Partner keeps dating people on my messy list

Svanire

New member
Hey everyone,

I am looking for some insight.

My partner and I - let's call them Blue - have been dating for about a year now.
I want to preface this by mentioning that Blue and I never specified something like a "messy list" at the beginning of our relationship. We just got to know eachother and enjoyed the process of finding out in which ways we connect. However, the last 3 months have been tricky:

Three months ago, Blue met an ex of mine (Sal) at an event in town. Sal doesn't live here and the two of them have never met before, so this was quite the coincidence. Blue then told me that they felt very attracted to Sal and asked me if I would be okay with them "going for something". I said no.
Blue got very angry with me, telling me it is not okay for me to impose rules over other people's dating life and that I am ignorant considering we are both part of the LGBTQIA+ community so our dating pools are already a bit smaller. I explained to Blue why ex lovers, friends, relatives and co-workers are off limits to me, but let them make their own decision. It turned into a big fight, I didn't feel seen in my reasoning at all and "your insecurities are your problem" was thrown around a lot. We both left the dialogue very upset and ultimately, Blue did not pursue anything with Sal.

One day later, at the same event, Blue made out with someone (Red) who I have met through job training and developing a friendship with. I have been mentioning Red a lot and how much I enjoy our growing connection. I actively recommended Blue to partake in one of Red's workshops at said event.
When Blue told me about them making out I was pretty upset. We just had a talk about Sal one day earlier where I felt blamed for my emotions. Plus, when Blue told me about it, they acted as if they didn't realize who Red was until afterwards. Red has a very rare name IRL. I told Blue that I didn't like them acting oblivious about who Red was and they simply told me they "can't remember names" and I was again accused of being controlling and ignorant. We've talked about this several times afterwards and couldn't get to a common ground.
Blue has decided to form a relationship with Red. I still feel weird about it, but the connection between them seems genuine, so I don't want to interfere.
For now, I have told Blue that I only want minimal information about the two of them. Blue doesn't like this arrangement either. They want to talk about every little detail while I don't want TMI, especially in this scenario. But this is where we are right now.

Now, additionally, Blue has a date set up with someone (Luc) I work with. I don't see this person everyday, but we do work for the same company. Blue didn't know that Luc and I work together, so this can happen. Either way: I am getting tired of it.

In hindsight I regret not clarifying me having a messy list at the beginning of our relationship, but sometimes things unfold over time and this is where I am for now.

Have any of you been in a similar situation? How do you set up and negotiate boundaries when it comes to this?

Thanks in advance.
 
At just a glance, your messy list seems, well, huge. How about you make a concrete one, with names rather than categories, and consider your actual proximity to the persons. My sisters are on my messy list (not that they would go there anyway) but my cousins aren't. Exes from last year, too soon perhaps. Exes from longer ago, go right ahead (but don't necessarily ask me for kitchen table, parallel is fine though.) Coworkers, whatever, except my immediate boss. A lot of my messy list is actually hypothetical as my immediate bosses have always been in their own monogamous marriages, and 3/4 of my sisters are, too. The other one is almost never in the country. Your messy list is far reaching right now and I can see why Blue is getting annoyed.

And Blue is right about the smaller dating pool getting much smaller because of your broad messy list. Blue could have just not asked your permission regarding Sal, then they wouldn't have had to get pissy when you said no. So that's on them, really. Luc shouldn't even be an issue; they are peripheral to your existence at work and if you are insecure about that, it would behoove you to examine why. As for Red, I agree with you that you shouldn't have to hear Blue divulging details, they can find other people (or other places like a blog you don't read) for that. Also, some of us truly don't remember names, unusual or not. And the TMI thing is definitely your boundary to enforce as you can end conversations when they veer in that direction, even if it means getting up and walking away.

But the rest of it...hmm. You are coming across as a little bit poly-in-theory-but-going-to-make-it-really-hard-in-practice.
 
I'm sorry this is happening.

I could be wrong, but you and Blue don't sound compatible.

Do you mean you are setting up "shared agreements" with Blue, or that YOU have some "personal boundaries?"

In hindsight, I regret not clarifying me having a messy list at the beginning of our relationship,. But sometimes things unfold over time and this is where I am for now.

So catch it up now. Clarify what it is to you and who is on Blue's messy list.

You can ask if Blue will agree to things. But they might not agree, or want to negotiate those to be something you both can live with.

Blue doesn't have to like YOUR personal boundaries, though. You don't make them for Blue to like, respect, or obey. You make them for YOU to like, respect, and obey. You make them to keep you safe from shenanigans. They define what you will and will not put up with.

So you have personal boundaries that are something like:

"I won't date someone who is dating my ex, my friends, or my coworkers. I don't want these people as my metamours. It makes things weird. If my dating partner is going there, then I have to break up with them. They can date those people. They are not entitled to date ME at the same time, though."


That lists what you will and will not put up with, and, should the occasion arise, what YOU plan to do to enforce your personal boundary.

