Polyandry + 1
August 31, 2006 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a polyamorous relationship. It isn't enough.

It looks like I get to be the relationship post of the day. Please forgive the length of what follows: monogamous relationships are complicated enough; polyamorous ones exponentially so, I fear.

I have been in a polyamarous relationship with my best friend for almost six years. She is married – I am not. The mutual decision to enter into the relationship – with the full knowledge and occasional participation of her husband – came after years of really bad, emotionally and financially abusive relationships for me, both "real-life" and long-distance. I am mostly happiest being alone, but need the emotional support (long-distance, since my friend lives in another country) and occasional physical closeness (we see each other several times a year) of another person.

I love my friend. She loves me. I am not jealous of her husband and, to the best of my knowledge, he is not jealous of me. There are all the miscommunications, and occasional disagreements, that are endemic of long-distance relationships, but on the whole I feel we do very well. I haven’t entered into any self-destructive relationships, and am aware that the support and love of my friend has kept me “safe”.

When we started there was an awareness and acceptance of “playmates” – other relationships that we had that were purely online, for sexual release. Over the years, for various reasons, these relationships have fallen aside. In the beginning there was also an understanding that if I found, against all chance, “the one”, that I would, if my new partner agreed, continue the intimate side of my friend’s and I relationship – but at the worst, still continue to be the best friends we have been for a dozen years (we talk to each other for at least an hour a day, usually more).

Flash forward to now. Increasingly, our lives have intertwined. I will stay a month at her house. She leaves me to take care of her children for several weeks. Her young son and I are very good friends. Her family knows and accepts me. We have each other in our wills. There’s an understanding that we will spend the rest of our lives together in some way, and I am, emotionally, very happy.

But. While I love this woman immensely, there are two problems. First, she is not here when I need her, physically, and phone / internet only goes so far. (Moving to the same location is not an option). I am sure this holds true both ways. Second, I don’t desire her with the heat of a thousand suns. I love her deeply, but rarely want her. I’ve tried to convince myself over the last decade that I should be able to get past this, but I can’t. She, for her part, tries at times to get control over some of the issues that do affect that desire (weight, mostly. She and her husband are very large. I am not.) but inevitably she becomes frustrated and gives up. At least in part because of her tremendous issues surrounding this, she refuses to seek medical advice regarding a condition that has become morbid.

Every three years I’ve found I get an “itch” – a desire to play the field, date, meet other people. Three years ago, I did so, with my friend’s blessing (after many discussions) and came back. Outside of that time, I’ve been monogamous to her.

The “itch” is now back, and it’s worse than ever. And my friend has made it very clear that going outside the relationship is no longer an option. Further, she has stated that if the sexual side of our relationship is dropped, the friendship will likely disappear also. Our relationship has deepened, and I think perhaps her desire to keep it as it is is due, at least in part, to a husband who has been unemployed for a considerable period of time while developing a deep relationship of his own with WoW.

I have no wish to hurt my friend, nor to sever our relationship. But I am starting to behave foolishly in looking for other possibilities. The “unfairness” of it – that she is married and has a partner, but I only have her – chafes on me.

I don’t want to go behind her back, but the alternative – coming flat out and saying “I need another partner” – and its likely consequences – terrify me. She is aware that I am feeling this way, and we’re both trying to make our relationship work. But my frustration is only building.

What can I do?
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul to Human Relations (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I think you need to let her go. Live through your fear, tell the truth, face the consequences.

You're not getting what you need, she's not letting you get what you need. You love her, but you're not hot for her. It's sad to lose an awesome friend, but you'll have opportunities for future awesome friends -- awesome friends who make you hot, who let you be your full sexual self, who are available and everything else -- if you are willing to move on.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:37 PM on August 31, 2006

It looks like I get to trot out the relationship answer: leave. You're not in a poly relationship, you're in a mono one. She's in the poly, and she's taking advantage of you to have her cake, eat it, and stop anyone else having a slice.

It's unfair, you're being taken advantage of, and you're trying to kindle desire that has waned, as it will.
posted by bonaldi at 8:38 PM on August 31, 2006

It sounds to me like you're actually in a monogamous relationship. And it sounds like quite an unhealthy one.

