Support vs. Meddling in Partner/Metamour Relationship

Reverie

Active member
OK, so I've been posting about this on and off in my blog, but I've been thinking a lot about it today, and I think it would be helpful to have the input of people who are more experienced in poly than I am (I've only got about 10 or 11 months' total experience, about 6 in my current relationship). I have a habit of trying to make sure that my boyfriend, Rider, gives my metamour, Claire, what she needs to stay happy. He doesn't seem to always understand or intuit these things, and I feel like I can see them pretty clearly. We're supposed to be non-hierarchical, but I feel like I "catch" him treating her secondarily sometimes, and I try to make suggestions to balance that a bit.

Some backstory:

The two of them have known each other for 7 years, dating mono for a year and a half, breaking up, then getting back together poly about a year or year and a half ago. They started off with a strict DADT policy (her idea), but they loosened it when Rider became serious with me and felt like she needed to at least know about our relationship, if not the specifics. She still doesn't like to be reminded of my existence.

Rider and I started off as instantly clicking friends, and we were platonic for the first 8 or 9 months of our acquaintance. From the beginning, we've been 100% open with each other and shared pretty much every thought in our heads—sometimes almost psychically, it seems. We've been dating for about 6 months, and are still in heavy NRE.

The issue:

So, Rider can be kind of thoughtless to Claire sometimes. It doesn't occur to him that she may want a change of sheets before she comes over after he and I have destroyed them. Or that if he's been out of town with me for four days, she may want the following weekend all to herself to reconnect with him. I'm the person who steps in and makes these things right. I've washed his sheets and brought them over to him shortly before she arrives. I push him to take her to special events in place of me, when he's skewing toward taking me to too many important things and leaving her out.

And this weekend, I'm not seeing him at all, because I "made" him take the whole weekend with her, since he and I took four days a couple of weeks ago to travel to my hometown, and we're taking another trip next weekend. Last weekend, she was disappointed that he spent only Friday with her, and Saturday and Sunday with me; she had hoped to be getting the entire weekend to make up for our travels, and she felt secondary when he didn't do that. When he told me that, I insisted that he take this weekend for that purpose.

At first, he refused, saying that he'd miss me too much if we were apart for 4 days (Thursday is their usual day, so we'd be apart Thu-Sun). And then I told him that this is exactly why she feels secondary. He thinks nothing of jaunting off with me for 4 days at a time twice in the space of a month, but would miss me too much to do the same with her. When I explained it to him that way, he suddenly understood, and offered her this weekend, and it made her really happy.

The thing is that...I wonder if I'm doing the right thing when I do this behind-the-scenes organization to make her happy. I know it's not entirely selfless that I try to support their relationship this way. I get a few benefits out of it:

1) If she's happier, then he's happier, then I'm happier.
2) If she weren't around, he'd probably be actively dating, which would introduce way more chaos into our stable little situation we've had going on for the past 6 months. At least she is a known quantity; I know she's not a cowgirl or a crazy person.
3) "Training" him to treat existing partners fairly even in the throes of deep NRE will eventually reap benefits for me, when I am no longer the shiny, new toy and someone else comes along.

However, I also know that it's not my job to make sure that their relationship works. And I feel like we're being a little dishonest. Not that I need credit or anything, but she now thinks that these things are his idea. I'm not sure whether that's a bad thing—after all, friends counsel each other about how to behave in relationships all the time—but due to the nature of their modified-DADT policy, she *can't* know that they came from me.

Maybe it doesn't matter at this point; maybe I've finally broken through this time to change his viewpoint to where he can see these things on his own now. But if he hasn't, am I meddling when I give him these suggestions? Am I artificially keeping something alive, when it would have died on its own? If yes to either, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Of course, the selfish part of me wants NOT to give up that time with him. And yes, I feel a bit lonely this weekend (I'm not steadily seeing anyone else locally). But I feel like I did the right thing by making him see that he was damaging his relationship with her...I'm just not sure how healthy it is to keep doing so in the future, if he doesn't learn to see it on his own. Thoughts?
 

Inyourendo

New member
I dont see anything wrong with what you are doing. I would probably do the same thing if I were you, making sure that there were clean sheets or that there was a fair division of time. you are right, if she is happy with him then she is going to feel better about your relationship which is good for everyone.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you struggle.

