You’re slowly and slowly losing the time you have with a metamour and you’re not quite sure how to navigate their boundaries around their time.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Do you have a good idea of when a need isn’t being met before it stops being fully met or it becomes a problem?
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I’m married for 20+ years have a partner of almost 8 years. I call them my partner. They prefer friend which might have an influence on the dynamic. They are separated from their spouse who is a lot older than them and has needed care and my partner has become their carer.
Days spent with their spouse has increased from one day visit a week to one overnight to 2 overnights and we’re currently on 5 overnights in a period of 8 months. The spouse does not know anything about me so there is barely any contact when my partner is there, usually only a goodnight text after I have gone to bed.
I try to be supportive and accept that my partner is caring for someone however, coupled with some out of context text messages that I’ve received from them that I’ve perceived to have been meant for a third party and also the speed in which unavailability/overnighters have accelerated, I have become concerned that some days they say they are caring for their spouse and are not contactable are being spent with someone else (they insist they want to be mono with me even though I regularly ask if they are interested in someone else and tell them that I support that).
I asked them about it and told them about my concerns and they got very angry and stopped contact with me for 2 weeks. I understand that they are stressed from caring from their spouse and I have to believe that is what they are doing. If they are not it is easier to think they have connected to someone else rather than them no longer feeling connected to me.
We only see each other for a couple of hours once a week (it’s been nearly 3 weeks since we’ve seen each other after our disagreement, with very little chatting in between as I mentioned) and they have said that they want to relax and enjoy our time together rather than talking about my insecurities which I get as they have been caring all week.
I appreciate that they make time for me, things are in limbo at the moment, they say they love me and only me, I love them but don’t know if I should let them go romantically until they are in a better place to have a relationship with me. I have always said I would support them and I would want them in my life, things are just so difficult now.
Added to this, my husband has been struggling with my relationship with my partner (my husband sees [ethical non-monogamy] very much through a sexual lens whereas I am more emotional leaning) and hasn’t been very nice to me sometimes over the course of my other relationship. I’m not sure what I want to hear, I think I need some help to unravel it all. Thank you
So the issue really isn’t whether or not they’re seeing someone else without telling you, I don’t think. I think that you’ve kind of pointed out that this is a little bit of a distraction. The issue is that you’re unhappy with the setup and the way that this is kind of almost progressing but regressing. I guess “regressing” is the right word.
You haven’t really seemed to have a discussion about non-monogamy and monogamy. This I find a little bit strange. Because they want to be monogamous with you and yet they’re still caring for their ex spouse — although you keep calling their spouse “the spouse” — they say they love you but they want to only call you a friend.
There’s a lot of really confusing things going on here. With definitions of things — and I’m not saying that they have to necessarily prescribe to like all of the traditional concepts of like how relationships work and what you call people, but there’s a lot of like, completely undefined things here. And it doesn’t sound like you’ve had a discussion about the physicality of how non-monogamy works in your lives.
Even if this person wants to be monogamous to you — which I find a little bit strange. And I sometimes wonder why people don’t explore that a little bit more and I sometimes wonder why people who are non-monogamous, that doesn’t kind of triggers something to say, “Okay, we need to have a conversation about this”. Because it’s very easy to say especially within a monogamous centric society, like “I love you and I only love you and I only want to be with you”.
It’s very easy to say things like that, but being monogamous to someone who is non-monogamous is a thing and it is possible, but it’s something that I think requires *some* discussion. *Some* work through because on a basic level, like you have a husband, so you have a whole — and I’m assuming, I could be wrong — that your husband — you have maybe shared assets with or you have an established relationship with and you know, within ethical non-monogamy, you’ve said that your husband sees it more as a sexual thing and you see it as an emotional thing.
Have *you* discussed that and the way that non-monogamy works within *your* other relationship? So there’s a lot here that’s not really worked out. And that in and of itself leads to anxiety and because you haven’t really discussed like, “Okay, I am non-monogamous. I have a husband I spend this many days with my husband I have these days free”. And I’m not saying you have to stick to a strict schedule, but sometimes having some idea of what time you have with each other is beneficial and helpful.
