Help re: Partner broke agreements/cheated with my close friend.

I am in a situation where my married-to-me spouse cheated on me with our close friend. We are in an ethically non-mono relationship and have always had an agreement that my spouse would tell me when they were interested in someone. We also have an agreement that I not be home when they are engaged in sexual activities with someone. The other day my spouse tells me that they hooked up with our friend on our couch while I was in our room sleeping. Both of them knew I would be upset with the situation if I walked out and saw them, but did it anyway. In the ENM world breaking agreements is cheating. I am obviously hurt by both of them. The irritating thing is had my spouse mentioned interest in them and done it somewhere else or when I wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. I don't care that they were physical. The betrayal is what hurts me. I have a boundary that I will not continue to have relationships with people who continue to do a repeated act that hurts me. Is it unreasonable to ask them to not engage in a sexual relationship with one another if they want me in their life? It’s hard for me to answer, because I wouldn’t have an issue had the sexual relationship began with transparency and I had informed consent. But now I feel like I can’t trust them to follow agreements and be considerate. Anyone have experience with this?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I'm sorry you are hurting.

How long have you been practicing ENM? How old is this agreement? Is this the first time this agreement is bumping?

But now I feel like I can’t trust them to follow agreements and be considerate. Anyone have experience with this?

I guess the first thing is to try to cool off. Then reflect on the original agreement and test it if was reasonable/rational/realistically keepable as written.

What was the agreement FOR? What was it trying to achieve? And WHO agreed to uphold this agreement? Just spouse? Or the friend agreed to this too?

We are in an ethically non-mono relationship and have always had an agreement that my spouse would tell me when they were interested in someone. We also have an agreement that I not be home when they are engaged in sexual activities with someone.

Does the agreement pass the reality checks? Create unforseen or unwanted circumstances or consequences? Was this agreement one of those "sounds good on paper, but not really practical in real life" kind of things?

Next you could reflect on your tolerance for mistakes happening.

Sounds like they both owned it pretty soon after it happened. They didn't try to hide or pretend it didn't happen. So... how much weight does that carry with you? In the past, has either one ever been inconsiderate? Not trustworthy? Can people make mistakes around you, or do you expect them to be perfect at all times from the get go?

Was this an honest mistake, because they got carried away in the moment? Does the original agreement make space for spontaneity or does this happening highlight "Oh. We forgot to make space in our agreements for safe, spontaneous encounters."

Is this a hard line with you? Or a soft limit? Where you land on forgiveness? Second chances?
  • Do you want to sever your relationship with both friend and spouse because they didn't follow the original agreement as written?
  • Are you willing to stay married and stay friends only if they agree never to share sex again?
  • Something else?
The irritating thing is had my spouse mentioned interest in them and done it somewhere else or when I wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

So why the problem with it now?

The expectation was what?
  • That he should have woken you up to tell you he's interested in sex with the friend before doing it. And that meets part 1 of the agreement.
  • And then he and the friend should have gone elsewhere to share sex -- in the car on a road somewhere, or her place, or tell you to get up go to a coffee shop so you are not at home and they can use the house. And that meets part 2 of the agreement.
  • Or did you have another expectation? That he tell you today, and him and friend wait to share sex til tomorrow or next week or?
  • Were expectations actually articulated? Understood in the same way by all the agreement keepers?
How much do you and spouse value spontaneity? And is there room in the original agreements for that to happen in?

Does the physical floor plan of the shared home allow him to have his own bedroom for guests? Or not so much?

Is it unreasonable to ask them to not engage in a sexual relationship with one another if they want me in their life? It’s hard for me to answer, because I wouldn’t have an issue had the sexual relationship began with transparency and I had informed consent.

But why do you need to give consent for them to share sex? Isn't the sex they share between their two bodies?

I could be wrong. But to me it sounds like you need full information so you can give continued consent to spouse. So you can decide whether or not you want to share YOUR body with your husband again through sex. You seem to want to know if there's been new people that he shared sex with since the last time him and you shared sex together.

So... is the problem in the original agreement the TIMING of when to tell? That is the part that is not reasonable or realistic? You were putting the communication time before he chooses to share his body with someone else. Could it serve you all better to place the communication time before he shares his body again with YOU? Then there can be room for spontaneity AND giving you full info so you can give informed consent or not?

