How do I ask my partner about his use of Grindr? Any tips?
June 28, 2020 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm a bi woman. My partner is a bi man. I discovered he is on Grindr. I'm not inherently against it, unlike askers past, because we're poly. I'm not here to persecute him for it. No moral panic. We're both bi and I get turned on by women too. But I want to understand how he's using it. I would like to just ask him, but for some reasons, I don't think he'll react well to my knowing that he's using it. How might I best ask about this?

To be clear, I am a little confused and disappointed, since we'd just a few months ago navigated my finding out about a hookup he had in the fall, as well as his reactivated profile on another app (which he's since deactivated again). I had found out about those two things by reading a notebook he left out, and I don't think he's ever really forgiven me for it, even though, well, he was the one who strayed and didn't tell me. (If he'd told me he wanted to and asked, that would have been different, since again, poly.)

At the time that happened, I made it clear that I wanted him to talk to me if he ever wanted to see someone else, especially since we've spent the spring navigating boundaries of another hetero relationship he's in (in addition to social distancing and everything else). Now I know he's on Grindr, and he's messaged people there and on Instagram. Currently his profile name on Grindr is asking for nudes. I also think he might be in a new text conversation as of this morning. I'm not even assuming he's planning anything, for pandemic safety reasons; maybe he's just collecting pics. More than anything I would like to understand how he's using it, but I'm afraid he's going to panic if I ask.

Complicating factor: In a week, he's relocating to a rural area with his family to help them out during the pandemic. I'm supposed to relocate nearby as soon as it's safe to do so, but that won't be for a long time. He has an immense amount of anxiety about all of this.

Lots of scenarios seem equally plausible to me right now. Maybe he's just collecting pics before he goes. Maybe he wants to have a hookup before he leaves this city for a less accepting place with less chances. Maybe those conversations or pics turn him on, at a time when he's stressed and stated he hadn't been feeling very much like sex, yet I and his other relationship want physical attention from him before he leaves.

I would be understanding about several of those options, especially if he's just collecting pics, but I also just want to know more before we're apart for so long and are going to need to trust each other on some level to reunite. Should I ask, or should I just let it go and see how we each feel on the other side of this?
posted by Calcifer to Human Relations (14 answers total)
“Hey, what’s the deal with you using Grindr? You would talk to me first if you were planning to hook up with someone, right?”

It seems like a red flag that you are so worried about asking him about this. And also your larger question for him seems to be less about Grindr specifically and more about the future of your relationship and how he prioritizes his relationship with you compared to other relationships/hookups/commitments.
posted by mskyle at 6:47 PM on June 28, 2020 [26 favorites]

This sounds like a completely fair discussion to want to have, especially considering this has been an issue in your relationship before. The fact that your partner might react poorly to the discussion doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to want to talk about this—that’s more a sign that your partner isn’t handling the terms of your relationship appropriately, or maybe that you and he are on different pages about some aspects of this.

The only thing that might change that is how you found out—was it like before, when you stumbled on this information? Or did you go looking in a way that might upset him?
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 PM on June 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Hey, Mr. Calcifer, I noticed you're on Grindr. I get that there are lots of reasons for using this app, and that people use it lots of different ways. I need to be able to communicate openly about this because communication is an important element of trust for me."
posted by unstrungharp at 6:56 PM on June 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Should I ask, or should I just let it go and see how we each feel on the other side of this?

I think it matters how you found out about Grindr, because I think if it reminds him of the previous incident then there's very little chance of not having an no-fun blowout. If there's any way this could turn into a rerun of that, and it's fine and safe for you to just let it go for now, I think it would make both of your lives easier right now.
posted by bleep at 7:02 PM on June 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

"going to need to trust each other on some level to reunite"

yeahhhhhh this is the actual conversation you need to have. you're snooping around, he's being secretive, there is an overall lack of trust in this relationship that goes beyond the fact that he's using Grindr without telling you

monogamous relationships are hard enough without open communication. I can't imagine being in a poly relationship with this much subterfuge going on
posted by Brittanie at 7:08 PM on June 28, 2020 [23 favorites]

Brittanie wrote...
you're snooping around, he's being secretive

....and a week from now you’re going to be separated for an extended period.

I would suggest you put the specific question of Grindr aside to have a very clear discussion about your expectations during this separation. You can even bring up telling each other about hookup sites as something important/not important. Either way,

A) Make expectations very clear. Specifically what you want to be told about, because it sounds like your partner may not lean towards sharing.
B) Prepare to sit back and trust your partner implicitly.

If you can’t do B you may want to consider a whole different set of plans.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:31 PM on June 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

It sounds like maybe the two of you have different styles or expectations of poly. When you got together, did you discuss what poly looks like for each of you?
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

You have a partner who cheats on you and lies to you (because it's cheating if it violates your relationship rules and boundaries). And he has so gaslit you that you are scared to confront him about other possible lies. You can move past infidelity in relationships if both folks want to. Does he want to? Non-monogamy requires excellent communication to work well. It doesn't sound like you all have that. I don't think not asking about Grindr will feel good to you at all.

