How much sacrifice is normal in a relationship?
March 25, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

How do you decide when someone is asking too much of you? How much do you sacrifice in your romantic relationships?

I've been seeing my guy for about fourteen months, pretty seriously from the start. He's my first serious relationship. He's also polyamorous, with a wife of several years (she has another husband too). When we first started dating, he promised that he didn't "do primary/secondary", but I have struggled with feeling like our relationship, being newer, must be less important to him.

There are sacrifices he asks me to make as a poly person. I get to spend less time with him. If I want to see him on a whim, I generally can't. If I do request some extra special time with him, I feel as if I'm injuring someone else. Tonight we had the biggest fight of our relationship and his wife was dealing with a death of someone she knew (not a close friend, but still...). I felt like a monster, being forced to choose between depriving her of him and saying "No, it's cool, we can hash out these potentially relationship-ending issues some other time."

I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of. If this is something that is a natural part of any relationship, I want to work on dealing with it, but if it is something that is specific to poly relationships... well then maybe I don't want to be poly.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like this kind of situation isn't fun for you. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. You shouldn't have to modify your needs.
posted by anniecat at 7:42 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's my first serious relationship. He's also polyamorous, with a wife of several years

Oh god run.
posted by ook at 7:44 AM on March 25, 2010 [73 favorites]


You make sacrifices in every relationship. You don't make sacrifices in every relationship because your guy has another partner of several years.

It looks like this setup isn't for you.
posted by sallybrown at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2010


Yes. He's married. His wife does not have another "husband," she only has one husband. She has a husband and other eople she sleeps with. Your "boyfriend" is married. to someone who is not you. You are NOT his second wife or WTF he wants to call it. You're the person his wife is allowing him to sleep with. They can call it what they like but you sure as heck don't seem real comfortable with this.

You get to spend less time with him? Yep; that's cuz he's MARRIED to someone who is NOT YOU.

RUN.

But get checked for an STD quickly.
posted by dzaz at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


The vast majority of people aren't "wired" for poly relationships. Especially ones where they are being demeaned and being treated unfairly.

Get out, now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:49 AM on March 25, 2010


These types of issues are not specific the poly relationships. All relationships require a balance of commitments you have in the relationship with commitments you have on your own. In poly relationships, "commitments you have on your own" happens to include other relationships. There is no difference.

So how do you decide when someone is asking too much of you? There is no bar for a standard amount of sacrifice, and every relationship has to be approached as a unique combination with unique dynamics.

I glean from your question ("he's my first serious relationship") that you do not have any other concurrent relationships going on and if you want to continue working on learning how poly relationships work, you want to get into a few more so you can learn how to manage poly relationships from both sides. He can't devote all of his "relationship energy" (for lack of a better term) to you because he has other relationships. You, U assume, do not currently have other relationships so you can devote all of your relationship energy to him, and your expectations of reciprocity will naturally rise in that situation.

If you'd rather not deal with this kind of thing--balancing out multiple partners means having to pick and choose between them at times, and this requires a great deal of effort to do successfully--then, yeah, polyamory probably isn't for you, adjust accordingly.
posted by coryinabox at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh god run.

This - you're putting yourself at risk mentally and physically, and it sounds like you're getting nothing but heartache in return.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:53 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Disclaimer: I'm not a poly person.

I do think you can encounter situations like these in a monogamous relationship. The guy could have a close relationship with his parents/family that took him away from you. Or a time-intensive career.

I think you can ALSO have the reverse situation in both poly and monogamous relationships, where you're the most important person to someone and you get all the time you need from them.

I would really answer your questions the same way regardless of whether you were monogamous or poly:

How much sacrifice is normal in a relationship? How do you decide when someone is asking too much of you? How much do you sacrifice in your romantic relationships?

1. I really don't think there is a normal. There's more sacrifice in some relationships that in others- some relationships just require less. Different things are sacrificed in some relationships than others.

2. You have to decide what's important to you. I completely think anyone has the right to want anything they want out of a romantic relationship. And I think it's possible for most people to find a relationship that will allow them to have any given thing. You just have to be aware of the tradeoffs. Figure out if what you get from a relationship with a specific person is worth whatever it is you'd have to sacrifice. If you leave and find a relationship where you won't have to make that sacrifice, that relationship will probably have its own drawbacks. But those might not bother you as much.