These are all things only you can answer for yourself -- what you are and are not willing to put up with, what you are willing to bend on and adjust when the reality checks pop up, etc.

I suggest you do your soul searching. If the relationships with both spouse and friend have been good ones til now... maybe it's ok to give a second chance. Like three strikes, and then you are out.

Or... don't and call it one and done. They broke it, you are out of here on one strike.

It's your call. You get to decide where your limit of tolerance lies.

Galagirl
 
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I'm sorry you are hurting.

How long have you been practicing ENM? How old is this agreement? Is this the first time this agreement is bumping?



I guess the first thing is to try to cool off. Then reflect on the original agreement and test it if was reasonable/rational/realistically keepable as written.

What was the agreement FOR? What was it trying to achieve? And WHO agreed to uphold this agreement? Just spouse? Or the friend agreed to this too?

We are in an ethically non-mono relationship and have always had an agreement that my spouse would tell me when they were interested in someone. We also have an agreement that I not be home when they are engaged in sexual activities with someone.

Does the agreement pass the reality checks? Create unforseen or unwanted circumstances or consequences? Was this agreement one of those "sounds good on paper, but not really practical in real life" kind of things?

Next you could reflect on your tolerance for mistakes happening.

Sounds like they both owned it pretty soon after it happened. They didn't try to hide or pretend it didn't happen. So... how much weight does that carry with you? In the past, has either one ever been inconsiderate? Not trustworthy? Can people make mistakes around you, or do you expect them to be perfect at all times from the get go?

Was this an honest mistake, because they got carried away in the moment? Does the original agreement make space for spontaneity or does this happening highlight "Oh. We forgot to make space in our agreements for safe, spontaneous encounters."

Is this a hard line with you? Or a soft limit? Where you land on forgiveness? Second chances?
  • Do you want to sever your relationship with both friend and spouse because they didn't follow the original agreement as written?
  • Are you willing to stay married and stay friends only if they agree never to share sex again?
  • Something else?
The irritating thing is had my spouse mentioned interest in them and done it somewhere else or when I wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

So why the problem with it now?

The expectation was what?
  • That he should have woken you up to tell you he's interested in sex with the friend before doing it. And that meets part 1 of the agreement.
  • And then he and the friend should have gone elsewhere to share sex -- in the car on a road somewhere, or her place, or tell you to get up go to a coffee shop so you are not at home and they can use the house. And that meets part 2 of the agreement.
  • Or did you have another expectation? That he tell you today, and him and friend wait to share sex til tomorrow or next week or?
  • Were expectations actually articulated? Understood in the same way by all the agreement keepers?
How much do you and spouse value spontaneity? And is there room in the original agreements for that to happen in?

Does the physical floor plan of the shared home allow him to have his own bedroom for guests? Or not so much?



But why do you need to give consent for them to share sex? Isn't the sex they share between their two bodies?

I could be wrong. But to me it sounds like you need full information so you can give continued consent to spouse. So you can decide whether or not you want to share YOUR body with your husband again through sex. You seem to want to know if there's been new people that he shared sex with since the last time him and you shared sex together.

So... is the problem in the original agreement the TIMING of when to tell? That is the part that is not reasonable or realistic? You were putting the communication time before he chooses to share his body with someone else. Could it serve you all better to place the communication time before he shares his body again with YOU? Then there can be room for spontaneity AND giving you full info so you can give informed consent or not?

These are all things only you can answer for yourself -- what you are and are not willing to put up with, what you are willing to bend on and adjust when the reality checks pop up, etc.

I suggest you do your soul searching. If the relationships with both spouse and friend have been good ones til now... maybe it's ok to give a second chance. Like three strikes, and then you are out.

Or... don't and call it one and done. They broke it, you are out of here on one strike.

It's your call. You get to decide where your limit of tolerance lies.

Galagirl
Thank you for your work on responding. A lot of things to consider. I really appreciate it.
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
I could be wrong. But to me it sounds like you need full information so you can give continued consent to spouse. So you can decide whether or not you want to share YOUR body with your husband again through sex. You seem to want to know if there's been new people that he shared sex with since the last time him and you shared sex together.
I’m not trying to be nitpicky here and maybe you know way more than what the op posted but how do you know her spouse is male/ a husband ?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Thank you for your work on responding. A lot of things to consider. I really appreciate it.

