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April 26, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Some now-former friends have decided to jump into polyamory as a solution to a big mess of relationship crazy. I think this is a terrible, terrible idea, for reasons specific to both the couple and polyamory as a whole. But how do I discuss this with them (and others) without sliding down the slippery slope of defining what other types of relationships are "right" or "wrong"?

I live in an area that has an active community of poly people. It's generally seen as no big thing. However, I'm pretty opposed to polyamory in general, mainly because the vast majority of people I know who engage in it are pretentious, selfish, creepy, using it as an excuse to keep a bad relationship going, all that. Of course people will do whatever they want, but when they actively drag me into their drama it takes on another tone.

This is not to say that I am 100% convinced it can't work, but considering I know only one couple who does it "right" with honesty and planning (and has problems -- as any relationship unit does), that's up there. I admit that I can be judgmental, but dammit, what if I'm actually right?

So there is a married couple and an unmarried couple. Three months ago, Boyfriend proudly announces to me privately that he has received Batshit Insane Girlfriend's blessing to go after Wife. I am horrified, mainly because Girlfriend is (as mentioned) batshit insane; any possibility of a healthy secondary relationship, let alone their own barely-breathing heap of a relationship, is pretty much nil. I believe that Boyfriend truly valued my advice (which I tried to present as objectively as possible), but in the end they all decided to go through with it.

So my boyfriend and I backed way off as we tried to sort out our feelings and how it would be possible to remain friends with them when they want to make this horrible decision. Because what's to stop any of these people from making other horrible decisions that affect us more directly? We came to the conclusion that it would be really difficult to do so.

In particular, I feel like they've gone about it in a sort of half-secretive way that really took advantage of my trust. Months ago, Wife was up all night in tears complaining that Girlfriend is bombarding her with stalkerish e-mails insinuating that Wife is trying to steal Boyfriend. I try to support Wife, only to find out that... well, she kind of is. (Through her own behavior, not the general act of being poly.) Same with other times when she's outwardly flirting with Boyfriend, and Husband is emotionally shutting down. Without knowing more about their dynamics (i.e. what the hell he finds okay or not okay), we found it impossible to be supportive friends.

TL; DR

But within all this, as I'm trying to explain why this squicks me out, I have this nagging fear that some of the things I'm saying are very similar to objections that other people have raised about other nontraditional relationships -- LGBT, May/December, even interracial ones. You know -- things like "This isn't a healthy, normal way of conducting a relationship" or "I don't care what you do, as long as you don't do it around me." Even saying "I wish I knew more of the details of the relationship so I could respond appropriately" feels dangerously close to insinuating that a gay person should "announce" his or her sexuality in a way that heterosexuals don't have to do.

All four friendships are over, though I retain hope that Boyfriend (a good friend from high school) will come to his senses sometime down the road. I promise not to say "I told you so" because I hated it when people did that to me. But we felt obligated to let Husband and Wife know (via a careful e-mail) why we had suddenly disappeared from their lives, and now I'm getting accused of the kind of discrimination I mentioned above.

[Plus, I'd really like to know how to use this argument in favor of gay marriage when the teabaggers think it will lead to polygamous horse sex or some shit like that.]

What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait, I don't understand...are you being asked to be involved in a polyamorous relationship?

If not, then why not just keep yourself out of the whole thing?
posted by dubitable at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2010 [21 favorites]


Yeah, this is very seriously none of your business. So people are making some bad decisions that don't affect you -- this happens ALL THE TIME, with everyone you know, why is this decision different?
posted by brainmouse at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mind your own business.
posted by Babblesort at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why do you feel like you need to do something? Do you intervene when any other friend of yours makes a decision that seems like a bad idea, like ordering something nasty at lunch or wearing an ugly hat? If you are asked for advice, then you'll be free to give it, but otherwise, I don't think it's your place to go on a crusade against decisions your friends make about their private lives.
posted by kitty teeth at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2010


You should never have been involved in this to begin with, and your extraction from these people's lives doesn't have to be about polyamory at all. They got themselves into an incredibly drama-filled situation and you don't want to be a part of it. Isn't that reason enough to end the friendship?
posted by something something at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You do nothing, it's neither your life nor your sexual relationship. It's not for you to judge. Other people's consenting relationships are none of your concern. If you don't want to hear about it or be involved in the drama but want to continue friendships, simply be absolutely direct about that with your friends. If either side can't keep to or respect this personal decision line, then your friendship isn't worth saving.
posted by eatdonuts at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course people will do whatever they want, but when they actively drag me into their drama it takes on another tone.

I think the OP doth protest too much, since you are inserting yourself into the drama.
posted by grouse at 10:46 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Heh, your TL;DR is nearly as long as the rest of your post.

Anyway, their behavior has nothing to do with you and the whole "they might make future decisions that are BAD and might affect us!" thing is nutso. They're only as involved in your life and your relationship as you let them. As far as I can see it, it sounds like you don't like being around dramatic, crazy people. However, not all poly people are dramatic and crazy--and surely, they're not the only people in your lives who are. Have you cut off non-poly crazypeeps? If not, there might be something to the criticism that's being leveled against you.

