By: Jenn Vicious
Jenn Vicious is the radical community’s Agony Aunt, providing life coaching and social etiquette answers for radical cultures. Need poly, kinky, or queer dating advice, need to to know what to wear to court or a family function (you know, one you have to look “respectable” at), want to understand what to and not to say in some contexts, ask Jenn Vicious.
I’m discussing open relationship boundaries with me partner, and he vetoed the one person that I would really like to sleep with, as he feels that it would be more than just sex since I had a crush on him for years. I want to respect his insecurities and am definitely committed, but can’t stop thinking about this other guy. Should I bring up the issue for intense attraction to the other person? Should I tell the other guy?
I’m just gonna get honest here: I don’t get this kind of polyamory, where partners agree to not form “serious relationships” or not care about people they sleep with or just have sex with other people but not form lasting connections. It makes me feel weird and a little bit dirty to think about.
Here’s why: I’m all for a good one night stand or strictly physical fling of hot sex now and then, but what I think is way hotter is having a myriad of respectful, caring relationships. Personally, I don’t ONLY want to have frivolous hot sex, I also want trusting, caring friendships that may or may not include hot sex.
When I’m on the other side of polyamory, it is even more important to me that relationships are “more than just sex.” It makes me feel a little gross to think that my partner is getting it on with people that he doesn’t care about. Since he is my partner and I expect him to be emotionally honest, caring, and respectful towards me, I need him to be that way in his other relationships as well. That just seems obvious to me. I know that when he forms meaningful connections with other people it does not take away from our connection. How could it? The reason why we are in an open relationship is because we are committed to working on our relationship together, not just cutting and running as soon as someone hotter shows up.
I know why people do poly this way. A lot of us seem to have this idea ingrained in us that you only get One love, that humans aren’t capable of loving two people at the same time. Which is fucking ridiculous. Obviously humans have the capacity to love more than one person at a time. Do you love only one of all of your friends? Do you love only one member of your family? Do moms love only one of their kids? Why would we be capable of those emotions, but not of caring about more than one romantic partner at a time.
I understand the ways that romance feels different from those other situations. Romance often brings out the worst in people, honestly. It brings up every insecurity we posses; it’s a forum for us to work out every mistake our parents made in raising us; it’s where we exorcise our demons. I think all of us who practice poly will be better at it when we aren’t driven by our insecurities and a sense of the scarcity of love. That doesn’t mean we won’t HAVE those insecurities, it only means we will choose not to ACT on them.
Anyway, you had a question for me. Yes, you should bring it up with your partner again, but I wouldn’t frame it as a debate. Think of it as re-opening negotiations. (In my experience of poly, the negotiations never really close, as we are changing and growing and learning what we can accept and what we can’t).
In my opinion, you should work at that underlying “more than just sex” issue that I just ranted about. Other than that, you should also work at addressing the issues that give rise to that boundary. Are there other things you could do to help your partner feel ok about you pursuing your Crushee? If not, put it off. Sometimes if person#1 is super comfortable with the idea of polyamory and person#2 is having a bit harder of a time figuring out how to make it work, letting person#2 have the first go at polyamory can help.
I know that (despite my high-minded ideals stated above) I had a hard time fully understanding how my partner could care about me and someone else at the same time until I had feelings for someone else. Then I was like “oh, obviously I still love my partner.” So you could try taking this whole poly thing slow and see how it goes for your partner.
I do not recommend stifling anything. That never works anyway. If you have told your partner that you will not act on that crush until he is comfortable with it, then you can not act on that crush. But feelings are feelings, and shoving them down doesn’t make them go away. If you find that you are not able to spend time with Crushee without being completely overwhelmed by the uncontrollable urge to knock him over and shove your tongue down his throat, then you should probably take a break from spending time with him until either you are more in control of your feelings, or your partner is comfortable with that scenario.
I don’t think you need to bring this whole situation up with Crushee yet, unless there is unbelievably obvious sexual tension between you two, and you are pretty sure he already knows something is up. In that case, I would say you talk about it, and tell him clearly where things are at with your partner and that you are absolutely going to respect your partners boundaries. But, again, if it isn’t obvious, I wouldn’t bring it up.