3. I figure out what's important to me and what's not, and am willing to sacrifice things that are not important to me. If sacrificing something in a relationship makes me miserable, then I know it's one of the important things.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


These types of issues are not specific the poly relationships. All relationships require a balance of commitments you have in the relationship with commitments you have on your own. In poly relationships, "commitments you have on your own" happens to include other relationships. There is no difference.

Interesting test: if you (OP) agree with me that it's absolutely crazy to think of other romantic relationships as "no different" to other commitments that might intrude on a relationship, you're not set up for this kind of arrangement.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:56 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


When we first started dating, he promised that he didn't "do primary/secondary"

I kinda think the fact that he's married proves this to be false.

You could be dating one of many guys in the world who would commit themselves to you fully. You haven't even tried it- you owe it to yourself to at least see what it's like.

There's a good chance you'll go on to ask yourself what the hell you were thinking before.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


These types of issues are not specific the poly relationships.

Yes, they are. There's a big difference between dating someone with a commitment to their spouse that gets in the way of your relationship, and dating someone with a commitment to their friends and family. I'm going to echo game warden to the events rhino, if you also feel this way, (a) you aren't cut out for this, and (b) don't let the polyproselytizers tell you otherwise.

Try dating some people monogamously and see how that makes you feel. From your description, I'd be willing to bet you'd like it much more.
posted by grouse at 8:02 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Are you familiar with the Law of Least Interest? It isn't really a law, more like a proposition about social exchange, that says that the person who wants the offered thing less gets to set the terms of the exchange. In this case, you're describing someone who appears to want the relationship with you (that's the thing being exchanged here) less than you want the relationship with him. So he gets to set the terms.

In other words, you are offering him a type of relationship, say Relationship X, that has all the elements that you want (access, feeling special, feeling equal to other relationships), and he is countering by offering you Relationship Y, that has all the elements that he wants. You are accepting his offer because you would rather have Relationship Y than no relationship at all. Note that this has nothing to do with him being polyamorous, it has to do with differing priorities and desires. It could happen for any reason.

So, the question is, when will you want no relationship more than you want relationship Y? At what point will his offer not meet your minimum expectations for what you are entitled to in a relationship? That's only a question that you can answer, and only a change that you can implement. That's the important thing to realize here, that you control this situation. Not the dude, not his wife of several years, not anyone on MetaFilter. You get to decide what is acceptable to you and what isn't, and, as a corollary, you have the responsibility of getting it. (This isn't a license to treat people badly yourself, as they may find a relationship with you in which you are too demanding to not be worth it.)

All of that aside, if you're just asking for a reality check, this seems like a difficult position to be in given the lack of experience in relationships that you describe. Everyone has a first relationship, and everyone has a first polyamorous relationship if they have any polyamorous relationships, but it sounds as if the two do not mix that well here.
posted by OmieWise at 8:03 AM on March 25, 2010 [45 favorites]


I can't really speak to anything poly-specific, but I think a good general rule is that if the relationship, on balance, causes you more grief and less happiness than not being in a relationship, then it's time to get out.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Interesting test: if you (OP) agree with me that it's absolutely crazy to think of other romantic relationships as "no different" to other commitments that might intrude on a relationship, you're not set up for this kind of arrangement.

and

Yes, they are. There's a big difference between dating someone with a commitment to their spouse that gets in the way of your relationship, and dating someone with a commitment to their friends and family.

Absolutely this! I didn't address the "weight" you (the OP) put on relationships because I approached the question as being asked by someone who has already accepted some basic tenets of polyamory, but if you put more weight on romantic relationships than other commitments you have with other people, you are not going to be successful in your polyamorous pursuits.

And that's fine! Polyamory is not for everybody. You should not let anyone here persuade towards polyamory/polygamy or towards monoamory/monogamy, that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself.

On that note: if you decide that polyamory is not for you and you want to end your relationship with this guy. DO NOT LET HIM CONVINCE YOU TO GIVE IT ANOTHER SHOT.
posted by coryinabox at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of. If this is something that is a natural part of any relationship, I want to work on dealing with it, but if it is something that is specific to poly relationships... well then maybe I don't want to be poly.