Here is your bottom line....


I feel like I did the right thing by making him see that he was damaging his relationship with her...I'm just not sure how healthy it is to keep doing so in the future, if he doesn't learn to see it on his own. Thoughts?

I am confused.

Are you asking how long you can do this before it changes from "helping him to see" to "carrying him?"

Healthy for who? You? Him? The polyship? Are you worried about you being treated poorly if he dates new people because he does not see / is not sensitive to this stuff?

Could you be willing to clarify?

Galagirl
 

Reverie

Active member
Sorry if I was confusing, Galagirl. I'll try to clarify.

I kind of mean healthy for all involved:

- For me, in the sense that I know I have a history of being willing to give and bend too much to make other people happy, which is something I've been working on and have gotten a lot better about in the past couple of years, preceding and during this relationship. In previous (mono) relationships, I often would put more effort into "fixing" my broken relationship than the other partner, up until the point when I'd get resentful and just bail. I worry that maybe I am trying to do the same thing right now on my metamour's behalf, with the danger that it may eventually exhaust me.

- For Rider, in the sense that a) I'm not sure whether he's letting his relationship with Claire fall by the wayside for a reason—whether there's a subconscious motivation behind his lack of attention to her needs. He says he loves her and wants to keep her around, but his "default mode" actions somewhat suggest otherwise; and b) he might come to depend too much on my prompting and never learn to see these things on his own.

- For Claire, in the sense that I might be artificially keeping her in a relationship with Rider by giving her a false sense of how much he takes her needs into consideration, since it will never come to light that I am the true author of these things done in her favor.

And yes, to some degree, seeing how blind to her needs he can be while wrapped up in NRE with me makes me fear a little bit for the moment when I am in her position, BUT he regularly pledges that the connection he feels to me is unlike what he's ever felt for anyone else, so it's possible that it would never come to that. Still, I think it can't hurt for him to learn to be a little more empathetic, regardless of its future effect on me.
 

Reverie

Active member
Also, I should say that we are all very new at this. This is six-month relationship is my second poly relationship, but the first one was four years ago and quite short. It the first poly relationship for both Rider and Claire, and they have been at it for only about a year or a year and a half. I am the first "serious" partner added to the relationship.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi Reverie,

From what I've read here so far, your "tweaking" of Rider's actions towards Claire doesn't seem to be particularly harmful. Rider's drunk on NRE and his judgment could use the assistance. But maybe the question is, are you getting tired of assisting him in this manner? You mentioned "the danger that it may eventually exhaust" you. Well, are you beginning to feel exhausted? How are you holding up so far? I think if you keep periodically "taking your own temperature," you'll know when it's time for you to take a step back for your own sake.

It would be different if Rider was getting increasingly irritated with your suggestions, but so far it seems like he's in agreement with you once you've explained it to him. As for Claire, it seems to me that she desires a DADT policy and as such, she can only blame herself if she doesn't know the whole truth (about who's encouraging Rider to do the right thing). As long as it has benefits for all three of you and you're not feeling too burned out, it's probably okay to keep on helping out as you've been doing.

It would be nice if Rider could learn to do some of this stuff without being told, so maybe you could ease off a little at a time and let him fly solo here and there. It would be like he was learning to ride a bike, you could let go for a second here and there but then if he started wobbling you could grab on again. Hopefully over time he'd be able to balance the bike for longer and longer intervals, and eventually you could let him ride unsupervised.

That's my opinion anyways.
Regards,
Kevin T.
 

Reverie

Active member
Thanks for the reply, Kevin.

It's very helpful, because it confirms my gut instinct that, in trying to help them, I'm doing the right thing.

I don't feel exhausted right now, not yet. Maybe it will never come to that. I hope not.

The only negative thing I ever actually feel so far as a result of the whole thing is that, when I feel a bit lonely and miss Rider when they're getting their time together, I sometimes feel like I am being the author of my own discomfort—that if I weren't to step in the middle, selfish-version-me, also drunk on NRE (though maybe not quite as much as Rider), would be getting what I selfishly want in that lonely moment. It's a fleeting thing, but rationalization can be a powerful drug.

