Last Friday night, I (Mimi) had a date with my friend, Armand (not his real name). Armand lives in a different city, and he and I get together when he’s in town gigging or recording.
As I was getting ready, I received a text from Marc who was on a shoot that evening. He asked if it would be all right if, while I was out with Armand, he invited one of his lovers over to our house.
This had never happened before. He had never requested having someone over while I was in town—it’s always been when I’m traveling—let alone for a quickie.
I thought about some of our open friends and how they have dates at home while their primary partner is out for a few hours. They seem to be able to come back together at the end of the evening. This should be okay, I thought to myself.
I felt a tad blind-sided, and it didn’t sit right with me, but instead of following my gut, I replied “ok”.
A few minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Marc. “Baby, I want to make sure this is really okay.”
Annoyed, I spit more than said, “You can have her over, but I want clean sheets and not a trace of her presence left in the house when I get home. I don’t want to even know she was here.”
Marc replied, “How can I wash the sheets in that short amount of time?”
I felt the blood drain to my limbs in a fight or flight gush. “Well then, there is your answer.”
“Ok. Yeah. I’ll tell her the timing won’t work.”
I thought about it and, realizing he wants this and I want to be a good partner, I heard myself say, “You know, we have more than one set of sheets.” Realizing I was making it easier on him and still feeling the sting of being blindsided, I followed up with, “But I don’t know when I will be home. There’s no fucking way I’m going to come home while she’s still here. I’ll text when I’m ready to come home, and then, I want her out of there.”
“That would be awkward.”
“Fine, after I text I’ll give you a half hour.”
“I don’t know…I’m gonna tell her it’s not a good idea.”
By this time I was running late and feeling frustrated and angry. “Do whatever you want. You know what I need.” And then I hung up without saying goodbye.
Marc texted ten minutes later to say that he wasn’t going to have her over. The last line of the text read, “It was a bad plan from beginning.”
When I received the text from Marc, I immediately felt a small jolt of panic charged with a spark of anger. Not a good combination. When I need to make a quick and emotional decision, I either go with the heart or retreat to the head. In this instance, I ignored my heart, and instead of paying attention to how I feel, I rationalized about how I should feel.
This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with how I am feeling and what my rational mind is telling me I should feel. Unlike this situation, however, I usually have some time to go back and forth, strike a solid balance between heart and head, and make a good decision. When I received Marc’s text, I was faced with a completely novel situation and I had about five minutes to get my head and heart together, and that just wasn’t going to be enough time. So I shut down emotions and retreated to my head. Hey, other people can do this, I said to myself. I should be able to do this.
Though I relied on my head in response to his text, my heart took over when he called to check in on me. I was already on edge from being rushed at the last minute to make a decision, so when I requested clean sheets and Marc said he couldn’t wash them in time, and then, when I said that I want to come home when I’m ready, and he said that would be awkward, I lost my rational footing and tumbled into the emotional rapids of my heart. The whole situation, from the beginning, but especially at this point, felt like my needs and feelings were being completely disregarded, or worse, dismissed. That’s when I said, “Do whatever you want,” and hung up on him. Real mature, huh?
Instead of replying with “Ok,” I should have called Marc to say that, in theory, there is no reason this can’t happen—either one of us having someone over while the other is out. However, it’s not sitting well with me at the moment, and I’ll need some time to figure out why. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it would be a good idea tonight. Also, we should talk about it—especially the logistics of how it would work.”
Fortunately and lovingly, Marc canceled his plans with his friend. I would have preferred that he said “This was a bad plan from the start” when I first said something about the sheets, or even better when he thought of it or she suggested it, but in the end, I felt visible and cared for by Marc.
So why did my head say “go for it” in the first place? There are a few of reasons—some nobler than others.
First, I know that Marc would not have asked if he didn’t really want it. In a previous post, I talked about compersion—taking pleasure in your partner’s pleasure with another. I knew that Marc doesn’t like being at home alone while I’m on a date, and it was also true that she and he had gone out the night before and had to put the kibosh on physical intimacy. They were probably chomping at the bit, and compersion would mean loosening the reins to let them run it out. After all, I’m going out on a date; there’s no reason Marc shouldn’t be able to have his desires fulfilled as well.
And this is where nobility ends…
I also said ok because I’m an overachiever. Having climbed mountains and rock climbed (did I mention I have a fear of heights?), my general approach to fear of the unknown is to charge head long into it to conquer the fear. And then there’s this little voice in my head that says, “You have to be the best, most perfect open/poly partner that ever was.” (Roll eyes and insert tongue in cheek) In my mind at the time, a good open/poly partner is one who can handle anything a partner tosses in her lap. This, of course, is ridiculous. A good open/poly partner is one who is in touch with how she feels, communicates those feelings clearly, and is capable of saying “yes” and “no”.
Finally, I said ok because I was going out on a date, and my rational mind was trying to be “fair”. How could I say “no” to Marc when he had said “yes” to my date with Armand? What I didn’t take into consideration is that the circumstances of his request were not the same as my request to see Armand. I had asked Marc if he’d be okay with me seeing Armand several weeks earlier, and it wasn’t a completely new experience—Armand and I had already gone out on dates exactly like the one we had planned. Marc’s request was last minute and something we had never done or even discussed before. To conclude that saying “ok” to Marc was the only fair and balanced decision was a bit like the fair and balanced coverage on FOX News. It’s just not.
So my ego and my desire to be a good partner got in the way of my doing the right thing when Marc asked. And the right thing was to say “No. Not tonight.” When new partners or experiences are introduced to our repertoire in the future, hopefully we’ll remember that the key is honest communication and good planning.
On our date on the night before, my lover and I didn’t have the opportunity to, well…you know. She and I were both regretting that fact, as we had had a date the week before, and again did not have the opportunity, so when this opportunity knocked (Mimi’s date with Armand), we thought it might work out.
I was reluctant to ask Mimi, as I had a date the night before with the same woman, and Mimi and I generally have a rule about never twice in one week, much less in two nights, BUT when Mimi’s other lover is in town, they spend anywhere from 3-6 days off and on together, so I figured that it might be ok. Also, the fact that she was going on a date that would inevitably lead to sex was not only a reason to want to not be alone at home, but a reason to do the same, and engage in some of the equity that makes things generally go smoother.
I asked Mimi via text, and I reiterated repeatedly on the phone that if it wasn’t ok with her, that’s “totally cool” with me, just thought I’d check. I was proud of her for doing the work she needed to do to say yes in the first place, but once the caveats and conditions came, it was clear that a. Mimi was not 100% on board and b. maybe it was a bad idea from the start. I was pretty pleased with how I was able to “stay on message” despite the fact that I could hear the growing tension and concern in her voice. I kept driving home the point that if she wasn’t ok with it, that would be ok with me. I realized that it just wasn’t do-able when I was told I’d have 10 minutes to say goodbye to my lover, have the bed sheets changed, and have the house completely “lover-free”. Problem was that after I got off the phone initially, I had texted my lover that we were a go, and now I had to text again saying “reverse that – it’s not a good night for this”. My lover said she understood, so it all worked out.
I wasn’t able to act on my desire that night, but Mimi and I walked away from the experience with even more knowledge about how all of this works, and again, we did it in an ethical manner, being honest with each other, and with our non-primary partners.
In a relationship that is not open, people who are on the “down low” use the opportunity of their partner being away to have a rendezvous, and hide (or try to hide) their actions and desire from their partner. I’m so grateful that I can be open and ask the question “hey…I want to have sex tonight while you’re away…is that ok?” As you can see above, it requires work and doesn’t always work out as planned, but it brings us closer to each other, and it feels good to be honest!