It’s a common thread in the poly relationship advice forums. (Usually) the “primary” (or longer-term) partner starts to feel that their partner is taking advantage of NRE and/or taking the longevity of their relationship for granted.
“He takes his other partners out who don’t have jobs or cars and spends a lot of money on gas and food for them, and then when he and I go out, either I have to treat or we stay in because he’s broke.”
“My only day off is Sunday and he has Sundays off as well, but he’s so tired from spending Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with his other partners that he’s regularly postponing or cancelling our plans for Sunday.”
“My wife is seeing a new guy who is her Dom, and he has put her on orgasm restriction for the next two weeks, which falls on the week of our planned getaway to a romantic lodge in the mountains, and she refuses to ask for leniency.”
Sometimes my advice in these situations starts to get repetitive. Your partner is an adult and can make his/her own decisions. Don’t blame the other partners, talk to YOUR partner about how their actions are affecting you.
And then, today, in an (arguable) stroke of stinkin’ brilliance, I came up with a metaphor that I think very clearly describes how (in my opinion) harmonious polyamory can work:
It was in response to the first example. In that one, the person posting was concerned that her partners other partners all followed a “type” she didn’t approve of: jobless, car-less, living-with-parents types. She felt they were using him for the free rides and the free meals and didn’t really, really, really care about him.
And, during the course of her explanation, she admitted that it vexed her that the other girlfriend(s) would get treated to dinners and dates on the town, and then he’d have little to nothing left to spend on her.
Now, she said it didn’t bother her if they split it. She said she realized that she was in a financial position to absorb it. But there reality probably existed more in the “Hey, how come they get the great boyfriend and I get the comfortable one?”
So I pointed out that her problem wasn’t so much with who he was dating, but with how he was dating her. It would be quite easy to say “I don’t mind when we split the tab, but sometimes I like to treat you and sometimes I want you to treat me because it’s a nice gesture and I’d enjoy it.”
And she asked, “But shouldn’t I be concerned about the type of women he’s dating?”
Sure, I told her. Just like you’d be concerned if he was eating donuts for breakfast at work every day. It’s not healthy, but you’re not in charge of what he puts in his mouth. The best you can do is ensure that when you prepare a meal together, it’s as healthy as possible.
She wondered if it was appropriate for her to voice her concern over the women he was dating. And how to get her message across that she didn’t appreciate being taken for granted in that way.
And, (this is the part I’m excited about), is when I used a metaphor about burrito-fueled farting to make a point about poly relationships:
“I worry about you eating bean and cheese burritos every day because it’s unhealthy. But it’s your choice to do that, so I’ll just say this. I don’t want to deal with the farting. Once you’re making dutch ovens in my bed, your eating habits are affecting me and that, I am not okay with.”
(Only, obviously, not about burritos) The idea is to say “I have a concern, here is what it is, but your life is yours to lead. Where your choices affect my life with you is where I want to set a boundary.”
I’m kinda proud of that one.
Moral of the story: Enjoy that extra helping of NRE, but don’t start farting on your existing partner(s) and expecting them not to complain that it stinks.