I'm not particularly romantic, and I'm not going to blow rose scented, pink love smoke up your skirt, but fuck no, this is not how relationships should be. Some poly people may care to disagree, but everyone should be able to see, including you OP, that this is not the kind of relationship you want, need, or deserve.

You more or less asked if you should settle for this guy, for the rest of your life. Or if you should roll the dating dice again. OMG there are more fish in the sea. A relationship is good if it works for both of you. This relationship is not working for you. Moving on isn't easy, but worth it.

To the question of if making sacrifices in a relationship is appropriate or expected: to some extent yes. But a good rubric is how much it feels like a "sacrifice" or is it the best decision for the both of you?
posted by fontophilic at 8:11 AM on March 25, 2010


I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of.

Then the lifestyle isn't for you. Polyamorous seems to be in favor of the man anyway. He can do whatever. You can't.

Move on and find someone dedicated and worthy to you and only you. This lifestyle is too much hassle.
posted by stormpooper at 8:15 AM on March 25, 2010


One of the reasons he's attracted to you is because this is your first serious relationship. It gives him the safety to really stretch out and throw around terms like poly-watsit and primary/schmeckindary.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:18 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of.

Your feelings are real and important. What would you say to a friend who said these words to you? A friend who you wanted the best and most for?

It's okay, wise even, to trust your personal instincts for yourself. I'll say it back to you: You don't like making these sacrifices. You feel hurt and taken advantage of.

Why would you stay in this relationship?

What could be the best possible outcome for you within the context of this relationship?

What could be the best possible outcome for you in another relationship? Or in no relationship?

Don't let anyone rationalize, convince, or guilt you into thinking you're somehow at fault for feeling like you're sacrificing too much, hurt, or taken advantage of. There are people who are expert manipulators, and able to convince you that the problem is with you and your narrow-minded nature rather than with the fundamental inequality and lack of satisfaction for you in your relationship.
posted by Miko at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


...and if you ask most people about the most fulfilling relationship of their lives, they won't ever say it was one wherein they felt small and second rate.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm sorry to say this, but it sounds like this guy is taking advantage of you. He knows it's your first serious relationship and that you don't know any better. There are plenty of guys out there who don't lead this kind of lifestyle. If it works for him and his wife, fine, but it sounds like it isn't working for you, and you shouldn't have to sacrifice spending time with him so he can be with his freakin' wife.
posted by wondermouse at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


It sounds like you're making relationship-related sacrifices for someone (this person's wife) with whom you are not actually in a relationship. You're taking her perspective into consideration, weighing the impact of your choices on her, and having feelings about her role in your relationship--except she's not someone you're actually involved with in any way, right? That sounds exhausting.

It's hard enough to be thoughtful, make compromises, have patience, and be generous in a relationship when you're able to communicate easily, openly, and frequently with the other person (or people) involved. Here, you're trying to manage relationship issues involving three (or more) people, when your only point of access to the "relationship" is one person. This doesn't seem sustainable--or, at least, it doesn't sound as if it's sustainable or even enjoyable for you. Don't expect your next relationship to be free of sacrifices or compromises on your part, but it's reasonable to want an equal partnership with good communication rather than an arrangement in which both the logistics and the emotional connections leave you lonely.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is your call. If you don't like it you don't have to do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2010


This has nothing to do with polyamory, it's just that you want different things out of this relationship. You want a full time relationship, he only wants a part time relationship. (And yes, there are many people who only have part time relationships for reasons other than polyamory.) Additionally, due to being busy with other things, he's a planner and you seem to be a meet-up-on-a-whim type of person.

You should either find other things to do with most of your time so that you're not relying on him so much (other relationships, possibly) or, more likely, ditch him and find a single person who is looking for a full time relationship that will meet your needs more completely.

(And most first serious relationships tend to be monogamous, full-time gigs--because honestly, a first serious relationship is an exciting, intense thing that can easily take up twenty-four hours a day.)
posted by anaelith at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Then the lifestyle isn't for you. Polyamorous seems to be in favor of the man anyway. He can do whatever. You can't.