If you want to cut dramatic people out of your lives, that's fine. But do it because they're dramarama, not because you're scared that their polyamorous taint might someday affect you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on April 26, 2010


What happens in their bedroom is none of your business. And if they proceed with this drama, you will have to take that a step farther and make their relationship none of your business as well.

If someone tries to bring their relationship issues to you, tell them that you're sorry, but you cannot get involved. Then change the subject.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't seem to like these people much to begin with and this seems like a handy reason to have less to do with them. Tell them that their drama is not interesting to you and you hope they can find a way to make this work and make themselves and each other happy. And if you don't believe this, you can use this time to ask yourself why you don't believe it. If this were a high drama set of single people going through this, it seems like it would be mostly the same sort of unfun problem for you.

I'm getting accused of the kind of discrimination I mentioned above.

All we have to go on is what you've said, and to be honest you do sound sort of judgey about these people's decisions to try this experiment. You have opinions and so do they. Being required to justify them to people you've already said you don't really want to hang out with is not something that needs to happen. On your side or on theirs.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wouldn't worry too hard about this. More stable, centered polyfolks avoid the drama-enraptured polyfolk, don't try to convert others to their relationship orientation, etc... which is probably why you only ever see the ones who give the entire practice a bad name. The ones who aren't doing this kind of thing are steering clear and going about their private business in private.

It sounds like you find these folks annoying and their ethics reprehensible regardless of the specifics of the current situation, and that's more than enough reason to start easing away from contact.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't discuss it. Talking about other people's relationship decisions, especially when they aren't your friends anymore and you have no intention of trying to be helpful to them personally, is gossip. Gossip is optional. You don't have to do it. You don't have to talk to them. You don't have to be involved in any of this at all!

Be thankful for that and let it be.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, after reading this long question, I think you are really asking: hey, can you believe my bat-shit insane former friends? Are they crazy, or what?

So, to me, this sounds like chatfilter, and LOLpolamory, and is not a cool question.

BUT, since it's here, your, "what do I do" is clearly, clearly, MYOFB. Seriously. You already sent Wife an email letting her know you are "out of their lives" because you disapprove of their lifestyle.

So BE out of their lives. Leave them alone. If they are making mistakes, let them make them.

Anything else just keeps you enmeshed in drama which, according to you, you and your boyfriend are trying to avoid.
posted by misha at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


so often it seems to be a cover story for being a terrible human being.

Hyperbole much?

I've been friends with people who thrive on drama - I'm no longer friends with them, and it's excellent. I do have few friends nowadays, so if that's a concern, maybe consider continuing to put up with drama, but really, it's much much nicer to be friends with people who don't seem to get anything out of drama.

It's hard to tell from your question if the reason you're involved is solely because of you or because of them. If it's the first, take a minute to consider whether that's healthy. If it's the second, consider some of the responses already mentioned.
posted by odinsdream at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2010


This question might make sense if it sounded liked you cared much for any of the protagonists. But you don't sound like that.

In which case, it's not really an issue. They're entitled to their private lives, however complicated. You would appear to have made at least one right call in backing away.

If you're asking for us to agree with your judgment of them... well, sometimes other people's love lives are mysterious. I imagine this is doubly so for polyamorous ones.

If you get asked why you've backed off, just be honest: it seemed complicated, you weren't a player in it, you were being asked to choose sides when it wasn't any of your business and at any rate you didn't know what was going on. You have your own life to live.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2010


and now I'm getting accused of the kind of discrimination I mentioned above.

If this is what your "What do I do?" is about, then I'd suggest saying something that I believe Miss Manners once suggested:

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

And then simply move on with your life. From what I understand, you're removing yourself from this situation because you don't want to be involved in the drama. So - don't be involved. Treat them as you would a persitent telemarketer. "I'm sorry, but I'm just not interested." And then hang up.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not sure what kind of friendships you are having that run so deep that you know so much about their private lives and yet are not deep enough for you to stick around when they do something you dont agree with....

I think the best course of action here is to mind your business and stick to the "as long as you dont do it around me, I dont care" mantra which I know you dont think is best but it doesnt look like you'll be any open minded about poly amory in any case....and perhaps thats the best you can do.....
posted by The1andonly at 11:05 AM on April 26, 2010


What do I do?

Trust your squick instincts, back away slowly and don't make any sudden moves.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2010


What do you do? A few things:

1. Mind your own business.
2. If you support marriage equality, then you support marriage equality. Don't worry about the batshit crazy homophobic arguments teabaggers may have (or may one day concoct) against gay marriage and its relation to polyamory, child pornography, the Biederberg Group, the Kenyan bolshevist in the White House, etc. You will never be able to talk reason to the unreasonable.
3. Mind your own business.
4. Mind your own business.
posted by scody at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


People's sex lives are their own to deal with. You don't have to be a prude to not want to discuss someone else's sexual relationships. If one of the drama kings/queens wants your opinion, give it to them in the short form and without making a judgement. You may have to practice how to give a non-judgemental opinion and how to pick your words carefully which is why in most cases it is just better to keep your mouth closed. The easy route when confronted about your opinion is always to plead the Fifth amendment.
posted by JJ86 at 11:14 AM on April 26, 2010


"But within all this, as I'm trying to explain why this squicks me out, I have this nagging fear that some of the things I'm saying are very similar to objections that other people have raised about other nontraditional relationships -- LGBT, May/December, even interracial ones."