I suggest you find someone new and wonderful that puts as much into a relationship as you do. She's out there and waiting for you.
posted by The Monkey at 8:47 PM on August 31, 2006

It just doesn't seem fair that she gets to have two partners at the same time but it's not an option for you?

I really think that you just need to let go of this. of course it's terrifying and you can't imagine being apart from her emotionally/physically/mentally after so many years together, but I think in the long run it will be for the best.
posted by liquorice at 8:56 PM on August 31, 2006

I have to agree with bonaldi.

If the relationship is truly poly, then what gives? It seems that you should have the same right to see others, too.

if that is unfathomable to her, leaving is an option that gives you room to scratch your itch.

and what liquorice said.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:57 PM on August 31, 2006

What can I do?

Anything you want to do. What do you want - what do you know is right.
posted by scheptech at 9:02 PM on August 31, 2006

I cannot relate to your type of relationship. However, the previous posters who harped on "fair" have not addressed the relationship. Never has "fair" meant "the same". I would not run from this relationship because she can have her husband and you, and you cannot have another (based on her rules). I would make the decision based on what my true feelings were for her and if I could live without her. Change is scary at times, but can be very beneficial. Staying comfortable also has its benefits.

Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:07 PM on August 31, 2006

You owe it to everyone to be clear about what you need and stick to it. She'll adapt or she won't. It seems to me like what you had is over, and what she needs from you is very different from what she needed in the beginning. Maybe you can continue a different kind of relationship, maybe not.

I don't think many of the normal poly drama truisms apply here, this is sounds more like having a part time monogamous marriage. I could speculate a whole lot about her marriage, and which relationship is the priority to her etc, but honestly, it just sounds like a bad situation to me, you sound horribly obliged and stuck. You spend an hour a day on the phone, her life isn't going well, you never see her, you aren't attracted to her when you do... it sounds like you're trying very hard to be kind in describing your lack of attraction to her.

Maybe you get something from it that makes it all worthwhile - that's how relationships are, but you need to be honest with yourself about whether this is a fair deal for you, and what you really want, and then honest with her. I know that's easy to say and hard to do, but otherwise you have nothing real, and are totally fucked!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:11 PM on August 31, 2006

>I love her deeply, but rarely want her.

Let her go. You know you want to.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:11 PM on August 31, 2006

I agree with the above comments. It sounds to me like you're in a fundamentally unfair position. If she decides to end the friendship, then perhaps she's not the friend you thought she was (though I know that's a painful and difficult proposition to accept).

I will add this, though: it seems to me that she has jealousy issues she's refusing to admit to or work through. Dealing with jealousy is part of responsible polyamory, and it doesn't sound to me like she's doing her part. If she recognizes this, your assertion of what you need might not, in the long run, result in her severing the friendship . . . but then the ball would be in your court as to whether or not you want to remain friends.
posted by treepour at 9:11 PM on August 31, 2006

damn, man, sounds like it's time to shit or get off the pot. You've been trying to have a safe sexual partner without having to forge another deep relationship, and without having to actually commit to that relationship exclusively.

Frankly, it sounds like a rather parasitic relationship. I'm a random yahoo off the net, so it need not be taken as a truthful statement.

Anyway, time to realize adult men do not typically have the type of relationship you've been having.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 PM on August 31, 2006

And my friend has made it very clear that going outside the relationship is no longer an option.
Som she gets to have multiple sex partners but you don't? Doesn't sound fair to me.
Further, she has stated that if the sexual side of our relationship is dropped, the friendship will likely disappear also.
Well, that sounds like true love.

Our relationship has deepened, and I think perhaps her desire to keep it as it is is due, at least in part, to a husband who has been unemployed for a considerable period of time while developing a deep relationship of his own with WoW.
As somebody who has at one time been in something akin to the husband's position: you reckon you're having a hard time? Wait til you find out what he's going through.

I'm tipping he's long ago had enough of jumping through hoops for her but feels too stuck to leave, and she just wants everybody to be all happy happy joy joy with an arrangement that suits her better than it suits anybody else.