At the time that happened, I made it clear that I wanted him to talk to me if he ever wanted to see someone else,
Given this, a well-meaning partner who only wanted to collect photos might say something like, "Hey, partner, I'm not planning to hook up with anyone but I am cruising Grindr for photos, so I just wanted to be super upfront and let you know."

What's the consequence for him not respecting your boundaries? It sounds like you established some relationship guidelines that he has not followed.

I think you have to have this conversation or accept that you have a partner who lies and cheats. I don't see why his behavior would change if there are no consequences.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:33 PM on June 28, 2020 [36 favorites]

You should ask because either of you hooking up on the side right now jeopardizes your health, but it is clearly part of a much larger conversation about trust and about the parameters of your open relationship. It seems, from your question, like this is not a well-worked out thing. But yeah, trust. He strayed and didn't tell you, but meanwhile you read his notebook he left out and seem to be snooping on his phone, which is also just not a sign that things are working well between you, and which if I'm not misreading, you regard as fine. I'm sure you can work this stuff out but right now it sounds like a mess with way too much unspoken business.

But also yes it's possible he's just collecting pics. That is not at all an uncommon thing.
posted by less of course at 10:03 PM on June 28, 2020

we'd just a few months ago navigated my finding out about a hookup he had in the fall, as well as his reactivated profile on another app (which he's since deactivated again). I had found out about those two things by reading a notebook he left out, and I don't think he's ever really forgiven me for it, even though, well, he was the one who strayed and didn't tell me.

This is such a red flag, and the fact that this is an ongoing dynamic in your relationship is like, an Olympic level display of Rhythmic Gymnastics with Red Flags. No wonder you think a repeat of this conversation won't go well. It won't.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 AM on June 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

You can't have an open relationship without open communication . The fact he doesn't want to talk to you about what he is doing (and the reasons whatever they may be) means you don't actually have an open relationship because you can't talk about your boundaries. You have a partner who does what he wants regardless of your opinions or feelings on the matter, and is offended if you discover what he is doing and that you in fact have feelings about this. This is not how healthy poly relationships work.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:03 AM on June 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

LOWER CONFLICT VERSION: You could bring it up as a talk about the future (as someone described above) and fill it with I-messages, e.g.

"I'm feeling some worry about our upcoming separation/LTR and one of the things I think would make me feel better would be to clarify both of our expectations regarding dating and hooking up while we're not together." Then say what you expect to be doing and ask him what he expects to be doing.

HIGHER CONFLICT VERSION (but more true to the situation)

"You know how I read your notebook and found out you'd been hooking up? Well, I looked at your phone [or whatever] and saw you were using Grindr. I feel like our poly relationship is troubled in that you are keeping secrets from me and I'm driven to snoop on you. I think it would make our relationship stronger if we could get on the same page about this stuff. Can we talk about secrets, and privacy, and how we both ideally want our poly relationship to go?"

In my opinion you've gotta have convo #2 sooner or later if you want your relationship to have longevity, but if you think right now is the wrong time, like if your partner is super stressed out and would truly be better to talk to in a month, then maybe convo #1 is the right one for this week.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:26 AM on June 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

That confusion you feel is denial. It is very, very painful for you to acknowledge that your boyfriend continues to cheat on you and to disrespect what's important to you, so your brain tries to protect you by making it just not compute. You want to believe he cares about you, and he probably does things that feel caring, and you want to cling to those.

Those scenarios you are running through (maybe just collecting nudes? Maybe a hookup before he gets out of the city?) are bargaining. You're trying to imagine a set of circumstances that would make this somehow defensible.

The traditional stages of grief put anger between those two way stations. Where's your anger? Are you trying to talk yourself out of it? ("I'm not here to persecute him for it. No moral panic.") Why?

If you want to be in a relationship with someone who is honest with you, and who cares about and respects what's important to you--this is not it.

You are tying yourself in knots trying to find some way that this scenario is about him taking care of himself and nourishing him so you can support him. Given what you've told him about what's important to you, and how he's acting, do you think he's going through such lengths to support you about the things that nourish you? Why are you willing to put yourself out so much when you're not getting that in return?

It's fine if you love him, but you should love yourself more.

His moving away gives you the perfect opportunity to break up. Move into the sadness, so you can get through it and on to acceptance. The key part is: his behavior is all about him, and in no way reflects on you.

You deserve better. Take care.
posted by Sublimity at 3:45 AM on June 29, 2020 [12 favorites]

I find the username you have chosen here so poignant - I'm sure that it's not a coincidence. The relationship it sounds like you are in is one where you have placed yourself (and your happiness) in the hands of someone who is careless with it, and leaving you open to great pain, down the line, when their dishonesty and secrets come to light. Please be careful that you don't let him put out your fire.

I was going to say more, but I think others have already done so more eloquently than I would have, above.

In case it helps to hear it rather more bluntly, a good poly relationship, a good ANY relationship rests on really good communication, and yours (you guys plural) is currently extremely stunted. Please have the conversation with him that you need to have, and if he reacts poorly as you suspect, take that as the signpost that it is, that you need to find someone who is less careless with your heart.
posted by greenish at 5:37 AM on June 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

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