Sometimes when your partner wants non-monogamy you can be left feeling like you’ve failed or not done enough.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
How do you feel about giving your friends details about your relationships?
This week’s episode is about what happens when a mutual friend is unhappy with the relationship building happening between you and someone else. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Music for this podcast has been provided by Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com and the art was made by Dom Duong at domduong.com!
This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.
I’m reaching out because I feel my situation is very unique. Though I feel confident in the steps I’m going to take, I would appreciate your outside insight into this situation.
- Me: 25, ENM, kinky, friends with K, interested in having [something] with T
- K: 24, monogamous, asexual, friends with Me, friends + roommates (1 of 5) with T
- T: 24, wants to explore ENM, kinky, friends + roommates with K, interested in having sex with me
K introduced T and I around May of 2021, we clicked as friends and the relationship did not deepen. In August 2021, T moved with 2 friends to the city to live with K. Also around that time, I experienced a traumatic accident that left me incapable of caring for myself until September 2021. While I was incapacitated, T made a significant effort to contact me virtually and spent some time with me in person.
I became more independent and T and I scheduled some time to spend together. During this time, we began by cuddling platonically and concluded by making out (consensually: I told him I was ENM and he asked if he could kiss me). When T got home from this, he told K about what had happened in the interest of being open and honest. K was very upset and asked to speak to me the next day.
When K and I spoke, she told me that the idea of two of her close friends sleeping together made her uncomfortable. Additionally, she shared that she still had some feelings for T (they had a near miss romantically about 4 years ago, K is currently in a monogamous relationship and has been for 3 years). She also reasoned that my ex-partner L’s living situation had gone south while we were together, and that she predicted her living situation with T would do the same if we hooked up. I ended the conversation by stating that I’d like to take a week to think about this and would get back to her.
In that time, I spoke with T (who K had also expressed her discomfort to) and we decided that neither of us wanted to live inauthentically or without autonomy to have relationships how we deem fit. After a week, I began trying to make plans with K to talk. I was repeatedly blown off and unable to create time to speak until about 2.5 weeks after our initial conversation.
When we spoke again, I tried to make a lot of space for K’s feelings by asking for further understanding of her discomfort. I learned that she does not want us to be a “poly[am] experiment” together, which I feel ignores the fact that T and I have fantastic communication and a desire to be friends above all. However when I began to express my own feelings, they were disregarded.
This is made especially difficult by K’s desire to not be spoken to about sex and sexual matters. T and I are both kinky and would like to be able to safely explore kink together, but neither of us feel we can share this aspect of our desire for a sexual relationship with K. When I expressed that I wanted to pursue a sexual relationship with T, K ended the conversation and walked away.
This conversation with K was followed by significant unkindness on her part towards T and a threat to move out. To ease the tension, T said that we would keep things friendly, which neither of us want to be just friendly. I understand T not wanting this to negatively impact his living situation, and now no longer feel like the decision to act is in my hands. Any advice that I can share with T would be greatly appreciated.
As far as my actions go, I think I would like to define with T what a friendship would look like for either of us. This is difficult to do with such a strong sexual desire, but as I cannot make the decision for T to be true to himself I’m making the only decision I can. This entire situation has been frustrating, confusing, and a little painful. I never expected to receive a “veto” from a friend and I’m feeling very hurt by it.
Why is K so involved? I have read through your letter quite a few times, and I’m really searching for a reason as to why K is so involved in this situation. K is monogamous. To the best of my understanding, K had somewhat of a maybe relationship with T four years ago, but has been monogamous for three years with someone else. I don’t know why any of this is any of K’s business to be quite frank. Understandably, you’re friends with K and T’s friends with K.
And it’s a little weird sometimes when two friends hook up and sometimes when they do that, they totally ignore you, and that’s awkward, but K doesn’t need to know all this information. Why does K need to know about your sex life? Why do you need to share the kinky stuff you do with T with K? Why? Why? I don’t understand why at all this needs to happen, especially if K’s asexual. I can understand K not wanting to know, especially also if K had a little bit of a thing for T.
It’s okay for K to feel like, “Oh man, that sucks I’m kind of sad. I’m a little bit bummed about it”. That’s fine, but K doesn’t need to know. If anything I would think— you guys don’t want to share your sex life with K because K doesn’t have any reason to want to know that information. Just because you are friends doesn’t mean that K needs to know your details. I have friends. Some friends I have I know some of the stuff about their sex life because we have that kind of friendship.
I have friends I don’t know anything about what they get up to and that’s fine. Why does K need to know about this? Stop sharing your sex life with K. It doesn’t sound like she wants to know and I don’t know if she’s incapable of like really setting down those boundaries with you. She hasn’t technically vetoed anything, it’s just that you both don’t want her to be upset so you’re walking around on eggshells, because you don’t want K to be upset.
I think because you’ve decided that you not only want to be together but you, for some reason, want to be together and feel it necessary that K is not only happy about that, but also that K knows what y’all get up to. She is monogamous with her own deal going on. Do you know about what K does with her partner? No, I don’t think you know that. I mean, just because she’s asexual doesn’t mean she doesn’t do anything. So why? No, you got to stop stop sharing your sex life with K.
There is no reason. Now, this whole thing like, it seems like K is also not really telling you fully why it bothers her. And she’s got this like story about, “Oh, I’m afraid my living situation is gonna get weird”. I can understand that a little bit. But here’s the thing. What about the situation with L? So you said that K is said that you had a ex partner with, like, living with her, I guess, and that didn’t work out and she doesn’t want that same thing to happen.