Well, tough. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If she's allowed multiple longterm sex partners, so are you. Maybe it's time she found out how it feels not to be the centre of attention; maybe it's time she learned to trust and share and permit, as opposed to running her own little man-harem.

Of course she's going to be shit-scared that you'll just run off over the horizon with somebody thin, so you'll need to work that through.

Maybe you and hubby need to get together and find yourselves a fourth.
posted by flabdablet at 9:22 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Our relationship has deepened, and I think perhaps her desire to keep it as it is is due, at least in part, to a husband who has been unemployed for a considerable period of time while developing a deep relationship of his own with WoW."

That sounds like "She's using you to fill a void in her life, but is not allowing you to fill the voids in your life."

I agree with the others - this doesn't exactly sound like a poly situation.

If you're not happy, how can you make someone else happy? Perhaps you should consider taking care of your self and your needs first.
posted by drstein at 9:41 PM on August 31, 2006

OK, here's what's happening: your friend is married and you are a friend-with-benes/boy-on-the-side. The husband's unemployment and WoW problems kind of leave her domestic world spinning out of control, and so she's trying to regain some control in life by cracking down on you.

And lest you think that I'm being overly "straight" and don't really get your relationship, let's talk about what polyamory really is for a sec. It's a love and/or sexual relationship involving more than two people, all of whom are in on the game. In much the same way that there are bisexuals, and then there are girls who make out with other girls when they're drunk at a frat party, there are polyamorists, and then there are people who sleep around because their relationship with their "primary" partner is emotionally stunted or otherwise unfulfilling. And they need a fancy label to slap on it so they don't have to face the fact that they're running away from their real problems. I'm looking askance at your friend here.

So the thing is, I fear that you're ultimately just being used as an emotional punching bag, and occasional sexual release tool, when her relationship with her husband isn't working out. The fact that she has forbidden you from finding other partners, rather than examining her own need for multiple partners and empathically realizing that you are capable of the same need, just underscores this.

This really isn't substantially different from what others have said, just cast a bit differently as I feel you may need to hear it from several perspectives to be able to accept it.
posted by rkent at 9:42 PM on August 31, 2006 [10 favorites]

game set and match to rkent.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 PM on August 31, 2006

Agreeing completely with rkent and others above.
posted by empyrean at 10:02 PM on August 31, 2006

The mutual decision to enter into the relationship [...] came after years of really bad, emotionally and financially abusive relationships for me.

I know you entered this relationship to avoid emotional abuse, but it seems like she is being bit emotionally abusive towards you. Keep that in mind.

What seems unfair to me is not the lack of symmetry (she has two partners, you have one) but that she has reneged on your relationship agreement (that you could potentially have other partners) your input and consent.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:06 PM on August 31, 2006

that should be "without your input and consent"
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:07 PM on August 31, 2006

Wow, I don't normally follow these threads on AskMe, but this one was either going to be a train wreck (what I was hoping for... sorry) or really interesting. And interesting it was.

I'm just going to be a 'me too' to rkent's post, because he more or less said what came into my mind when I skimmed the thread, but I have to take issue with one thing:

You said:
Further, she has stated that if the sexual side of our relationship is dropped, the friendship will likely disappear also.

This really bugged me. I don't normally do relationship advice, but I gotta chime in here and say this is fucked up. This is, by my read of this situation, extortion. Fool around with her or the relationship is over? That's bullshit.

IANGATPRS [I am not good at this polyandry relationship shit] But as a straight, married guy, I gotta say, you are getting the seriously short end of the stick here. I would suggest walking away and finding a nice normal girl who doesn't have the massive baggage that your friend does.

(Come on, You are her baby-sitter, therapist, and her 'fuck-buddy'. What the hell is in this for you?)

Maybe in a few years you (and your significant other-who-is-not-her) can be friends, but for now, do yourself a favor and find someone else.
posted by quin at 10:23 PM on August 31, 2006

I am sure there must be polya relationships that work out just fine but this is not one of them. As others have noted, you are being manipulated. It sort of sounds like this lady's other relation is going sour and you are the fill in. If a "friendship" can't survive a non sexual clause then it is not a friendship, it is something else.
Get out, get help and make good choices.
posted by edgeways at 10:45 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is a blunt metaphor, but you are the dog being fed scraps from the table in this relationship. Or the dog being kicked on a bad day. Or the dog being fussed for comfort. Or the dog being put out in the rain.