And sometimes relationships can be very, you know, unplanned and you just end up spending time together. You end up in a very synchronous relationship where you don’t have to do that. But sometimes you have to do that. It’s sort of like within monogamy a lot of people, especially when they live together and have long distance— or not long distance— when they live together and have long term relationship they think that sex should always be spontaneous and that that’s better.
And a lot of people who give advice to monogamous couples will say, “Schedule things like that. Schedule your intimate time together, even though you think you shouldn’t do that. It’s actually nice to do that”. Because people think that it doesn’t work that way. I don’t know. I think within non-monogamy, you have this kind of same problem where you just have other partners, but you don’t really think about the scheduling.
And you don’t really think about the time. Like love is infinite. Yes. You have only 24 hours in a day and you have to work and you have other shit you want to do. It’s not just like, easy to schedule in multiple relationships. Like there’s a lot going on there. And it’s worth thinking about the time. So it sounds like you haven’t really had that discussion with each other.
So of course, you’re going on like almost the opposite of the relationship escalator right? Like you had a lot of time here. Now you’re getting less and less time. You don’t really know why. Of course you’re anxious about it. Of course you’re freaking out about it. And then you have this sort of weird texting situation.
And I don’t really think that the issue is that they could be lying. It’s that you are— as you said— are trying to find a reason why they are slowly and slowly kind of slipping away from you. And then you have this other aspect of the situation which you’ve not really discussed, like this person as far as I’ve understood this… They are caring for someone who they are no longer dating. They are not together.
I don’t know if they cheated on their spouse with you. Or if this is a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but they’re now not together. So why is it you’re not allowed to have contact with them while they’re doing their care work? Like okay, yes, it’s care work. It’s a job. They might not be able to pick up the phone. But why such a like “no contact whatsoever” for the time that they’re spending with someone that they’re not even romantically together with?
There’s a lot going on here. So you’re dealing with like this less and less contact and then you get these weird texts and you’re like, “Oh, they actually being with someone else. I wouldn’t mind but I just want answers”. And the issue isn’t really that they could be lying. Obviously it’s not great if they’re lying, but the issue is that you don’t have answers. I’m really concerned that they chose to stop contact with you for two weeks.
And this is a thing like — I absolutely understand when people are too upset to talk and I am one of those people that when I am really upset sometimes I need distance and I just need to calm down because if I don’t calm down, I’m going to say something nasty, or I’m going to be a jerk. And I just need a moment. And that’s okay, but two weeks is not a moment. And this feels like a punishment. And even if they don’t intend it, it seems like — even if they’re stressed they could have tried to understand where you’re coming from.
They could have been like, “Okay, I am hurt by your accusation” — and doesn’t even really sound like you’ve made an accusation but you know — “I’m hurt and I need some time”. You can take space from someone without punishing them. You can take space by saying like, “Look, I’m really stressed from caring. This sort of questions about these texts have made me even more upset. I need a little bit of time. Please give me two weeks.”
That’s completely different than stopping contact and it sounds like they did the latter rather than the former so I’m concerned with that. And I just feel like overall like you can sit here and you can try and analyse every aspect of their behaviour, look over these texts, blah, blah, blah. But this setup isn’t working for you.
So I’d ask yourself regardless of whether or not they’re seeing someone else, this is not a setup that works for you. This person does not have time for you whether they’re spending it with someone romantically or they’re just spending it caring for their spouse — ex spouse. This person doesn’t have the time for you that you want and you can find someone that can give you that time. And that’s what it seems like at the bottom of all of this.
I wouldn’t even bother trying to hash out these texts and analyse this and not the other like at the base of the issue you would like someone who can spend more time with you. They do not have that time they have chosen whether— I don’t know why they’ve decided to be there ex-spouse’s carer, but regardless, it would be the same if it wasn’t the ex spouse they were caring for and they just had a carer career and it was really intensive. Clearly they don’t have the time that you need.