This is absolutely NOT TRUE. (Disclaimer: I am NOT polyamorous) The man in most polyamorous relationships doesn't have the same amount of choice that women do because it is often more difficult for the males to find acceptable partners than it is for women overall.....


As to answer the question for the OP. I think you should give other types of relationships a try...maybe a monogamous one sounds as a better fit for you...polyamory will will still be there if you need it/want it later on in life....
posted by The1andonly at 8:54 AM on March 25, 2010


Disclaimer: I am happily monogamous.

There are reasons poly isn't common. Social norms, the patriarchy, capitalism? No. Really it's just too damn complicated for most people. Polyamory is one of those things you should probably build up to after figuring out that the "normal" way of doing things isn't quite for you, rather than just jumping in to.

That's kinda the case with _anything_ that isn't mainstream. Would you want to jump straight into a full-time dom-sub relationship your first time out of the gate? Would you want your first time having sex to be with six guys, a llama and a large audience? No. Not because those things are bad, but because it helps to learn to walk before you get hogtied and dragged on a leash.

Most people can't do it even if they've got a lot of emotional intelligence/experience AND a strong desire to break away from monogamy. This is your first major relationship so you're at a disadvantage. If he isn't going WAY WAY WAY out of his way to ease you into this lifestyle, he's a complete asshole and you should run.

DTMFA.
posted by paanta at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


MeFi mail me.
posted by yohko at 9:32 AM on March 25, 2010


I'm normally one to go to bat for the poly life. It has many, many fine traits, and if I was currently with a partner who was equally enthusiastic about it, I would certainly pursue it.

Having said that, I would not recommend that anyone enter into a poly relationship with someone who has no previous serious relationship experience. Your partner should know better than to push you into the deep end of the pool when you haven't even previously gotten your feet wet. Poly relationships can be deeply rewarding, but they require the patience and perspective that can only come from experience.

If the relationship that you're in is causing you suffering, it is not the relationship for you. Break it off and spend some time exploring monogamy. Once you've got the hang of that, you can spend some time thinking about whether or not polyamory is something that you'd be interested in pursuing. As the more experienced partner, this is advice that your boyfriend should have given you from the beginning.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: This may not apply to your situation, but I wanted to share in case it's helpful. Pro polyamorous folks are often VERY convincing regarding their preferences. It's not a "traditional" relationship model, so they're often armed with rationale as to why it's acceptable despite the stigma. This alone is completely reasonable, but it often bleeds into them making the not-poly-inclined feel like there's something wrong with them, when in reality it's a difference of opinion, not an issue of right/wrong. It's also a great tool for people who want multiple partners to maintain that scenario by making the other participants feel ashamed about desiring monogamy.

To summarize, don't let a "logical" argument discount what your feelings tell you. One of the joys of a good relationship is emotional freedom and acceptance, without the burden of second guessing yourself.
posted by yorick at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could try asking the same question on alt.polyamory. It may look mainly spam-filled, but the people there (when they actually post) are thoughtful, even handed, and won't dismiss your problems as being entirely caused by polyamory any more than they will dismiss you for not finding it all unicorns and fluffy bunnies.

They are also much more familiar with this kind of situation (both in its successful form and its car crash disaster form) than the people here, and more likely to have a good variety of appropriate advice.
posted by emilyw at 10:15 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a relationship, you sacrifice as needed. The other person also sacrifices as needed. It's not usually precisely 50:50, but each person has to be willing to give. I don't think he sacrifices for you. I would be unwilling to continue in such a one-sided relationship.

He's probably an interesting guy, and not evil. He is able to live his life the way he does because some people (you) are willing to tolerate it. He seems to have been honest about what he had to offer. Why are you willing to accept so little?