Okay, that’s a reasonable grievance to have. It’s hard out there to find new living situations and they just moved in and they may have signed a year lease or maybe longer and yeah you don’t want to end up in an uncomfortable living situation. I get that. That’s fine. But what about that situation with L made it difficult? And can you not reassure — both of you — can you not reassure K that the same thing isn’t going to happen? K doesn’t need to be involved.
And that’s thing— if you were all living together and you were all roommates, I could definitely understand why K would be really uncomfortable, but K is only living with T. And that’s it. So, you know, maybe you don’t go around there, but whatever negotiations you can make, fine. But if you are kind of putting K in a position where she has to hear about— Why do you need to tell her that? Maybe she’s just not the kind of friend that you you share your sex life with. She doesn’t have to be.
You can have other friends for that. So I think that you need to figure out if there is some type of compromise situation in terms of K worrying about her living situation. That’s the only thing that’s really any of her business, period. It’s not her business. She may be upset. She may have feelings about it and that’s fine because she was interested in T at one point, but she is monogamous. She’s with somebody else. She can have all the feelings she likes but that doesn’t mean she gets to tell you who you can date.
No, absolutely not. And if she’s really gonna be so upset about the situation that she is not going to be friends with you, then I think that you need to wonder how good of a friend K is, or how much she’s going to be there for you because I just feel like if a friend is mad at you that you are with somebody that they liked four years ago, and she doesn’t— She isn’t gonna let it go. She isn’t she isn’t gonna like, you know, deal with her feelings on her own and deal with all that— because it’s I can understand. That’s sad sometimes.
And you introduce them and that’s kind of ironic and messed up but T doesn’t sound like— it’s not even K’s business of whether T is experimenting— whether you’re experiment together. She is not T’s guardian. That’s not— No no no. You gotta figure out what exactly about this L situation— Can you and T both agree on some type of compromise with a living situation whether or not you go over there and are kissy huggy over there.
Can you find some compromise in that? But bottom line, K is not in charge of either of you. K is not in charge of you. Stop making decisions on your relationship— and that’s a big problem that you need to deal with when it comes to T, because that is a big thing that I think a lot of people when they start off in non-monogamy. Not just not even non-monogamy to be honest. I think it is even monogamy. When you don’t have the ability to deal with the fact that a decision that you make might upset somebody else but it’s in your best interest.
And then you don’t make that decision because you don’t want to upset somebody else and understandably T doesn’t want drama in his living situation. I get that. I get that as well, but also maybe half of the drama is y’all involving K so much to begin with. She’s not in charge of either of you. She doesn’t get to decide who you date. She doesn’t get to decide if T decides to experiment with polyamory.
She is in a relationship of her own that is monogamous. She may be your friend. But she does not need to officiate your relationship, and she is way way way way way way way way way too involved in the situation, way too involved. And I understand, like, I’m not trying to say that she is— I don’t even know if she’s trying to be involved. That’s the thing about this is that she’s walked away from you when you were trying to ask — basically ask for her permission to have a sexual relationship with T.
She ended the conversation by walking away, like why does she need to know that? Maybe yeah if y’all hooked up a little bit. But what— that’s the thing is, like, why did T tell K about that? Why is that relevant information? I don’t need to know if two of my friends have made out. I don’t need to know that. They’re adults. I’m not their parent. So you’ll have to stop approaching the situation as though you need K’s sign off, and that she needs to approve every step of the way.
She’s not your chaperone. And I don’t know if she’s asking to be. So please, maybe y’all three need to sit down and be like, “Look me and T. We’re gonna have a relationship because that’s what we want to do as grown adults. I absolutely understand if you are worried about your living situation, T, to be fair, is also worried about his living situation. So let’s examine what it is about the situation that makes us worried and we can address it out in the open straightforward”.
Now, you said that you tried to have a conversation with K, and she like put the conversation off and kept like blowing you off. That doesn’t sound very good in general just as a friend. If she’s your friend— I know that this is awkward and weird especially if you’re trying to involve her— she doesn’t need to know about your sexual relationship, but she should be able to be like, “Stop telling me. Stop telling me about what you and T do. I don’t want to know”.
And if she’s not able to do that, then there are going to be lots of problems in your friendship later on if she’s not basically able to have a conversation with you or basically able to just say, “You know what? I don’t want to talk about this”. It just sounds like she’s not very good at that. And it might be that this, you know, T might have to endure a little bit of upset. You both might have to endure a little bit of her upset for a bit.
But at the end of the day, if y’all are together, and you’re doing your own thing, and you’re not telling her, and she doesn’t need to know. I hope that she’s not demanding to know because that’s weird. And you know maybe you make the compromise that y’all aren’t canoodling at the shared house. That’s fine. But other than that, how is she even gonna know? How would she even know? You know what I mean?
To sum up, y’all stop involving K so much in this. And if she’s asking to be this involved, that is not a good thing. And you need to say, “No. You are monogamous and you’re my friend. But this isn’t your relationship. No”. And have a discussion about it with her. Even if it takes you 2.5 weeks to organise, sit all down like grown adults, sit together and be like, “Okay you’re worried about me and T hooking up because of some other situation that happened. Let’s talk about that situation, figure out what it was that made you uncomfortable and we can work on some compromises.”
But don’t stop. Both of you and T stop not being together because of a friend who— She can’t veto your relationship. Okay, you might lose a friend, that sucks but is that— have you lost that friend because you’re together? Have you lost that friend because they’re weirdly involved in your love life when they have their own? Ask yourself that question. I hope that helps and good luck.