking good. He is still trying to treat your open relationship as having his cake and eating it, rather than prioritising your cake (I … think that makes sense?) Can you have that kick up the arse conversation with him? Will he cop himself on? At this stage, do you think he’s just thinking with bits and capable of having a mature and respectful open relationship with you, or do you think every attempt is going to be him trying to rules-lawyer his way around your boundaries and feelings and make you feel crap? What do you think?

      • Forrest said:

        oh bother!

    • This is pretty much exactly what I logged in to say.

      Pandora’s behaviour is reprehensible and awful, your instincts are working correctly, and you have every right to be Not Okay with Pandora. Also, in terms of your life and your marriage and your happiness, Pandora is a secondary concern. As Jake said, you don’t have a Pandora problem, you have a husband problem.

      I’ve never been in an open or poly relationship, and I won’t try to add to the many sensible things that other commenters have said on the poly-specific aspects of this scenario.

      But! I do sadly have some experience with people using secrets to control and isolate other people, and I’d like to emphasize Jake’s point that anyone telling you a secret and then after the fact adding conditions (ie “you can’t tell anyone”) has no legitimate grounds to expect you to accept or comply with those conditions. Further, as B. has pointed out above, it serves to isolate you from the support structure of friends whose advice you want to seek, which is a classic abuse tactic. I’m sorry, I’m going to yell now: DO NOT BUY INTO THIS! Seriously. “I told you this thing, with no prior agreement from you about what you would do with the information, and now I get to make it into a burden you have to bear alone forever” is a bullshit claim with no moral legitimacy, and it’s an awful thing to do to somebody. I beg you to give yourself full permission to talk about it with whoever you would talk to if Husband hadn’t said anything about keeping it secret. There’s no need for any guilt or any feeling that you’re doing anything wrong if you don’t maintain secrecy under these circumstances. Please note that this goes double for any secret that directly involves you. I’ve seen an abuser swear a victim to secrecy about her own life, on the grounds that talking about any of the (ongoing) (manipulative, gaslighting, and controlling) conversations between the abuser and the victim would be a violation of the abuser’s privacy. That’s a close cousin of the tactic your husband is using, and it is utter bullshit.

      In my own life, I absolutely practice that standard, and I take it one step further: if anyone does try to get me to agree up front to keep a secret, it’s a hard no. I will literally interrupt them at “you can’t tell anyone, but–” with “No. I don’t agree to that.” (After years of practice, it rolls off the tongue effortlessly.) If they trust me enough to tell me the secret, they can trust me enough to make my own call about what to do with the information–whether that means talking it over with my spouse, minister, or trusted friends; or whether it means blowing the whistle on a danger posed by someone who’s bragging about their exploits but has sworn their audience to secrecy; or whatever. If they don’t trust me to apply my own judgment about how confidential to keep the info, their one and only remedy is to not tell me. Now, it is certainly possible that when I’ve heard them out and weighed the factors, I’ll select “take it to my grave” from the options, but nobody **ever** gets to decide that for me. This is like Kryptonite to people who use secrets and rumours to sow division and stir up strife and drama. It’s kind of amazing to watch them panic and backpedal and decide to take their games elsewhere. People who have legitimate concerns about whether a sensitive topic will be treated with an appropriate degree of confidentiality, on the other hand, get to have a real conversation with me about those concerns and expectations, and then decide whether to trust my judgment and tell me the secret, or not. Nobody has yet succeeded in convincing me that *this time* there’s a legitimate reason why I should give my uninformed promise to keep some secret before knowing what it is. I also don’t sign contracts without reading them first.

      So yeah. You decide for yourself whether talking to the mutual-friends-who-might-guess-it’s-Pandora is right and appropriate and safe for you to do. You decide whether telling Pandora’s partner that they’re being cheated on is right and appropriate and safe for you to do. You decide whether telling Pandora that Husband spilled the beans to you is right and appropriate and safe for you to do. There is no “you can’t tell”; there is only you using your best judgment about what way forward is best, or most likely to defuse the drama, or most likely to get you through the situation as safely as possible. You seem like someone who has excellent instincts and a good sense of boundaries, and I (random internet stranger) am confident in your ability to make a good and reasonable call on this.

    • Angle-a said:

      Well said!

  47. Stillandstorm said:

    LW, virtual hugs to you. It has to be sad and scary and exhausting to have the person who’s closest to you poke at, question and stomp all over your boundaries.

    I know that the letter is just a small window into your relationship… But I gotta wonder: what’s your marriage like in other aspects? Does he value your opinions? Do you feel safe and respected, and loved? Do you trust your husband to have your back?

    I feel like a person who is generally a great partner would not behave this way in just one area of your lives.

    Is this what you want your relationship to look like? Is it likely to change in the future? Is your husband willing to put in the work to make things better for you? If you decide that you don’t feel comfortable opening your relationship at all, will he respect that?

    Your husband doesn’t have a problem with Pandora sleeping with a married dude without his wife’s knowledge or consent. Do you trust him to be honest, open and faithful to you, within the boundaries you agree on?

    I’m not gonna scream: divorce him, because I’ve never been married and I have no idea what it’s like. But I believe it’s a commitment – not just to stay with a person, but to keep working on being good to each other, on having a relationship that works for both of you and, at the end of the day, is worth it. Are you both in it?

    I wish you all the happiness.

  48. Percys Owner said:

    I’m not poly, so I can’t talk about the ethics of that. I am concerned that your husband came up with all kinds of reasons why you couldn’t sort out your feelings on this with anyone but him. “Oh, the couple involved are friends of friends and would find out that the husband is cheating, so you can’t tell anyone to spare them.” “Oh, you can talk about boundaries with Pandora, but not mention why your are worried because she will know I broke confidence and be embarrassed.” He’s basically trying really, really hard to keep you from getting input from people other than him.

    And ‘It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”? That simply doesn’t apply in this situation. Open marriages require communication, boundaries and not even considering crossing those boundaries without explicit permission.

    Finally, I, personally, would have more problems with my husband having a relationship with someone with whom he already has an “emotional connection”. It’s just way too easy to move his emotional connection from her to you. I’m not saying he shouldn’t care about the person he’s with. I’m saying starting out with something deep to begin with is not a great idea.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Oh, you’re absolutely right, and I missed that on first read. There’s a strong vibe of isolating the LW here too.

    • ashbet said:

      I didn’t have a problem with my ex forming strong emotional connections with others, BUT the way he did it with Girl He Left Me For was super-sketchy (they were long-distance, so he developed this Super Strong Mystical Bond before they/we met face-to-face OR I got the story on her STI status.)

      Then he didn’t respect my “I’m not comfortable with this, because ‘no incurable STIs is a hard boundary for me'”, *because* they already had the Super Strong Bond, and I was being Unfair, and they Could Limit Activities To Keep Me Safe.

      I reluctantly agreed to a “play partner” kink relationship (which is what they both claimed they wanted), and THE NEXT DAY, they were having unprotected genital contact, which I found out about LATER by asking very specific questions after I started feeling very hinky and uncomfortable with his evasions.

      That’s when the rules-lawyering about “BUT IT WASN’T PENETRATION” and “BUT WE’RE IN LURRRVE AND YOU’RE BEING SO UNFAIR!” started.

      Him starting a relationship on a low-key/casual basis and developing Feelings later on had worked out fine for us previously, because I liked and trusted the people he had been with — but starting out with FEELINGS before he had worked out the new partner with me was a disaster, bc he didn’t respect my “no,” and started making dire threats about how I *could* ask him to end things, but it would result in Serious Consequences for our relationship and would change the way he felt about me… so, I tried to put up with it, and it all spiraled down to hell.

      (Add in the fact that I’m disabled and he brought in 2/3 of the household income and the health insurance, and it created a horribly coercive situation where real consent wasn’t a possibility.)

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Oh that sucks so much! Your ex is a definite jerk. *jedi hugs*

        • ashbet said:

          *hugsback* Thank you ❤

  49. Cyberwulf said:

    Also, LW, there’s maybe one other thing you can try, and that’s ask husband how he’d feel if you wanted to fuck a guy who got off on being an affair partner to a bunch of cheating women. Who sat at his table smirking because he would soon be cuckolding your husband and the poor sap would never know.

    Other than that, I’m in favour of telling Pandora your husband spilled her little secret. Give her a fright. But you may not want to deal with husband’Shutting inevitable tantrum.

    • Ria Hawk said:

      Just going by what I’ve seen here and my own experience? The response would likely be “That’s different” without ever sufficiently explaining *how* and he’s not *cheating* on her, she should just get over it already. We seem to be dealing with a serious lack of empathy here.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        Or probably “I’d be totally fine with it!” Still, it might be worth a shot.

  50. Ixolite said:

    I 100% agree with all the other comments saying the LW has a husband issue, not a metamour issue. Pandora is gonna Pandora, the problem here is how the LW is in the splash zone of her behavior and how husband isn’t being supportive about it. I’m also seconding the Cap here in asking the LW what is appealing for them in the opening of her relationship. Because from what we’ve seen…

    -An earlier attempt at opening up the relationship was made…
    -…which was (very pertinently) terminated because the husband behaved in a way that did not prioritize the LW’s feelings and comfort at all, going for the “asking for forgiveness, not permission” attitude (great in start-up businesses, terrible in relationships)
    -And now the husband is pushing for the LW to accept a metamour behaving in a sketchy, disrespectful way
    -No mentions were made of other people the LW is interested in – not necessarily a red flag though, it may be that LW just hasn’t found anyone they like yet or hasn’t mentioned it because that’s not the subject of the letter

    So, like, I’m wondering if the LW has agreed to open up the relationship mostly for their husband, maybe because their relationship isn’t going super well outside of this issue and this seemed like a possible solution?

    I know it’s a huge extrapolation, and nothing in the letter explicitly hints towards such a situation, but regardless, I’d just like to issue a blanket reminder that opening up a previously monogamous relationship that’s doing badly has enormous, enormous chances of not fixing the relationship and instead cause a ton of pain to everyone involved. When you have trouble balancing the life/sexual needs/emotional needs of two people, adding more people into the mix (who all have their own needs) miiight not have the intended effect.

    I’m absolutely not saying a relationship has to be perfect before it can be opened up – no relationship is perfect, and poly can work for such a wide variety of people and situations! – but explicitly opening up a relationship that’s going terribly because you’re hoping to salvage it is a recipe for hurt feelings and terrible breakups.

    I’m hoping my spider-sense tingled wrong.

    • bostoncandy said:

      There is actually a poly aphorism about it: “Relationship broken, add people.” People try it all the time. It almost never works, and on the rare occasion that it does, it typically works like 2+2= 3, eg we tried to put two couples together and got one triad and one bitter person who probably doesn’t want to be poly anymore. I can however think of one time I heard of where 2+2 = four bitter lonely people.

      • bostoncandy said:

        Sorry, that should say “relationship broken, add more people.” Don’t do that. It doesn’t work.

  51. Yolanda B. Cool said:

    Dear LW, I’m so sorry that you apparently ended up with my ex-husband.

    I realize you probably feel really powerless in this situation, but from where I’m sitting, you have all the power. Here’s why:

    Husband wants the freedom to do whatever he feels like, with no regard for anyone else, but still wants all the benefits of having a wife.

    Pandora is getting off on the ability to “steal your man” (yuck!) by playing little power games in front of you that require your husband to prioritize her feelings over yours. There’s a reason she’s not having all these relationships with single dudes.

    _You_ are getting nothing out of this. However, this toxic relationship ecosystem requires your presence in order to sustain it.

    I predict that if you left your husband, Pandora would be bored with him and have moved on inside of two weeks. And Husband would be free to do whatever he felt like, which is what he wants to do anyway. (I would bet the rent that he would be miserable without your cooking/cleaning/paycheck/emotional support – basically, all the things that you provide that he feels entitled to.)

    _They_ would be miserable. _You_ would be free to make a better life for yourself, full of people who respect you and want good things for you.

    Also? I bet that if you read ‘Why Does He Do That’ by Lundy Bancroft, you’d be surprised how much of it resonated with you. People don’t have to lay their hands on you to be abusive.

    Best of luck to you, LW.