You're not asking them to keep their immoral filth out of your pristine, correct life. You're asking them to stop dragging you into their crazy weirdo drama. That's something anyone is allowed to say when they're being dragged into crazy weirdo drama, no matter what form that drama takes. If you're finding it impossible to be supportive friends, then don't try. At some point anyone has to give up when they realize they're not being heard. It doesn't necessarily mean you're taking this action because you're judging them. They're not being good friends to you right now.
posted by amethysts at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I were you I would just go on with my life, keep my distance, and if asked why (unlikely), give an ambiguous answer like "we sort of fell apart"

Nobody needs to hear about the poly thing; and actually, you don't even need to think about it. They are all grown ups.
posted by Tarumba at 11:17 AM on April 26, 2010


Have you ever backed away from a friendship with someone in a traditional relationship because the decisions they were making caused it to be difficult for you to be a real and supportive friend to them? If so, then this is not really much different.

I will say, having spent my 20s in what I thought was a relatively "stable" emotional place (rather, I made the sorts of sacrifices that kept my life stable and sane but led me to feel sort of low-level unfulfilled and crazy) -- I found myself to be wildly intolerant of any relationship drama amongst friends and acquaintances. When I knew my friends were cheating, making bad relationship decisions, or generally being emotionally stupid, I would ride my high horse all over town, and part of it was because, well yeah, I was right, but the other part was because, well, I was a little jealous. Allowing yourself to make big relationship mistakes out loud left and right was a luxury I perceived not to have, for whatever reason.

Once I allowed myself to wobble a bit into dramatic territory (probably just a wade in the shallow end, in the scheme of things), I found that my judgment of friends relationship drama was a little less acidic; and I also felt (and feel) less guilty taking a step back from relationships I just can't stand to be around.

I don't know if that's relevant to you at all, or if any of your judgment is rooted in jealousy, but you have a tone of righteousness about your post that threatens to spill into righteous-indignation, which suggests a more personal affront to this type of behavior than you might actually be fairly entitled to, if that makes any sense at all.

On the larger philosophical point: Honestly, once you start REALLY caring about what people are doing in their bedrooms beyond the scope of regular "I hope things work out for my friend" caring, you have crossed a line, as long as everybody involved is a consenting adult. I mean, horses can't be consenting adults so I guess that's the only part of your question that can be easily answered. When you give a value-judgment of any and all folks who might participate in a particular type of behavior between consenting adults, i.e. that it's creepy, pretentious, selfish or emotionally naive, I believe you have crossed a line of fairness. We're all entitled to our own feelings about general sexual behavior, but pointing, laughing or calling it creepy across the board, in my opinion, really isn't all that different from saying "Well, c'mon, a man kissing another man IS kind of gross, isn't it?"

Here's my tl;dr:

- If it's bothering you because you care about your friends and don't want to see them get hurt, speak your piece and move on, and wish 'em the best.

- If it's bothering you because you think polyamory is "creepy", considering looking at your own life and try to figure out why you care so much about how other people decide to love one another. You can likely only grow from the exercise.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2010 [35 favorites]


This whole idea of polyamory as a sacrosanct personal identity on the same plane as being gay or Latino...it's silly. I'm sure it works for some folks, but so often it seems to be a cover story for being a terrible human being.

I'm sure there are tons of terrible people who believe themselves to be, for whatever reasons, poly. I'm sure there are tons of terrible people who are, in fact, poly, and not just enamored with awful dramatics and unstable in their own lives.

I'm also sure there are tons of folks who are poly, who have legitimate concerns over hospital visitation, inheritance, childrearing, and so on, who would like recognition of their concerns codified into law, and who aren't covering up for being terrible people. For myself, since I've met all three kinds of people, I might as well err on the side of "well, consider each situation on its merits or lack thereof, and not on its labeling."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:33 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If peoples relationship drama (regardless of orientation or the number of people involved) makes it diffcult for you to deal with them, then choose not to. Drop off the radar. Don't answer calls, return email or let them involve you. Skeevy people will make skeevy decisions no matter if they're hetero, homo, poly or whatever. If you don't want their indiviual drama llamas, refuse to become involved.
posted by Phoenix42 at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2010


Add me to the list of people who are accusing you of discrimination.

When I choose not to hang out with a person I consider a racist, I am indeed discriminating against their bad taste and ignorant beliefs. I don't feel bad about that because I think their beliefs are hurtful, both to society and individuals. You seem to think that polyamory is similarly detrimental. I, and these people, disagree with you. So own up to it: You think polyamorus relationships are morally wrong and you refuse to hang out with those who participate in them. That's fine I guess if you have some strong ethical reasons behind it. I just hope you're basing your judgments on more than some anecdotal evidence and a feeling of yecch, and losing good friends because of small-mindedness.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


But we felt obligated to let Husband and Wife know (via a careful e-mail) why we had suddenly disappeared from their lives, and now I'm getting accused of the kind of discrimination I mentioned above.