Maybe you only care about people one degree out from you, or maybe you care about two degrees out from you.

Like coworkers: not your boss, and nobody you supervise. In a big company in a whole other department? That's okay. More degrees out from you, where the others are one degree up and one degree down on the org chart? You could bend on those other people.

You can't have the whole world on your messy list, but if Blue won't even discuss it without a fight, maybe you don't want to bother.


For now, I have told Blue that I only want minimal information about the two of them. Blue doesn't like this arrangement either. They want to talk about every little detail, while I don't want TMI, especially in this scenario. But this is where we are right now.

If you don't want TMI details, and prefer parallel poly, it is what it is. What are they trying to do, FORCE you to listen to stuff you don't care to know?

A year isn't very long for dating. And now that you are seeing more of what Blue is actually like during conflict resolution, now that the NRE is fading, you might not like Blue as much as you first thought, because they:
  • call you names like "ignorant" and "insecure" and "controlling"
  • can't "see" your reasoning or where you are coming from, even if they do not agree with that POV
  • "forget" names
  • take up with coworkers
  • want their way in oversharing TMI details and ignores you personal boundary on not wanting to hear that
  • There doesn't seem to be breaks; they just zoom on to the next person and the next argument with you
If you are tired of this behavior, maybe it's time to let the relationship go, because you want to be in an easier relationship where you don't have to enforce/defend your personal boundaries all the time, and they are simply respected.

Galagirl
 
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Hey everyone,

I am looking for some insight.

My partner and I - let's call them Blue - have been dating for about a year now.
I want to preface this by mentioning that Blue and I never specified something like a "messy list" at the beginning of our relationship. We just got to know eachother and enjoyed the process of finding out in which ways we connect. However, the last 3 months have been tricky:

Three months ago, Blue met an ex of mine (Sal) at an event in town. Sal doesn't live here and the two of them have never met before, so this was quite the coincidence. Blue then told me that they felt very attracted to Sal and asked me if I would be okay with them "going for something". I said no.
Blue got very angry with me, telling me it is not okay for me to impose rules over other people's dating life and that I am ignorant considering we are both part of the LGBTQIA+ community so our dating pools are already a bit smaller. I explained to Blue why ex lovers, friends, relatives and co-workers are off limits to me, but let them make their own decision. It turned into a big fight, I didn't feel seen in my reasoning at all and "your insecurities are your problem" was thrown around a lot. We both left the dialogue very upset and ultimately, Blue did not pursue anything with Sal.

One day later, at the same event, Blue made out with someone (Red) who I have met through job training and developing a friendship with. I have been mentioning Red a lot and how much I enjoy our growing connection. I actively recommended Blue to partake in one of Red's workshops at said event.
When Blue told me about them making out I was pretty upset. We just had a talk about Sal one day earlier where I felt blamed for my emotions. Plus, when Blue told me about it, they acted as if they didn't realize who Red was until afterwards. Red has a very rare name IRL. I told Blue that I didn't like them acting oblivious about who Red was and they simply told me they "can't remember names" and I was again accused of being controlling and ignorant. We've talked about this several times afterwards and couldn't get to a common ground.
Blue has decided to form a relationship with Red. I still feel weird about it, but the connection between them seems genuine, so I don't want to interfere.
For now, I have told Blue that I only want minimal information about the two of them. Blue doesn't like this arrangement either. They want to talk about every little detail while I don't want TMI, especially in this scenario. But this is where we are right now.

Now, additionally, Blue has a date set up with someone (Luc) I work with. I don't see this person everyday, but we do work for the same company. Blue didn't know that Luc and I work together, so this can happen. Either way: I am getting tired of it.

In hindsight I regret not clarifying me having a messy list at the beginning of our relationship, but sometimes things unfold over time and this is where I am for now.

Have any of you been in a similar situation? How do you set up and negotiate boundaries when it comes to this?

Thanks in advance.

I think this is a good example of how messy lists are used to control people and limit their autonomy.

For the record I don’t like the messy list concept to begin with, so can definitely see why Blue is struggling with the Red and Luc situation.
 
Poly influencers and other forums talk about a messy list as if it's your God-given right to construct a list where your partner is prohibited from dating those people and have to obey.

It's not that at all. You first have to agree with the idea of a messy list. You then have to agree that the people on the messy list should be on there, or your partner could theoretically put everyone you could potentially date on their list

I agree with naming individuals for you, OP.
 
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Hey everyone,

Thank you for your very honest replies.

I see now that my "messy list" is in fact very big und too unspecific. I will figure this out and hopefully work through some of my insecurities in a fair way.

I think being very clear about what is TMI will be helpful, as well. If Blue keeps pushing and starting fights about it, it might be time to let go, indeed.
 
Hello Svanire,

Your messy list specifies which people you do not consent to Blue dating. So by definition, if Blue keeps dating people on your messy list, they are going against your wishes, and thus are "cheating in plain sight." If that is okay with you, then you should retain them as a partner. If that is not okay with you, then you may want to consider breaking up. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Regards,
Kevin T.
 
