Episode 75: Overreacting

Your short term partner is snapping and says it’s a joke and your long term partner says you’re overreacting. How do you deal?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

Talk about one hard limit you have and how it became a hard limit for you.

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I have been practicing polyamory for about five years and things have always gone pretty well. However, I now find myself in a really tough situation.

I've been with my partner L for three years, and partner E for two months. Things were going great - me and E are great at bluntly communicating, share a lot of interests, and spend so much time together that E and L have become super close, too. L wants to date E, and I'm rooting for it, but E only wants to be friends with her right now. Totally fine.

But just over the past week, E has started to be really mean. I ask what's wrong and they snap at me. In their defence, they JUST got out of an emotionally abusive relationship (and are still in contact with said abuser), so I recognise that a lot of him may have rubbed off on them. I point out when they say things that hurt me (often a blatant insult brushed off with an "I was teasing lol"), but they still do it again and again.

I've started to recognise that when I'm around them I feel worse, and theres just so much negativity that I don’t want to be around. I want to break up with them, but I don’t want to ruin L's chances with them, since the two of them are still best friends. I've mentioned it before to L, but she thinks I'm overreacting and should give them more of a chance. How can I break up with E while still preserving my relationship with L, and making it clear that I'm ok with them still hanging out if they want to?


The biggest issue for me here is downplaying your feelings by both of your partners actually — not just E but also L. I feel like it's an understandable somewhat defensive reaction, if you say, “Oh, this hurt me” and someone's like “it was joke! I'm just teasing!” And we do sometimes tease people and it does come off the wrong way and we don't necessarily mean it. But that doesn't mean that you can't apologise. And it doesn't necessarily mean you can't try to do better and maybe realise that whatever kind of sense of humour you have isn't really working with the other person.

And it's not fun to be the person who has to kind of constantly say “This hurts my feelings”. I just feel like firstly, E saying that, “Oh, I'm just teasing lol” and they keep doing it and then L also saying that you're overreacting— I feel like that's not necessarily a great thing either. Now, if L feels like— there's totally a situation that could happen, where E maybe has a particular sense of humour (and I'm not saying that's what happens here because it does sound like he is stressed) but let's say he has a particular style of humour that you don't really like and that does hurt your feelings and maybe L shares that same type of sense of humour. That is fine.

I don't think everybody has to have the same sense of humour. I don't think everybody has to do things in exactly the same way. But I do think that if you say “I don't care. This is your sense of humour. It bothers me. I don't like it”. That's also okay. And it doesn't have to be that anyone in the room is evil or too sensitive. It can just be that you have a different style of how you want to be spoken to. I do kind of wonder because you're saying that E snapped that you've that this is not actually a joke, but I'm entertaining that idea for the sake of the excuse.

And there's lots of situations like that. There are sensitive subjects that people have and they have a right to be sensitive about it. You know, if your grandma just passed away and somebody told a joke about a grandma passing away, you probably wouldn't think it was necessarily funny at the time. And maybe they like that type of edgy humour. And maybe if you hadn't experienced that you might feel differently. We can all kind of respect that.

So what I'm trying to say is that that excuse still doesn't really fly because if they were teasing — fine, but you're still allowed to say “You know what? You can tease L that way and that's fine if L is okay with that. But I don't want you to do that with me”. That's fine. So it's not really an excuse that flies, and l sort of saying “you're overreacting” is also not cool. L may have a relationship with E where they do this type of stuff, if we wanting to entertain the idea that it's a joke — they can do that together. But you don't want to do that.

And that's fine. So I would kind of take it as they're saying they're teasing. Okay, fine. And just go with that even though you're saying that E is snapping at you and it doesn't sound like teasing to me. For the sake of argument, I would go ahead with the teasing thing and say “Okay, but I don't like that and you need to stop that”.

The second thing that I would say as well is that you can't ruin a relationship with someone else's relationship that you're not even part of I feel like even within monogamy, we get a little bit hung up on— I don't know, I feel like it's sort of the same thing of “Oh, I don't want to, you know, tell someone that I'm attracted to them because it will ruin our friendship” and I think depending on how that pass is made, I feel like if somebody makes a pass that violates boundaries, then yeah, that might be the thing that ruins a friendship but not necessarily the interest. You know what I'm saying?

