When we left out, Rob and I had figured out a way for me, Rob, Rachel, Jon, and Lora to live together. We’d buy a home with five levels – the bottom unit would have 3 levels, and the top would have two. The garden level would be comprised of bedrooms for me, Jon and Lora, as well as a living room and kitchenette. The second level would be a shared kitchen, dining room, living room level. The third level would be Rachel & Rob’s bedroom, an office for Rob, and bedrooms for their children. The top two levels would be a separate unit for Jessica and George.
Before I go on, one quick note: Jon and Lora were both on-board with this idea. I didn’t expressly mention that before, but as Jon and I spent more and more time together, he also ended up spending a fair amount of time with Rob when I was at work. As Rob worked from home, there were a lot of days when Jon would spend the night with me, go do some things for himself, and then come home and hang out with Rob off and on. They were building up a really solid friendship that both of them repeatedly told me that they were really happy to find.
Lora hadn’t been bonding with anybody, as she mostly kept to herself at this time. However, she had met everybody and liked them. She is typically very much of a loner. Even in our current home, she spends most of her time in the little bedroom, either playing computer games or spending private time with Jon. Her feelings on our living situation were that as long as she had a private room that she could shut everybody out when needed, she didn’t really care what the overall living situation was like, as long as everybody got along.
So Lora and Jon were on board. Rachel was on board. Rob and I were delighted. Where did it all go wrong?
I think it started to go wrong when Rachel mentioned our great new idea to Jessica, who (Rob and I thought) did not think it was a great idea. I can definitely describe what was said and what happened after Rachel mentioned our new plan to Jessica. As for why it happened, it’s entirely conjecture that I and Rob think are the reasons for what happened. We don’t know for certain though. By the end of it, I didn’t trust Jessica enough to talk to her directly about it, which is a big reason why I ultimately walked away from home buying with this polycule (and also walked away from the polycule). If one of the members who I would be paying a mortgage with is someone who lies and/or twists the truth so much that I can’t trust their honesty, then I definitely shouldn’t be making a big life choice like home ownership with them.
The next time we all got together to talk about home-buying, Jessica told us that she’d had some realizations about what she felt we needed to do in order to be sure that we’d be able to live well together. Her first realization was that we ALL needed to live together in a home where we all shared space for at least a year. Rob and I both protested; as the final configuration didn’t have anything to do with us all living together, why was that necessary? Jessica kept insisting that it was the only way to know that we’d really get along together and Rob and I kept insisting that it wasn’t, as we wouldn’t ALL be living together in the end.
Jessica also kept insisting that it would be impossible to find a home that had the set up that we wanted, and in an area that we wanted to live in. Rob and I both pointed out that we had found some possibilities already, and that we could also potentially modify a home into what we wanted. Jessica said she refused to consider anything that had any remodeling involved, and would only consider it if it was an already-finished home. Rob and I countered that we would be happy to look for a place that either was already configured correctly OR configured correctly for the Jessica/George part of things and we’d have renovations done on our area. Jessica tried to insist that that wasn’t OK with her, and in that (at least) everybody (including Rachel) was willing to tell Jessica that she was being ridiculous – if any of us wanted to do renovations on the part of the home that we were living in, as long as they weren’t structural changes, we could damn well renovate as we pleased – that was part of why we wanted to buy a home!
(To interject for a moment, none of us were on-board with any ridiculous renovations, but configuring a home to optimize the space for us was always part of the plans, no matter what living configuration we lived in. We’d already discussed ideas like an outdoor kitchen in the backyard or renovating bathrooms. So for Jessica to suddenly insist that renovations couldn’t happen went against part of what we’d already agreed we wanted out of home ownership.)
In the end, it kept circling back, over and over, to Jessica now insisting that we all HAD to live together before we bought a place, and that it would be impossible for us to find a five level brownstone that gave us what we wanted. Rob and I kept pushing back that it was NOT necessary for us all to live together, and that we could find a place that gave us what we wanted. And round and round we went.
Because Jessica wouldn’t leave off this idea that we all had to live together, we agreed to drop the argument for the moment and hear the rest of her “ideas” about how we’d all live together. But before I share them, I want to talk about why Rob and I were balking so much about the seven of us living together.
