Friday, June 1, 2007

When We Don't Get Along with a Partner's Other Love

This week, Seattle columnist Mistress Matisse wrote, "... even when you're all committed to multiple love relationships, there are stumbling blocks. One that Max and I had to cope with is what happens when you don't get along with your partner's other lover."

I learned just this lesson and under very similar circumstances. Some years ago my partner, A, began a long distance relationship ("LDR") with someone new, B, about the same time he began his relationship with me. This all went fairly well for some years while theirs was an LDR, but then came the day when B moved to town and B and I found ourselves in each other's company fairly frequently, both as family and local poly community members.

I recall giving it my best, but it soon became clear that B and I hadn't much in common other than A. If A weren't in both our lives, I feel sure we would never have sought to be close. But because he wanted us all to be family and preferably a MFF triad, we tried our best. But it was not to be. Despite attempts on both our parts to establish warmth between us, there was often a certain amount of discomfort when we occupied the same space. Most attempts to communicate and establish rapport between us failed.

To some polyfolk polyamory is a philosophy, even a world view, in which everyone loves everyone. Some believe an inability to get along can be overcome if all involved are really willing. I don't. Some people just don't mesh. I can see how A could find redeeming qualities in B that would support their romantic relationship whereas I could not find much basis for relating to B as either lover or close friend.

What I did get, and clearly so did B, is that B and I, if we loved A well, were obligated to respect each other's place in his life and refrain from conflict and discord between us. We've talked about this and agreed that it is important, that we are family in a certain way, and I'm proud to say that this strategy has worked quite well and as intended. Though A had to accept something less than the triad he had hoped for, I think that B and I both feel good about how we've managed to make it work.

Poly people don't have to love and spend a lot of time with with their SO's OSOs, but we do have to respect their place in our SO's life and refrain from doing things that are harmful to the other SO and their relationship with our SO. Some polyfolk enter into poly life longing for a loving family, but creating one from SOs and OSOs isn't always a matter of pure will. Compatability matters across the board, and when two who share an SO find they don't especially enjoy each other's company, there is no reason they should have to force the subject. On the other hand, there is plenty of reason to demonstrate respect, as I believe both my and Mistress Matisse's stories illustrate.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anita wrote: "Poly people don't have to love and spend a lot of time with with their SO's OSOs, but we do have to respect their place in our SO's life and refrain from doing things that are harmful to the other SO and their relationship with our SO."

That is so, so true! I've learned that the hard way -- a lack of clear communication about fluid-bonding expectations between myself, my husband, his girlfriend, and her husband led to a huge falling-out, and now I'm basically shut out of their social circle (even though I was not the one who violated the trust of others).

I don't know how this can be fixed, if at all. I'd like it if we could remain friends and I have tried to reach out to my husband's girlfriend, who used to be a friend of mine. However, her lack of response indicates she wants nothing to do to me.

Now I'm in the awkward situation of not having any sexual relationship with my husband, while he is fluid-bonded with her, and I doubt I would ever want to share a sex partner with this woman again (even though I don't hate her and I don't think she's a bad person, we just have very different standards for fluid-bonding).

Yeah, it gets complicated.

Anita Wagner said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment, and good luck. That does indeed sound like a tough situation. By the way, forgiveness is also a quality I wish more polyfolk possessed. - Anita