  52. glomarization said:

    I’m a lawyer. My clients pay me their hard-earned money to keep secrets for them. I keep these secrets, under threat of malpractice, until until the client says it’s OK to reveal, or until I have a legal or ethical obligation to pass the information along to another party.

    Anybody else? Asking me to keep a secret is putting me into a position. It’s a position of drama. It puts me in a scenario where I can’t win. If I spill the beans, I get in trouble with the person who shared their secret with me. If I stay quiet, I may hurt the person whom the secret was about. F–k anybody who puts me in that position.

    Secrets are so toxic! Be wary of anybody who’s asking you to keep a secret unless it’s literally your job to do so!

  53. I am trying hard not to cry at my desk at work (in the middle of my open plan office, no less) because this letter hits so close to home. A year ago I was in the LW’s exact same shoes with the exact same husband with only slight variations in the type of sketchiness my Pandora brought to the table. Even though the situation – and the husband – are well and truly behind me, I have still found myself questioning whether I could have done anything differently to create a different outcome. Instead, I am absolutely overwhelmed at having my feelings and instincts and decisions validated by proxy. So thank you, CA and commentariat. I only wish this letter had been posted a year ago.

    LW, I am so sorry that you are in this position. There is a ton of valuable perspective and advice on this thread, and I hope you are able to find peace with whatever decisions you make next.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I am so sorry you went through that. I am glad you got out of a house full of bees.
      I am curious though if you care to share…did you take the route CA advised and put your foot down? Did you try and be the “chill” one?

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        I guess because I would be the one to squash my own impulse and try and be the “cool one” while having all those uneasy feelings.

        • I spent about 4 months walking around tied in knots, trying to be the cool one and not masking my unhappiness very well. I wish I HAD figured out how to use my words better, earlier (if only this post had happened a year ago). I believe the end result would have been the same, because it was when I did start practicing drawing some boundaries that everything between us really disintegrated, but I would have saved myself a lot of stress and heartache in the process.

  54. Convallaria majalis said:

    I wanted so much to answer to you, dear LW, even though I am not poly, nor have I been nor will I probably ever be due to being nearly asexual but during my adulthood I have been in a few long relationships, both good and bad, struggled a lot and got through years and years of therapy.

    I will not give particular comments on polyamory as although a numerous amount of my friends are polyamorous I am not so I probably do not know enough on the subject, but what I believe I can comment are your feelings and relationships over all.

    First, your feelings are valid, your instincts are highly presice and to be trusted (just like The Captain said) – and most importantly you have every right to feel the way you do – and there is always a reason behind every feeling.

    To me your letter sounded like you searched for confirmation for your feelings – but perhaps there were other worries behind the feeling of insecurity of your own feelings. To me it sounds like you are not completely sure in your relationship to your husband. I took it that you are married and I believe that if you married him, you probably loved him. What do you feel for him now? Has he changed or his attitude or behaviour towards you? Does he treat you with respect in other matters beside polyamory? What do you want concerning your marriage? Do you want to keep it going or is it possible for you to end it without terrible consequences?

    Your husband’s feelings and desires are not really yours to bear but I cannot help wonderning why is he doing this? Has he wanted to be poly for all your relationship or has it only recently become important to him? What does he get from it? Feeling of admiration? Confirmation that he is sexually desireable? Has there been any recent changes in his social relationships (beside you) or his work conditions lately? How about his health?

    Now, I have to admit to a behaviour in my part I am not particularly proud of. As I stated above I am almost asexual, so in my part there was hardly any sexual desire, but still, even a person like me, when being anxious and miserable found other people’s desire compelling. In one of my relationships I was feeling lonely; my husband back then was a workaholic. There was this young man, much younger than me, who was clearly infatuated with me and although I did not desire him back I still kept him on a loop, without putting an end to it which in hindsight I should have done.

    When reading your letter I wondered what makes this lying Pandora so irresistible to your husband. Is she particularly good looking, younger than him, richer than him or something like that; something that he could see as a sort of status symbol, a trophy? Do they share same interests?

    To me it sounds like you are absolutely right in wanting to put a stop to your husband’s and Pandora’s relationship: you both know that she is not to be trusted and that is reason enough. Then why does your husband want to endanger your marriage to dally with Pandora? If and when you tell him “no” will he obey your wishes or not? What are you ready to do if he does not? I am quite sure he does know that this dalliance endangers his relationship to you, but still, having a conversation with him on the subject would eliminate him the possibility of him saying “Oh, I had no idea that you felt that way.”

    Much strength to you, dear LW. Trust yourself and your instincts. You are great.

  55. S said:

    So I do have a little sympathy for the husband here. It is hard to get to a place where you are excited about something and think that it is going to happen, and then to have your partner say “um, actually no.” It’s a big blow. Disappointment is pretty much my least favorite feeling, and that being a result of the actions/words/preferences of someone you love. Ugh, It’s just terrible. That said, you have to be an adult about it and honor your commitments and the people in your life that you are supposed to prioritize.

    Chances are that your partner is pretty deep into limerance or New Relationship Energy, or just the early part of getting to know someone that feels fun. He’s like your friend in high school that has a crush on a person and simply cannot see all the ways they are terrible because all the blood is rushing away from their brain.

    He’s like a moth being draw to a lamp despite the fact that there is a big cat sitting in front of that lamp who is going to bat him around and catch him and let him go for at least an hour before he dies a slow painful death. (Sorry I just watched my cat do this to a moth the other day and it is exactly what this girl is going to do to your husband.)

    If it were me I would not use the word “like” with regards to Pandora. It’s not about liking. It’s about her showing you who she is. And when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them. Pandora is UNTRUSTWORTHY and the source of DRAMA.

    I would say something like “Husband I know you are super into this girl, but she strikes me as very untrustworthy. She and you have both told me about how she is lying to other people and now you are asking me to lie on her behalf. Just one simple dinner with her and we already have so much Drama around who is sleeping with who. It can be very fun to hear about other people’s Drama, you know, but I don’t really like the idea of inviting that Drama into our lives. I know you’ve talked to her about boundaries, but she’s also told you explicitly how she is violating other people’s boundaries. You know that I trust you, but she doesn’t seem like someone who is worthy of our trust. Don’t you think we could find a better other partner for you who doesn’t come with so much potential for drama? ”

    It’s possible that part of the “emotional connection” your husband is feeling is the fun excitement of being Drama Adjacent.. It’s like watching a soap opera with some people, their lives are these roller coasters of who is what and when and who. However being Drama Adjacent is fun, being the primary object of drama is not. It is EXHAUSTING and PAINFUL. But it’s easy to forget that when you’re tangentially enjoying someone else’s emotional roller coaster.

    • B. said:

      Um. Pandora isn’t doing anything to the poor, misguided husband. Husband is an adult, he’s responsible for his choices, and he’s choosing to enthusiastically participate in the drama and also to be a manipulative jerk to LW about it.

    • Jules the Third (I think) said:

      If they hadn’t tried this before, I’d be more open to this sympathy, but he has a pattern of boundary crossing (forgiveness not permission).

      Yeah, he’s getting off on Drama Adjacent, but he’s trying to move into being Drama. He’s doing this by ignoring his partner. If he’s so overwhelmed by limerance / New Relationship that he ignores his existing partner and her concerns, then he is not able to do a health poly relationship.

      I’ve made some limerance-related mistakes, and I’ve learned from them. They weren’t repeated, and escalated, in the next try.

  56. Turtle Candle said:

    One thing I wanted to say, LW, is that their behavior at dinner was Deeply Uncool. It’s incredibly unkind, unfair, and disrespectful to have that kind of vague having-a-conversation-around-you conversation in front of someone else. (I mean, it’s usually okay if it’s a five second “Oh hey, don’t forget we have that thing tomorrow” / “Oh yeah” and then back to normal socializing, but beyond that? Yeah. Bad, bad behavior.) So I was not feeling great about Pandora and your husband even before I got to the (incredibly sketchy) rest of the tale.

    The thing about that behavior is that it’s deeply, and usually deliberately, exclusionary. It’s a way of making you feel like a stranger or an alien in your own house and your own relationship. As the Captain says, it’s a classic Mean Girl power move. It’s a way of saying, “You are the outsider, and we will let you in at our discretion.” In fact, I would say that in most cases, it’s bullying. It puts you in the position of either feeling like an interloper or being driven away. It turns them into a team against them. (I have heard, anecdotally, that this is actually why it can be difficult for parents to have exactly three children: two will tend to gang up on a third and either triangulate on picking on them, or cut them out.)

    It is bothersome but not surprising that Pandora would pull that move–after all, Pandora has already triangulated on another relationship and cut the wife out! This is not a weird momentary fluke of bad judgment; this is her MO. But it’s more worrying to me that your husband played along. The kind thing for him to do, especially if he didn’t want to reveal her secret, would have been to change the subject rather than keep participating in Strange Sideways Conversation. That he didn’t, and that he then turned around and told you immediately, tells me that in some way he gets off on this triangulation. Maybe he finds the idea of sneaking around keeping secrets exciting. Maybe he likes the idea of playing you two off each other. Maybe he wants to get you to “catfight” (ugh) over him. I don’t know. But what I do know is that what happened to you at dinner is a microcosm of what Pandora is doing to other people, and probably a microcosm of what your relationship is going to continue to look like going forward.

    And unfortunately, since this is as much a Husband problem as a Pandora problem, chances are good that it would reoccur with someone else even if Pandora were to vanish from existence. I wish I had some good advice. I suppose step one is that I would recommend not trying to re-open the relationship, not when this dynamic is how he started acting in what is, as far as I can tell, his first foray into trying again. And… while I am usually a little slower to say DTMFA than some other commenters…. I’m just not sure this can be fixed. I’m sorry. I’ll be thinking about you.

    • purps said:

      I just want to say as someone who has had some bad judgment times herself and been witness to pleeeenty of others: a person doesn’t have to consciously be hatching a diabolical plan in order to be grooving on, for instance, the sense of control they get from sharing a secret with one spouse in front of the other and having that be the same feeling they get from divide-and-conquering a previously aboveboard poly situation. So much of human decisionmaking happens below the conscious level! I don’t mean that to excuse bad behavior: I mean that a lot of manipulative people tilt things the way that they want them to go without consciously taking stock of what their goals are, or at least without incorporating those goals into the narrative of “who they are”. I mean, some people totally do, but some people are responding to an interior gyroscope that spins towards making certain kinds of messes. I think this is important to say because I think that someone doesn’t have to have a super conspiratorial tight strategy in order to replicate the same disastrous high-intensity yes-I-am-very-important situation in multiple parts of their life. They will keep doing what they’re doing until they’re ready to see it and/or stop.

      • Purps said:

        And I also want to say that: okay I’m not trying to be an apologist for the husband’s bad behavior. But I completely see how someone could be confounding the adrenalized kick of all this secret-keeping and skullduggery and playing two people off against each other with the feelings of a crush. I get it. Taking firm and clear stock of your emotions and intentions and being responsible in realtime for the consequences can be a complicated move that takes practice and maturity. It seems pretty incompatible with the tone of TEE HEE WE’RE GETTING AWAY WITH STUFF that I’m picking up here. But then, being shitty is pretty attractive, as a behavior, to most people at least some of the time.

        OG LW, I do think you’re being reasonable in trying to set this boundary and process through it with your husband. I, too, am worried that Pandora and the husband both seem to be laying a lot of emotional groundwork for “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” decisions about third parties. The thing is that there’s not a lot you can do about that besides make your wishes clear (and maybe specify out loud that lying is a way worse move than just simple having sex with Pandora, since people seem to be insisting on explicit rules. I think that is pretty natural – if someone I was dating were to have sex wth Pandora anyway, I’d be mad and we’d have a fight. If they lied about it, I’d consider that to be burning the relationship down, basically.) People in monogamous relationships ALSO don’t have any protection against underhanded having-sex-with-other-people besides making their wishes known, trusting their partner, and giving the situation a chance to fail. There is a certain point definitely where “I WILL DISREGARD YOUR WISHES AND THEN MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT HAVING WISHES” is written on the wall in ten-foot dayglo letters, and only you can judge when that’s happening.