I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of. Listen to your feelings. Polyamory isn't right for everybody, and if it's not right for you, there's no reason you should feel bad about that. I couldn't accept his terms. Value yourself. You deserve someone wonderful and loving who wants to be with you, will make time for you.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on March 25, 2010


How do you decide when someone is asking too much of you? You can only answer this question when you know yourself. This is your first relationship, and you have a strong suspicion that he's asking too much of you. Don't settle! Go have some new relationships and see what you want out of a relationship. Find out how much you need in terms of space and attention. This is not a great relationship to be figuring that out in. Later on, once you know what you need in terms of a relationship, then you can revisit whether being poly is for you. One of the things that separates successful poly people from the ones that crash and burn is knowing yourself absolutely. If you truly know what you need and want to be happy in a relationship, you can set it up that way from the beginning by clearly communicating your needs. You can't do that until you've had some relationships!

Get out there and start figuring yourself out. Good luck! It's a wonderful world with lots of opportunity for loving and happy relationships.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:33 AM on March 25, 2010


First, let me answer your last question. No, this is not specific to poly. I had been dating this guy, Nick, for three years. First serious relationship. Lived together, got engaged, the whole bit. His family of origin always came first. I was an afterthought. The best example of this is when Nick's father came into town, told Nick he wanted to have lunch with him, and that my college graduation wasn't that big of a deal. Nick went to lunch with his dad. Needed the car to move out of our apartment, whoops, Nick's dad wanted to use it to take a spontaneous road trip. Wanted to talk to Nick for a few minutes after a rough day at work, well, his brother wanted to play video games with him, but I could watch if I wanted.

No. It's not just poly. It happens in monogamy, too. At the same time, it wasn't a healthy situation and it was infuriating to have my needs constantly shoved aside in favor of his family's wants. So just because it happens in monogamy doesn't make it okay in polyamory.

What I'm about to say might sound accusing and I don't want it to--at the same time, I can only address what you've told me and you can't change anyone else, so I want to focus on what small portion of the situation that I see, that you can possibly change by yourself. If I am mistaken please let me know. This is a really rough situation for you to be in, and you must be frustrated beyond belief, and disappointed in your relationship.

When do you need your boyfriend? It is your responsibility to make this choice for yourself and tell your boyfriend when you need him. You must be able to trust that his wife will do the same: communicate her needs. If she needs her husband because her friend died, it is her responsibility to ask for that that. It is not your responsibility. You should not be put in the place where you have to calculate who needs your boyfriend more. So if you are being put in that situation, I'm sorry. It's not okay. Your husband has the responsibility for making that decision and he should make it and be firm about it. He should not be wishy-washy in the hope that you'll make it easy for him. If his wife needs him more than you do, he should say so and go be with her. You cannot second guess him, he should discourage you from doing so.

If, however, he is not putting you in that situation, but you are putting you in that situation, that is the wrong way for you to think. It is kind and considerate of you, but it is wrong. You cannot constantly second guess them and assume that you know more about her needs than they do. If they have determined that it is okay for him to be with you, trust that. Trust them to know themselves and each other well enough to balance their time together and apart. This stood out as a really serious problem in your thinking:
If I do request some extra special time with him, I feel as if I'm injuring someone else. I felt like a monster, being forced to choose between depriving her of him and saying "No, it's cool, we can hash out these potentially relationship-ending issues some other time."
You are applying mononormative thinking to this situation (mononormative thinking is fine, but it doesn't work well in a poly situation). Repeat this as many times as you need to, and ask her to confirm it for you if you need to: You are not taking anything from her. You are not injuring her. You are not stealing her husband's time. You are not hurting her. You are not a monster for spending time with him when she is upset. You are an addition to her husband's life. You are making his life better. She is fine with that, and probably even happy about that. She has her own life, apart from her husband. She has another husband to be there for her. She spends her time with many people who are happy to be with her. She is able to cope with her problems when her husband is not around. If she does NEED her husband, she will tell him.He will be there for her. That is HIS job to decide and it should happen very rarely.

Have you met her? Do you know her at all? If not, I highly suggest that you meet her and talk about this with her, as well as with your boyfriend. If she can reassure you that she is happy and thriving even when her husband spends time with you, it might make you feel a lot more confident when you are asserting yourself.

Now let me move on to something else you said: "I get to spend less time with him. If I want to see him on a whim, I generally can't." Love is not finite, time is. This sucks. To some extent, this is a problem specific to polyamory, although not entirely. Time management is incredibly important to keep multiple relationships running smoothly. If I tell my husband I will be home at 8, and I come home at 9:30, it is not OK. Do you have a day (or days) where you can just be in your relationship, without time pressure? If not, try to arrange for a weekend or a few relaxed days together.