Most welcome. Hope it helps you some.

how do you know her spouse is male/ a husband ?

I don't. "Spouse" is neutral. OP also chose a pretty neutral alias, so I don't know it's a "her" there either.

So took a guess and I figured as OP offered more data, I would adjust according to their wishes.

Galagirl
 
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Inaniel

Well-known member
I would challenge the narrative that you can trust them to be in your life so long as they don’t have sex together.

What’s to stop your husband from doing the same thing with a new friend?

You can ponder whether you trust either of them enough to continue associating with them as individuals. The sexual relationship doesn’t have anything to do with it.

I had sex with my gfs best friend while gf was asleep in the bedroom. Same deal, and the bff was definitely off-limits. Shit happens, people are people. We don’t make dumb rules for each other anymore.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
I don't care that they were physical.

If that's the case, why the rule governing his sex life? Usually rules about what someone else does with their sex life are based in insecurity.

If it's no biggie then I say drop the rules and you guys just let each other live your lives.

Is it unreasonable to ask them to not engage in a sexual relationship with one another if they want me in their life?

Personally I think it would serve you better to take a look at what's going on with the need for these restrictions.
 

SEASONEDpolyAgain

Active member
I don't care that they were physical. The betrayal is what hurts me. I have a boundary that I will not continue to have relationships with people who continue to do a repeated act that hurts me. Is it unreasonable to ask them to not engage in a sexual relationship with one another if they want me in their life? It’s hard for me to answer, because I wouldn’t have an issue had the sexual relationship began with transparency and I had informed consent.
So, the betrayal is not telling you they're into each other (which they could have found out in the moment) and doing it with you in the house.

But now you know and they can avoid doing it in the house when you're around. So how will they be repeating the same act?

Saying they can't do it at all now they messed up is you trying to put down a punishment. Has anyone consented to a punishment dynamic?
 
I’m not trying to be nitpicky here and maybe you know way more than what the op posted but how do you know her spouse is male/ a husband ?
Good catch. :) I am purposely not using gender signifiers or revealing what gender any of us are. It is irrelevant to the situation and implicit bias seems to occur a lot.
 
How long have you been practicing ENM? How old is this agreement? Is this the first time this agreement is bumping?
My partner and I have been friends for 15 years, and in a relationship/married for 4. We have been practicing ENM for the entirety of our escalated relationship. We've made 2-3 verbal agreements in that time. After this happened we decided it was best to have them written down. We finished it last night and went over it. We BOTH agree to everything in it, and there is very little that has to do with others outside of the relationship. If something does involve others it is a discussion with everyone involved to create individualized agreements. We added in a section about spontaneity and flexibility based on your prompts, because although we both say we want to know things ahead of time, my partner tends to get caught up in the moment easily. We made sure to clarify everything. I really do appreciate your input.

My partner and I had talked about this person many times over the last year, with each time the partner saying they are not interested in the friend. When we first met this friend they hung out a couple times and "fooled around" once. After that, my partner said they were not interested in them. The friend knew the partner was not interested in them. We all moved on and for the last 2 1/2 years been close friends. I am more parallel than KTP. Had my partner been interested in them at any point I would have adjusted my time and involvement with the friend. I have the right to decide who is in my life and how much a part of it, just like my partner does. This is why I want to know when my partner is interested in someone we already know. My partner wants to know this too. For all those criticizing this, agreements don't have to make sense to you...just means we don't need to be in one another's life. Anywho, the day they hooked up my partner and I had been arguing. They also have had some really horrible things happen in the last six months they are processing. The partner said it happened because they care about our friend, needed an escape, and the friend looked nice that night. I'm sad and irritated that the partner used our friend as a convenience. I also know that my partner is still not interested in pursuing anything further with them, even if I wasn't around...still trying to wrap my head around hooking up with someone you aren't interested in, but that's my own thing.

