Recently, Marc and I went out on 4-way date with another couple. The plan was to meet at a local watering hole for cocktails and conversation. The afternoon before the date, Marc posted this on his Facebook wall: “Looking forward to a date tonight with a lovely couple and Mimi.” He tagged me, so it went up on my FB wall as well.
I hadn’t told Scott about the date. He and I had a sort of “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy when it came to my seeing other people besides Marc.
When Marc’s comment about the date went up on my wall, I received a text from Scott that read, “Is this a “date” date?” I replied “Yes.”
We were smack dab in a three-way kerfuffle. Marc’s post was about him and me and the couple we were going to see that night, but by tagging me, he made it also about Scott and me.
Needless to say, Scott was angry, but he was also hurt. He had made it very clear to me that he didn’t want to find out about my dates…let alone on Facebook! Also, the last time we were together, we had a long talk about our open relationship. I told him that I’m not at all interested in adding another relationship to the mix right now, but that in the future, it’s entirely possible and likely that I will. I also said that there wasn’t anyone on my radar and that, for now, I’m not interested in having another lover. He told me that he felt the same way. We were in an open relationship, but neither one of us was especially anxious to put it in to practice.
This was before Marc and I met our new friends.
Marc and I went on the date and ended up in bed with our new friends. The next day, Scott and I spent a long time on the phone talking about what had happened, why it happened, and what each other wants and needs around the open aspect of our relationship. Marc and I also had a talk about FB etiquette and about what Scott and I decided about how to do our open relationship.
All three of us had to deal with the challenges of this situation and come out the other end with new strategies and new goals. Since this was a three-way kerfuffle, in addition to including my and Marc’s take on things, we’ve asked Scott to guest blog about this situation from his angle as a third coming in to an existing couple.
When Scott and I first got together, he made two things clear to me in no uncertain terms. 1) He doesn’t want to change me and loves the part of me that is polyamorous and committed to doing open relationships, and 2) He doesn’t want to know about other lovers. At the time, I agreed and said that I’d rather not know about his either.
Our relationship was new and, to be honest, I wasn’t at all secure in it. I just assumed that eventually some kind, lovely woman who wanted to be in a monogamous relationship with him would come back or come along and he and I would go our separate ways. And so the thought of him dating others made me feel jealous, and I just didn’t want to deal with it.
As time passed and he and I got closer, however, the prospect of him choosing a monogamous partner over me became less likely, but, at the same time, more and more scary. I had a lot to lose. I didn’t want to get blind-sided, so I told Scott that I don’t want to know about casual sex, but if he starts to have a relationship that could potentially affect our relationship, I’d like to know. He agreed and reiterated that he doesn’t want to know anything.
So, for a while, that’s how we did it. Scott doesn’t want to know; I do.
As you’ll read below, Marc was always really uncomfortable with the don’t ask/don’t tell agreement between me and Scott, but I felt strongly that it is our relationship, and how we negotiate it is between me and Scott as long as our agreements don’t have an impact on Marc. But to be honest, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with Scott’s request to be completely in the dark either. I worried that it was a kind of denial and that maybe he was not willing or able to really do an open relationship.
And then I fucked up. I don’t know if it was an unconscious effort to push the issue with Scott or a desire to be open to the world, but about six months ago, I posted on Facebook a status about going on a date with Marc and another couple. The chances of having sex with the other couple were remote, but Scott couldn’t have known that. On top of that, Marc and I were on a trip together and I had requested some space from Scott. Not only did I post about the date, but Scott and I hadn’t talked for a couple of days, and I wouldn’t be returning home until 2 days later. Needless to say, Scott was rightly upset. He angrily reminded me of his strong desire to not know about it. I apologized and promised him I would never post a status update like that ever again.
When I made this promise, I felt a little twinge of discomfort. There are so many people I know who are on the “down low” about being open and poly because there could be real and dire consequences if they were out. Since I am not in that situation, I want to be as open about how we’re living our lives as possible. This includes waving my poly flag on Facebook. Scott’s request felt like a step backward into the closet, but I didn’t say anything. At the time, no one was on my radar, and as long as I wasn’t dating anyone else, I could avoid dealing with it.
When Marc and I made the date with our new friends, I felt the conflict between my desire for full disclosure and what Scott said he needed. I wanted to tell Scott, and I really did NOT want him to find out "accidentally" later. I resolved to tell him afterwards and request that we discuss doing things differently and more openly with each other.
Then Marc posted the status about the date on FB and tagged me. I’ve told Marc on several occasions that it is not okay for him to expose personal things about my life on Facebook without securing my permission first.