Of course, in a monogamous relationship time-management can be important, too. I can't always see my husband on a whim, although he has no other partners. He has to work, he goes to the gym at certain times. He has church obligations. If I really NEEDED him, yes, he would be there for me, but it is incredibly rare that I need him that badly. I asked him to take a day off of work the other week because I was getting some test results. That is a rare situation. Normally I can handle things just fine by myself when he's busy. Frustrating? Yes, sometimes it is. I want a hug sometimes when he's just not there to give it.

Of course, he has the same limitations. Even though he is my husband, he can't just call me and tell me hey, I know you're spending the day with someone else, but I want to see you now. Well, he could ask, but I would find myself rapidly running out of patience. You boyfriend's wife shouldn't be able to randomly interrupt your time together just because she's the "wife". If that's happening, that's uncool.

Considering how long you've been together, would you feel better about your relationship if you had a much more significant commitment, up to and including living with this man? Think about what you want and what you need. Do you need to feel like you are a part of his life, no matter what? That he will always be there when you need him? If so, ask him for that. Don't hold back because you think you shouldn't want that or don't want to take time away from his wife.

At the same time, you might not be cut out for polyamory. That is completely fine. Of course, I don't think that the failure of one relationship means that you're not cut out for that relationship style. Many people's first serious monogamous relationships don't work out, either. I don't say that to trivialize the situation--it sounds difficult and lonely for you. If you do end it with him, I am sorry that you won't be able to continue your relationship with this man, and I hope the good times outweighed the bad.

Good luck--and please feel free to memail me at any time with questions. I will make another comment with additional resources for you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh god run.

In case that looked like a kneejerk anti-polyamory response, I want to clarify: I do believe poly relationships can work, for the right people in the right circumstances.

But there are many signals in your post that these are neither the right people nor the right circumstances:

* Polyamory is an order of magnitude more complicated than monogamy; it's definitely not something to try on your first time out.

* he promised that he didn't "do primary/secondary" He's a liar. The fact that he's simultaneously both 'married' and 'dating' makes this obvious. (How much time do you spend with his wife? Or her other husband? If the answer, as I suspect, is "little or none", then you're not actually in a poly relationship: you're something on the side.)

* If I do request some extra special time with him, I feel as if I'm injuring someone else. This is further evidence that the relationship you're in isn't polyamory; it's a chain of separate and competing relationships.

* If I want to see him on a whim, I generally can't. Does his wife even know about you? Are you sure you're not a secret?

* I feel hurt and taken advantage of. Never a good sign in any relationship, poly or not.

It seems really very clear that this guy is taking advantage of you. A responsible, decent human being would not even consider starting a poly relationship with someone who had never been in a serious relationship before -- let alone make you feel like a "monster" or put you in a situation where you feel like asking for attention is "depriving her of him."

Run away from this guy. He is not a good person.
posted by ook at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Secondary's bill of rights, great article.

A recent Polyamory Weekly podcast speaks to the primary/secondary issue, including the difficulty that single people have with entering polyamory, and being pushed into the secondary role.

Opening Up is a great book, I suggest it wholeheartedly, even for monogamous people! It's a good read with a lot of insight into various forms of nonmonogamy.

The Livejournal polyamory community has a lot of members who know what they are talking about and will answer questions with thoughtfulness. If you want me to post a question there for you, memail me.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2010


yorick> not directly related, but there's another person who uses your handle who is poly. I just find that amusing.

anon>
My spouse and I both dipped our toe in the water of poly after years of experience in "normal" relationships before we met. In fact it was knowing that we didn't want that that moved our relationship into the serious phase. It's not for everyone, and I don't think it's even really for some of the people I know that practice it.

Rather than tie yourself in knots of self-doubt over the poly thing, consider this:
a good/healthy relationship has the following hallmarks (at least in my experience):
1. Low on drama - very rarely does stuff blow up or does anyone suffer angst
2. You feel safe at all times
3. You feel welcome at all times
4. When you consider your relationship and ask yourself "Am I happy?" the first anser that comes to mind, without thinking about it at all, is "Yes."