Poly influencers and other forums talk about a messy list as if it's your God-given right to construct a list where your partner is prohibited from dating those people and have to obey.

It's not that at all. You first have to agree with the idea of a messy list. You then have to agree that the people on the messy list should be on there, or your partner could theoretically put everyone you could potentially date on their list

I agree with naming individuals for you, OP.
Messy lists also get talked about without their context... why they actually exist. And, like most other agreements where you're asking a partner to restrict their behaviour, that's a question worth pondering.
 
I said no.
Blue got very angry with me
This is just about all you need to know.

When you ask someone for consent, if you're only thinking about the possibility of their enthusiastic Yes, you're unlikely to accept a No with the proper state of mind. Ask yourself how you'll take a No BEFORE you ask the damn question... and decide how you're going to take it now... and part of that is deciding NOT to act like an ass, like Blue did.

In fact, consider several ways they could say No.
  • No with a why
  • No with a why that makes no sense
  • No with an emotional response
  • No with a reminder that limit hasn't changed since the last time you asked or did you forget?
  • No with a claim of HARD LIMIT, no further explanation owed
  • No with a why that's easy to accept now...
    • ...but you're going to say it doesn't make sense later and isn't resolved for you...
      • ...after your partner thinks the matter is settled...
        • ...for the sixth time...
Some people have a hard time hearing No, and that should be red flag for their maturity. It's also a great indicator they aren't thinking straight under the circumstances if they normally handle boundaries better. In Blue's case, I don't want to guess their A(M|F)AB status, but it sounds like they might not have had a full blood supply to their brain...

Seriously, the poly world has no shortage of No's and boundaries. It's not a free-for-all like some people (even some long time ENM'ers) think. Hearing No was one of the first skills I had to learn in trying to convert my mono LTR, alongside setting/keeping boundaries, assessing porous/rigid boundaries, and insecure attachments, all of which can feed trouble with hearing No.

As for my No I didn't react well to, I decided I wanted to exercise an element of a kink in public, but I had spent so much time working up the courage to ask for it, that being sure she would say Yes was part of the courage. (For the record, that's not "courage". That's "bravery". Look up the defintions some time...) I regret to say I did the same thing Blue did. I rounded on my partner and started accusing them of being unsupportive, judgemental, close-minded. That what I was doing had no effect on my partner.... ooh, that one didn't go over well. Practically nothing we do in this space doesn't affect someone else, often with huge ripple effects.

I don't mind sharing my failures... it's these failures that may mean I never get to the lifestyle I want to lead without leaving behind a lot of wreckage, but I own them and I'm proud to share them here.
 
Messy lists also get talked about without their context... why they actually exist. And, like most other agreements where you're asking a partner to restrict their behaviour, that's a question worth pondering.
Yeah I find this so confusing with these poly public speakers. On one hand, they disagree with the concept of restricting your partner's relationships, on the other, they construct ideas like a messy list which essentially restricts your partners from forming relationships with who they see fit.

I do have something like a messy list, but the people on it are people that I see as bad people, in a very basic sense. If someone who knew why I think that about them wanted to still have a relationship with them, it would render that someone incompatible with me. I'm talking about someone who wants to date an ex of mine, who is also a rapist. It's not about the ex bit, it's the bit where I know they are a rapist because they are my ex so I was in a place to understand that about them.
 
I think sometimes, when talking about poly dynamics, people can hop too quickly along the mental stepping stones of 'X's behaviour suggests they are feeling insecure' (in this case, having a very broad messy list) to 'This is X's problem.'

The feeling of security within a relationship is something which is co-created by two people. Safety arises from being able to articulate desires and boundaries, from being heard and respected when we do, aligning expectations around behaviour, and then acting in accordance with those expectations.

It sounds like friction is arising here because Blue is not acting in accordance with OP's expectations. But that doesn't mean that the fault lies either with OP's expectations or with Blue's behaviour. If they so agree, OP can have a messy list that includes everyone except total strangers. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. I think what has broken down here is that process of co-creating a sense of security by articulating and aligning expectations.

I hope that is helpful. ☺️ Good luck!
 
I think sometimes, when talking about poly dynamics, people can hop too quickly along the mental stepping stones of 'X's behaviour suggests they are feeling insecure' (in this case, having a very broad messy list) to 'This is X's problem.'

The feeling of security within a relationship is something which is co-created by two people. Safety arises from being able to articulate desires and boundaries, from being heard and respected when we do, aligning expectations around behaviour, and then acting in accordance with those expectations.

It sounds like friction is arising here because Blue is not acting in accordance with OP's expectations. But that doesn't mean that the fault lies either with OP's expectations or with Blue's behaviour. If they so agree, OP can have a messy list that includes everyone except total strangers. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. I think what has broken down here is that process of co-creating a sense of security by articulating and aligning expectations.

I hope that is helpful. ☺️ Good luck!
REALLY good response.
 
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