Is this a hard line with you? Or a soft limit? Where you land on forgiveness? Second chances?
  • Do you want to sever your relationship with both friend and spouse because they didn't follow the original agreement as written?
  • Are you willing to stay married and stay friends only if they agree never to share sex again?
  • Something else?
I am not severing my relationships with either of them. However, if they continued a sexual relationship I would not be as involved with our friend. I know me, I wouldn't be as vulnerable with them. I wouldn't invite them on vacations or have deep personal convos with them. I wouldn't spend as much time with them. I just wouldn't. My problem in this situation is pain/heartbreak that would come from the loss of my close friend because of my partner's actions. If the sexual relationship should end on a bad note (and with my spouse's history it will have a shelf life), I don't have the physical/mental/emotional bandwidth to sort through that messiness. The possibility of losing my close friend because of my partner's action creates a lot anxiety for me. I know why this happens for me, but we aren't in psychotherapy here. lol

Side note: I have very close and intimate relationships with people without having a sexual component. This friend is like a partner to me. My spouses actions with this friend affect my life too. Sex for me is not how I show I care and not a part of many of my close relationships. My spouse is an exception, as we do have a sexual relationship.

Does the physical floor plan of the shared home allow him to have his own bedroom for guests? Or not so much?
There is no space in our home where we could have a "play space". Ideally an additional studio in the back would be amazing for this purpose, but we rent. Some day. This is why we agree to the use of our shared space when I am not around. As long as it is communicated a head of time we can agree to something that works for everyone involved. Me being home while engaging in sexual activities does not work for me and is a non-negotiable. The partner agrees to that. We have discussed what this looks like in different scenarios.

But why do you need to give consent for them to share sex? Isn't the sex they share between their two bodies?
It's funny because the people on here think I am jealous of my partner with others, and I am not. I don't care who they smoosh parts with. I've literally been there and participated. They have done this in my presence and out of my presense. I do not need to consent to any partner, or anyone, with others. I do, however, like a heads up when someone I am sexual with plans to be sexual with someone else, when I am in the same space as them. I like informed consent. I like choices. I want to choice if leaving/staying/coming to an agreement.

I could be wrong. But to me it sounds like you need full information so you can give continued consent to spouse. So you can decide whether or not you want to share YOUR body with your husband again through sex. You seem to want to know if there's been new people that he shared sex with since the last time him and you shared sex together.
I want to know did partner talk STIs and use protection with person? Yes, cool. This is actually an agreement they have had with all of their partners and I agree to it and feel it is important. Informed consent...huge in the "world" I live in.
 
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A
So, the betrayal is not telling you they're into each other (which they could have found out in the moment) and doing it with you in the house.

But now you know and they can avoid doing it in the house when you're around. So how will they be repeating the same act?

Saying they can't do it at all now they messed up is you trying to put down a punishment. Has anyone consented to a punishment dynamic?
Answered all this above. :)
 
If that's the case, why the rule governing his sex life? Usually rules about what someone else does with their sex life are based in insecurity.

If it's no biggie then I say drop the rules and you guys just let each other live your lives.



Personally I think it would serve you better to take a look at what's going on with the need for these restrictions.
Thank you for your insight. No one is imposing rules on anyone. We BOTH agreed to these things. Agreements are a thing...
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Glad you were able to talk.

And thanks for indicating you want to keep everything "neutral gender" -- I'll do my best to remember.

In case it helps any...

I also know that my partner is still not interested in pursuing anything further with them, even if I wasn't around...still trying to wrap my head around hooking up with someone you aren't interested in, but that's my own thing.

So long as the other person is clear, and consents? You are right. Not your thing.

My problem in this situation is pain/heartbreak that would come from the loss of my close friend because of my partner's actions. If the sexual relationship should end on a bad note (and with my spouse's history it will have a shelf life), I don't have the physical/mental/emotional bandwidth to sort through that messiness. The possibility of losing my close friend because of my partner's action creates a lot anxiety for me. I know why this happens for me, but we aren't in psychotherapy here. lol

That helps articulate the need more clearly.

Do the new agreements include the "messy people?" Like actually spelling it out -- "Please don't date my parents, my siblings, my friend, my roomie, my boss, coworker, kid's teacher, etc? And in return, I won't date any of your messy list."

There are enough people in the world without going right for the messy ones.