It's kind of baffling to me why you're even thinking about this. You don't like it, and they sound awful. Polyamory -- fine, whatever -- but this sounds like high drama and an impending trainwreck that you already want nothing to do with, you've closed the door on having anything to do with, and yet you're still wondering whether or not to have anything to do with it. In a nutshell: don't have anything to do with it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:45 AM on April 26, 2010


I think I understand what you are getting at; correct me if I am wrong: This web of people have sucked up some of your CPU time and personal energy with their own relationship details in late night angstfests, more than the fair share you might normally allot to friends. You would like to squeak out of this and maybe even caution your friend, but you are afraid to be perceived as being judgmental because you have not granted AutoBlessing to $Lifestyle.

Ultimately, people who will perceive you as judgmental because you are not celebrating in whatever their decisions might happen to be sexually or otherwise are judgmental themselves. You are not required to join the parade; that does not make you a bad person. You have little control over how they take your decision and that mainly extends to how well you deliver the message.

Recuse yourself from personal drama, first and foremost. You can do so without explanation. If pressed for one, you may simply reply, "The number of interactions between people goes up like n2, and I think that I could be perceived as taking sides, should something go wrong. And you must admit, there would be more sides."

Leave it at that, if at all possible. If one or more of the parties simply will not let you alone about it (and you can always find someone who will seek agreement no matter what ... or they will find you), and if you can find some genuine statistics on this sort of thing (which I doubt exist) leading to a "bad end" (for whatever your definition of such might be) with hard evidence to back it up, you could say, "I think this will lead to a bad end. Here is what I have for the numbers. I doubt you will believe me, because everyone thinks that they will be the exception, but you asked. I realize you will probably view me as a prejudiced asshat because of this. I have no control over that. I have not seen this sort of thing go well and, though I claim no oracular powers, my concerns are genuine. I have only said this because you continued to press me about the topic."

Given how unlikely those prerequisites are, here's hoping you do not run into that one person who will view you as an enemy simply because you have failed to applaud.
posted by adipocere at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two things stood out to me:

1. The boyfriend is a long-time friend of yours and you are very focused on him. Could there be an element of jealousy going on here? Appalled that he's branching out into other relationships...but not with you?

2. After getting specifics on the other couple's sex lives—a LOT of specifics that really aren't your business—only then do you mention that you and your current boyfriend decide to cut off contact. Is that because you are afraid of your boyfriend straying into this type of relationship with one of the couples? Or that one of you will be propositioned?

It seems like a lot of fear of alternative relationships stems from the fear that this new and strange behavior is contagious and that if you're around it, then you will end up doing it too! I'm wondering if that's at least partly behind your reaction.

What to do? Do some soul-searching to see if the irrational fear I just mentioned is at play. If it is, confront that and realize that what other people do in bed does not have to affect what you do in bed. And then? Do nothing! This is not your concern!
posted by Eicats at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your first sentence starts with "Some now-former friends" and you ask if you should get involved? Your answer is in the first 4 words of your entire post. They're "former friends" for a reason. Stay out of it.
posted by onhazier at 11:50 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are some awful people who use polyamory to further their own jerkish interests, or their jerkishness manifests itself as something they call polyamory. But polyamory is just being used as a tool there, it's not the problem in and of itself. Jerks can use anything as a tool.

I understand the desire to limit the number of tools assholes have access to. I understand it is galling to see them taking on this mantle that legitimizes their bad behavior, and to see them staking out some kind of moral high ground.

The thing is, you remove the power of that mantle but focusing on not the mantle itself but the actual bad behavior, which is the problem after all.

I think you know, and everyone has said, that what they do is really not your business. But if they ask you what happened and you want to be honest, focus on what actually bothers you here. The lying, the drama, all of them hurting/using each other and being selfish.


Months ago, Wife was up all night in tears complaining that Girlfriend is bombarding her with stalkerish e-mails insinuating that Wife is trying to steal Boyfriend. I try to support Wife, only to find out that... well, she kind of is. (Through her own behavior, not the general act of being poly.) Same with other times when she's outwardly flirting with Boyfriend, and Husband is emotionally shutting down.


How many times have you seen women in NON-polyamorous relationships do this, with men who are ostensibly just friends? I have a bajillion times.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:52 AM on April 26, 2010


MeTa
posted by hermitosis at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2010


You're not asking them to keep their immoral filth out of your pristine, correct life. You're asking them to stop dragging you into their crazy weirdo drama.

This. Just because people are in a minority lifestyle doesn't mean you have to cut them more slack than you would if they were in a more typical relationship relationship. If people are behaving badly, and you want nothing to do with it, don't have anything to do it, and don't fear you're prejudging them.