So you’re not really compatible in that way. And that’s how I think you should look at it rather than trying to pick through texts and “Oh, are you really seeing someone else?” Blah blah. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. Like obviously it matters— Your feelings about it matter. And I’m not saying they don’t matter. But at the end of the day, doesn’t really matter whether or not they’re spending that time with someone else. There’s lots of reasons why people and I know this seems really odd, right?
Because you would think within non-monogamy if you have the “permission” to date other people that that wouldn’t be an issue for someone, but surprisingly, there are lots of people who for some reason— I don’t— this was my first experience of non-monogamy actually, I was interested in someone who basically was using me to cheat on someone else. And both of us were non-monogamous and there was absolutely no reason why he had to do that.
But he did that. I can’t explain the inner machinations of why some people decide even in a non-monogamous setup, to still hide and cheat and maybe they enjoy the — I don’t know. I have no idea. Either way, even if they aren’t cheating, the situation is still not working for you. Clearly, and it’s not— you’re not getting the time you need. You’re not having you know, enough communication with them. It doesn’t sound like.
Unless you can sit down and have a conversation about like, “Okay, I have a husband, these are the days that I have free. I would like this type of communication. Can you give me that type of communication?” I feel like you are kind of just accepting what level that they can give without asking for what it is that you actually want.
You want to communicate with them while they’re caring for their partner or have that not be so don’t ask don’t tell-y and there’s no reason for it to be Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, because they aren’t dating that person. So why? Unless there’s a good explanation for this, and I understand they’re busy. Caring work is busy. You can’t be on the phone, but it sounds a little bit more like why doesn’t the ex-spouse know about you? Why not? You wouldn’t keep that a secret from someone you were caring for as a job. You wouldn’t hide it.
So why like— you can have these discussions if you want but at the end of the day, you need to ask for what it is that you actually want instead of just accepting what this person is giving you and trying to work your way around it. And don’t— you know, I would regard— like if they can change things then I wouldn’t— I’d try to put this sort of weird texting thing behind you or weird text like situation try not to put it behind you. But there also needs to not be any more of this like no contact punishment shit, like no more of that.
Absolutely not. It’s fine if they’re stressed. It’s fine if they need a moment to step away. It’s fine if they’re hurt, that’s okay. You can give them space, but that must be communicated in a way that isn’t a punishment way if you understand. I think you understand what that means.
Last but not least when it comes to your husband, the definition of like “he hasn’t been very nice to me” could range from being brusque to being really abusive sometimes. The way that people describe behaviour can really vary. So I don’t know what you mean by your husband hasn’t been very nice to you. Understandably if you haven’t had a conversation with your husband about how ethical non-monogamy works within your relationship especially as you have such different needs for it.
Like if his needs more around ethical non-monogamy are more focused on sex, which is fine and your needs are more focused on emotions, which is also fine — you need to have a discussion about that. You need to have a discussion about how ethical non-monogamy works within your relationship. How your time is managed. And if he hasn’t really had that with you of course he might be feeling anxious even— especially if you are more focused on emotions.
Because technically, if his is more about like just sexual gratification, sometimes that can feel a little less intimidating and threatening than an emotional relationship. So that needs to be discussed and worked out. Maybe he’s a little bit frustrated because you haven’t had that discussion with this other person. And he sees you kind of stressing out about this other person.
And you know, one thing that I think is not really addressed quite often enough in non-monogamous literature, writing, whatever you want to say is that there’s always kind of this assumption that when you live with someone and you’re married or you know, have a couple relationship, and you have “couple privilege”, and whatnot, and there’s— I have a lot of complicated feelings about that. And I’m not going to go into it.
But one of the assumptions that people sometimes make is that that relationship is always prioritised. That people always prioritise their spouse. And I have experienced many, many situations where when living with a partner in a situation which is considered “privileged”, our relationship was not prioritised. In fact, I felt like furniture a lot of the time. I felt like we got all the shitty aspects of being in a relationship like arguing over who’s going to do the dishes, talking about bills, dealing with the house stuff.