There is no space in our home where we could have a "play space". Ideally an additional studio in the back would be amazing for this purpose, but we rent. Some day.

So this is temporary agreement while renting this particular space, and the hope is to get a new place later on. Fair enough.

Anything spontaneous would just have to happen somewhere else for now.

I do, however, like a heads up when someone I am sexual with plans to be sexual with someone else, when I am in the same space as them. I like informed consent. I like choices. I want to choice if leaving/staying/coming to an agreement.

Then this also helps better articulate the needs so the agreement can be clearer.

You don't need to be told they are going to share sex. You need to be told spouse wants use of the house ahead of time. And please skip your messy people.

In the case of spontaneous encounters or last minute things, if you are napping in the house you want spouse to do..... what? Was that part articulated?

Hopefully the new agreements cover that.

It sounds like it already covers safer sex practices.

I hope spouse is able to sort out their things from the past 6 mos, and you and spouse are sorting out whatever the argument before this encounter was.

Galagirl
 
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Marcus

Well-known member
No one is imposing rules on anyone. We BOTH agreed to these things.

And when someone breaks the agreement, it means that they didn't really believe in it in the first place. When someone agrees to (or even proposes) a rule that they don't actually want to follow, it tells us something specific about the nature of communication between us. It means that, when they made this agreement with you (the one they wiped their ass with), they only did it because they didn't trust you enough to be honest with you.

It's a common thing. Even people who (and I would say, especially people who) say they are great communicators, are usually pretty terrible at it. We see signs of this when we hear stories about one partner or the other being deceptive instead of trusting their partner with the truth. It shows a lack of trust, which is a sure sign that the communication has broken down on a fundamental level.

Agreements are a thing...

While I personally recommend against control based rules for each other, certainly when the only justification for those rules is insecurity, that isn't really a call for me to make. You are correct, you get to set up whatever land mines you want to exist in your relationships.

The real recommendation though is to be honest about the root need for these restrictions. You are clearly caught up on all of the industry jargon, and you know all of the buzzwords, so apply that mental energy into vigorous self examination. Instead of just defending these rules from our scrutiny, look inward to figure out what these rules are trying to hide. Control based rules don't exist to make relationships flourish, they exist to keep them small and contained, the question is, why do you want that?
 

SEASONEDpolyAgain

Active member
This is why I want to know when my partner is interested in someone we already know. My partner wants to know this too. For all those criticizing this, agreements don't have to make sense to you...just means we don't need to be in one another's life.

Okay but often people's emotions don't work to your preferences. Yesterday I wasn't into Person X, oh look we just had a moment and now I am. *shrugs*.

We don't have to be in your life but I'm guessing you want your partner in your life? Yes? Well maybe they're just like us and your wishes won't change that.
I also know that my partner is still not interested in pursuing anything further with them, even if I wasn't around...still trying to wrap my head around hooking up with someone you aren't interested in, but that's my own thing.

Probably telling you what you want to hear. I can see why too. It's just too much hassle now to be transparent and/or act on it because of your issues.
And when someone breaks the agreement, it means that they didn't really believe in it in the first place. When someone agrees to (or even proposes) a rule that they don't actually want to follow, it tells us something specific about the nature of communication between us. It means that, when they made this agreement with you (the one they wiped their ass with), they only did it because they didn't trust you enough to be honest with you.

Read this again.

You think you're doing really well owning your shit but there are glaring gaps where you aren't at all.

Give up that control. Assume any time your partner sees one of their partners', they might want to have sex. Assume that the majority of people could become a partner. At any time, like might turn to lust. Your partner has shown you that's how it works for them. At least some of the time. Believe them
 

Inaniel

Well-known member
For all those criticizing this, agreements don't have to make sense to you...just means we don't need to be in one another's life.

The people in your life are the ones breaking agreements. We are just a mirror reflecting your situation back at you in a new light.

If agreements are not being kept in your relationships, those agreements do not make sense in your relationships.

What can you do at that point? Change the agreements, or change the relationships… I can’t think of any other options.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello UncertainCertainty,

To me, the agreements you and your spouse had seem simple and easy to keep. (Tell me when you're interested in someone; don't have sex in our home if I'm there.) So I am wondering, why did your spouse break with those agreements? Have you asked them? What did they say?