Or to put it another way: not being prejudiced means not prejudging people on the basis of what group they belong to. However, you are entitled to judge people on the merits of their actual behavior.
posted by musofire at 11:55 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you don't want to talk about the intricacies of their interpersonal relationships with them, and are asked to comment by them, just decline to do so. Like this: "You know, I don't pretend to really understand how your relationship works, and I can't possibly advise you on it. My standard answer is going to be "do what you think is best. Beyond that, I really couldn't say."

Melodramatic poly people overshare about poly. Melodramatic cat lovers overshare about their cats. Melodramatic vegans overshare about veganism. In general, melodramatic [x'ers] overshare about [x]; meanwhile, plenty of well-balanced, not-melodramatic people live their lives however they see fit. Some of these people are polyamorous cat-obsessed vegans, even. You just don't know this because they're correctly ascertaining that it's not of interest to you.

But you said that you're not even friends with these people anymore. So...uh, what was your question again? How do you tell the couple with whom you're no longer friends that you broke off your friendship over their lifestyle choice but that you'd like them to not be offended by this?

Okay, well, you can backpedal a little and apologize for sounding so judgmental, reiterate that you don't really know how to react to their relationship model, and wish them well. But if the goal isn't to continue the friendship, I don't really understand why you care.
posted by desuetude at 11:56 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


*sigh* No, brevity is not one of my strong points.

Yes, I have cut out non-poly friends and family members. I'm at the point in my life when I'm moving between post-college fun-time relationships and wanting to settle down and get on with life, so I have very little tolerance for drama.

I got drawn into this because of my longstanding friendship with Boyfriend, who has used me as a confidante. (I take pretty great pains not to let it get at the level of an emotional affair.) The four of us, with me instead of Girlfriend, were in a band; it was all very Fleetwood Mac. So yes, there was a bit of jealousy involved when they would do things together and not invite me. It's hard not to feel left out, especially when they're all practicing (and doing everything else) together and you're... not. And then Girlfriend started attacking me. So, yeah, it affected me pretty heavily.

So it seemed very sudden to cut off contact, as if this one decision was the thing that did it, but it was really just the straw that broke the camel's back. The way they'd been treating me won't fly anymore.

What I find creepy about the poly community in my area is not the act of loving another person; it's the stupid exhibitionist crap that most of the poly people I know engage in -- the stuff FoLA is talking about, like drunkenly hitting on people who don't want to be hit on and dominating every conversation with details of their last BDSM play party and how wonderfully fabulously sensuous their life is (which typically covers up horrible self esteem). Every community -- sexual, sports-related, geek-oriented, whatever -- has those folks who give their community a bad name, and unfortunately the stereotypes are often there for a reason.
posted by sheena is a sock puppet at 12:00 PM on April 26, 2010


Every community -- sexual, sports-related, geek-oriented, whatever -- has those folks who give their community a bad name, and unfortunately the stereotypes are often there for a reason.

When you, the observer, let "those folks" give their larger community a bad name in your view, and apply your stereotype to the community at large--that's intolerance.
posted by Phyltre at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have this nagging fear that some of the things I'm saying are very similar to objections that other people have raised about other nontraditional relationships

That's because they are.

Boiling down your question, it looks like what happened is: four of your friends got involved in a complicated relationship which you don't approve of. You decided your best option was to announce to them (via a "careful email") that you don't approve of their relationship decisions, and dump all four of them as friends.

And now you're upset that you're being accused of being judgemental? You are being judgemental.

what's to stop any of these people from making other horrible decisions that affect us more directly?

What? I mean, really: what exactly are you worried they'll do? Trick you into accidentally having a six-way?

It really does sound like you simply don't approve of polyamory in general, and have some strongly held prejudices about the type of people who engage in it. There really isn't much difference between that and disapproving of homosexuality, or interracial marriages, or any of the other things you list.

Which, you know, is okay. You can disapprove of poly, or of homosexuality, or of interracial relationships or of whatever else you want to disapprove of. It's fine not to want to get pulled into other people's drama, and it's fine to tell people you think they're making bad decisions. It's even fine to stop associating with people who engage in behavior you don't approve of.

But, yeah, those people are likely to think you're being judgmental or discriminatory in your thinking. Because, well, you are.

(Personally I think a much more tactful approach you could have taken here would be, when they asked your advice or start pulling you into the drama, tell them "look, I'm not comfortable with this, I'd really rather not get involved" and leave it at that. And if you're really so uncomfortable with it that you just can't stand being around them anymore, just stop spending so much time with them; there's no reason to send them a big "THIS IS WHY WE'RE DUMPING YOU" announcement on your way out the door.)
posted by ook at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


now-former friends

You're not involved. Stay that way. You feel like these are very good people and no one cares about your opinions regarding polyamory anyway. You don't have anything to say to them anymore; bloviating about what you find "creepy" is irrelevant.
posted by spaltavian at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2010


*aren't very good people
posted by spaltavian at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2010


OK, I wrote out my last answer before I saw your followup.

Now it looks like your basic prejudices against polyamory are being compounded by the fact that this particular relationship was making you jealous.

