Even if you have confusing boundaries and you’re not “official”, lying by omission can still feel like cheating.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
What is a non-monogamous setup that wouldn’t work for you?
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I’ve been seeing a guy for over 2 /12 years. We started seeing each other after he got out of a 8 year relationship and it’s been semi casual (neither of us made any serious commitment and we both have been seeing other partners) but since that year mark we have been exchanging “I love you’s” and confirmed that we were in a relationship. In July I found out that he had been seeing her for the past year (at least once a week).
I spoke with her and she confirmed that she’s been with him and that she knew that I was his primary but that she wanted more from him, possibly a relationship. Since then he’s stated that I am his primary but that he enjoys seeing her sexually and that he needs an open relationship.
It isn’t that he is seeing someone else sexually, I am open to this, but it’s the fact that he’s lied and that she wants more time and affection and that I’m the blame for the lack of that. I feel attacked from both sides and I don’t know how to continue with this. I’ve been scrambling looking for advice since July, I’ve been following your podcast. I appreciate any advice on this situation.
The first big problem with this situation is the lying. Now even though you said you weren't “official” and you only after the first year of being together, said that you were in a relationship, I find it a little worrying that he didn't mention this other partner to you at all. And I don't really know how you found out about it, whether you found out because you discovered it yourself, or he told you.
Doesn't sound like he told you. It sounds like you discovered it yourself. And then you have this conversation with her where she seemed to say she knew that that you were his primary and she wants more, and also seems to have told you (I assume that she told you this) that he wants more time and affection— or no she blames you for the time and affection that she's not got from him, which isn't great. And then he'd sort of tells you that you're definitely his primary and that he's only interested in her sexually. There's a lot. There's a lot about this that's a problem.
It's not up to me to tell you what you define as cheating. There's a reason why I personally prefer not to have things and kind of a weird quasi unsure state. I prefer things to be quite clear in terms of like — Are we in a relationship? Yes or no? And maybe it's that you didn't have that and so he kind of felt like he didn't need to tell you about her, but I would feel cheated in this situation. I would have a hard time not feeling cheated because it's the lying, and it's hiding her. And it just feels like she has been hidden from you.
And she knew about you but you didn't know about her and that's just really odd and I don't see why that's the case. And I just feel like he could have easily just mentioned it in passing. I do know that like a lot of people when they begin trying out non-monogamy sometimes they accidentally cheat because they don't really know how to tell their partners that they're seeing someone else. And they're so used to the idea that they shouldn't do that because if they do that it'll end the relationship that they end up cheating kind of by mistake. So maybe that's where he's coming from but you got to figure out like why did he not mention this, up until now?
I also feel like. Had I been able to advise you before you had that conversation with her I probably wouldn't have advised you to have a conversation with her because this is kind of not really about her, but the fact that you did you've got like this other information which is that she does want more from him. And she's mad at you because she's blaming you that she hasn't been able to get more time and affection from him.
Now, it's kind of… it's okay that she wants that and I'm not blaming her for that, But I feel a little bit worried about the fact that she is blaming you and has no problem, telling you that, and you go and talk to him and he's like “yeah you're my primary and I'm just interested in her sexually”. There's some communication breakdowns going on in his relationship with her.
Because, while it's okay for her to want stuff and I'm not saying that's bad, she's not going to get that, and that's not really fair for your partner to like keep stringing her along if what she wants is more time and affection. And it's also really awkward for her to pull you into that. No wonder you feel attacked from both sides. I would be really hesitant around like a metamour who was just willing to lay all this out on me. Because it's not really up to me. It's not my fault and I understand why she's blaming you. It's easier for her to blame you because she doesn't have any feelings for you. She has feelings for this guy.
So her brain is going to want to put all the negative stuff on to the person that she doesn't have any contact for, but that's still really really worrying. If you confronted him and he said, “I shouldn't have hid it from you” or acknowledged that even if he wasn't trying to hide it, he didn't tell you about it. I just feel like he should have been… It doesn't sound like he was apologetic about the situation. He just sort of was like well you're my primary and I'm only interested in her sexually.
Okay, but clearly there's an issue here. And you have to address that and if that's all the way that he's going to address it, I just don't know if that's something that you should continue dealing with. It doesn't seem like you chose to have an open relationship. It just seems like you kind of fell into it. You don't really seem like a person who is like “Yes I want an open relationship. This is specifically what I want”.
It just seems like you didn't want to make a serious commitment either way and you saw other people. And then you have this “I love yous” and confirm you're in a relationship but it's not really clear about whether that was supposed to be open or not. I mean, what did he tell you when he was going once a week? Did he lie? I just feel like you need to ask yourself, do you want an open relationship? Is that what you want independent of this person? Is it something you're actually seeking? And then if it is something you're actually seeking, do you want it with someone who is being dishonest with you?
Because that's kind of what this is. Sorry but if he has been seeing some other person for the last year, hasn't mentioned it has been seeing her for at least once a week and she is angry with you because she wants more time with him— So clearly, she doesn't understand that she isn't going to get that. It just doesn't spell very good things. He's not communicating well in that relationship clearly, or is making a choice of a person who doesn't want an open relationship when he— it's just a lot.
I just feel like you need to really ask yourself if open relationships are what you want, and it's having an open relationship with this person is what you want? Because, you know, it doesn't seem like you're happy to find this out. And it doesn't seem like he was going to tell you. So I just feel like you— This to me would be defined as cheating. Again I'm not going to tell you how to define it to yourself. It would be cheating to me, and I would be out of there personally.
Basically, to sum up, lying by omission is still cheating, in my opinion. Whether or not you want to identify that as cheating is up to you. Because you kind of had nebulous boundaries and definitions from the beginning, so maybe he did get confused and didn't know when to tell you and I don't know. I think that you can confront him about the conversation you had.
It doesn't make it clear whether you actually told him that she said that she wants more time from him and feels you’re the blame for not getting that. So clearly there's some communication breakdown. It'd be interesting to see what he has to say about that. And if he apologetic for basically hiding this from you for so long? Especially if he’s seen her once a week, like he had to say he was going somewhere or maybe. I don't know. Maybe you don't live together.
Or you don't have a shared calendar so it's not like you paid that much attention. But sometimes we don't know that we have a boundary until it's been crossed and this might be a situation where you go, “Okay. In the future, if you decide to see someone regularly I would just like a heads up”. And you can go from there but I kind of just feel like the combination of the fact that you found it out, which to me seems to illustrate that he didn't tell you.
You found it out on top of the fact that she is blaming you for not getting more time with him when you didn't even know about her… It doesn't spell good things, so you need to ask yourself if you want an open relationship? And if you want an open a relationship with this person? Because even if he needs an open relationship fine, but he could have been honest about it from the beginning. And he wasn't.
And so that is really the issue that I'm having with. If you need an open relationship that is fine but that doesn't give you carte blanche to just lie to people and not tell them, whether you're not intentionally lying or hiding things…
yeah, it just doesn't spell good things to me. Really, ask yourself, is an open relationship what you want, what you need? And even if it is, is that something that you want with a person who has lied to you for the past year?
And hasn’t, from the looks of it, apologised for that. I wish that I had more like other things, to be able to advise, because if this is his response is just going “Well, you're my primary and I just want to see her sexually and that's it”. That's just not enough to go by, and the fact that you've been trying to find advice about this for so long makes me feel like he hasn't given you any other reassurance or attempted to do so and that doesn't spell good in any kind of relationship.
I wish that I had better things to advise. I really hate it sometimes when the only thing that I have to advise is “Do you really want to be in that situation?”. But yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.