Meanwhile, other people — “secondaries” — got to go out and have fun dates and not have to deal with any of that stress. I sometimes felt like I was the one who was their rock, and by being the rock, I had to deal with all of the negative shit, all of the emotional processing and the secondaries could just go out and have fun. And I am understandably a little annoyed about that, as you can tell from the sound of my voice, because it is so frustrating to hear all around me constantly.
That this is a “prioritised relationship” while experiencing the quite intense emotional pain of having someone that you live with and that you love and care for, prioritise and spend more time on fun dates and fun outings with “secondaries” than they do with you. Because it’s almost like you’re just there all the time. So it doesn’t really matter. So they don’t have to put effort into you because you’re not shiny, new and fun. So obviously got a lot of feelings about that. But maybe that has to do with how your husband is feeling.
If you’ve been putting all of this energy and effort into this situation with someone who ignores you for two weeks, and someone who treats you this way. And someone who wants to be monogamous to you, which might freak him out, understandably, but is caring for an ex spouse and is ignoring you whilst they’re doing that. And I don’t even know if your husband ignores you when he’s on his dates.
But he might have a lot of feelings about that, but I don’t know what you mean by he hasn’t been very nice to you, because even if he’s had a lot of feelings, you know, you don’t deserve to be treated like shit. So I don’t know what that means. But I think that you all need to discuss that and maybe if you haven’t had these discussions about how time works within your non-monogamous setup, it’s understandable that he might be going through a lot of anxiety about that.
And that needs to be discussed and talked about and maybe like if he is socialised as a man and has that sort of societal man experience with that quite often comes the inability to really discuss feelings or being sort of beaten down by society constantly, and therefore feeling like you can’t discuss your feelings and therefore resorting to snapping at people, which I’m not saying makes it okay.
But sometimes it can be more difficult for guys to discuss their feelings, depending on the environment that they grew up in and all sorts of other social aspects, but it’s worth recognising that so that may be why he’s being a bit brusque, if that’s the case. But we need to break this down and talk about it and go see a couples therapist together. Talk about, you know, just basic physical setups of how this is going to work in your life.
And I don’t think it’s that you and your husband are incompatible. You can be interested in non-monogamy for different reasons. But I do think that if you are more interested in the emotional aspect of non-monogamy and he’s interested in just kind of like having different sexual experiences, it’s worth really talking that through and how it fits in your life because you are going to maybe have less time for him. If you are developing other relationships, and he’s not and that’s worth kind of thinking about.
So yeah, to sum up, I don’t think the issue is whether or not this person is seeing someone else without telling you. Obviously, your emotions about that are important, but clearly this situation doesn’t seem to be fully compatible with you. And instead of you asking for what you want, you’re kind of just accepting what you’re given.
And there’s a wider discussion that needs to happen about — A: Why it is that they’re caring for an ex but they still can’t talk to you? B: Why it is that they want to be monogamous to you and what that means for your relationship? C: How this relationship fits in with your overall non-monogamous setup and what kind of time you want from them and can they give it?
And last but not least D: Why it is that they decided to go no contact for two weeks? And was this done in a way that was a punishment to you or was it done in a way of “I need a break because this is stressing me out”? Which is fine.
And yeah, I think also as a little addendum to the rest of this. To sum up you need to have discussions with your husband about this setup and you know, what it means for your relationship, how your relationship is structured in terms of time, and I think that would help out a lot and just remember that just because this person is your husband, doesn’t necessarily mean that they feel connected to you. Even when you’re married and living as a couple you still have to work on that relationship.
And I think even in monogamy people often just assume that if you’re married, and you’re together that’s done then. The relationships been worked on and it’s settled and you can just ignore it and go on with your life and not put any effort into it and that is shitty in monogamy but the result in non-monogamy quite often can be that you don’t put any [effort] into your sort of “privileged established couple relationship” but then you put effort into relationships that are outside of it, and that can leave your partner feeling a little sad. No lie. so yeah.
I hope that helps and good luck.