No matter how it goes, you're still the dog, and I can't see that changing.
posted by holgate at 12:13 AM on September 1, 2006

You should tell her that infidelity is only as poisonous to a relationship as self destructive drug habits and obesity.

If a relationship obligates you to be faithful then it must also obligate you to be healthy.

Abandon ship.
posted by ewkpates at 4:09 AM on September 1, 2006

I fundamentally disagree with so much that has been posted in response but don't have time to get into the detail.
One aspect no one has picked up is that she seems to have gained a lot of weight and while you're supportive you don't "burn for her" Did you ever? I gurantee the only reason she now says the friendship won't continue if the sex doesn't is the total belief she has that what keeps you with her is the sex. Despite everything you say about how deep your friendship is this is what her insecurity is telling her. This is also why she is very threatened by another partner for you.
The relationship as you all have structured it will inevitably change as she has had exclusive access to you for so long. Even another poly-minded partner will eat into the time you have for her.
I don't see the so-called unfairness about her having two partners and you "only" having one. You have clearly chosen this but I absolutely agree it no longer works for you.
I think you need to have that conversation about her insecurities but not frame it as fair or unfair. She is terrified of the change in her status vis-a-vis you, both sexual and emotional. I would guess that more of her feelings of attractiveness relate to you than to her husband. Simply put you now need more in your life and yes it will eat into the relationship you guys have but if the depth of your relationship cannot survive that then it is not what you think it is. She has to get beyond her insecurity and really make the effort to be a friend to you and see your needs.
posted by Wilder at 4:09 AM on September 1, 2006

...came after years of really bad, emotionally and financially abusive relationships for me, both "real-life" and long-distance.

I think you need to address why this is and recognize that your current relationship seems to be either keeping you from growing beyind these relationships or turning into such a relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 AM on September 1, 2006

You should shapeshift into the other partner and act like a jerk, or maybe just spit poison in her eyes.

Seriously though, you need to stand up for yourself. If you're not fulfilled, you're not fulfilled and you deserve an opportunity to look for something better. If she's gonna make you lose a friend over that, it's a drag for you, but it's her problem. Don't deny yourself just because she's a big baby.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:49 AM on September 1, 2006

You deserve someone who really loves you, is committed to you, and lives in the same city as you. Go for it.
posted by footnote at 6:06 AM on September 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Mutually satisfying and growth producing relationships, poly or not, are the target for adults.

Doesn't sound like you have one. The only options are to fix it, get out, settle for what you have.

Again, the poly aspects seems secondary to the primary quality of the relationship.

Find healthy people for your relationships. Be a healthy person for your partner(s). Don't exploit or be exploited. Odds are substantially better with this as a substrate.

Don't make it too complicated. Poly isn't the issue. It just doesn't sound that healthy for anyone involved.
posted by FauxScot at 6:09 AM on September 1, 2006

Run dude, run!
posted by chunking express at 8:04 AM on September 1, 2006

Me and my best friend have recently begun using a catchphrase that is uniquely significant here: It's not OK to act crazy.

Your (cough-- hurf durf butter eater) friend is acting crazy. If you stay with her, you're saying it's OK. It's not OK to act crazy!
posted by norm at 8:45 AM on September 1, 2006

I absolutely agree with Wilder on one point. IANAPsychic or mind-reader but it sounds to me like she has insecurities-issues and changes are not welcomed, even if they could make you happier - mainly because she's afraid she'll lose you. I disagree on the fact that she might think the sex is what makes you not want to leave her, I'd say she's conscious of the fact that you do not want her (c'mon, anyone can sense those things_ and fear that sexual relations with other people might drive you away from her.
posted by Sijeka at 8:57 AM on September 1, 2006

and yeah, it's NOT OK to act crazy!
posted by Sijeka at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2006

rkent nailed it.

Your love is not practicing responsible polyamory, and it's directly affecting your life, negatively.