  57. OG LW said:

    Hey gang!
    LW here. Just to flesh some of this out/answer a few questions:
    1) We have been together for a long time (over 10 years) and have a child. Unfortunately, the child issue was brought up to me as one of the reasons that my boundaries would be respected in this situation which actually just served to make me furious because don’t use my kid as a sex shield. Anyway, I just wanted to mention this because it is part of the reason that it is important to me to try and work this out as adults instead of blowing up our lives. Like, if we get there and I feel like there is no other option and no possible repair of the situation, my child’s well-being is of paramount importance and I don’t want them growing up in an emotional toxic environment, but this is why I am seeking input and exploring my options as I have been just sort of emotionally flailing for the past few days since all of this happened.
    2) The original discussion about re-opening happened after we had a bit of a shared experience on vacation a few months ago where we fooled around with another couple. Sex was not had, but it was fun makeout times for all. It was my first time fooling around with any dude who is not my husband since we have been together and it was fun. I currently have no plans or interest to hook up with anyone else because I have a mental checklist about the type of person that I would even consider in that situation and so far, no one in my life is meeting that checklist.
    3) The secret keeping thing has a slight facet that I didn’t mention in the letter, but is maybe relevant? A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a platonic dude friend and he was a bit drunk and sort of kissed me on the neck as we were saying goodbye. I freaked out about this and I didn’t tell my husband right away because I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time in a low drama way because my brain was kind of screaming about it. I did tell him a couple of days later and during our argument about this situation, this was brought up as an issue in terms of “I didn’t tell you about Pandora’s secret, just like you didn’t tell me about Carl kissing you!” I tried to explain that this was different as I have no interest in Carl that way, I had not reciprocated in any way, and was not keeping the secret with malicious intent, but he was still unhappy and felt it was on the same level as the Pandora secret. Maybe I was wrong to keep this out of my original letter for the purpose of context so I am mentioning it now for the sake of full disclosure.
    4) Since I wrote my original letter, Husband HAS agreed to put a pin in this whole situation, but he’s been talking about how we should hang out with Pandora again and I kind of want to vomit at the idea.
    I really appreciate the thoughtful and sensitive responses everyone has shared, Captain and all commentors. I find them exceptionally well written and thought out, and many are helping me figure out how to articulate my issues as I go forward, so I wanted to say thank you for your care and reason in your advice.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi and thanks for updating!

      When he brings up the Carl thing as an equivalent “secret” it’s a classic projection/distraction move.

      Trust the gorge rising in the back of your throat about the thought of another Pandora hangout. Like, why, why, whyyyyyyyy would you do that? “Put a pin in it” doesn’t mean “So, brunch plans?”

    • Zahra said:

      You freaked out at Carl kissing you in the neck because it was weird. You were not expecting a “move” from a platonic friend and a respectful platonic friend would not make a move on you on purpose.

      Did he go for the wrong spot by mistake and didn’t mention it for whatever reason? It’s possible. You know your friend better than I do. But do listen to that inner voice. If it’s freaking out, there’s a reason for it.

      Did you feel secure enough that your husband would reassure you that you’re right to freak out about it or would he rather go “well you should fuck him” or, worse, go all proprietary over you and your body?

      • kaberett said:

        Oh holy shit, yeah — LW, it sounds like husband is turning someone ignoring your boundaries and possibly sexually harassing you into a thing that’s *your* fault, and exactly equivalent to someone *choosing* to cheat and lie, and… w o w. NO.

        • kaberett said:

          Like, you AREN’T saying that he said “fuck, are you okay, how are you feeling about that, would you like me to Morally Ambiguous Honey Badger” over this, he’s… using it to rules-lawyer. He’s not asking if you’re okay. I am so sorry.

          • kaberett said:

            … yep, I’m sorry for the spam, but dear goodness I am skin-crawling-horrified about the bit where he is completely ignoring the role consent has to play in any and all of these scenarios. It does… not make me feel good about the chances of his respecting your consent in other contexts, let alone this one.

            You deserve better than this. (So does your child. My father never cheated on my mother; there was and is a lot else that was wrong; I’d have been much better off if they’d divorced when I was still small.)

          • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

            Exactly. It’s been my experience that if you’re holding back something that happened to you from a person you feel like you’re “supposed” to be able to talk to about these things, it’s because that person has given you reason to believe that it wouldn’t be well received. LW, you didn’t tell your husband for a couple days. How did you imagine that the conversation would go? And did it go the way you figured it would?

            If my partner told me about something like that, my very first response would be to express sympathy and concern. I’d ask him questions to gauge how he’s feeling about it and my response would be based on his needs. And I sure as fuck expect the same in return. If that had happened to me, I’d tell my husband immediately, because he’s a source of comfort for me.

            There’s a lot of red flags going on with your husband. He does not appear to have your best interests at heart.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      I suggest splitting up while you can still do it amicably. Your house is full of bees; once you’re separated his relationship with Pandora will not be your concern.

      3) is relevant indeed. If your husband’s reaction isn’t ‘I’m sorry I was so obsessed with Pandora that I missed that there was something bothering you, what a rotten thing to have to cope with’ but ‘we both did something wrong therefore everything I did was ok’ then that’s the sound of a hundred little velociraptors scratching at your door. ‘Someone said you were kissing Carl, what’s up with that’ is one thing. Doubting your word and turning your (lousy) experience against you is another.

      Since Pandora was waving her ‘secret’ at you (in your own living room), I don’t think that asking about it was immoral, though it will be held against you (‘you knew she didn’t want to talk about it, you asked about it anyway. You’re complicit.’) And ‘I won’t see this woman again, can she come over’ isn’t ‘putting a pin in it’ – it’s more ‘rubbing salt into an open wound’. Blech.

    • Oy.

      Yeah.

      No, your confusion over what and how to tell your husband about unwanted neck nuzzling from Carl is not the same as his willing collusion with Pandora.

      I get that you don’t want to divorce with sprogs. Even so, what you’re describing doesn’t sound like it will ever be Husband and I have happily opened our marriage. Instead, it sounds like he’ll sleep with other people, and try to convince you that you’ve agreed, and then get surly when you’re not happy. Additionally, he’ll sulk any time you even have coffee with a male friend.

      Oy.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      Holy false equivalence, Batman! You are not proposing Carl as a potential metamour and you did not encourage or reciprocate the kiss, so it’s not a thing that affects your relationship (open or otherwise) with your husband. Carl violated you, albeit in a low-stakes way, so you and you alone get to decide if you want to tell other people (including your husband) about what happened with him.

      Pandora, on the other hand, is being mooted as a potential metamour of your husband’s. In order to be okay with this, you have to feel comfortable with her and feel like she will respect the boundaries of your relationship. Her behavior so far—both to you in your own home, and with this other couple she’s involved with—indicates that she will not.

      However, as many other people have pointed out, the real problem is your husband. Trying to get you to hang out with Pandora again is not agreeing to “put a pin in this whole situation”. He still wants to sleep with her and is hoping that sufficient exposure to her “charms” will get you to withdraw your objections.

      • Bex said:

        Right – you’re not just upset that he didn’t tell you Pandora’s secret earlier. The CONTENT of that secret reveals her to be an untrustworthy boundary-violating person whom you don’t want in your life. But it doesn’t even matter whether the two things are comparable, really. Two wrongs don’t make a right, you know? If he was hurt by your not telling him about Carl, the solution to that isn’t to hurt you back.

    • B. said:

      Hi, LW, thanks for the update! I hope that, whichever path you choose, you will feel safe and at peace.

      I’m so sorry Carl overstepped your boundaries in such a freaky way! That your husband would throw that in your face to try an justify his extremely poor actions regarding Pandora makes my skin crawl, so I can’t imagine how you are feeling right now. Jedi hugs if you want them ♡

      And, as the child of a man whose brand of skeeviness is similar to your husband’s, I’ll say this: if your kid is your main reason for not getting a divorce, forego the “let’s try and fix this (even though I’ll be the one doing 90% of the work involved)” phase and just go for the divorce as soon as financially feasible for you. Your kid will be way better off living with you than seeing how your husband disrespects your boundaries and you are forced to put up with it “for the sake of our child”. No kid needs that kind of guilt on their shoulders. And taking good care of yourself, your safety and your emotional needs is directly correlated with your ability to teach your kid how to do that as they grow up themselves and your ability to provide a safe home for them.

      • No kid needs that kind of guilt on their shoulders

        There was a really beautifully written comment on an earlier letter by someone whose parents were unhappy but had chosen to stay together “for the kids” and that commentor felt terrible about how unhappy their mother was and said that they never wanted to be the lock on a cage. Don’t make your kid the lock on a cage, LW, it won’t make them feel happy or safe.

        And as the child of people who should have gotten divorced years before they finally did, “staying together for the kids” is a steaming heap of bullshit. Learning that marriage is when you live with someone you don’t like and fight all the time sure didn’t do me any favours when I started having romantic relationships, and I sure would not have hated missing out on hearing them yell at each other all the damned time.

        • B. said:

          That is indeed very beautiful 🙂

      • lowbudgetcyborg said:

        Seconding the “don’t stay together for the kid.” I absorbed a lot of toxic messages about the kind of stuff I was “supposed to” put up with by seeing what my mom put up with.

        • j_bird said:

          Me too.

      • I second this, but for a different reason.

        When I was a kid, I learned fairly young that my mother was very empathetic, especially where her kids were concerned, and if WE hurt, then SHE hurt. And I internalized that to such a degree that when I was a teenager, and was being regularly traumatized over a series of months, I chose to hide that fact, rather than get the help I needed, because I did not want my mother to suffer on my account. I felt guilty even thinking about getting help from my parents, because it would mean they would have to suffer the pain of seeing my suffering!

        No.

        Please, for the sake of your child, don’t be a martyr. You’ll only wind up teaching your child to be a martyr for useless causes, and suffer needlessly. We’re not talking about major issues, and Jesus Christ level stuff here. Your child will grow up afraid to show any pain or “negative” emotions, because that might make others uncomfortable, and we can’t have THAT!

        It took decades for me to realize that it’s OK to make a scene to protect myself, and it’s OK to make other people uncomfortable by showing the truth, in order to stop bad things from happening. Uncomfortable does not trump real, honest PAIN.

        I don’t generally advocate for divorce, either, but if your husband cannot step up and be a good husband and parent, then he should be free to be something else, elsewhere. And you deserve better.

    • Hey LW. Thanks for responding and giving us some more details.

      Re: the Carl Situation vs the Pandora Situation: your husband is trying to equate the two, and that’s not fair. Your situation occurred unexpectedly and without instigation on your part. Most importantly, YOU DON’T WANT TO FUCK CARL. You told your husband about the situation because you wanted to respect his boundaries and you wanted to be honest with him. You were trying to present him with all the facts he would need to make decisions about how he proceeds with opening your marriage.

      I don’t think he told you Pandora’s secret in the same spirit. When he brought you up-to-speed on the situation, he wasn’t doing so for your comfort: that much is obvious in the fact that he didn’t listen to your understandable objections to Pandora once given this information. I don’t know what his reason for sharing was: to create more drama, to play you and Pandora off one another, to “get you off his back”, to isolate you, what have you. What I do know is the situations are not remotely the same: HE WANTS TO FUCK PANDORA, he received this information from her, sat on it for a while, DIDN’T SHARE IT WITH YOU BEFORE INVITING THIS WOMAN INTO YOUR HOME (I put that in all caps because I think he knows that if you knew this information, you would not have had Pandora over for dinner), shoved your face in the fact that you didn’t know about it by participating in a conversation about it that deliberately excluded you, supported Pandora when she told you that you had no right to know what they were talking about, and then only told you the “truth” (who actually knows if it’s the truth, honestly) once Pandora was gone and you were tired and stressed out about going to work the next day. That’s not remotely comparable to your behavior and motivations in the Carl Situation.

      Like the Captain said: him trying to equate the two situations is a projection/distraction. This is like someone deliberately setting a house on fire and then telling you that you can’t get mad about it because you didn’t immediately tell him about the accidental kitchen fire that happened two days ago that you immediately put out on your own. He’s comparing apples to shit-covered raisins here: it’s not fair, and it’s an unkind thing to do.