I was napping when Marc posted, and by the time I woke up, Scott had already seen it. Needless to say, he was very hurt and angry, and I had to do a lot of emotional work with Scott up front before the date.
The next day, Scott and I talked for a long time about what happened and how we might avoid the situation in the future. I told him that I’m very uncomfortable with the don’t ask/don’t tell policy. I said that I want to know everything about his interest in or sexual activity with others and that I want to be able to tell him about mine. He said that it’s really hard because we’re so far apart, we can’t reconnect with each other the same way Marc and I do, and it’s all so new to him. He’s never been anything but monogamous. I remember those first couple of times Marc slept with someone else, and I totally understand how Scott was feeling. Scott and I agreed that I would tell him after the fact and not before and see how that goes. Marc has agreed to not post personal information about me on my own Facebook wall without checking with me first.
In the end, here is what I learned from this experience: 1) Don’t ever let your lover(s) find out about your trysts through Facebook or in a blog. 2) Remember that it’s really hard for everyone in the beginning. As a newbie, Scott is doing great, but it’s his first time and he hasn’t had a chance to develop the skills and strategies Marc and I have built over the years. 3) No one is perfect and every poly relationship is an ongoing process without a blue print. The key to doing polyamory is being flexible and willing to adjust and renegotiate when something isn’t working. Rather than hold on to anger or throwing in the towel when something goes wrong or someone makes a mistake, we have to learn from the situation, make adjustments to avoid similar problems in the future, and move forward. Scott and I realized that don’t ask/don’t tell isn’t sustainable over the long run and we made an adjustment to ease into a more open arrangement. Marc realized that his post hurt and angered Scott and violated my privacy, and he promised it wouldn’t happen again.
You know that saying, “forgive and forget?” I really think it should be, “forgive and renegotiate,” and always remember relationships are an ongoing, ever-evolving process, not a fixed set of rules and roles. In the immortal words of Kevin Cronin, you just gotta “roll with the change-as-ah.”
It's true, I've never been comfortable with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In my mind, that seems like Mimi and Scott are establishing a monogamous relationship.
One of the most difficult parts for me about polyamory and an open relationship is dealing with insecurities and jealousies around Mimi sleeping with other people. Judging by Scott's request for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, these aspects are also difficult for him. The main difference would be, then, that I have to do the work around these issues, but because of Mimi and Scott's policy, Scott does not have to do the work, since he does not have to know about Mimi sleeping with other people (besides me). That has always seemed fundamentally unfair, but then again, it's their policy, and they should have a right to set up their relationship the way that they want to do so.
I have consistently and reluctantly gone along with this policy. That said, I am in a polyamorous relationship, and when I am excited about an upcoming date with either an individual or a couple, I want to be able to post on Facebook about it. I'm not in the closet about my desire. So when I tagged Mimi in the posts about our upcoming dates, it was for Mimi. I wanted her to see that so that she would know that I am also excited, just as she was.
I realized that Scott might see the post, but had no idea that it might make him angry. I assumed that he knew that we occasionally date other people. For the last 1.5 years, it really has felt as though Mimi is in an open relationship with me, but in a monogamous relationship with Scott. This has always been due to the fact that they haven't told each other about other lovers they have. It really has always felt to me like if you are going to do an open, polyamorous relationship, you need to fully embrace it, and accept the difficult parts with the fun parts.
Whenever I have brought this up with Mimi, she has pushed back, and told me that the real problem here is that I'm not being compassionate enough towards Scott. I totally understand what Scott is going through. He is in love with Mimi, and Mimi was in a relationship with me when they met, so the relationship between Mimi and I is something that he knew about and had to learn to deal with from the very start. I can be compassionate and understand what Scott is going through, while at the same time feeling as though the arrangement is unfair, as it allows him to avoid much of the work that I have to do around Mimi being with him and with other men. I assume that there was a subconscious "here, deal with it" layer to my tagging Mimi in my post about our upcoming date.
I've made a promise to Mimi to follow the Facebook rule to the letter from now on, but, in that negotiation, I was glad to discover that Mimi was more on the same page with me regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I am hoping that the end result of me tagging Mimi in my Facebook post will be that all three of us come to a better understanding, and that Scott and Mimi finally come to a realization that in order to truly do polyamory, there needs to be transparency and openness.
O.K. Where to start?
Perhaps a brief bit of background.
My name is Scott. I’m an artist, and I live in Chicago. I’m currently in the middle of a divorce after a decades long relationship and this is my first blog entry ever.