You might want to try separating the two as you think about this, because they're really unrelated. Are you upset with them because they're being poly, or because you were feeling left out?
posted by ook at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


the stuff FoLA is talking about, like drunkenly hitting on people who don't want to be hit on and dominating every conversation with details of their last BDSM play party and how wonderfully fabulously sensuous their life is (which typically covers up horrible self esteem).

BDSM isn't part and parcel of polyamory-- thus, I didn't mention anything about it at all. The only thing I said, and I kept it pretty broad because it covers a number of bad behaviors, was "attempts to convert others to [polyamory]." Please don't imply that I'm speaking of specific examples.

If these are, in fact, things your former friends are doing, that's just inappropriate regardless of how they identify. Tying it to their self-identification, though, enters very dodgy territory. People can be inappropriate as well as being poly and/or kinky, and they can be appropriate and respectful while being poly and/or kinky.

But your former friends, regardless of what they do in the bedroom or the dungeon, just sound like attention-seeking jerks, and that's a behavior that crosses all bounds of identity.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:42 PM on April 26, 2010


I'm going to use the word discriminatory here but I don't mean to imply that anti-polyamory discrimination is on the same level as other forms of systematic discrimination. I don't have any desire to minimize, say, racist bigotry against interracial relationships, which has been enforced by law and by violence.

You say that the four friendships are over, I'm assuming that you cut all four of them off so I based my answer on that.

Friends telling you about relationship drama is well within the range of what you would expect for a normal friendship. It is not ridiculous or odd for them to share their love life problems with you. If it gets problematic, you're friends with both sides, or you can't deal with hearing about it one more time, you could simply tell them you're sick of hearing about it. Likewise, friends make horrible decisions all the time. So what made you and your boyfriend start thinking like this:
So my boyfriend and I backed way off as we tried to sort out our feelings and how it would be possible to remain friends with them when they want to make this horrible decision. Because what's to stop any of these people from making other horrible decisions that affect us more directly? We came to the conclusion that it would be really difficult to do so.
They have already made horrible decisions, before now, right? The example that is staring me in the face is your friend who has a "batshit insane girlfriend". Getting and staying with her seems like it was a bad decision on your friends part. I am sure that there are other things they do that you don't disapprove of. What makes you suddenly afraid that these decisions will start to affect you directly? You don't live together, you're not financially entangled, you don't work with them, you're not going to be responsible for their minor children in the event of their divorce. From that perspective, the fear that it will seep into your life seems irrational, and I imagine it seems irrational to your friends as well, which makes them think it is the polyamory specifically, and not the relationship drama or the bad decision(s).

Then again, I have been known to cut people off if they treat another friend cruelly. Is that what you're worried about when you talk about this?
In particular, I feel like they've gone about it in a sort of half-secretive way that really took advantage of my trust. Months ago, Wife was up all night in tears complaining that Girlfriend is bombarding her with stalkerish e-mails insinuating that Wife is trying to steal Boyfriend. I try to support Wife, only to find out that... well, she kind of is. (Through her own behavior, not the general act of being poly.)
I don't get this--is she working to disrupt the relationship? Where and when did you get this information? From the batshit crazy girlfriend...? Or is this how you interpret her trying to start a polyamorous relationship with the boyfriend, as sorta stealing? Did the wife herself tell you her intention to steal the boyfriend? It's hard to know if you are accurately describing the situation, or if you're mistakenly judging the relationship by the rules of monogamy. Assuming your right, yeah, you must feel a little skeezy. On the other hand, when you think about her lying to you (or obfuscating the truth) consider that she did so out of fear of your reaction, and rightfully so, as your reaction to knowing the details of the relationship was to completely sever four friendships. Can you have empathy towards her reluctance to tell you all of the details of the situation?
Same with other times when she's outwardly flirting with Boyfriend, and Husband is emotionally shutting down. Without knowing more about their dynamics (i.e. what the hell he finds okay or not okay), we found it impossible to be supportive friends.
I can see how you would be uncomfortable witnessing what must have seemed like acts of emotional cruelty. Maybe it would have made you feel more comfortable to talk to everyone involved, or ask that she not flirt with her boyfriend in front of you and her husband. Or, if it made you think that the Wife is being cruel, why not simply reduce your contact with her? It seems extreme to cut off everyone, and the extreme nature of the reaction seems to be at least partly about the polyamory. Don't think I'm judging you about that, though, most people have no models for interacting with and socializing with people in these kinds of situations.


So, there you go. If you want to discuss it more, feel free to memail me.

This is not to say that I am 100% convinced it can't work, but considering I know only one couple who does it "right" with honesty and planning (and has problems -- as any relationship unit does), that's up there. I admit that I can be judgmental, but dammit, what if I'm actually right?
You can be right all that you want, but being right doesn't actually change anything. Sorry. It just doesn't. People make mistakes and do the wrong thing and have stupid relationships all the time. Polyamory doesn't even have to be involved. Your rightness changes nothing about how your people want to be treated, which is with consideration and respect.