      I understand that you want to make your marriage. I really think you and your husband need to see a marriage counselor. Your husband is not acting in good faith and is not being a good partner right now. The way he deals with conflict is not healthy or honest. He needs to become a better, more trustworthy partner who respects your feelings and boundaries, and that needs to happen no matter what kind of relationship configuration y’all want to pursue.

      Good luck LW. You seem like a smart, emotionally intelligent, honest person, and you deserve the same from your partner.

    • In re Carl: these things are not the same things, and this is sort of classic reversal of victim and offender territory.

      In re You must hang out with Pandora: No. You don’t have to. He’s trying to persuade you that not hanging with Pandora would be awkward, so you can’t refuse. This is untrue: you can 100% refuse, and in so doing return the awkwardness to the people in this situation who are ACTUALLY BEING AWKWARD.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Oh LW, I’m so sorry. This sounds hard and miserable and stressful.

      I wanted to pull this bit out:

      the child issue was brought up to me as one of the reasons that my boundaries would be respected in this situation

      Because you are absolutely right to be infuriated about it. And… there’s something that I’ve seen happen a lot that I want to mention, because if it hasn’t happened yet, I’m going to bet it will.

      Sometimes, in difficult interpersonal situations, people will tie two things together that aren’t really actually connected together. Like, “of course I’ll respect your boundaries, because we have a child together.” Sometimes this is sincerely meant (“I wouldn’t blow up our marriage because our family is important to me” is a legit thing to express). But all too often, it’s a setup.

      What I mean is, later on if you’re still feeling uncomfortable about Pandora, or about some other woman, or about his actions in general, or his respect for you and your boundaries, or if you find evidence that he’s cheating, he has now laid the groundwork to turn that right back around on you with a furious “How dare you accuse me of that! You’re saying I’m a bad father! You’re saying I don’t love our child!” Then suddenly you are on the defensive, trying to justify yourself or, worse, you’re suddenly reassuring and petting and coddling him and saying of course I don’t mean you’re a bad father, of course it must just be a misunderstanding. It’s a way to ensure that nothing is ever his fault, and you are always going to have to be there providing massive emotional labor–even emotional labor to make him feel better about having violated your boundaries.

      It might not be what’s going on there, but given the way he turned Carl back around on you and made it into a “see, you’re just as bad!”, I suspect it is. And I’m hoping that by pointing it out now, you will be prepared for if/when he tries to pull that particular trick.

      Good luck, and I’ll be thinking about you and your kid.

      • irishup said:

        Or, your desire not to have your boundaries violated and the anger and tension that builds with each instance of it, will become evidence that YOU are the shitty parent, YOU are the one screwing up the kid, YOU are the no good awful terrible person breaking up the marriage.

        I am walking this path right now, LW. I do not know if marriage counselling can get you guys both on the same page, or if he is willing to do the MAJOR moral renovations needed to put your relationship back on a solid foundation. Can you imagine continuing as you are, if he doesn’t do that work? If not, the next hard boundary to consider is getting this dysfunction treated.

        In my case, he dropped out of the counselling & stopped doing the work, and the “incidental” boundary ignoring became deliberate “find the boundary and veloceraptor that shit”. This was defo NOT the kind of adult relationshipping I wanted to model. It was the thought of “what kind of toxic example of love and partnering are we setting here?!?!” that moved my gears. I started first by untangling finances and shoring up my Team Me. It took time, but I have to tell you that NOT having my shoulders up at my ears every day feels SOOOOO much better, and although it was initially upsetting to kiddos (and still crops up tbh) they thriving on many other facets.

        Good luck!

      • Angle-a said:

        Actively placing a child as a pawn between parents is appalling behaviour. It is an incredibly immature, damaging & unethical thing to do. Along with all the other unethical behaviour your husband is engaging in. I am livid on your child’s behalf. You & your child deserve better.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Yeah… no. Delaying telling someone about a weird neck-kiss thing, is not anywhere near the same as “I didn’t tell you that the lady I want to fuck likes to try and split up couples for shits and giggles.” I mean, the fact that she behaved like that with another couple should be enough for him to be like “nope, not a good person to bring into my relationship,” but to try and make you ok with it?

      Nope, nope, nope.

    • ashbet said:

      The Carl thing is absolutely a false equivalence.

      You feel bad/guilty because it happened and you froze up about how to react (which is an INCREDIBLY COMMON thing to do in the moment, when someone is assaulting you or violating your boundaries.)

      Carl kissed your neck without your permission. You took a couple of days to process how you felt about that, and then told your husband.

      That is NOT the same as Pandora’s willful cheating secret, your husband’s choice to share that secret with you, or your husband’s interest in pursuing his pantsfeels for Pandora.

      I have a child, too (now an adult, but she was in college when everything went down with my ex, and she and I have the same genetic disorder, so we both urgently needed to retain access to our health insurance, which was through my ex), and her needs are paramount for me… but there was a point at which my ex’s behavior had caused so much damage and toxicity that it was harmful for her.

      I didn’t leave him, I’m not terribly proud to say. I loved him, and I was scared, and I was dealing with financial/health coercion and pressure, and I wound up having a breakdown.

      I’m not telling you to DTMFA right now, because I understand your position — but if there is anything you can do to make your housing/financial situation more secure for yourself and your child, I highly recommend it.

      And you’re perfectly justified in wanting Pandora completely out of your life.

      Good luck, LW, and I’m hoping that your story has a happier ending than mine.

    • Oranges said:

      So, for your points

      1) How is your husband modeling GOOD BOUNDARIES for your child? Because this sort of boundary crossing permeates. My boundaries were ignored as a child because a) I am a people-pleaser and b) any stated boundaries were measured against my sibling’s needs (they had _severe_ behavioral issues) so 98% of the time my needs were vetoed.

      Because of this I felt that when bad things happened to me, no one would help me because boundaries/needs were not something I got to have. I’m now setting boundaries and trying like hell not to feel guilty about it. I’m in my 30’s btw.

      This might not be germane to your situation but, no child should feel like that and if your child MIGHT feel like that please hit the big red button of “NOPE”.

      2) Good ethical poly. Everyone had fun. No one was trying to push past boundaries. Yay!

      3) You didn’t keep a secret. You were PROCESSING. You had an “what the actual what???” Then when you knew what you felt about it, you had more work to do. You did the emotional work of framing it for your husband so his feels weren’t… what? Hurt? C’mon… That’s just… excuse me while I go look at pictures of kittens to calm me down.

      4) Hang a pin in it. That does not mean what he thinks it does.

      • Alexia said:

        Number 1) all the way. Nobody can defend other people’s boundaries beyond how they defend their own boundaries. And children NEED safety in the form of boundaries, especially from the adults who love them.

        (It’s a great reason to learn to set up boundaries in your own life – so you are sure that you’re not accidentally brushing off or stepping over your loved ones’ boundaries as well.)

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      Dear LW:

      Saddle up the Nopetopus, ride out on the Nopegon Trail, pull into the Last Nope Tavern, and have yourself a Long Island Iced Nope.

      “It’s fair that I didn’t tell you about the untrustworthy person I wanted to fuck because you didn’t tell me that your friend sexually assaulted you.”

      No. No no no no no no no. That is not “fair”. (Also, you get to feel about Carl’s actions the way you want to feel about Carl’s actions. You can call it sexual assault or you can call it a drunken mistake that makes you feel skeevy or anything in between.)

      Equivalent secrets would be “I didn’t know how to tell you this at the time, but Pandora put her hand down my pants and I’ve been feeling creeped out about it since.”

      Equivalent secrets would be “Husband, I didn’t tell you, but the new guy I spent dinner flirting with is also sleeping with Neil Patrick Harris behind his husband’s back. You can’t tell anyone.”

      One of those “secrets” is “Something unpleasant happened to me and I didn’t know how to talk about it.”

      One of those secrets is “I know something shady about the person I want to bone, and I deliberately kept that from you.”

      One of these things is something forced on you. One of these things is a decision your husband made.

      Even if I believed in reciprocal secrets, which I don’t really, these are not reciprocal or equivalent in any way.

      Plenty of people do open relationships with a structure of “We both have to be involved.” If you want to do that, it’s a fine choice that would leave open the possibility of more fun like the kind you had on vacation. But I would recommend taking a hard look at how he handles this situation going forward, because everything you’ve told us fills me with rather more nope than hope.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        THIS.

    • I keep coming back to a central question in my own relationship when conflict arises; am I and my partner co creating a new relationship style together? Or is one of us trying to make a change at the expense of the other/our relationship as it needs to exist in a healthy baseline?

      It’s not him vs me, or right vs wrong, it’s us trying to solve a problem as a team of two, who treat each other gently.

      I don’t know if or how that might resonate with you.

    • LW,
      You and your husband necked with other people and liked it.

      That doesn’t mean you or he or your relationship is ready for additional people. (It doesn’t mean you’re not either of course)

      If, on vacation, you went horseback riding, and had a wonderful time that wouldn’t mean you should buy a racing stable, or even a horse.
      Your lives and housing are probably not set up for horses. You may (or may not) have the time to spend grooming feeding exercising your horses.

      I could expand on this analogy, which I really like, instead though, I’ll summarize. Having a fun vacation experience doesn’t mean you should up end your life.

    • Ria Hawk said:

      “the child issue was brought up to me as one of the reasons that my boundaries would be respected in this situation”

      Except…. he’s not? I mean, I understand why it made you mad, I’m not saying it was a cool thing for him to say, but he *did* say it, and it doesn’t really seem to be making a difference? You stated a boundary of ‘I am very uncomfortable with this person and her track record and I am very uncomfortable with the way she’s treated me and I really don’t want her involved in our lives to this extent” and he… said “Then let me tell you all the reasons you’re wrong and why I should totally be able to sleep with her. Oh, okay, we’ll put a pin in it… let’s hang out more.” This isn’t respecting a boundary, this is trying to *move* a boundary. He apparently thinks your child’s presence is a reason to respect your boundary (which… why isn’t the fact that it’s *your boundary* enough?) but even then, he’s still not suiting action to word.

      As far as 3 goes, I agree with everyone else who’s said there’s no comparison and it’s incredibly shitty for him to try to make one. It also suggests that if anything else of the kind *does* happen to you (please God don’t let it), he won’t be supportive, he’ll find a way to use it against you. *Especially* if it works; you’re already thinking that maybe you were just as bad for not telling him about the kiss when the two things are so far apart they’re in different hemispheres.

      Everything I’m hearing says he’s very invested in sleeping with Pandora for whatever reason, if he’s not already, and he’s going to do or say anything he needs to so that you’ll back off and let him do what he wants. He has already clearly indicated that your feelings and boundaries on the matter are of very little importance. And I predict that even if he does accept your boundary on this, and agrees to back off… sooner or later you’ll find out that ‘it just happened, oh well’.

      It’s entirely possible that he does love your child and is a good father. You’d know that, not I. But it’s also entirely possible for someone to be a good, loving father and be a *terrible* husband. I’m not saying DTMFA, but I am saying that if your primary reason for staying together is your child, it’s probably already over, and it’s a terrible burden to place on your child. If you think there’s something worth salvaging there FOR YOU, and he’ll agree to back off on Pandora… or whoever the next Pandora is… and approach the relationship honestly, it would probably be worth trying.

      But it’s definitely worth asking yourself if you can accept (and I mean REALLY accept, not just getting emotionally beaten up and agreeing because you’re trying to be the bigger person/you’re trying to make peace) the behavior he’s been displaying. It’s okay if you can’t! This would be a dealbreaker for me! It’s okay if you can! What’s a dealbreaker for me isn’t necessarily one for you! But he’s acting like this now with very little show of remorse, and what you said in the letter suggests he’s acted in similar ways before… at least in terms of ‘I do what I want and then I’ll argue LW around to my way of thinking’. So… it’s a thing. It’s a thing that’s going to keep happening. This is where the Sheelzebub Principle comes in. Are you going to be okay with this sort of behavior in six months? In a year? In five years?