We all hear that relationships are hard, etc., and yes, if you don't have basic consideration for others, they can be. But ultimately those hard times should only be temporary - if they're recurring, it's too much work.
posted by medea42 at 10:57 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Polyamory is one of those things you should probably build up to after figuring out that the "normal" way of doing things isn't quite for you, rather than just jumping in to.

Yes, this. You said this is your first real relationship...that's like saying "I'm not a hiker, but Appalachian Trail, here I come!"

Get out, get a different (non poly) relationship and learn how those work. Then see where life takes you.

I'm not going to side with all the people above who've said "There's a reason Poly isn't common". That has nothing to do with your question and you don't know where you'll be or how you'll feel in 1, 5, or 10 years. The fact that this relationship isn't working for you doesn't mean being Poly will never be for you (or that it will be later), but it isn't what you want/need now.

Find yourself someone who's devoted to YOU as that is what you want in the relationship.
posted by arniec at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2010


From the OP:
"If people could focus on the specific question of how much sacrifice is reasonable to ask for in a relationship, that would be great. I recognize that everyone's needs differ but with no other experiences of my own, I'm hoping to get a better sense of what the average relationship demands. I don't want to constrict discussion unnecessarily, but I feel like some of the comments about my boyfriend's character are kind of derailing.

It's entirely possible that he and I aren't right for each other, or that he's been misguided or perhaps even selfish in his relationship with me, but he is not a callous jerk, and he is not purposefully taking advantage of me. I have met his wife (and his wife's long-term partner) and we get along fine. Please assume good will on everyone's part.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2010


Ok, let's focus on how much sacrifice is reasonable. But I think the reason you're getting the reaction you are from these replies is because you are being asked to make unreasonable sacrifices, and obviously those sacrifices are making you unhappy.

I can say this--at the start of relationships in which I've been involved, sacrifice has been minimal. After all, you want to be with people who enhance your life, not that are a pain in the ass to be around. Sometimes scheduling can be an issue, but again, at the start of a relationship, it shouldn't be a huge one. Because, honestly, with new relationships commitment is light and if Person A isn't available then that leaves you more time to also see Person B, C, and D all of whom may be more available, and the time you spend with them may lead to a more serious relationship.

As relationships progress, then yes more sacrifice on both parties' part is required. And in times of extreme emergencies (like death, which you mentioned) it may be a period of time with a large sacrifice. However, these periods of extreme sacrifice should be both finite and have a reasonable cause.

Let's look at reasonable as compared to your original post. You say if you'd like to be with him on a whim you can't. That's reasonable in any relationship if the other person has a job, etc. then those "whims" have to have at least specified time frames.

But not being able to see someone for days? That's normal if the relationship isn't serious, but for anything to even be considered "serious dating" that's a lot to ask.

What is being asked of you is NOT the norm for any relationship. And be it that he's poly, that he has a sick/dying mother, etc. there may be reasons for those sacrifices, but the question is all down to is it worth it for you, and does the happiness you get together outweigh the sacrifices.

From this statement in your post:

I don't like making these sacrifices. I feel hurt and taken advantage of. then the benefits are not outweighing the sacrifices.

And you said

If this is something that is a natural part of any relationship, I want to work on dealing with it, but if it is something that is specific to poly relationships... well then maybe I don't want to be poly.

What you are dealing with isn't ENTIRELY specific to Poly relationships (see my comment above about dying parent, whatever) but it is NOT a natural part of any relationship--it's the exception, not the rule. And unlike a dying parent or any finite situation, this is not going to change.
posted by arniec at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to reiterate what I and many others have said:

There is no "normal" amount of sacrifice. Every relationship is different, and ever individual is different. In order to know what amount of sacrifice is "normal" to you, you need to be in some relationships and see what works for you. Some people needs lots of space and alone time. It sounds like you are not one of those people, so this relationship is asking for a lot of sacrifice from you. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the boyfriend is sacrificing anything for you.