The concept of the seven of us living in one home was something that was never brought up or put on the table before. It was extremely troubling for a number of reasons. The first was that Jessica and Rachel did live together for a few years previously. It nearly destroyed their relationship. Jessica is a packrat and Rachel is extremely tidy. The stress of trying to find a happy medium between those two caused a lot of bitterness and damage to their relationship that took years to repair. Rob is far neater than Rachel – he is a self-professed neat freak. But Jessica is still a packrat. So the idea of Rob and Jessica sharing the same space…
No way that was going to work.
Another reason why living with Jessica troubled me was that I was starting to have some concerns about the level of closeness that I wanted to have with her. As I mentioned at the beginning on the first post, Jessica and I were exploring our relationship together. The more I got to know her, the more I saw that I probably didn’t want more than a sort of average friendship with her. She tried be very controlling at times – and when I rebuffed her attempts to be controlling or tried to have a conversation with her about it, she would get very defensive and tell me that I was exaggerating or that her request had actually been a joke that I just didn’t get. The more this happened, the more that I came to realize that having a straightforward conversation with her about some subjects was nearly impossible.
Jessica’s next…request…was even more ridiculous:
As Jessica doesn’t eat meat, and the smell of cooking meat nauseates her, we would not be allowed to cook (or heat up) any red meat when she was home. We would have to draw up a meat schedule for when it was acceptable for red meat to be cooked.
That is the point at which I said to myself “Ok, she’s got to be actually trying to scuttle us living together. Because there is no way in hell that she thinks that we’re going to agree to that”. I am an unabashed carnivore, and the first time that I had PMS and wanted a steak and Jessica tried to tell me that I couldn’t make a steak in my own home, I’d probably make a steak out of her and kill two birds with one stone.
That’s not even mentioning the part where every single other person in the home eats meat, so her plan that we all must live together and mustn’t cook meat when she’s at home seriously inconveniences six people.
There were some more conditions, but we didn’t actually get into them, as Rob and I kept arguing with Jessica that this “We all must live completely together in one large home” idea was completely ridiculous and unnecessary. Also – impossible. Because of the meat demand alone, it was impossible (and yes, when Rachel and Jessica lived together, Rachel abided by it. However, the rest of us had no interest in abiding by it).
Rachel and George kept quiet for most of the conversation. Jon and Lora weren’t present, though I was updating Jon about the conversation over chat and he was completely floored and against the “no eating meat when Jessica is around to smell it” condition.
Jon, Rob and I later talked about what we think went wrong. Our theory is that when Jessica heard that Rachel, Rob, and I had figured out a way to live together again, she became very jealous. Over the years, Jessica had pushed Rachel at times to try to live together again. I knew that Rachel was vehemently against that, given how bad the last time went, and knowing that every time she went to Jessica’s place, it was still at a level of messiness that she wasn’t comfortable with. She and Jessica were having a bit of a catch-22 with that. Jessica kept insisting that if she and Rachel moved in together, she’d do a much better job keeping things clean. Rachel kept saying if that was true, then Jessica needed to prove it by starting to keep her home more clean NOW, so that Rachel could see proof of it for months before they moved back in together. Jessica would retort that she wasn’t going to waste time keeping things up to some random standard that Rachel imposed on her before they moved back in together – because Jessica could potentially keep her home less pack-ratted for months and Rachel might still not agree to move in with her. Rachel agreed that that could be a possibility, but that she definitely wouldn’t move back in with Jessica without seeing that Jessica could keep things tidier first.
And round and round they went.
All that said, Jessica appeared to be very jealous when Rachel and I moved in together and got along so well. Jon and I speculated that when Rachel and I added Rob to the mix and it didn’t work out, Jessica might have been privately relieved, because if Rachel and I lived together, then I got “more” of Rachel than Jessica did, which Jessica didn’t like. So when Rachel, Rob and I started discussing ways that we could all live together again, Jessica acted out to stop that from happening. In her mind, if we couldn’t ALL live together equally, then we (me, Rachel, and Jessica) all have to have separate homes.
This is all speculation on our parts, as Jessica never came out directly and said why she suddenly started pushing for us to all live in a single home together before buying a home that was split into several homes. When we asked her, she simply insisted that that was the way it had to be.