    • NotPiffany said:

      “…my child’s well-being is of paramount importance and I don’t want them growing up in an emotional toxic environment…,”

      Their dad thinks that you not telling him about a sexual assault (intentional or not) for a couple of days is equivalent to this whole Pandora situation, and that *you* should be blamed for being assaulted in the first place. How is that not toxic?

    • LW, your husband wants to screw around (and screw around with Pandora-the-Toxic) so badly that he is willing to:

      – Use your child to pretend that he will do something (respect your boundaries) that he is *already not doing*
      – Treated misbehavior by a friend you trusted as a justification for his own dishonesty
      – Not only tolerated Pandora behaving rudely to you, but joined in that rudeness
      – Revealed that he had a pre-existing level of emotional intimacy with Pandora
      – Violated Pandora’s confidences in him and then made you a participant in that violation
      – Tried to shift the responsibility for repairing the relationship with Pandora to you
      – Insisted on hanging out with Pandora even though you do not like her, do not trust her, and he wants to sleep with her

      The sad truth, OP, is that you can’t work out a relationship problem like adults when only one of you wants to behave like an adult. You can’t protect a relationship from being blown up when it has already been blown up by the other person’s behavior.

      Your husband has made it clear that his #1 priority in this relationship is his dick.

    • I am sure your kids aren’t going to be affected growing up in a toxic house and are reciving negative messages from living with a passive aggressive, score keeping, selfish, and boundaries smashing father. If it isn’t clear I think they would be affected, I really think they would be. And I don’t find it too hard to imagine that someone who acts as petty and selfish as your husband does to the supposed women he loves and is married too won’t act the exact same way towards his kids.

  58. Reez said:

    The breaking point for me was when, basically, you told him “I am not comfortable with this” and he responded “but you SHOULD be comfortable with it, so I’m going to try to negotiate your no.” Simply put, your emotions and needs aren’t valid if they get in the way of what he wants. Humongous red flag for not only this debacle, but him as a person and the relationship as a whole.

  59. OP: I agree with so many others that you don’t have a Pandora problem, you have a husband problem. He is not being trustworthy, he’s dismissing your reasonable concerns, he’s attempting to manipulate you into letting him do whatever the hell he wants any way he wants with anyone he wants and…I’m feeling like sending you the number for a good divorce attorney.

    • Just saw your addendum and now really really want to send you the number for a good divorce attorney.

  60. JetGirl said:

    Not poly here, but married, and have seen a few marriages collapse because the people involved decided to go poly when what they really needed was to split up. The strongest poly marriages I have seen are ones in which the central couple were extremely solid. That doesn’t seem the case here. Pandora is the symptom, not the illness. But that doesn’t mean the husband should be fucking that symptom!

    • WilhelminaMildew said:

      Don’t Fuck That Symptom!

  61. frugalfemme said:

    You don’t have a Pandora problem, you have a husband problem. He sounds unwilling and unable to adhere to negotiated boundaries. Just for the record, ethical non monogamous relationships do not *necessarily* have to include group decision making on potential partners and/or veto power. They also needn’t include awkward dinner parties. If you’ve negotiated for all those things, so be it. Part of the issue here is the specific setup where you’re put in a position to approve or deny applicants who wish to be in relationship with someone who is not you. It makes you a gatekeeper for relationships that you aren’t in.

    I could go on all day about why that’s a terrible position that nobody ever enjoys. But I won’t.

    If you’ve negotiated all kinds of specific requirements such as, “I have to meet them” or, “tell me before it becomes sexual”–ask yourself WHY you want those things. To me, a billion rules just sounds like a hedge against an untrustworthy partner who can’t make good choices and can’t be trusted to stick to agreements.

    What do you get out of this? Do you want to have multiple relationships? Are you the more hesitant partner? One trick that often works well to allay the more hesitant person’s concerns is to have them lead the way. It worked well when my wife and I started dating. I was clear from the outset that I don’t do exclusivity, but agreed to not see anyone else while she explored dating multiple people. She met someone lovely and dated her for a while. I never met her but she sounded great.

    This is uncharted territory and you can do it any way you want. This idea where the initial unit is supposed to be, “protected” by a lot of rules– it typically indicates doubt and insecurity and experienced ethical poly and non-mono folks tend to avoid it. When I consider dating someone, I very much self select for, “hands off” poly. I’m not into awkward dinners and I don’t want anyone outside of the relationship deciding when/if/how it proceeds. I usually date people who already have embedded partnerships/nesting partners–spouse or long term relationships. This works best for me because I have little time and energy for other partnerships. I do typically end up meeting the partner at some point. I just don’t do interviews with spouses/partners etc. There are poly folks who do those interviews, and who consent to outside influence and veto power. I just think it’s a bad look. I trust the people I get involved with to behave ethically. I’ve been known to slow or stop a relationship with someone who is developing a new relationship with a hesitant person, but that is a request from the person I’m dating to me— I dunno, maybe it just seems like semantics? If I’m dating a trustworthy person, I expect them to care for the people they are involved with, and if they need something from me to help along those lines they ask for it.

    Bottom line: I don’t think you need to be all up in hubby’s business. If there are logistical things like safer sex and only certain nights are date nights with others or other nights are sacrosanct date nights for the two of you, or you’d rather he didn’t host in your home–those are ALL agreements you ask your partner whom you presumably trust to honor. I mean, give your opinion- you get to express your reservations. But if you set up a situation where you’re basically his dating mommy, setting boundaries, to me that means you don’t trust him to make good decisions. And that is a problem, not a Pandora problem, a husband problem.

    • B. said:

      That situation was set up by the husband, though. Or at least, I understood that the husband was the one interested in LW meeting Pandora, and LW wasn’t and doesn’t want to meet with her again in spite of the husband trying to push them together.

      • frugalfemme said:

        Oh I missed that. My bad.

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      it typically indicates doubt and insecurity and experienced ethical poly and non-mono folks tend to avoid it.

      YMMV on that one.

      I want to push back because this isn’t an instance of the LW or husband not doing open relationships “right”–you’re absolutely correct at the end, this is a husband problem. It would be a problem if they were fully monogamous or full-on relationship anarchists.

      Different levels of structure work for different people and telling someone whose boundaries are being trampled “Yeah, well, non-monogamy really works best without any of those rules or boundaries, what are you, his mom? Stop policing him” is really not helpful. Even relationship anarchists get to have boundaries (if only because STIs are a thing! If I’m having unprotected sex with a partner you’re damn right I want to know some things about their other partners!)

      Do most people start to relax their rules as they lay a foundation of open relationship trust and switch to more fluid models? Sure! But sometimes it goes the other way–“It turns out this bugs me more than I thought, so we Need A Rule” is something I’ve seen in established couples many times.

      I mean, from what I’m reading here, you’re basically advocating the LW stop worrying and let her husband have sex with whoever he wants? Sure, that’s always an option, but the LW is telling us all “If my husband has a relationship with this woman, it will make me miserable.” So forgive me for side-eyeing that advice right now. Also, we have evidence that this woman already causes problems in her network. Is it really a good idea to just ignore that?

      There is a wealth of options between complete relationship anarchy and complete monogamy for a reason. One of those reasons might be “I don’t trust husband to make great decisions under the spell of NRE.” If LW and husband do work this out and stick together, it might be worth considering how they structure their relationship, but she doesn’t need to be guilted and all-the-cool-kids’ed into any relationship model she doesn’t feel comfortable with.

      (And on a personal note–FFS, we’ve gone from “Rules are horrible and constricting, what we really need to do is talk about boundaries” to “Boundaries are too mom-like, but you can make agreements”? Sometimes language migration gives me a twitch in my left eye.)

      • frugalfemme said:

        *I want to push back because this isn’t an instance of the LW or husband not doing open relationships “right”*

        I’m not saying they’re not doing it right, I’m saying that this isn’t the only way to do it. I’m noticing a lot of, well, virtual nodding along with this idea that **of course** we don’t move forward with someone if our primary isn’t on board. That’s true of a specific type of couple-centric hierarchical poly. Which, if that’s what they wanna do–ok, cool. But it’s worth pointing out that this is not the only way to do it.

        *Different levels of structure work for different people*

        I agree. Does it seem to you that LW has chosen super entangled couple-centric hierarchical poly as an informed choice?

        *telling someone whose boundaries are being trampled “Yeah, well, non-monogamy really works best without any of those rules or boundaries, what are you, his mom? Stop policing him” is really not helpful*

        I agree, that would not be helpful. Maybe I zigged when I shoulda zagged but what I mean to impart was- if you set it up this way, ask yourself why. Do you want it this way? Do you want it at all? I mean, not to be mean but…I don’t see any kind of relationship working with someone who doesn’t honor their agreements. At which point, Pandora is so far beside the point she’s in another time zone.

        *I mean, from what I’m reading here, you’re basically advocating the LW stop worrying and let her husband have sex with whoever he wants?*

        Yeah no. I want to know if LW wants to be open, why, what that looks like ideally for her. I want to know why they’ve chosen the particular formulation they have, if that is working for them. I mean honestly, I think I suggested only one thing and that was that they consider him backing off on dating and her going first. That’s a far, far cry from, “oh yeah, let husband fuck whoever” –

        *she doesn’t need to be guilted and all-the-cool-kids’ed into any relationship model she doesn’t feel comfortable with.*

        It seems to me like you’re really ascribing a whole heck of a lot of intent into my words. I do want LW to know there are various ways to structure things, and I want her to know that presuming a highly entangled couple-centric hierarchical model –is the only model one can use–that a noob mistake. Doing it that way if that’s what works for you and what you’ve chosen is not a mistake–but presuming that’s just how it’s done so that’s how you should do it, really is.

        I overstepped when saying experienced folks tend to avoid it—(it being couple centric highly entangled poly w veto power) because some people get plenty of experience of this particular kind of poly and don’t avoid it but instead seek it out. Many people, however, avoid couples where one seems super hesitant, or where one person is not behaving ethically. I should have separated out more carefully which traits are the ones that ring alarm bells.

        LW gets to have as many or few agreements as works for her and husband, regardless of what anyone on the internet has to say. But some of us will most deff nope out when we catch wind of certain traits. Which leads me to the Pandora problem. Because once the folks who are not kitchen table and the folks who are not hierarchical and the folks who don’t do veto nope out, who’s left? Folks who prefer hierarchical couple-centric entangled veto power models and a bunch of folks who are new and think this is the only model, and some folks who are unethical and kinda shady, like Pandora.

        OFC Pandora is a problem, but she isn’t LW’s problem.

        –but, if we’re arguing semantics, you’re right that I didn’t distinguish carefully enough between boundaries, rules, and agreements. Just FYI tho, my wife doesn’t, “let” me fuck anyone and I don’t, “let” her fuck anyone. We’re both grown adult women who choose our own partners. If she expressed grave reservations about someone I was interested in–I probably **would** steer clear of them, because I trust her judgement and I know I can get carried away by NRE. I know this may seem like six of one half dozen of the other but, to me there is a **very** real difference between- “in my opinion. there be dragons” and, “no, you may not pursue this, I forbid it”

        But all of this doesn’t help LW decide what’s next. Setting her up to be mean mommy with all the rules isn’t going to help. Putting her in a position to say yes or no to this terribad idea isn’t going to help. If she says yes, we have one problem, if no, another. Here’s what I think LW could do- if she’s the hesitant partner, I think she might consider going first. Meaning she gets out there and starts dating. Maybe neither of them is comfortable with their partner being sexual just yet. Maybe she says, “ok, I’m going to start dating but I won’t be having sex with anyone.” Maybe they put a time limit on that. Letting her lead the way does all kinds of things. It forces hubby to slow all the way down, it puts a pin in the Pandora problem. It helps her see some of the positive aspects of non-monogamy and it teaches hubby how to ask for what he needs in terms of reassurance from her. They could work on setting agreements that are specific to each of their needs and desires. Go as slowly as she needs them to go. Most important, though, it helps rebuild trust between them. RN she doesn’t trust him, with good reason. Again, it might seem like semantics to you, the difference between, “we’re going to approach this differently” and, “no, you may not fuck Pandora.” I think LW might be thrilled to not have to make a call on this one. This is a way to do that.

        • I had not realised your point was “Maybe opening up will work better if the LW goes first.”

