Changing agreements

My partner and I have been together for 10 years. We've been practicing polyam off and on throughout our marriage.

Recently we decided to open up. We made agreements and decided on our relationship dynamic.

He met someone and didn't say anything. I finally figured it out and asked directly about her. He said she was just a friend and they were casually talking, no further interest at that time. Then I noticed they were talking every day, even during our time. In fact, he was talking to her and interacting with her to the point of neglecting our relationship.

I told him that I couldn't shake the feeling that he was serious about her. We had agreed to keep things casual as we both work through some things like PTSD from domestic abuse and communication issues.

He admitted that he was and that he had escalated their relationship and changed our relationship dynamic without saying anything to me or discussing it with me and without consent of any kind.

He feels that he didn't do anything unethical. I feel that he did.

So I guess my question is, is it unethical to change relationship agreements and dynamics without discussing it with your primary partner? I feel like that's something you should at least have a conversation about. He could've at least said that things had changed and we needed to renegotiate our agreements. Am I off base here?

It doesn’t necessarily matter if what he considered what he did was unethical or not — it still hurts you and that is in some ways more important. If he did everything by the book and told you about the relationship and still neglected you, that still would have hurt.

When it comes to falling for someone and just falling into chatting with them intensely, I absolutely do see how someone can do that without even realising they’re doing it. I can see how it might be difficult to inform someone of that exact moment when I fall in love with someone or when a relationship escalates because it’s not always that simple. It’s also possible to feel deeply connected, excited or in a honeymoon phase with someone without that taking away from any other relationship or commitment.

Obviously it’s not okay that he’s neglected your relationship but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to renegotiate your agreements completely. But it might be worth exploring why you’ve gone on and off of polyamory and why you’ve made the agreements you’ve made. Are you trying to prevent something from happening that you can’t prevent using rules?

In the past you have written to me about your partner being unwilling to read books about polyamory or have any discussions with you and yet demanding you experience compersion basically. Of course you’re very worried about him getting involved in new relationships if he’s always expecting you to be happy and he doesn’t seem to be meeting you halfway. While I can understand in this instance why he might have let his mind slip and not really told you about this, he doesn’t have the best track record as far as communication.

I wouldn’t bother arguing about the ethics of when he told you but instead I would argue about the ethics of ignoring your relationship in order to serve another. Can he acknowledge he shouldn’t have done that? And promise he will make an effort not to do so in the future? Honestly, if he refuses to admit that is an issue, then you have someone who doesn’t seem to want to make an effort to address that they’ve hurt you and that doesn’t really bode well.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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