It was this situation coupled with seeing other signs of passive-aggressiveness and what I viewed as laying down of unacceptably intrusive rules that caused me to back out of living with Jessica and the rest. It also put pressure on my relationship with Rachel, because of the number of times that she either buckled to Jessica’s demands OR didn’t buckle, but went along with things that she clearly didn’t want to go along with, but did for the sake of her relationship with Jessica.
Concurrently to this happening, we were having some other polycule drama. When Rachel, Rob and I moved in together, we moved closer to where Jessica lived and all exchanged house keys, so that we could see each other more often. Seeing Jessica and Rachel together showed me that they could both get really passive aggressive and nasty with each other. Jessica was always the instigator of such behavior, but Rachel did go along with it and often retaliated in kind eventually. It was during this time that both of them had a huge fight. I was still spending a lot of time with them, and I informed both of them that I would not be talking about them to each other – I was absolutely NOT doing any kind of “neutral messenger” bullshit. Rachel was fine with this, and her reaction to it was along the lines of “Of course not. That would be a shitty position to put you in.”. Jessica’s response was to be a bit pouty and say something like “Well, I mean, if you heard something important, I don’t see the harm in you sharing it with the other person”.
It was during this time that Jessica and Rachel both vented to me the same feelings and the same fear about each other. Serendipitously, these conversations took place within twenty-four hours of each other, with Jessica first, then Rachel. They both told me that they felt like the other was the most important person in their life, and would always be the most important person in their life. They were both worried that their romantic partners, when they finally learned that (or figured it out) would be unhappy and unable to live with it.
Neither of them seemed to take into account how I would feel about that statement.
I felt a lot of things. Hurt. Surprised. Confused. Embarrassed. Ignorant. I hadn’t actually ever, in my mind, taken the time to rank my feelings about Rachel against my feelings about Jon. I didn’t have a specific “space” that expected Jessica to fill. I was seeing where things went with Rob, in terms of friendship, and if we’d end up having a solid friendship or a partnership of our own. I had the same thoughts about Lora, as I didn’t know her well at that point – I didn’t know where it would go, and I didn’t have any specific plans for that.
Maybe it was naive or a giant overestimation of my ability to love, but I thought I’d love them all in their individual way, and support them as needed, and ask for support as needed, without putting any kind of mental hierarchy in place.
Hearing that Rachel and Jessica most definitely had a hierarchy in place and that it seemed like I was (at best) a distant third really hurt. I didn’t ask either of them for further clarification at the time, since each of them were really focused on the woman. Asking about it would have completely derailed the current conversation we were having.
And asking about it later…I thought about it a million times. About saying “Remember that time when we were talking about <Rachel/Jessica> and you said that you knew you couldn’t live without her, and that she was more important to you than any lover? I was wondering what means for me and for our relationship – where do I fit into all of that?”. And over time, as I watched the passive-aggressive dynamic that Rachel and Jessica had when they were upset with each other, and as this house situation developed, I realized more and more that I didn’t feel comfortable being that vulnerable with either of them. I realized that if being that vulnerable with them opened myself up to be a part of the mind games and digs and deliberate slights and things that they did to each other when hurt, then I didn’t want to be vulnerable with either of them. Or buy a home with them. Or intimately share our lives together.
The very last straw for me was when Jessica started talking about how important it would be for all of us (as a polycule) to vet possible future loves and friends, to make sure that they were good people “for the family”. That is why I got chills when I read Shea Emma Fett’s story about abuse in polyamory. I feel very certain that we would never have ever gotten to the point where everybody had to have sex with everybody else in the polycule – Rob is somewhere between polyflexible and happy being monogamous with Rachel. Rachel never had the slightest sexual interest in me or Jessica (or Lora for that matter). I never had the slightest interest in a sexual relationship with Rob or Rachel or Lora.
But the emotional aspects of it… Yes. Those could have gotten incredibly controlling and coercive if we started doing things the way Jessica wanted. And I know, from when I was getting to know Jessica, that for her all those rules and lines are drawn because of her own insecurity. She truly wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt or coerce anyone for the sake of being coercive or cruel. But she was absolutely willing and desired to control other people to inappropriate extremes, in order to feel safer herself.
