My partner and I have been together almost a decade and our relationship has been polyamorous all that time. For the most part (aside from perhaps two ‘near misses, completely, in fact) it has been me in other relationships (my partner has never been interested in looking, or hasn’t reciprocated others’ advances). Our stated ‘rules’ have been around safer sex, and a rule of not getting involved as someone’s affair. The latter rule sprang from me entering the relationship with her fresh out of BEING someone’s affair. We both decided we didn’t need that – there was potential for drama that would involve each other etc.
After almost ten years my partner just met someone (someone she already knew but who just declared an interest) she really wants to pursue something with. The catch? He’s married. of course. She tells me she doesn’t really care about the ‘affairs’ rule now – she knows I do but she doesn’t see why she can’t do this, given that it’s so rare for her to have these feelings.
It’s the first time she’s got this close to seeing someone and so I can’t work out what are my feelings about it being ANYONE, and what are my feelings about her becoming an affair.
I have two choices. I can either tell her not to do this (and I believe she won’t) and she will be miserable and resent me, or I can NOT do that, and I will be miserable.
This isn’t ethical non-monogamy to me. it’s not what I signed up for. I love her, but I’m aware that my thought processes have changed. I cannot currently say I feel proud of her, for example, and I hate that.
I guess I’m looking for some perspective?
Not where I thought I was going (they/them)
Dear Not Where I Thought I Was Going,
I guess my question is, why is the pressure on you to compromise on the ethical rules you agreed to and not on this married guy to have some potentially difficult conversations with his spouse about about opening up their marriage?
What if you told your partner “It’s really important to me to not be party to someone’s infidelity. If this guy likes you and wants to be with you so badly, why does it have to be a secret? And why is that secret something you and I have to swallow, vs. him doing the right thing by talking to his spouse so he can come correct?”
We can predict the answer to that, of course. The assumption is, if he has to ask his spouse, the spouse probably won’t agree to it, and it might ruin his marriage to even bring it up. See also: “It’s complicated.” “Their relationship is complicated.” “It’s not the right time.” “Spouse wouldn’t understand.” “You don’t understand.”
I want to talk about your partner’s point that it’s rare for her to have these feelings. Pretty much everybody who gets involved in ethically questionable sex & romance has the same exact revelation as your partner: “These feelings are so rare and special that I have to act on them, even at the expense of the agreements I’ve made.” I believe people when they say that those feelings are intense and compelling (otherwise they wouldn’t risk burning down their whole lives to act on them). “It’s more complicated than that,” says everyone who crosses that line, and of course it is, it always is. But it’s also incredibly simple: We can choose not to fuck people behind their spouse’s backs. If we want to do non-monogamous stuff, we can choose to do it ethically, with honesty & care for the people we’ve made commitments to. We can treat it like a big deal and tread carefully and go slowly. When this married guy decides “Oh, it would just be easier to do what I want & keep it a secret so I get to have a fun relationship and keep my spouse while keeping them in the dark,” he is robbing his spouse of informed consent. He is deciding “My feelings are more important than the agreements I’ve made, and I know better than my spouse what information they need.”
Letter Writer, I don’t know where this conversation with your partner goes. Maybe to a “miserable” place, if your partner decides to go for it anyway, or if she desists but somehow punishes you for standing in the way of what she wants. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that this married guy has choices. Your partner also has choices. If she wants to be more active in seeking outside relationships, she can do lots of stuff to pursue that while still holding to the “no monogamously married people” agreement you’ve made. She has the choice to not take romantic disappointments out on you.This isn’t the only sexy dude on earth, and the world doesn’t end if we decide not to act on attraction or romantic feelings.