An example of not treating people with consideration and respect: the way that you linked to AskMes that were not relevant. It seems like you linked to the first and perhaps the second as a way to say "look, other people think they're creeps too!", and considering that the second is a question that the asker described as a "delicate question, close to my heart.", linking it here as an obvious example of a "bad relationship" is not considerate of the OP. I imagine that she does not enjoy having her personal situation used as an anti-polyamory citation, and having her relationship described as "bad" when she specifically describes it as good. Whatever you think of her or her decisions, whether or not you're right, it goes back to my main point--you have to treat people with respect and consideration. If you're not doing that, then I imagine you will continue to feel uncomfortably similar to people who do all kinds of nasty things to people who aren't as "right" as they are.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


"What do I do?"

Don't offer them any more relationship advice or opinions, even if they ask for it. 1) You're not experienced enough with poly relationships to offer an informed opinion, and 2) You should keep your distance from what will probably end in a trainwreck.

It may be possible for you to have a limited friendship with them if you keep the friendship focused on common activities, interests, etc. and not about dissecting relationships.

But in the long run it sounds like you're better off cultivating new friendships with people who share your values.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:43 PM on April 26, 2010


Drama tends to follow people who actually WANT drama. You may want to assess what's really going on here. Stop thinking about the poly angle and start thinking about the sheer drama going on here and whether you want anything to do with it. On that note, though, consider why you came to MetaFilter to vent about it... 'cause I'm not entirely sure you DON'T want the drama.

Poly relationships can work, until they don't, at which point they end. Amazingly, monogamous relationships follow the same exact pattern.

I say this, by the way, as a Terrible Human Being who has never once cheated (poly or monogamous -- ever), never gotten sloppy drunk, nor... well, you get the point.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:26 PM on April 26, 2010


People don't listen when you disapprove of personal choices, like sexuality, religion, politics. Disapproving of polyamory is only going to disrupt a friendship. but you can comment of behavior. If A mistreats B, or C lies to A, etc., then you can comment on the bad behavior, and tell them you're disappointed, and that you expect better. If you really want to help, you listen, and give comfort to whoever is hurt, which you can do without expressing opinions on their belief system. If someone asks for your opinion, they might listen, otherwise, it doesn't help at all. They'll know you don't approve by your silence, voice and body language.
posted by theora55 at 3:01 PM on April 26, 2010


I think you're conflating polyamory with the drama you're experiencing from these people. You should cut dramatic people out of your life, regardless of whether they're polyamorous or not. If you were to have polyamorous friends who were not dramatic, you would have no need to cut them out of your life.

I suspect the impetus for this question is you're worn out from the drama and feeling icky that these friendships have ended; maybe you're not used to cutting dramatic people out of your life, and that frustration demands an answer even though you don't know what the question is exactly. That's a normal way to feel. But that's exactly how this needed to end. Don't be friends with drama factories.

I don't want to say it could never happen, either, but don't be friends with these people again anytime in the near future. People do not stop being sources of drama quickly, even if they seem to have made huge strides. For example, one person cut me out, ironically, because I suggested she could do better than dating guys that constantly cheat on her, but since she was nuts I didn't much care and welcomed not having to deal with her anymore; I had expressed my concern because I wanted the best for her, but I draw the line at people attacking me when I try to be supportive. Five years later she contacts me again, apologizes, and seems way better than she used to be, so I give her a chance. Things seem great for a couple of weeks and I'm actually glad to have her back. Then gradually, over a few months, it turns out she's still pretty crazy and feeds off drama, she's just better at looking like she has her shit together. Yet again, she blows up at me for saying she's a nice and likable person -- this time not even in the context of any relationship, she's just that crazy that you can't say anything to her. I talk to some of the people that were mutual friends, they confirm that she's insecure and self-absorbed and batty. Okay. I tell her I don't want to be friends with her. Months later she gets back together with a guy who cheated on her -- whom I didn't even know she considered an option, since I'd made a point of not talking about relationships with her -- and completely pisses off all her friends by demanding that they be friends with him -- tolerating him was not enough, I can't even make this up -- when they all hated him the first time around even before he cheated on her, and even before he took advantage of one of her friends that hated him when the friend was passed out. This same girl seems normal and interesting when you first get to know her.

All I could think was how happy I was that I wasn't having to deal with her, and that my day wasn't being ruined by her like these mutual friends' days were being ruined. They all had a few weeks of stress over it, I'm sure there's been more stress I haven't heard about, and I'm certain there'll be more stress in the future.

What I'm trying to say is, people don't change easily. For the sake of your own mental health, don't entertain these ideas that one day everyone will "come to their senses" and be friends again and everything will be great. The probability is VERY high that won't happen; if they "come to their senses" and you're friends again, chances are you'll have to deal with more bullshit drama about something else, so everything won't be great. You are better off without it in your life. If they come crawling back to you, by all means, give it a shot, but be ready to get the hell out again.
posted by Nattie at 3:24 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It sounds like maybe you're sad and angry about losing your friends, but not sure you want to still be friends with them, but also trying to justify to yourself that you didn't make a big mistake by cutting them off or by the way that you did that.

