I ended part 2 with my new lover Alex letting me know that he and his other (previously long-distance, but shortly moving to his town) lover Amanda decided to have a primary relationship with each other. This changed me and Alex’s relationship (with no input or decision-making by me) into being a secondary relationship. It was take-it-or-leave-it on my side of things. I could agree to the secondary relationship, with the stipulations that were laid out, or Alex and I could part ways – these things were non-negotiable, and I had zero agency to advocate for myself and my needs. But, as Alex did really care about me (a thought that seems ridiculous in retrospect, given the total lack of flexibility or input that I would have in the shape of our relationship), and very much wanted to have a relationship with me, he hoped I’d give it a try.
But in order to give it a try, we needed to find out how Amanda and I got along – Amanda thought that she and Alex’s newly-poly selves should start their poly life by only having sex with other people together in their hometown. In order to make that happen, it seemed important for Amanda and me to meet so we could see if we had any chemistry and got along. When Amanda visited the area a few weeks later, we all got together.
That get together seemed to go well. Amanda was shy. But I liked her a lot. I also felt somewhat attracted to her, which was…really great news, I thought. I thought “ok, maybe I could see myself having a relationship with both of them”. Unfortunately, when Alex and Amanda were talking about me after we all hung out together, things took a turn for the worse.
Remember when I said that the way Alex talked about Amanda, I assumed she was an ex-girlfriend? I thought she was someone who he’d had a relationship with, it didn’t work out as a serious romantic partnership, but they still cared about each other and had great chemistry, so they decided to be fuck buddies. Well, it turns out that Amanda had gotten the same impression about my relationship with Alex.
(this is what I meant by Alex’s communication being disastrously bad. I mean, this and that whole other mess I’ve described.)
Discovering that I was a current lover of Alex and that the potential for a relationship between Alex and me was still undecided/embryonic (instead of being in the “didn’t work out” box), completely changed her feelings about Alex and I having *any* kind of more-than-friends relationship. She didn’t want us to have any kind of sexual relationship before Alex went away to Europe. On his return, they would revisit the idea of him having a sexual relationship with me. Oh, and also, he said that he and I no longer being able to have sex was all my fault.
He wrote that the meeting happened because I wanted it immediately. He was glad we had it, and learned of this miscommunication with Amanda about our (mine and his) relationship. That said, if we hadn’t met, Amanda would have almost definitely agreed to him & I having sex before he went to Europe, and everything would have worked out smoothly. There would still have been that miscommunication about the relationship Alex and I had, which is not good, but Alex don’t know that it would have ever been realized. He thought that we would have made it over that bump, and he was sure that everything would have flowed smoothly from there.
Seriously? Seriously?! Yes, it totally makes sense that Amanda wouldn’t have felt like her trust was violated if she later realized that Alex and I were CURRENTLY dating/figuring out our relationship, and not safely in the “just fuck buddies” box. Amanda definitely seems like a trusting person who doesn’t want large amount of control or say over Alex’s partners and what he can do with them.
(mind you, we’re just talking about the physical aspects of the relationship here. I can’t even imagine what an in-depth discussion about what Amanda would have “allowed” or “been comfortable” with Alex feeling for me emotionally would have been like.)
This is the point at which I thought, you know what? I’m done. This is a pile of icky horseshit that I don’t want to have anything to do with. I’m walking away from this one-way ticket to Jealousy-and-InsecurityTown.
I relayed this to Alex (in a much more polite manner), and he said that he was sorry about the way things turned out right now, but that he did really care about me and really wanted to make things work. He asked if I’d be OK with a cooling-off period, and then we could pick things up in a few months and see how we felt. I said sure, let’s see, even though I felt pretty sure that Amanda would continue to be extremely controlling and insecure and Alex would continue to think her controlling behaviors were “reasonable”.
Honestly, I really couldn’t get a good read on whether or not Amanda truly wanted to be poly, or just really wanted a relationship with Alex, and was willing to go along with being poly (or at least say she was willing to go along with it and hope that being poly was just a phase to Alex). All of Alex’s emails read like they’d decided to have a relationship and build a life together, but only under the condition that they be poly – because Alex wanted to be. Alex has (as I mentioned before) spent most of his adult life being monogamish. Given how new all this was to Amanda (at least, that’s what I was being told every other sentence), it sounded like maybe she’d never considered polyamory before, and was mainly doing so because Alex wanted it. If that was all true, then I can completely understand why Amanda might be extremely controlling – she’s trying to put the brakes on something that she really doesn’t want to happen, but is willing to put up with, in order to be with Alex. Not a great way to start a relationship.