It helps to have outside perspective. It's so easy to second-guess and rationalize, when the truth is that listening to my gut and acting as altruistically as I can in a morally sticky situation is usually the best course of action.
 

Oreadne

New member
The way you describe it makes me feel slightly uneasy. He should know how to be considerate of his partner, and the fact that he isn't seems like a huge red flag to me. Some minor things, like the sheet changing, just really might not be on his radar and wouldn't be out of line to mention - like "hey, you might wanna change the sheets" but I certainly wouldn't do it for him, he is an adult.

But if it doesn't occur to him that Claire will miss him, and want to spend time with him, or that he should invest time and energy in his relationship that is a really bad sign to me. A grown-ass man shouldn't have to be reminded that his long-term partner might want some attention if he values their relationship. I don't think that is the sort of thing you can "train" someone into - he has to know how, or at least make an effort, to be compassionate and committed to his partner or it isn't going to work out regardless of what you do to help carry it along for a while.
Not that it is entirely his fault, since it doesn't sound like Claire is necessarily making her needs and desires known. She should be making a point to communicate with him and let him know when she feels left out or wants more time with him, you shouldn't have to read up on her non-verbal cues when it is the kind of thing they should be discussing frequently.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Thanks for providing more info. My opinion?

While the polymath always affects people to one degree or another?

http://www.serolynne.com/poly_complex.htm

You seem to describe a V dynamic to me that appears more "separate but equal" style rather than "family style" or "team style" given the DADT agreements on the other side of the V.

Given your past history of overextending yourself? Monitor that.

Yes, leave items in his home you use as you found it or nicer. Like washing dishes you used, offer to help him change the bedding, etc. Guest basic manners, ykwim? Nothing wrong with that when you visit him in his home.

Could start letting the hinge deal with his time management on his own though. It is his job, not yours. So are areas of relationship management, info management. If as the hinge he is "leaking " too much info on you about his doings with Claire or Claire things tell him to cut it out. You help him to keep his other agreements and if he is blabbing at you about Claire liking this or that or feeling x...he is not actually keeping his DADT agreement with Claire is he? He is telling you things about her she may not appreciate him sharing. :(

All you need is to know names and sex health labs to keep your health in check and what agreements there are that affect you.

Could stick to the model you are trying to practice here... It is not "group effort style" here. It is two separate things running concurrently with him as a hinge. I see you mean well, and are trying to be generous with his time and mindful that he has other partners. Not a bad thing at all.

But could have the conversation to better define the boundaries so you do not burn out and you keep your nose clean. Define what is "Your stuff, his stuff, our stuff. "

The rest involves him with other people... And that is not your job. That is his other stuff, her stuff, their stuff, etc. That convo he has with them.

Galagirl
 
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bookbug

New member
Given the newness of your polyship, I don't think it hurts that you share with Rider your thought processes and concerns about his relationship with Claire. It's a learning curve. Rider being wrapped up in NRE in a mono relationship, ignoring everything and everybody else would be considered normal. But he is not in a mono relationship and so he must learn new behavior. He can't just base his behavior on what he feels; he needs to learn to be cognizant of the behavior required to keep all relationships healthy.

The fact that you are able to see it easier than he is may simply mean that you are more gifted and aware at understanding social dynamics.
 
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Reverie

Active member
Thanks, everyone, for your feedback; what an interesting set of views!

bookbug: That makes sense to me, actually—that the transition from mono-minded to poly-minded might be a learning curve. I guess since I had experience with a previous poly relationship, and have done LOTS of reading, and have had a few years in between to digest it all, I might be a little further ahead than Rider is. I don't mind being in a teaching position to some degree, since I know a little more.

GalaGirl: It's true that we're "separate but equal" (at least equal in theory), but my relationship with Rider has always included 100% disclosure of everything that each of us knows/thinks/feels about everything. Each of us are the only person that the other lets all the way in (he says he'd like to be that way with Claire too, but she's not that kind of person). Even when we were just platonic friends, we have a completely open-conduit, guard-free relationship. So I don't mind the "information leakage" onto me. And he says he's pretty good about not leaking things on to Claire that she doesn't want to hear, so I think we're all good there. But yes, for certain, I will monitor the over-extending, and pull back from the maintenance if it becomes too much.