Your post reminds me of someone in a fight with someone she loves. Since you cut them off because you were upset about something, rather than out of slow attrition, it sounds possible that something [somewhat unacknowledged] originally upset you. Rather than deal, you pushed them further away in a dramatic move. Being in a fight with people you love is hard. Swallowing your pride and making up, especially when you don't know if they'll do whatever upset you again, is also hard.

Your hurt and judgmental anger also remind me of people who stopped hanging out with their punk druggie high school friends after being repeatedly left down and occasionally visit them and try to recapture some of that cameraderie. Losing friends and finding yourself outside the old gang is hard.

Your immediate suffering seems to be around wanting reassurance for your immediate behavior and your more long-term decision. Unfortunately, like most breakups, none of us can tell you if you did the right thing. It does seem like there's something behind it that's driving it; maybe examine that closely to be fully honest with yourself (e.g., the jealousy described above) and maybe even fess up about that to your friends. I also personally don't use the bridge-burning approach to breakups, though I know some people who do like to cauterize the wound. So, in your shoes, I'd figure out why I got so upset by all of this, then I'd either call people one by one (if I wanted to reopen the friendship somewhat) or email an apology (if I just wanted to end the relationship on better terms).

The polyamory thing seems almost neither here nor there. It's kind of related probably (my personal hunch is that you have lingering feelings for the contested Boyfriend), but it's taken on a life of its own as a stand-in for all the upsetness you feel. If you do keep moving on, over time you will find a whole new crowd. But you can't just fake that this is some dispassionate disapproval of their lifestyle. YOU felt personal hurt, anger, or discomfort, and you should figure out why.
posted by salvia at 4:02 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've know a number of people in polyamorous relationships, and, thus far, seen maybe three that have worked for the long haul, so I agree with you - the odds are pretty low. (But of course, that I've know plays into what FToLA about the drama enraptured.)

You can't stop them, nor will you make them see that if their relationship(s) are already strained, making a big dramatic changes aren't going to make their lives all better (and I would say that about any dramatic changes, not just a whole new set of sexual norms).

You kind of hit the nail on the head when you say "Even saying "I wish I knew more of the details of the relationship so I could respond appropriately" feels dangerously close to insinuating that a gay person should "announce" his or her sexuality in a way that heterosexuals don't have to do." but you're lacking one key experience. Have you ever had a gay coworker feel the need to give you a play by play of his sex life? I've missed this experience, but got it second hand via Mrs. Charlemagne back in the day. It apparently went a lot like this (you have to watch to the end).

So be careful what you wish for. I have a relatively normal sex life, but it would not take too much of me MeFi mailing you all the details so you can respond appropriately before you realize that responding appropriately would be telling me to stop MeFi mailing you the details of my sex life!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:11 PM on April 26, 2010


After reading the Meta thread, it sounds like the real question here is "is it fair to explain and justify my feelings toward my friends' behavior as part of a larger stereotype I have about how a group of people behave?"

Survey says...... No. First, assuming all polyamory is creepy just because some polyamory is creepy is the basic definition of a stereotype. Second, to justify negative feelings toward singular, unique behaviors by associating it with a larger stereotype is even worse. Address your problem with your friends as behavioral problems of unique individuals. ("I stopped going out to eat with Bob because he doesn't tip," not "I stopped going out to eat with that cheap Jewish bastard.") Back away from the stereotypes. Look around for examples if you need to. Do not use their behavior to reinforce stereotypes. Do not use their behavior to justify and spread stereotypes. Do not use stereotypes to justify cutting people out of your life. 

The discussion of polyamory by the OP here and in the Meta is full of bad logic along these lines:
1. My friends are polyamorists. My friends have creepy drama. Therefore all polyamorists have creepy drama.
2. My friends are polyamorists. Some polyamorists have creepy drama. Therefore my friends' creepy drama is because of their polyamory.
3. Most polyamorists are creepy. My friends' behavior is polyamorist. My friends behavior is creepy. Therefore, I refuse to hang out with my friends because of their polyamory. 

You know, if your friends' behavior is creepy, you can just stop hanging out with them because their behavior creeps you out. It doesn't have to be true that an entire group of people that share some characteristic with your friends are ALL creepy. You can then work to get a bit more specific about what they do that creeps you out and either address it or dump them for it.  

Another example. Some gay people creep you out by attending parades naked. YOUR gay friends creep you out by attending parades naked. You are creeped out by "people who attend parades naked." To assume you are creeped out by "gay people" would be a logic error based on a failure to realize that "gay people" and "naked paraders" may be clubs with some common members, but not all naked paraders are gay, and not all gay people parade naked. To go around talking about how you dumped your creepy parading gay friends is worse because it spreads the stereotype. Challenge your stereotypes. Not all polyamorists are creepy. Not all creepy people are polyamorists.

Here is some good logic. You object to all creepy behavior. Your friends' behavior is creepy. Therefore, you object to your friends' behavior. But nobody is infecting anyone.
posted by salvia at 9:34 AM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


You should refrain from worrying about anyones bedroom/sex life but your own.
posted by deborah at 8:37 PM on April 27, 2010


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