          And, yeah, maybe it would. And that would require the LW’s husband backing away from Pandora.

          Which, frankly, seems unlikely at this point.

        • Jules the Third (I think) said:

          That would work, IF hubby actually respected the decisions they made together.

          No amount of ‘setting agreements’ helps when one side agrees in bad faith, and there’s plenty of evidence that this husband is working in bad faith.

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          I want to start off by apologizing for misreading you–I didn’t literally think you were suggesting the LW be chill with Husband sleeping with Bad News over there, but I was really spooked by the implication and ran with it. Sorry.

          ‘But some of us will most deff nope out when we catch wind of certain traits. Which leads me to the Pandora problem. Because once the folks who are not kitchen table and the folks who are not hierarchical and the folks who don’t do veto nope out, who’s left? Folks who prefer hierarchical couple-centric entangled veto power models and a bunch of folks who are new and think this is the only model, and some folks who are unethical and kinda shady, like Pandora.’

          I know at least one human who does not practice kitchen table poly, is not heirarchical, doesn’t do vetoes, and has damaged several relationships chasing Bad News NRE as drama-filled as Pandora and not noping out when their other partners complained. So I don’t think this is an experience problem. Framing this as “people who practice hierarchical couple-centric models with veto power are more likely to make bad decisions” is the basic thing I object to.

          ‘I know this may seem like six of one half dozen of the other but, to me there is a **very** real difference between- “in my opinion. there be dragons” and, “no, you may not pursue this, I forbid it”’

          Yeah, I don’t see much of a difference between “In my opinion, there be dragons, which means I will break up with you if you violate this boundary” and “We have a rule about these kinds of situations, I’m exercising my veto power on this, and if you don’t accept that we should end the relationship.”

          I mean… sure, if I’m dating someone who really hates one kind of language, I won’t use it with them? But to me I really can’t see much daylight between “I need you to listen to my feelings on this matter or I need to stop sleeping with you” and “We have a prearranged agreement that you’ll listen to my feelings on this matter or I need to stop sleeping with you.”

          (Frustrated aside: I literally want to know what the people who say “Breaking a rule is DIFFERENT than violating a boundary!” think happens when a relationship rule gets broken. Do you have to pay a relationship fine? Someone calls the relationship cops? You go to relationship jail? No, you talk it over or you break up, just like if someone violates a boundary! Almost as though those are two words for the exact same concept that can both be manipulated by abusive assholes!)

          But all the arguments I’ve seen about this on the internet come down to “Rules are obviously different than boundaries!” “Can you explain how, because they’re obviously not to me?” “It’s just right there! How can you not see it?” so I feel like it’s like those colors that some people can see differences between and other people can’t.

          ‘Letting her lead the way does all kinds of things. It forces hubby to slow all the way down, it puts a pin in the Pandora problem. ‘

          I still can’t see this being too different from “Let’s set some ground rules if we’re going to do this,” and also, I don’t see how to get Husband to agree to doing this if it also means “Aaaaand you need to not sleep with Pandora while this is happening.” I can’t see him reacting well to this at all given what we have read in the letter and in LW’s other comment. He’s already violating their established ground rules.

          Yes, how you phrase and how you frame things matters, but at the basic level, this requires trust, and right now Husband is telling LW, “The thing I want to do right now is to go off and bone Pandora” and the thing she’s telling him “I do not want you to do that,” and in order for her to be happy she needs to be able to make a solid agreement that he’s not going to do that. Or she needs to be okay with him doing that.

          “Consider reframing how you think about doing polyamory because a non-heirarchical model might work better for you” doesn’t seem to me to address the immediate problem that the LW has built a life with this man, is married to him, and wants to continue being in a relationship with him–and it still comes back to the choice that either Husband can refrain from sticking his dick in Pandora, or she can break up with him if he violates that need, or she can somehow be okay with it. (It’s probably good advice for later, though–one should always consider all available options!)

          You say that putting her in a position to say yes or no doesn’t help, but I honestly can’t conceive of a situation she can get to from here where she doesn’t have to say yes or no. Sure, she can put herself in a situation where her yes or no doesn’t matter to her husband–in fact, she may already be there. But she’s already said no. She’s already said no several times. He just doesn’t want to hear it. If they agree together that they’re going to let her “take the lead” on the poly thing, that presupposes him agreeing with her no.

          If the situation was him going “When you exercise your veto power I feel like it really screws with our dynamic, like you’re trying to be my boss or my parent and I react really badly, can we come up with some other way to handle things?” that would be different. But he’s acting in such bad faith that it just doesn’t matter.

          I’ve been pretty negative here and I apologize, my own poly looks very anarchistic and loose and very low on the number of rules and agreements myself, so I certainly know it can work that way. But I’m really leery about how far the pushback against the (not for everyone! Sometimes harmful!) classic model of “Primary couple with unicorns and secondary girlfriends” has gone into “We can all agree that a hierarchical relationship is inherently unethical and wanting rules or vetoes makes you an abuser.” I’m exaggerating for comic effect there but I’ve seen some actual polyamory advice that nearly goes there. For a community that prides itself on letting people build their own models for relationships instead of relying on pre-made kits, we sure can be judgmental jerks about how other people make things work for themselves.

          • slfisher said:

            From here it looks like you guys are talking at cross purpose and actually kind of agree. My interpretation was, if you find yourself setting up all sorts of rules around poly, maybe rethink it, because you might basically just not trust your partner, and if you don’t trust your partner (like lw) all the rules in the world won’t help you.

            To me the distinction between a rule and a boundary is that rules we agree on together and a boundary I impose.

          • frugalfemme said:

            I hear where you’re coming from, I was not communicating very well yesterday. I blame the weather and allergies. I didn’t mean to come off all, “rules are bad, mang.” But I see now that I was letting my own negative opinion of a specific kind of poly color my response. I leaned too hard on the couple-centric hierarchical entwined/kitchen table + veto power. It rubs me the wrong way, and the amount of, “oh that’s just how it’s done” deffo irks me- but that’s about me, not LW.

            I find veto power unethical when used on already existing relationships, and still rather off-putting when used on potential relationships.I just can’t imagine being in a situation where I need to use a veto–if I was, I would most definitely have a partner problem of such severity that a breakup was near certain. Which would pre-empt the veto. Again, it might seem like semantics. But that’s my own boundary, veto doesn’t work for me but it works out fine for some.

            You’re right that debating various styles of open/nonmono etc isn’t particularly germane to LW’s immediate problem.

            I was hoping to get at, “why do you want to be open, do you even want that, is it your preference that you interview all potentials bc this Pandora problem will likely return in a new form.” Perhaps of a future trip, but if they continued with the same method, I could see her life becoming a Pandora-of-the-month club.

            Rules v Agreements v Boundaries: To my mind-rules apply to everyone, regardless of whether they agreed or not. “We will have an awkward dinner with all potential suitors.” Agreements are negotiated and agreed upon between people, “Dates will happen elsewhere.” and boundaries are set by and for a single person. “Don’t lie to me.”

            I missed the update the first time through, it seems like she’s set a limit saying, “open re is off the table for now” which makes sense given that she’s apparently not that interested anyway and her partner has trouble honoring agreements. They clearly need to rebuild trust and give Pandora das boot.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            Just want to come back and say yeah, I also hate the “Polyamory is ONLY done correctly when a couple properly vets each other’s new conquests and agrees to put each other first” meme. But I think it comes down to, again, why does someone want to be in an open relationship–what structure they have has to come from that, rather than the other way around.

            And heh, I’ve been spending a lot of time in places where the “that’s just how it’s done” crowd is on the side of “No agreements, no rules, no partnerships, no limits!” so I’ve been feeling a little Internet Old and grumbly. Not to mention I have some bad IRL history with some of the people pushing the particular kind of non-hierarchical polyamory that is fairly popular in those circles. When the response to “We should set some rules so we know how our relationship is going to work” is “What if we just didn’t have rules, man,” I haven’t had my mind blown by the new possibilities and the reminder to rethink how we connect to each other, I’m annoyed that one of my tools has been taken away from me because someone doesn’t like the way I pronounce “hammer”. (And then again, there are people who find a hammer and think that every problem looks like a nail, to close the loop on the metaphor.)

          • ::Delicatefangs wonders if there is sufficient room and welcome available on the Internet Old and grumbly bench to sit over by Aris Merquoni::

          • JenniferP said:

            Reading this discussion…okay, skimming…about vetoes as someone who has dabbled in open relationships in the past (and who is also on the old and cranky bench) one question keeps coming up: When are you allowed to say NO. No, this person sucks. No, this person doesn’t work for me anywhere near my life. No, I feel unsafe. No, if you’re having sex with someone who I don’t trust to be health conscious, you don’t get to also have unprotected sex with me. No, you’re already dabbling in secrets, this is uncool. I’ve seen/skimmed many long “Well, my partner and I wouldn’t veto each other’s business but we’d just talk it out until we were both comfortable” comments in this thread, that have a common sort of liberal-minded fallacy of ‘If only people were educated they’d see things my way’ or ‘If only we talk about it more we’ll come to some agreement.” Geek social fallacies of Doing It? It only works if everyone is operating in good faith. But what happens when the answer is “No.” No, please don’t sleep with her. No, please don’t make me have dinner parties (Chances the LW cooked all or most of that dinner? 1,000%). No, please don’t bring her bullshit into our lives. No, this whole thing puts my shoulders around my ears.”

            For me there is no room for “yes” if there is not also room for “no.”

          • “Do you get to say no” is a big question. Then there’s the next question of “If your no is not respected, then what do you do?”

            Also I think you are right on the nose with this all being connected to the fallacious belief that if only we could explain it better, if only we could find the right words, they’d understand. And if only they understood, then surely they would agree with us that this isn’t OK, and then they would stop doing whatever set of actions is currently redecorating our life in broad stripes of awfulness with polka-dotted hell accents.

            That fallacy actually is a genuine fallacy. It’s entirely possible for somebody to understand and not agree. It’s possible for them to know that doing the thing is hurting us, and still keep doing the thing. Somebody can love us and still do things that we can’t live with. Sometimes that’s “don’t want to live with” and sometimes it’s “can’t live with.” Knowing the difference is useful, but we still get to decide we don’t want to live with something even if it’s not actually inimical to our continued breathing.

            (As for polyamory and theory, I am skeptical that there is any One True Way, except maybe that being kind and going slow are two things that almost always pay off for everyone in the long run, whatever system they’re using to describe what they do. I’ve been polyamorous for a long time, and none of the posts describe how I do it, so I am regarding both the vetos and the never-vetoes bunch with detached interest and a general feeling of well-wishing. I don’t think their ways of doing it are invalid for reasons of principle and theory; I just think they way they describe it doesn’t look much like what I live, so I try to be glad they’ve got something that works for them, and I try to notice what works for me and do it in ways that maximize felicity if I can.)

            Anyhow, I hope LW gets enough breathing room to sort things out. And I really hope she doesn’t take damage from trying to rearrange herself to please somebody who doesn’t seem to be very mutually-minded.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            For me there is no room for “yes” if there is not also room for “no.”

            *points* This.

          • I’ve seen/skimmed many long “Well, my partner and I wouldn’t veto each other’s business but we’d just talk it out until we were both comfortable” comments in this thread, that have a common sort of liberal-minded fallacy of ‘If only people were educated they’d see things my way’ or ‘If only we talk about it more we’ll come to some agreement.”

            Er, that’s more than a bit of a dismissive caricature. The alternative to ‘having a veto’ is not, the other person always gets to tell you to suck it up and never listens to why you don’t want them to fuck that lady/dude.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            The alternative to ‘having a veto’ is not, the other person always gets to tell you to suck it up and never listens to why you don’t want them to fuck that lady/dude.

            I think the problem is that both “having a veto” and “solving everything with talking” are not mutually exclusive nor are they guarantees that things will work out? There are bad ways to have vetoes and there are bad ways to talk things over, and sometimes neither of those things actually solves your problem–especially if the problem is “one person wants to do something and the other person doesn’t want that thing to happen.” Having a veto doesn’t necessarily solve that problem, but neither does agreeing to talk things out.