Oreadne: Yeah, it's true that he's an adult and should know this stuff. But I also know I've learned lots of things as an adult, sometimes at the gentle prompting of someone close to me, sometimes as the result of putting my hand in the fire. I figured it's at least worth a try to get him to learn the former way, before he runs into the latter. On the whole, he's a sweet, attentive, giving person. I just think his head is kind of in the clouds right now due to the NRE.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
You guys are all on a learning curve. As part of that?

You could talk to your hinge about where the TMI boundaries are so you know more clearly what is "meddling" to him and what is "overstepping" to him.

"I went to Claire's Bday. I loved it and had a great time eating chocolate cake!" is all about him and his feelings and his thoughts and stuff. That could be fine.

"I went to Claire's Bday. She got lots of presents and said she loved the roller skates best. She picked out a chocolate cake from Fancy Bakery because that's where her cousin works. Claire says that...." that's all about Claire and her stuff. Not really about him... and there's the slippery slope. Might be harmless info to you and him, but maybe Claire wants zero data about her being transmitted.

Could get really clear on what their DADT agreement covers and how it affects you or not. If you enjoy helping him on his path, then help him stick to his other agreements as well as the ones he shares with you.

Because if you were clear already, you would not be wondering if you are overstepping/meddling in the first place, right? ;)

Keep on learning about each other. It will be fine. :)

Galagirl
 
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Vinccenzo

New member
About the only stumbling block I see is in regards to her discomfort in being aware of you. Of course she IS aware of you, but it speaks of a struggle in accepting that Rider has other partners.
I use to arrange nice things for my previous metamour. Flowers he could take credit for giving. Helping pick little gifts. And in the end when they split I was, in her mind anyway, this giant obstacle to her their entire relationship. I really wish I had never bothered.

But you sound like you are an agent of good. Do what makes you feel good about what you give. That way, if it stops feeling good you won't have to feel guilty for not giving as much.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hey Rev,

Just chiming in to let you know I'm still following the thread and am supportive of your efforts. Even if you're making some sacrifices, if they're reasonable sacrifices and they result in an improved situation for everyone, then you can feel good about helping out in that way.

Regards as always,
Kevin T.
 

Tigergirl

New member
OP- It's really awesome that you are trying so hard to be a kind member of this V. That says a lot about you, and Rider and Claire are lucky to have somebody who thinks about the effects of actions and behaviors. My thought is this though- when you tip Rider off to how he should treat Claire, it kind of just enables them to both keep behaving in the way that they currently do: Rider continues to be thoughtless regarding Claire without your input, and Claire continues to not define her own personal boundaries about what is acceptable to her in a relationship and how to communicate it to her partner. Essentially, you're babysitting their emotions as opposed to them doing the harder task of emotional growth. I'm similar to you, and I had to learn to step back and let others put their big kid undies on and figure out how to navigate their own lives.

Pushing him to decide to spend time with her? It's well intended, but stop. You can still attempt to facilitate it by making your own plans that don't include Rider on, say, a weekend after you just spent multiple days together. He might choose to hang with Claire on his own, he might not. That's between him and Claire. Just do your best to not hog his time, and your conscience can be clear on that front. Let them define the time they spend together and if it meets their needs, not you.

Also, I saw some people say it's good to at least do little things like reminding him to change his sheets. I'm going to go the other direction- I'm going to say don't. The way you describe it, it seems like Claire gets bothered by things but doesn't really stand up for herself. I know that situation well, as I've definitely been that way. Originally in my relationship, there were lots of things I didn't know how to bring up my displeasure about. Then one day, I went to go crawl in to bed with the Mr.- and there was blood on the damn sheets, and it wasn't from him or me. Having what felt to me as evidence of blatent disregard for my feelings (as well as hygiene) that couldn't be excused away the way scheduling stuff could was the catalyst for my learning how to better define my needs and boundaries. It made for an uncomfortable night for sure, but in the long run, it made it a lot easier for him to understand "this is something that's not ok" to see my reaction to it.
 

MusicalRose

Member
Having been in a position in my last two relationships to remind my partner to be more mindful of the feelings of their existing partner, I refuse to do this anymore.