And I also got the impression that if Jessica through herself into this idea of having a big happy poly family, then it could become the kind of thing to her where the family was more important than the parts. If we’re talking about “vetting” future friends and lovers to make sure that they “work well with the family” then it sounds like the family has become more important than the people who are in the family. And as much as I would love to have a poly family, it’s only going to work with me if all the members involved can leave when they feel that they’ve grown in a different direction. It can only work if I feel like I can leave if I’ve grown in a different direction.
One of the things that our attempt at home-building showed me was that living with Jessica was going to be an exercise in constantly shoring up boundaries and pushing back against her attempts to be controlling. George was nearly always going to side with Jessica – even if he expressed an opinion that dissented from Jessica’s, he often ended his disagreeing statements saying that the situation wasn’t that big a deal for him, so even if he disagreed, he wanted whatever Jessica wanted, because she felt the strongest. Rob, Jon and I would disagree when Jessica tried to get controlling. Rachel would try to duck the discussion or stay neutral, because she knew that in Jessica’s mind, disagreeing with what Jessica wanted could potentially be akin to relationship-treason. Lora didn’t give a shit and would just do her own thing, no matter what (smart Lora). Jessica would continue to bring things up, or harp about any of her pet ideas that we had shut down, constantly trying to get her way. She would also not openly discuss her feelings and instead try to get at things sideways, instead of admitting to her vulnerabilities or jealousies and working through them herself.
Because of the way things developed, I ultimately decided that I simply couldn’t trust Jessica enough to buy a home with her. In that time, my relationship with Rachel also soured considerably. Seeing the person she could be with Jessica showed me a side of her that I hadn’t seen before, and really didn’t like. Likewise, spending more and more time with Jessica was showing me that there were a lot of parts of her personality that I didn’t feel comfortable with.
One of those parts was Jessica’s comfort with trying to dictate to me who I couldn’t date. As we hung out, I sometimes mentioned people I was interested in, and possibly considering dating. During those talks, several times she let me know that if I considered dating a certain person, she and I couldn’t date. The reasons varied – because someone was a friend of hers, and she felt like me dating that person could potentially negatively impact her relationship with that person (how that would happen, I have no idea. She was pretty vague on it: “it just could”). Because she really didn’t like another, and couldn’t see herself being with someone who did actually like that person. More and more, talking about potential intimate relationships with her felt like she was attempting to establish a dynamic where I came to her for her blessing/permission before dating someone, versus what I was actually trying to do, which was simply clue her in on who I found attractive and might start seeing, as I wanted to be open with her about it, seeing as how she was someone who I was also building a relationship with. One of the very last straws was when she told me that she really didn’t care for two of my current partners, but that she would “grin and bear it” since they were people that I was dating before she and I started dating. And despite her “grin and bear it” promise, she would make judgmental, inappropriate comments about them to me, even though I told her that I had no interest hearing what she had to say about them, because I completely disagreed with her.
Walking away was the best answer for me. Jon and Lora agreed whole-heartedly. Jon had been concerned for months when I told him some of the things that Jessica was trying to push on me. He’d also witnessed Jessica and Rachel’s little snippy tiffs with each other and was wholly disinterested in having any kind of dynamic like that be around him. He was sad that pulling away from Jessica also meant pulling away from Rob and Rachel, as he’d come to really care about both of them. He particularly really loved Rob, and had been looking forward to getting to know him more and more. He’d also developed a little crush on George, and had been hoping to maybe explore that someday, though Jessica’s behavior caused Jon to revise any idea of exploring a relationship with George, since he had no interest in doing anything that might cause Jessica to think that she was welcome to have any kind of weighed opinion/input about Jon’s relationships.
So the three of us walked away from our polycule. With sadness. With regret. But also feeling very strongly that we were doing what was best for us. This development hasn’t soured the idea of a polycule to me though – it’s only enforced to me how important it is that every person in the polycule be capable of being emotionally honest and willing to explore their most painful emotions. And that every member of the polycule must be willing to allow any other member to walk away, if that is what is best for that person.
As for my current future dreams and plans, I’ll get into those in part three.