This is also my first open/polyamorous relationship and I’m learning as I go. Until now monogamy was my default setting and quite honestly I was fine with that. That is, until I met Mimi.
Mimi has already covered in earlier entries how we met so I won’t bother with repeating those details.
I’ve never had an issue with Marc and Mimi being primaries and no desire what so ever to try and alter that in anyway. They are peanut butter and jelly, lox and cream cheese, pork chops and applesauce, pick a food pairing of your choice. They belong together and compliment each other well.
Nor do I have an issue with the open aspect of the relationship. While I currently have no desire to act upon it myself, I’m well aware of not only Mimi’s desire to occasionally take a new lover but also how she views the act of engaging in recreational sex with others. In her words, “It’s like bowling with a new friend.” Bowling…Mimi does love her sports.
For me sexual intimacy has almost always been with someone I felt a deep connection with. It’s a physical act that I love experiencing for sure, but it’s also a spiritual commingling, a bonding. It’s been rare that I’ve been intimate with someone I didn’t have an emotional connection with. I know that this is just my view, and I do try hard to recognize that and avoid projecting my interpretation onto her and her experiences.
For myself that’s easier said than done. As an artist, I’ve literally spent my entire life letting my brain have free rein with my imagination. It’s a handy playground for being creative. Not so much when super imposed onto your girlfriend’s experiences with other lovers. For this reason I’ve asked Mimi to avoid letting me know when she has an upcoming date. Oddly enough and for reasons unknown to me, I’m overall fine with the knowledge after the fact, but to be aware it’s happening in real time is a struggle, which brings us to the point of our tale.
I was breaking for lunch at work and, as I often do at such times, checked in to Facebook to see what Mimi was up to. It’s how we met and, being that we live so far apart, it’s a way for us to feel connected and see what the other is up to day to day. It was then that I saw Marc’s post regarding the date that evening.
To say I was hurt and angry is a bit of an understatement and my mind, not always being my friend, immediately went into hyper drive with various narratives complete with surround sound and hi def imagery. I was angry because this wasn’t the first time such a situation had occurred. Suffice it to say that after the first incident, I felt like we had established clear ground rules on not posting on Facebook about upcoming dates. To be fair, the first time was a post from Mimi, not Marc, but since he had to deal with the fall out of my reaction then, fair or not, I was beyond sure he knew he was not only breaking a rule Mimi and I had, but he also knew the effect it would have on me.
To make it worse, it was Saturday, our date night. Date night means Mimi and I clear our calendars and set aside a big chunk of time to talk on the phone or video chat. I was scheduled to work that evening but thought I could weasel out of it early to make our date. Mimi requested we postpone our date night to the following evening. Not realizing at the time it was so she and Marc could go out with the new couple, I agreed.
All of this was on the backdrop of a conversation Mimi and I had about not wanting to take a new lover any time soon. I knew of course that at some future point she would and was fine with that. I would never want to discourage Mimi from having new experiences or being who she is. I guess I just didn’t expect it so soon on the heels of that conversation.
To sum it all up, I was trapped at work with a full on mental movie, feeling angry at Marc for posting something that he knew was not only breaking a rule but would also have a huge effect on me. On top of that, I was hurt for feeling my date was bumped for another one and for Mimi taking new lovers so soon after saying she didn’t want to.
Now, here’s the rub.
Neither one of them did anything wrong.
Marc and Mimi are the poster children of the open/poly movement and are accustomed to joyously sharing their love of each other and the way they live. I’ve unintentionally made it hard for them to be open in some cases. That’s gotta chaff a bit. To Mimi’s knowledge, I was not going to be able to make our date and she had no way of telling me what was happening without breaking the rule I had made. I had essentially made it all but impossible for her to openly communicate what was happening. It was a lose/ lose situation for her.
And even while Mimi was pouring her sweet words in my ear, I knew there would be new experiences and lovers she would want to have. It was foolish of me to put any sort of artificial time limit to her words. I had basically set things up to be difficult if not impossible.
In short, I have to and want to get to the point where Marc and Mimi can be totally open wherever and however they want to be about their amorous adventures. I know how Mimi feels about me and that her open experiences bare no resemblance to those she shares with Marc or myself nor in anyway tarnish the love she has for each of us. This has all been so new to me and both of them have been great, not just in allowing me to be part of their world, but in the patience they have shown.
I will, no doubt, continue to struggle, but I will also look for new ways to still my mind and embrace compersion. Deep breaths and baby steps. It’s a whole new world.