The Nazi said it to McDreamy, last season: you *know* what to do, it's just hard.
posted by baylink at 10:04 AM on September 1, 2006

Do the math. She's asking you for monogamy on your part, something she's unwilling to provide.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 AM on September 1, 2006

You can so do better.
posted by myeviltwin at 10:13 AM on September 1, 2006

I didnt' read the comments so I'm probably being repetative here:

You're not attracted to her. She is your best friend - not best as a lover. I would say this whether she was your primary monogomous partner too.

Also, while I don't think everyone in a relationsip has to operate under the same set of guidelines, in this case, having a different set of rules is not working. It does not work for you that she has a primary partner and at the same time she expects you to have no one else.

Sadly, I think you should emphasize to her your commitment to her and love for her, and cut off the sexual/romantic part. I know this is easier said than done, and it would probably require taking a few months away from each other to recover, repair, and reframe, but I do think if you emphasize and prioritize your commitmetn to her as a friend and essentially as a family member, that you can protect that part of the connection.

Good luck to you.
posted by serazin at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2006

As others have said, it's not the unfairness of "she gets 2 but you get 1." It's the selfishness of her saying, "I know you need X, but you can't get it if you want to have me in your life." Real friends understand. They want you to be happy more than they want control or whatever it is they want for themselves. The change will be scary for everyone, but you need to insist that you do need more freedom, while reassuring her that she's not going to lose you completely.
posted by beatrice at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2006

For what it's worth -- I once had a romantic fling with my best friend. When he wanted to end it, I said I wasn't sure we could stay friends. Shortly after saying that, I realized that how juvenile & desperate the comment (& emotion behind it) was -- in short, that it was literally emotional extortion rooted in jealousy, insecurity, and anger over not getting what I wanted. I consider it a testament to his forgiving & compassionate nature that we're still close friends.
posted by treepour at 3:20 PM on September 1, 2006

She says she won't countenance your having a lover other than her; and you don't want to lose her over some new liaison that might not turn out to be anything. But really, there's no way for her to know how she's going to feel if you do get involved with someone else. She may find that having you in her life is important enough that she can deal with knowing you're seeing another woman.

Her saying, "If you sleep with someone else I will dump you," might mean, "If you sleep with someone else I'll feel hurt and scared, and and in fact I'm so hurt and scared by your bringing it up that I'm going to threaten to dump you to make my bad feelings go away." Maybe there's no spite involved at all.

Do what's right for you, be honest with her, and see what happens. You two have a huge history and you care about each other a lot. As beatrice said, the change will be scary, but she -- both of you -- can get through it.

On the other hand, if she WOULD break it off with you out of spite, then her love for you isn't as deep as she claims.
posted by wryly at 6:07 PM on September 1, 2006

When he wanted to end it, I said I wasn't sure we could stay friends.

I don't think that observation is extortionate at all; it's honest -- that is often very hard.

"I don't think I'll *try* to stay friends" is another matter, but it can be hard to tell the difference... from either side.
posted by baylink at 7:50 PM on September 1, 2006

A) as others have pointed out, this isn't polyamory. (Polyandry on her part, yes.)

B) Anyone who says they love you, who agreed to an open relationship, who then suddenly says, basically, "If you do what I said you could, I'm going to never, ever talk to you. You'll be dead to me" is not only a huge hypocrite, but needs to have a long talk with the person s/he's pulling this on.

Be honest with her. You don't have to say 'You're fat now and I'm not attracted to you because of it", but you need to get her to acknowledge that your relationship had a basic understanding, and you need to have other partners which she agreed to, and that you believe that she loves you enough to stick to the agreement which you had. If she can't do that, you can either continue as her support system, or you can leave. Denying yourself a local intimate relationship, emotional or physical, just to placate her is not doing either one of you any favors.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:53 PM on September 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Reading your post makes me pissed off because of the injustice of it and because of your willingness to go along with it.

She has your balls in a vice. Have some self-respect and do what YOU want to do. You know she's being unfair. You said it yourself. If she truly is your best friend, she wouldn't be imposing that bullshit on you. People give ultimatums as a last ditch resort when they have little control over a situation. Stop letting her control you.
posted by atmu at 1:17 AM on September 7, 2006

« Older Recent sci-fi?   |   PostScript + Unicode Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.