          • Vicki said:

            My “talk it out” approach is that both people try to explain how they’re feeling, and why: the person who wants something usually has some idea of why. For a possible new partner, that might include what they find appealing about the person (and not just sexually). And if someone is skeptical, they should be able to say why: “I just have a bad feeling about her” is a reason, and a different shape of one than “I’m worried you won’t have enough time/attention for me” or “because you’re expecting me to do more housework so you can spend time with her.”

            But in the end, you may not be able to come to an agreement, either a way to do something, or the person who wants it accepts that it would be a bad idea. At that point, there’s a decision or decision to be made: if one is at “I want this very much” and the other at “I really don’t like this,” what happens?

            You can have a policy for that, or you can take it case-by-case, but no amount of talking guarantees that two people will reach agreement. (“If you can’t convince me it’s a bad idea, I’m still going to do it” and “If I can’t convince you it’s a good idea, I won’t” are both policies.) I’m very much in favor of talking things out in general, and it’s worked for me and my partners so far, but we haven’t hit this shape of disagreement.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            (“If you can’t convince me it’s a bad idea, I’m still going to do it” and “If I can’t convince you it’s a good idea, I won’t” are both policies.)

            Vicki: My conception of a “veto” is much closer to having the latter policy than anything else, and I feel like the former policy is a good idea for some people and a bad idea for others. Thanks for writing that out clearly.

    • ashbet said:

      “to me that means you don’t trust him to make good decisions.”

      They had previously explored openness, and the LW’s husband chose the tack of “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

      Then, he hooks up with a woman who admitted to him that she was cheating and lying in her existing poly relationship.

      So far, her husband *hasn’t* made good decisions, and I’d have major concerns about his ability to do so.

      (Your flavor of poly works really well for some people, and is non-ideal for others. This guy comes off as needing more structured agreements and transparency.)

      • frugalfemme said:

        I didn’t mean to imply that I disagreed with LW– she has every reason not to trust him to make good decisions, but that is the actual problem, and all the agreements in the world won’t fix it.

      • I so agree with you.

        “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.”

        This is the one sentence in your letter that had all my red flags up and running. They had tried this, and he did whatever he felt was not strictly a no, because that was what he wanted to do.

        Now he’s not listening to her discomfort, and doing what he wants again.

        • Her letter, not your letter! Oops.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Frugalfemme: I think that you’re ignoring the fact that there’s a huge difference between people who enter a relationship with the understanding that it’s a “hands-off” type of poly, and even “experienced poly” people who choose that poly style and a couple that is just starting to experiment with opening their relationship. Huge difference. With the first group, it’s people who went into the relationship with the expectation that it be this way and also very little at stake should they decide to nope out. The second group is people who have a lot of experience working through their issues and can be a little more hands-off. The third is a couple just trying to see if they are ok with it, while also risking the destruction of a longterm relationship. That’s a very different situation where babystepping into it and lots of checking in about everything is really important – kinda like first time anal or kink. Y’all might wild freeform jazz it later, but you really should just work out the basics first.

      Taking an existing monogamous couple and going “just fuck whatever and don’t tell each other about it” is a recipe for disaster.

      • frugalfemme said:

        *Y’all might wild freeform jazz it later, but you really should just work out the basics first.*

        That made me laugh. Eh, maybe I filtered too much through my own experiences. Our version of baby steps was still pretty hands off. We did have a ton more agreements around boundaries that slowly fell away, but even in the brand new baby steps phase I was like, “Please no awkward dinners” and my (then gf) was like, “no way, why would we do that to an innocent dinner that never hurt anybody.”

        Anyway, I’d had some experience of non-mono relationships prior to that and had already sat through my share of awkward dinners. 😉 So your point still stands.

        *Taking an existing monogamous couple and going “just fuck whatever and don’t tell each other about it” is a recipe for disaster.* Agreed.

  62. kwallio said:

    I’m not married, don’t have a child and I’m not poly, but there are a lot of troubling things going on. Like, the child thing. To me it seems like that is being used as a way to control your behavior, but not his. Like maybe if he wants a great emotional environment for his child he shouldn’t be attempting to blow up his marriage so much. I really only see one person trying to work this situation through as an adult, thats you, not him. He is acting sort of like a toddler. Regardless of whether what happens re: Pandora I think going to counseling would be a good idea (just you, not together). Even if you don’t have any heavy duty issues to work through having an uninvolved 3rd party to talk things out with is a good idea. Finally, the Shezelzebub (sp?) principle – do you still want to be having Pandora-like issues 6 months from now? 5 years from now? What are your dealbreakers regarding this particular relationship? What would he have to do for you to just walk away?

  63. Lapis Lazuli said:

    If you changed Pandora from “dubious relationshipper” to “con artist” or “bank robber” or “official puppy puncher”, then I think anyone would raised their brows at the prospect of having any contact woth Pandora.

    You have the sharp senses of certain General Akbar, knowing full well that this be a trap. Unfortunately your husband does not and it be plenty obvious he is gonna sleep with this person whether the relationship is “officially” open or not.

    I am reminded of a reddit story where the guy only opened the relationship to get all the sexys… only to have a temper tantrum when it turned out his girlfriend was getting all hotties. And then he decided, “Fuck this, we are closing the relationship because I can’t have you be happy”. The story ends with the girlfriend riding off into the sunset waving her middle finger at her now ex-boyfriend.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I READ THAT REDDIT! The girlfriend was reluctant to open the relationship but agreed, and Dudebro was whining that he was spending every Friday night alone while she was getting romanced up by hotter guys because apparently..hotter women weren’t just falling into his lap? If I remember correctly he was wondering why she was getting all sorts of attention because (he felt) that she was too heavy to be attractive enough to find another partner.

      Ahhhhhh, sweet cosmic justice.

  64. tessiselated said:

    I’ve been in an open relationship for…. about a decade? (as a note, a lot of Polynesian people have asked that the term poly be retired for open relationships. Polyamory is fine, but poly dilutes google/tag searches for relevant community)

    We don’t have an exhaustive list of what is and isn’t okay. Exhaustive lists don’t work because… people. You can have a list of “You shouldn’t do it on that chair, please don’t do it over there”, but Green Eggs and Ham Style, someone will come up with “But what about the kitchen bench?”

    We have… guiding principles. Like “treat each other as people who’s feelings and comfort matter”. Or “I don’t like surprises. Clue me into how you’re feeling about other potential partners.”

    Your relationship sounds… very combative. I say this because there’s been cases where I thought I was cool with something, and then when it actually happened I wasn’t happy or fine about it at all. My partner responded with “I’m sorry, let’s talk about this and figure out where to from here” rather than a petulant “But you said it was ok!”. Because he treats my feelings and needs as important.

    Our relationship isn’t tit for tat either. There isn’t a “you fucked up, so I get a fuckup too” (even though I don’t for a second agree that not telling him immediately about an unwelcome kiss is a fuckup on your behalf). A tit for tat approach sounds beyond stressful – and also a situation where you’re at odds rather than allies.

    The triangulation of secrets between him and her and between you and him also sounds really isolating. Like Cap said, your situation sounds lonely.

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      But what about the kitchen bench?
      Or with a willing kitchen wench?

      I’d like to try it in a tree
      (Or failing that, in shrubbery)

      Into our yard one cannot peep
      So maybe we could add a–

      (All right, stop that, stop that, it’s too silly.)

    • dearmoon said:

      Thanks for noting this about retiring the shorthand of “poly” for anything other than Polynesian! Some people substitute “polya” or “polyam”.

      • JenniferP said:

        Yes, thank you. I am going to update the site policies about this and make a general announcement – this thread got away from me too soon.

    • FancyPants said:

      a lot of Polynesian people have asked that the term poly be retired for open relationships. Polyamory is fine, but poly dilutes google/tag searches for relevant community

      Huh. I did not know that.

      I wonder if polly would be OK, since a parrot is kind of the unofficial symbol of polyamory. I may have to do some googling around about this.

  65. Jules the Third (I think) said:

    Dear LW, you want to work on the relationship and keep it if possible. I’m a mom, I get that. But I hope you have stepped back and assessed the relationship as a whole before you made that decision. The ‘Carl = Pandora’ equivalence really worries me, since he is using it to try to ‘win’ the discussion. Good relationships don’t try to have one person ‘win’ an issue, they try to *solve* the issue.

    1) Your husband is ignoring your words on this issue.
    a) Does he do that in other issues?
    b) When does he listen to you, and when not?
    2) Are your finances stable? Can you pull some money to one side for an emergency fund? Please try to do that, if only so that you know it’s an option if things go that route.
    3) Is your husband willing to go to counseling?
    4) What happens if you say, ‘I do not think our relationship is strong enough to support polyamory at this time, I want to be monogamous for a decade’? I’ve had at least four couples ask me about open relationships, and I always answer that the current relationship has to be really good for it to work. Twice, it was clear they were looking for a distraction from their problems, and I strongly recommended they not open the relationship, but instead work on being happier together. Both of those went to counseling and are monogamously together, 5 – 10 years later, and look happy from the outside.

    In your case, the script might be, ‘You are ignoring my stated needs for safety and honesty. That undermines our relationship. We need to make our relationship stronger before we can bring other people into it.’

    But for your relationship to work, your husband has to switch from ‘I’m discussing so that I can get what I want’ to ‘I’m discussing so that we can find a solution that makes us both happy’ in his head. That’s not an easy change, but it is possible – my husband and I are both on that journey. We absolutely both started with the ‘I want to win’ (at age 28) and now (mostly, at 45) manage ‘I want to solve the problem but it may not be the solution I came into this expecting.’

    • Jules the Third (I think) said:

      A possible question to discuss aided by a couples counselor, in good faith only, because you need to understand what your husband wants in order to figure out whether you can be happy with him:
      You are willing to put our relationship at risk to get what you want. What feeling exactly is it that you want? Can you get the same feeling from a different input (like roleplaying)?

      You can support him in making the relationship stronger, but he is the person who needs to do a lot of emotional labor in order to make your relationship successfully polyamorous. Whether or not he’s willing to do it should also be a data point in your decision.

    • JB said:

      “Good relationships don’t try to have one person ‘win’ an issue, they try to *solve* the issue.”

      Aaaaaaaah this this a thousands times this.

    • jennthemighty said:

      You raise really excellent thinking points and structure the problem beautifully. What are the chances this is the only area in which the husband acts entitled and does not respect boundaries? This is problem in the relationship, Pandora or no Pandora.

  66. kim said:

    I agree with the captain and the commenters.
    One thing that stands out to me that I don’t know if anyone has mentioned (I haven’t read through all the comments) is that your husband is already crossing boundaries with Pandora by sharing ‘secrets’ with you that he told her he wouldn’t, and he has drawn you into breaking that boundary by asking you to pretend you don’t know. If he respected you, he wouldn’t ask you to cover for him. If he respected her, he would tell her he told you. He is playing games that only he gets to win. Maybe he is a good guy who is overexcited and making crappy choices in the moment, but unless he can calm down enough to own what he is doing, and fix the mistakes he’s making, I don’t know, he’s not acting like someone who can deal with the responsibilities of a relationship. And geez, you parent with him. I think you need to be reminded that he’s a lucky guy, and you’re doing a lot of work.

    • slfisher said:

      Well, it’s tough. Are we going to diss Mr. LW for keeping secrets from LW, or for revealing Pandora’s secrets to LW? We can’t really have it both ways.

      I agree the proper response should have been, “I don’t keep secrets from LW” and letting Pandora decide whether to share the secret with him in the first place, but not having done that in the first place, what should he have done differently ongoing?

      • kaberett said:

        I mean, there is absolutely the option of him having said “Yes, Pandora has disclosed stuff to me and asked me to keep it secret from you; I think that is reasonable and intend to uphold it because [XYZ] but that’s open to negotiation/I’m actually not comfortable with this and am Having Conversations with her about it, and my boundaries with her going forward are explicitly ABC/but actually the contents are hideously unethical and while I’m not going to share specifics with you I wanted to let you know why she has Abruptly Vanished From My Life.”