But that’s all a whole bunch of conjecture on my side. For all I know, Amanda loved the idea of being poly, but only if it’s that very specific couple-privileged type of poly that Franklin has written about extensively. If that is the case, then…I can do my best to diplomatically wish them luck, but I wouldn’t want to touch their relationship with a 10 foot pole.
But back to what happened between me, Alex and Amanda: I did hear from Alex again, after he got back from Europe. While he had been gone, Rachel and I had some serious conversations about our feelings for each other, and decided that we wanted to be partners. But I wasn’t romantically involved with anybody and my feeling for Alex were still strong. Despite that, I wanted to know what kind of agreements were happening between him and Amanda before I even considered having any kind of relationship with him or seeing what Alex (and Amanda) would feel about my relationship with Rachel.
It turned out that Amanda was having a “harder than expected” time adjusting to Alex having solo sex when they’re in the same city. So they decided to revisit that concept in six months. This flew in the face of Alex’s original assertion that Amanda had to get comfortable fast (as he wrote to me: ‘A “future of 3 months was OK” to him but ‘sometime next year’ was not acceptable’) – amazing how that happened (Guess who wasn’t surprised at this? Yeppers: me). And although Alex would have loved to see me, he felt like it would be “too tempting” to do something sexual with me. So maybe we could revisit this in six months?
I said…sure…because…I was pretty sure I’d never hear from him again.
Aaaaaaaand yes, I was correct. I never heard from him again.
I still sometimes wonder what happened to Alex and Amanda. I’ve never seen them at a local poly meetup or bumped into them socially. I hope they figured out some way of being poly that both made them happy and didn’t shit all over their prospective secondary partners.
For myself, I learned a lot about how I wanted to treat the people in my life. This is where I learned that demanding veto power from another person is *never* the answer to insecurity or jealousy – at least, it isn’t for me, or for anyone would I would consider having a serious long-term relationship with (possibly any kind of relationship. There’s just an ick factor to it that I really don’t want in my life). Being on the receiving end of that veto power was horrible – it felt incredibly marginalizing and dehumanizing, especially given that when Alex and I started our relationship, there was no hint that things would go the way they went. Had Alex and Amanda set up their relationship before Alex and I met, I’d have passed on having any kind of relationship with him.
Knowing that there are people like Alex and Amanda out there, bumbling through polyamory is part of why I feel that Eve and Franklin’s Secondary’s Bill of Rights is extremely important. Being secondary should not mean being inferior or disenfranchised from any decision-making within the relationship. Compromise must be a two-way street; if everything is about what makes the primaries comfortable or what the primaries want, then the secondary person isn’t even being treated as a person anymore – they’re just a need-fulfillment box that the primaries want to get things out of without getting anything back – much like what was written about treating people as things in Chapter Two of More Than Two .
Were a relationship to unfold today the way that my relationship unfolded with Alex, I feel pretty certain that I would walk away from it as soon as the “Amanda” person became a primary; there wouldn’t be any consideration of “could this work?” because today I’d feel like the foundation laid down involved too much shit and sand to be safe. The main thing that I’d do differently, I think, is that I’d be a lot more vocal about letting both of them know that the way they were going out being poly was very bad for all parties. The discussions that I had with Alex had a tone of “what you’re doing is different than what I want, but is essentially acceptable and reasonable”. The person that I’ve grown into sees Alex and Amanda’s behaviors as bad, dehumanizing, and motivated entirely by assuaging Amanda’s insecurity and jealousy, by attempting to exert an unhealthy and damaging amount of control on outside parties. From what I’ve learned during my years of being poly, that approach only causes damage to everybody, because in the end, the only person who can make Amanda’s relationship with Alex feel secure is Amanda herself, by building a solid relationship and believing in Alex when he says that she is important (and his primary). While there certainly are rules and agreements that Alex and Amanda can have about things that they will (or won’t) do with other partners, insisting on inserting Amanda directly into all of Alex’s relationships and not allowing Alex and his partners to have any physical (or emotional) privacy is bad. If that level of control is needed over prospective partners, then it would probably be best for the polyamorous couple to rethink their interest in polyamory and possibly delay looking for partners until they’ve worked through their jealousies and insecurities and can treat their prospective partners as autonomous people, instead of need-fulfilling machines.
In the end, although this was a really shitty experience for me, I’m…I can’t say “glad” that I had it, but I value that I learned a lot about myself and what I’m willing to accept in prospective relationships. That is valuable, as is the knowledge that – having been in this particular experience before – I will never consider being in this kind of situation again.