For me, that's the personal line. I'm willing to sacrifice just about everything so long as that sacrifice is being met and equaled by the other person. If I'm the only one making sacrifices, that's a huge problem and it signals that there's something wrong in the relationship. On the other hand, if we're both sacrificing things and it's making us happier than not being in the relationship and not making those sacrifices - GREAT! If both parties aren't putting in the same effort and level of commitment (evidenced by making mutual sacrifices) than it's very unlikely that the relationship is healthy.

There is no normal level of sacrifice. There is only knowing what you need out of a relationship and having both people put in the same amount of effort and energy to making it work.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If people could focus on the specific question of how much sacrifice is reasonable to ask for in a relationship, that would be great.

People have already answered this question. The amount of sacrifice that is reasonable to ask for is totally up to you. The responses you've gotten have been as a direct result of your saying that your relationship makes you feel like a secondary girlfriend and like he doesn't have time for you. If you're not happy with that kind of relationship (and it's true that you can have that sort of relationship without being poly) then you will probably always be unhappy with this scenario, and he is asking you to make an unreasonable sacrifice.

Think ahead to where you'd like to be in several years, if you want to have a family and settle down and get a house and so on, and if you'd be content to have your children's father have another wife or to permanently share him with other women and everything they all have going on in their lives.
posted by wondermouse at 2:05 PM on March 25, 2010


Making sacrifices isn't a normal part of relationships for me. It's like you're asking, I'm trying to fit some jigsaw pieces together: how much is it normal to chop off the jigsaw pieces to make them fit?

Seems like you have an unusual shape jigsaw piece and it doesn't really fit you. That's not inherent to polyamory; it might be the same if you were dating someone with a toddler, someone caring for a parent with dementia, someone who runs their own business, or just someone very very introverted who wants to spend a lot of time on their own.

If I had to make your decision, rather than thinking "How many sacrifices can I make", I'd be thinking "What would I like my life to be like?" and "Are my boyfriend and I willing to work together (involving his wife as necessary) to make this a relationship that works for all of us?" Maybe between the two (or three or four) of you, you can turn around some of the pieces and find that they fit together.
posted by emilyw at 2:10 PM on March 25, 2010


Some of the things you seem to consider to be sacrifices are more a normal fact of life and time management. Not being able to see your lover for the amount of time you want or whenever you want is perfectly normal and will happen in pretty much every relationship. You or he will have classes, work, family obligations, social obligations, various other things that keep you apart. If you request anyone for extra time above what they normally provide you with, you will be asking them to give up something else, whether it be family, friends, or video games. Poly people may have more time commitments than those who are in a standard monogamous relationship, but even people in two-people relationships still have other things that they want or need to do.

In some ways, I don't even feel that this should be considered a sacrifice. I consider sacrifices in relationships to be something you have to give up that you would otherwise be able to do if you weren't in that relationship, or in a relationship at all. For example, if you really loved shrimp, but your boyfriend was allergic to shellfish, it would be a sacrifice for you to give up eating shrimp.

You are, however, completely reasonable to feel that you are not getting enough time to see your boyfriend. If this is the case, it is also completely reasonable to end this relationship and find another one where the guy has just as much time to see you as you have to see him.
posted by that girl at 6:23 PM on March 25, 2010


Well, if he married the woman, he IS doing "primary." So la la la, denial there.

That said, regardless of the poly relationship, it sounds like you need someone who is going to be around in person a lot more than this guy is able to. So yeah, break up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2010


How much sacrifice is 'normal'?

An amount that leaves you feeling comfortable with the exchange, as though you made a good decision in giving up some things you value in order to gain or keep something you value more at this moment, and doesn't leave you feeling that you lost more than you gained, or, in your words, "taken advantage of."
posted by Miko at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


How do you decide when someone is asking too much of you?

-when you don't feel like you're getting equal returns.

How much do you sacrifice in your romantic relationships?

-enough that you feel like you're bettering the relationship rather than being torn down by it.

Your situation is outside what most people here would be willing to enter into, so if you're committed to continuing with it, you may need to ask about specifics on a forum within the polyamorous community. If you want to be in any kind of good relationship though, you have to be able to comfortably state your needs. From your question, it really sounds like it's all about him and his desires.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:11 PM on March 26, 2010


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