You not wanting to be with E anymore doesn't necessarily have anything to do with L’s relationship with E and I feel like if L will assume that you're judging them, then that's the thing that you can address. But if L is going to kind of

decide not to date E because of you, then that's kind of L’s decision. L is responsible for L’s own relationships, not you and it's not your relationship to manage either by, “ruining it” or “endorsing it”. It's their relationship.

And if E is the type of person that is going to not date L because of you, then that's not something— what are you going to do? Stay with— that's a hostage situation. So I don't think you should think of it in terms of “I don't want to ruin L's chances with them”. I think that you need to do what feels right for you. Break up if you want to break up and whatever happens between E and L— You can perfectly say like, “Look, I don't want to date E anymore. And I'm very clear that if you would like to date E then that's fine. I don't mind if you hang out but it's just not something that I want to do anymore”.

Recognise that if you have a shared space together, or if you hang out together, or if L wants to bring E over that might be super awkward. You know, it's gonna be awkward for a while and maybe there's a way that you can manage that. But you aren't responsible for other people's relationships. They're responsible for their own relationship unless you're actively trying to sabotage somebody else's relationship. In which case there are bigger problems.

You just deciding that you don't want to date E is not ruining anything for L and think about it the other way — what's the only option? That you stay with E just so that L can be fine dating E? I just feel like that's a hostage situation. That's not a relationship. So I do think that you need to break up if you want to break up, have a discussion with L, make it clear that “This is how I feel. I don't really want to have this relationship anymore, but I'm perfectly fine if you would like to date E. I'm fine with that”. And let it be what it is.

If L is kind of somewhat immature L might decide that they don't want to be with you anymore because of it, especially given the comments already, like “overreacting” doesn't really spell out the greatest things. But that's not either something you can control either and you shouldn’t also be in a relationship with EA because l can't deal with it. That's also a hostage situation regardless. So yeah, I think you should break up if you want to break up.

I think the biggest thing also as well— boundaries that you need to make really clear not just with E but with L as well— It's not cool for L to tell you that you're overreacting. It's okay for L to have different sensitivities than you. It’s okay for L to have different capacities for dealing with somebody else's kind of emotional turbulence. That's absolutely fine. L may be able to deal with some of the snapping in a way that you can't. And you know, it may be that E is going through something and that's why they have started to suddenly become mean. But you don't have to deal with it.

And just because L is okay with dealing with it doesn't make you overreacting or more sensitive or wrong. So I think that in the future you need to kind of make it clear like, “Look L, it's okay if you feel comfortable with this type of behaviour, but I don't also have to feel comfortable with it just because you do and I don't appreciate that you told me that I'm overreacting. And I wish that you would you know if you feel like you're in a position where you feel like you can give E more of a chance. That's fine. I don't personally feel that so I really appreciate if you didn't kind of downplay my feelings in this way”. Because I do kind of feel like it's a bit of a downplay. It's a bit of like, “oh, you need to just get over it”. And that really isn't going to fix the situation.

If you know L has some tips for how they managed to deal with some of this stuff and not take it personally, then that's fine. There is another perhaps alternate universe where E snaps at you and you don't necessarily feel as bad about it because you don't take it as personally and you kind of ignore it. You know, and eventually E— I don't know. That I guess could exist an alternate universe but I feel like that's not you right now. And it's fine if somebody snaps at you, for you to be like “You know what? I don't want to put up with this anymore”. You don't have to put up with people stuff. And L may be able to manage it. But that's L's life and L's decision.

So yeah, to sum up, you know, it's not good when people downplay or ignore your feelings or dismiss them in such a way. Maybe l felt like, you know, she was being a little bit helpful when she said that, but I don't think that that was necessarily helpful for you and it's okay for you to say so. You can't ruin a relationship for somebody else in this way. Unless you're actively trying to discourage it or sabotage it in some way, you breaking up with E is not ruining a relationship between L and E.

That is something for them to negotiate. Adults are responsible for their own relationships. It isn’t— it’s not your relationship to manage. And I do think that you should break up if you want to break up and just make it really clear just say overtly to L “Look, if you want to date E and still or still be friends, I'm fine with that”. And L just has to trust that that's what you mean. And if L doesn't trust it, that's what you mean then there are bigger problems. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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