Okay, reading further in this thread, I see that your spouse says they've never been interested in your friend, and that they're still not interested in your friend. They're saying they only had sex with your friend because your friend "looked nice" at the time. I guess that doesn't count as interest?

And you're saying your spouse had some horrible things happen in the last six months, and, that earlier on the day in question, they were arguing with you. And I guess you're saying that those are your spouse's reasons for having sex in your house while you were there?

Are these reasons (excuses?) acceptable to you? Are they adequate reasons for breaking the agreements? Are they good enough that your spouse can be pardoned this one time?

Just some thoughts,
Kevin T.
 

MeeraReed

Active member
It is up to you to decide if this is a serious enough betrayal of your trust to end the relationship over.

From my point of view, as a happily ENM person in a long-term poly relationship with someone who dates a lot more other people than I do, this seems like a fairly minor betrayal. I get why you're hurt, but it seems like something you can move past if you can stop thinking of it as a huge betrayal, and think more about why you had those particular agreements and why your spouse & friend broke those agreements.

I wouldn't be thrilled with the idea of my partner making out with someone while I was sleeping in the next room. Feels kind of icky. I also prefer not to be in the home at all when he is with someone else. BUT...he and I live separately for exactly this reason. It would constrain his dating life too much if I lived there and he couldn't do stuff with others while I was home.

In your case, since you live together, it may be time to revisit your agreement. Not necessarily to do away with the agreement if it's a deal-breaker for you. Maybe you absolutely don't want to be home when you spouse does sexual stuff with others. Okay. So clarify how serious that agreement is for you WITHOUT focusing on the fact that your spouse "betrayed" you. Instead, acknowledge that it was difficult for spouse to follow that agreement in the heat of the moment and figure out solutions going forward. For example, maybe you make plans to be away from home more often to give your spouse more space for dating.

Clarifying that this agreement is a REALLY big deal for you is part of the idea of "revisiting the agreement." You can decide if the agreement is truly necessary for you, or if it's something you can be flexible on. Going forward, you can establish that this is a big deal-breaker for you if you want. (But the idea would be to forgive this one instance, while clarifying that it's a deal-breaker for you next time).

But it is worth thinking about how two ENM people can live together and NEVER do stuff with others while the spouse is home. Sounds like a lot of complex schedule coordination.

It's worth thinking about what you are trying to prevent with your agreement. Sounds like you absolutely don't want to walk in on your spouse being sexual with someone else--which I totally get. I would find that icky and uncomfortable also. BUT I would not be devastated if it happened accidentally. If there is some sort of scheduling snafu with my partner and I ended up getting to his house early, or something, and stumbled on with someone else--well, oops! Awkward. But not terrible. Like, I know he has sex with other people, and I don't want to see it, but I would not be devastated. It may be worth thinking about what you fear in that scenario?

Regarding the fact that it was with your friend and your spouse didn't give you a heads-up. Yes, I can see how that would be hurtful. Unfortunately, in practice dating is very spontaneous. A friend expresses interest and you realize you have feelings too. A platonic evening turns romantic. This stuff happened all the time when I was single--and I think it would have been rather difficult if I'd to give someone a "heads-up" while I navigated the fluidity and spontaneity of dating.

So, that is the advice I would give to someone who is happily doing ENM and wants to keep doing it. My advice would be different if you described yourself as preferring monogamy and were struggling with an ENM spouse.
 

MeeraReed

Active member
To expand on my previous advice: I thought of your post in comparison to the recent "Boundaries crossed" post regarding a poly couple where the wife & her boyfriend just spent 6 months deliberately concealing from the husband the fact that they had stopped using condoms.

That, to me, seems like an egregious betrayal because of the length of time they deliberately kept the secret from the husband and kept breaking the boundary. Your situation seems more minor to me, because it sounds like your spouse informed you of the boundary violation very soon after it happened? Like, it was a heat-of-the-moment unplanned lapse that your spouse confessed to right away, rather than a long-term deliberate betrayal. (Unless I am misunderstanding the timeline).

Does that make sense? I don't mean to say that you don't have a right to be hurt by what happened with your spouse. But for me it would be a forgivable offense.
 
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