        • Vicki said:

          there was also the option of telling her “i won’t keep secrets from my wife, you should have checked before you told me this.” assuming for the moment that she didn’t in fact say “can i tell you something and ask you not to tell anyone, even your wife?” and he said yes, had second thoughts, but wasn’t prepared to tell her that he’d changed his mind about that, either in the instant or at dinner once she started on the “we have a secret” thing.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        As I see it, when Pandora first told him, it was a secret, and he should have kept it. But when Pandora brought it up at the house, flaunting it coyly before the LW and weaponising ‘our little secret’ in the LW’s living room, it ceased to be ‘a thing told in secret’ and became ‘a weapon Pandora used against the LW’. At that point, I don’t think Mr. LW was compelled to keep the details private.

        He also should have walked away from Pandora, but that didn’t happen.

      • I’m dissing him for making an agreement he couldn’t keep, and then asking his partner to cover for him, rather than being honest about it. It’s an example of how he’s not trustworthy–he’s only thinking about himself. That’s not someone I want to be in a relationship with.

      • 1. Made it clear to *Pandora* that he’d had second thoughts, rather than try and keep it behind her back that he’d told a secret that he’d previously led her to believe he was going to keep.

        2. Refused to get drawn into the Conversation of Vague Drama Dumpingness over dinner. Seriously, at that point it *wasn’t* about Pandora wanting to keep the secret secret because she didn’t want it known, but about her wanting to dangle it in front of the LW as a power play. Also, what Friendly Hipposcriff said.

        3. Treated the whole thing as ‘How can I best act respectfully in this situation to both my wife and to my would-be paramour?’ rather than as ‘Secrets! Yay! Lots of fun drama that I will enjoy to the max!’ (This whole business of enjoying the ‘I will flaunt this secret in front of you without telling you’ conversation over dinner, then being all ‘Oooh, wanna hear this secret?’ once Pandora was out the door, and *then* not wanting Pandora to know about him having told… All very much a case of the latter rather than the former.)

  67. canadakate said:

    I’m solo poly (no primary partner), and Captain Awkward has helped me realize that I *don’t* have to be chill partner. I am allowed feelings, opinions, and boundaries. Informed consent is the bedrock of ALL relationships, in my opinion, and betrayal of that is a deal-breaker for me. I just dumped one partner for not telling me about sleeping with other people. The sex itself wasn’t the issue, it was that I didn’t know about it, when I had made it more than clear I needed to know. The lack of informed consent was disrespectful and so not his call to make.

    LW, you have amazing boundaries, and you are most definitely allowed to have them! Don’t be with anyone who doesn’t respect them, and by extension, you (though I know how very hard that is!)!

    Also, Kimchi Cuddles rocks!

  68. I don’t know if anyone else has suggested this in the comments yet so apologies if I’m repeating advice here.

    I’m non-monogamous myself & in a situation like this I would tell my partner that he is free to have sex with Pandora if he really wants to BUT for my own sexual health I am not going to continue to have sex* with him because I cannot and do not trust Pandora (or him!) to practice safer sex or respect sexual boundaries. He has a choice but if he chooses to have a sexual relationship with Pandora, I will be taking these steps to protect my own health. This is not a negotiation or a debate but a decision about my own boundaries and what risks I am and am not willing to take with my health.

    *or a massive increase in barrier use, gloves, dams, condoms, STI check ups etc whatever you need to feel safe. His actions can and will have consequences in the form of changing boundaries.

  69. X said:

    “I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries”

    I’m poly, and I have a strict rule that I don’t do my partners’ emotional heavy lifting for them where metamours are concerned. If a partner is getting the benefits of the relationship then they should be doing any difficult emotional work too. I have my own relationships as friends with my metamours, they’re all awesome people, but it’s not up to me to keep their romantic relationship running smoothly, and it’s not appropriate for me to be butting in to that relationship as an equal.

    This does of course rely on being able to trust your partner to have those conversations fairly and honestly and with your best interests in mind, which does not sound the case here :-/

    • Yes. Especially when it smacks of “Feelings and boundaries? Oh, that’s girl talk, so why don’t you two work it out.”

    • Vicki said:


      “I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries”

      I’m poly, and I have a strict rule that I don’t do my partners’ emotional heavy lifting for them where metamours are concerned.

      This. I’ll listen to “my other partner is doing this thing, and it bothers me” (and sometimes it’s something where we both know the thing is reasonable). Sometimes I’ll offer advice. I might listen to “this is really bothering me, I’m not sure I can stay in this relationship.”

      What I wouldn’t do is call, or email, or walk into the room and say “Hey, metamour, I want to talk to you about your relationship with our mutual partner” on any level more complicated than “let’s get her a joint birthday present.” One of my metamours is a good friend, and we have occasionally talked about our mutual partner, but it doesn’t feel like emotional labor. Either it’s “our partner did/told me this cool thing” or it’s something like “this person has this trait, they’re not going to change, we both love them, life is like that sometimes. would you like more tea?”

  70. Underneaththeskein said:

    LW, I was in a similar situation to this last year/early this year. My partner of several years, after I moved halfway across the country to be with him, embarked on an affair with a friend of his, after I’d used veto power. They carried on for several months before I found out, during which he tried to get us to be friends, said I should just have a conversation with her about boundaries and he dished about all the drama she had in her personal life while saying I couldn’t tell anyone else about it and also assuring me she wasn’t a threat at all. Of course I found out.

    We’re still together, but in my experience it gets exponentially worse before it gets better. In my case, my partner had Issues that needed to be addressed before he really stopped boundary stomping and generally being a gaping asshole. In the meantime, he continued to be enormously hurtful. At this point we’re stable-ish, but that has taken sincere, significant effort on his part (in his own therapy and couple’s therapy) and me being pretty miserable the whole time.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s admirable that you’re really committed to fixing the relationship problems masquerading as Pandora problems, but no amount of commitment from one person is going to fix this. Your husband is being a douche, and it doesn’t sound like that’s a temporary condition. He has to be on board to change that: not halfway, but really-totally-100 percent on board. Like, therapy and couple’s therapy on board. Otherwise, it seems like this situation is going to continue to deteriorate.

    • “relationship problems masquerading as Pandora problems”. This x10000. Pandora would not even be an issue in their relationship if the husband was managing things in any kind of mature, considerate, responsible fashion.

  71. jennthemighty said:

    One thing to add on top of the many many excellent points made in the comments: LW is worried about her boundaries being violated in the future because Pandora is sketchy. But in reality it’s already happening. Her boundaries are already being pushed and trod on and disrespected by her *husband*. He is telling her “Pandora’s boundaries are good enough” while trampling her boundaries. The problems you fear if the husband a pandora get involved? They are already here. Also, your husband is basically telling you to be cool with this thing you are not cool with, or else he will pout and be sad and think you are “taking something away from him.” That’s straight up emotional blackmail. Straight up. (Sorry if any of this is a repeat of what’s been said. I cruised through the comments but I may have missed something.)

  72. syrens said:

    Hey. So this has skeevy written all over it.

    I get the impression that LW’s poly agreement involves having a veto option wrt who else she or her husband happen to want to date or fuck. (For context: I’m polyamourous and I don’t do veto).

    What JennTheMighty said about how LW’s husband walking all over her boundaries is true. I don’t personally expect him to respect LW’s veto-power on this front.
    So my question is: what do you do if your husband ignores your veto?
    Because, for some folks, that would be a deal breaker (not because Veto Is Sacred, but because the rules of your relationship are what they are, and breaking them = breaking trust. Doing stuff that is meant to leave you feeling like a third wheel = cruel. Not great signs).
    …But for other people, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. It would just mean sorting out how to readjust one’s boundaries given the situation. (NOT a fun thing to have to do, but possibly relevant).

    So: LW, as a bunch of folks up thread have said, you’re a rock-start at boundaries.
    What can you do to protect YOURSELF, given that Pandora and your Husband are probably, or at least potentially, going to boundary-violate in other ways like condom-use?
    E.G.: Can you institute a protected-sex-only policy between you and your husband while he’s off banging P, and until he has a set of negative STI tests, post-banging? Can you implement a “worlds don’t collide” thing where you won’t ever have to hang out with P if you don’t want to and/or she doesn’t come to your house? (Uh… Expect push-back on both of these options, probably).
    Are there things you can do that will mitigate the situation and make it tenable or manageable for you, based on what you can actually control?

  73. Saskia said:

    Dear LW,

    I’m so sorry your husband is acting this way. Your feelings are valid, your sense of boundary violation is spot on. It sounds like this is quite recent and you are still processing what’s happened.

    I was once married and my then-husband secretly started a relationship online. We were having marital problems but he wasn’t prepared to do any work to improve things- he refused counselling point blank and continued with behaviours that bothered me a lot. I was carrying the emotional labour and attempting to fix problems that weren’t possible to fix.

    The secret girlfriend was a tipping point (once I found out). I couldn’t ignore the disparity between how much I was prepared to put into the relationship compared with him. When I told him there would be consequences for our marriage if he didn’t break up with gf, he stomped over my boundaries again and had the nerve to complain when I was extremely angry & separated from him.

    We had been together for more than 12 years and at first when I contemplated breaking up I fell prey to the sunk costs fallacy. But in my heart I knew that I was married to a person who was no longer good to me, and it was harming me to stay with him any longer.

    I imagine it’s harder to contemplate splitting up because you are worried about a negative impact on your child. Please don’t let this be a barrier to doing what is right for you, if you need to leave your husband.

    If husband was acting this way about giving a big loan to an untrustworthy friend and refusing to respect your NO, would you hang around?
    How about if he was offering for skeevy friends to come and stay at your home while they sorted out new housing, against your wishes?

    You are awesome and you deserve to be treated with more respect and consideration. Best wishes moving forward, however you choose to handle this situation.

  74. bostoncandy said:

    Dear LW, I have been poly for 20 years. I was recently triangulated as a poly person. The situation went from “I am dating these two people” to “I am dating these two people who are also dating each other” to “I am dating a borg with two bodies” to “I have just been dumped by the borg” to “The borg is marrying itself and propagating vast drama” in about six months. I don’t think you’re overreacting.

    You already have so many good comments. I am going to move away in my comment from “what happened” and “what this may mean” to “actions that you might wish to consider”

    1) The Captain suggested one option: essentially saying “You can do this but I don’t think it’s a good idea. If you choose to do it, it’s not my problem. I’m not doing any more Pandora Flavored Emotional Labor. No awkward dinner, no awkward brunch, no telling me about her secrets that I’m not allowed to act on or talk about, no listening to you talk about her, and if you just gotta fuck her, do it somewhere other than our home.” If I were in your shoes, this is what I would do.
    2) Speak with a lawyer and start your own emergency fund. This doesn’t mean you have to leave – it means you have resources and options. Staying because you feel you have no other choice sucks, a lot.
    3) Consider changing the shape of the relationship without ending it. If your husband wants a lot of freedom to run around, and you want (what to me seems a very reasonable) amount of input but still to be with him, what if you didn’t live together? As one fr’instance. I suspect as others have commented above that he is really enjoying getting the benefits of clean socks, a listening ear, and child care with occasional nooky. But your needs deserve to be respected too. If you have your own place and can close the door, that has some implicit boundaries in it.
    4) Start dating other people, including other men. If he gets to, you get to. I’m pretty sure he won’t be chill about it the way he expects you to be, and then that is a good talking point about parity. Child care parity is a big one here – for every night he gets to go out with her (or anyone) while you do child care, he does the same for you – even if you don’t have a date with a potential sweetie and just want to go out to a movie on your own.
    5) This is a big one. Arrange the chance for some quiet personal reflection where you are not kid minding. Sit down and write out what you really want. Write out all the positives and negatives of your relationship and how those line up with the above. And ask yourself, deep down, do I trust this person? If I knew everything I knew now and we didn’t have these years invested, if I was just meeting him for the first time and knew it would wind up like this, would I date him? If a friend of mine were in this situation and asked for my advice, what would I tell them? Ask yourself all the hard questions, and answer them.
    * Get tested for STIs and use barriers with your husband going forward. I would do this in all cases so I’m not giving it a number.

    • bostoncandy said:

      Good luck, LW. We are rooting for you. You deserve to be happy.

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