A friend of mine who is new to poly recently asked for some advice from me. It made me think about how many things I take for granted as “givens” in a relationship, and how sometimes those givens are not there on my partner’s side, and thus we need to discuss those assumptions and come to a comfortable place on them. I’m thinking of things like: the assumption that my lover will talk to their primary partner about me; that if something big happens between us we will both discuss it with our primary partners and possibly other lovers depending on the situation; that we are on the same page as far as what “safer sex” consists of; that my new partner will respect and understand my priorities with regards to scheduling; and many many more.
I have a lot of thoughts on many of these topics, and I will be writing about it all in more depth shortly, but for now I thought I would share the questions that my friend asked me and my responses. To give a little context, I do have a primary partner (my husband) and have a lovely sub boyfriend (who has a primary partner of his own) as well as several friends who are lovers. Please let me know if you have anything you’d like me to address!
1) Have you ever been in a situation where a lover hasn’t told their primary about you? Is that something you would be comfortable with?
No, or rather, if I find out that is the case then that gets resolved in one of two ways: my partner tells his/her primary, or I end the sexual aspect of that relationship. However, I generally have spoken extensively enough with my new partner that I know everything is on the up and up. I am not comfortable being involved in someone else’s lies.
2) Do you think in poly that it is an assumption that everyone will tell all their partners or is that something that must be negotiated at the get go?
To me it IS a given, however usually conversation beforehand as I am getting to know the person clarifies that. I have been in situations where my sub’s primary was aware of me, but had not been told to my satisfaction when we exchanged the L word. (Communication in their relationship has turned out to be a BIG issue, and this was one of many signposts along the way to their current troubles – and we had had the same issue with his wife who at the time was dating/being dommed by my husband. For my husband and I this was a HUGE deal that had to be resolved.)
3) How do you balance the needs of your primary partner with any other partners need/desires? I need to have a discussion with a lover about my priorities (that he is not my primary and probably never will be…I want him in my life very much, but am not in love with him. I am with this one guy I’ve been seeing) and am concerned about not hurting him (more than necessary).
This is a tricky one at times, but honesty is your best policy here. I find that because I am extremely clear from the very beginning with new partners on what extent of my life they can expect to occupy, I don’t have very many issues with people wanting more from me than I can give. When in doubt, I frame it as a “kids” issue, which it often is. It helps that I make clear to all of my partners and lovers that they are dear to me and I care about them muchly, even if I don’t have time for them – I do have space in my heart.
4) On a slightly separate note, how do you deal with occasional jealousy (if you feel it), when a partner is with another lover?
I try and figure out what – to use a new favorite term here – my particular brain weasels are. Is it that I feel I am not seeing enough of said partner? Is it that although I do see her, she doesn’t pay me any “romantic” attention, e.g. flirting and silly gifts or notes? Is it that I am frightened that the “other” person is sexier/hotter/smarter/cooler than I am? Sometimes it is many things, and sometimes only one, but each is different and requires a different reaction/solution from me. Almost always (but not totally!) they are issues strictly to be dealt with in my own head that, though I may discuss them with my partner, really are MY issues and not HIS fault. Sometimes there IS something that said partner needs to work on though. Depends on the situation.