1) It is a huge red flag. If they ignore or are disrespectful to their existing partner, then it doesn't bode well for the future of any long-term relationship with me. Now there is a difference between coming to their existing partner and telling them what they can offer or not and just simply being thoughtless. Simple thoughtlessness is something I'll be avoiding from here on out.

2) It isn't my responsibility, and I'm not going to accept guilt or blame for the way a partner acts. I will expect them to be an adult and handle their existing relationship(s) like an adult.

3) It is in essence dishonest toward the existing partnership. Early on, a few reminders here and there, whatever. A long-term, repeated, never-learned-from pattern, NOPE. They obviously don't care enough to maintain it on their own, what benefit do I get from maintaining it for them? At best I don't help the situation and at worst I enable bad behavior and partnership dynamics.
 

opalescent

Active member
My thoughts on this situation really depend on if this is a limited time pattern, and if he is learning anything from you pointing things out. If this is going to go on indefinitely, it's not healthy for you, him or her. That level of caretaking will exhaust you, infantilize him, and create a false impression where she is not seeing important aspects of the 'real' him.

Is he learning? Does he avoid doing the same things that you pointed out earlier? Is he thinking - on his own - on how to avoid similar actions? Has he encouraged her to speak directly to him about what might bother her? Is he creating a safe, encouraging space for her to do so? Does he do the favor of telling her what might be an issue for him? If this is appropropriate for you - and it might not be - have you gently encouraged her to speak up to him about hard things? (If you don't know her well, aren't close, this may be way too intrusive and should be avoided.)

If this is something that is time limited - maybe for a few weeks or months to tide over the most intense NRE period - and he learns and implements what you've pointed out, then you've done a kind thing. Kudos! But if he doesn't learn, keeps doing the same type of thoughtless thing over and over, and is totally reliant on you to point out when he's about to do something stupid - you are not doing him, yourself or her any favors. Teach him to fish, in other words - don't just keep handing him fillets.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
A long-term, repeated, never-learned-from pattern, NOPE. They obviously don't care enough to maintain it on their own, what benefit do I get from maintaining it for them? At best I don't help the situation and at worst I enable bad behavior and partnership dynamics.

What benefit? She said one major benefit she hoped for was the longevity of his relationship with the other woman, which could prevent him from dating and being in NRE with a new person...

Yes, he is an "adult," but come on, many guys just don't get it. They don't see the social nuances many women would. (Speaking in general here...)

Lots of guys so rarely wash their sheets!

I would think that she is supporting him, as we support each other on this board, and learn from each others' mistakes and successes. Hopefully he will learn about sheets and time sharing. The OP might tell him she is teaching him how to show the bare minimum of manners, and not just thinking with his dick.

I dunno. My newly ex bf was in stupid NRE with one person or another the last year and a half of our relationship. I was speaking up for my needs and preferences, but he'd keep making the same stupid mistakes. I kinda wish his last 2 lovers (a married MF couple) would've advocated more for him spending more time with me instead of them! But they were total poly noobs and barely got the concept of sharing him with me. They wanted to monopolize his time and schedule because of their infatuation.
 

MusicalRose

Member
It might be worth it for some people. It was worth it to me the last two times, but I'm starting to see it as a major red flag as far as marking someone I don't want to invest a lot of time or energy in.

These types of people tend to be involved in a lot of drama and fighting with their existing partners because of their thoughtlessness, and that stress and fighting ends up bleeding into what is going on in my relationship with the partner.

These types of people also tend to seem thoughtless in general, especially as NRE starts to wear off. They are kind and caring and attentive when they are infatuated with someone, but they really don't care much about anything other than themselves and the high they get from you, which becomes evident as their thoughtlessness starts to bleed into your relationship too.

It's just in my experience so far, but it is enough to make me want to steer clear.
 

Inyourendo

New member
What benefit? She said one major benefit she hoped for was the longevity of his relationship with the other woman, which could prevent him from dating and being in NRE with a new person...

Yes, he is an "adult," but come on, many guys just don't get it. They don't see the social nuances many women would. (Speaking in general here...)

Lots of guys so rarely wash their sheets!

I would think that she is supporting him, as we support each other on this board, and learn from each others' mistakes and successes. Hopefully he will learn about sheets and time sharing. The OP might tell him she is teaching him how to show the bare minimum of manners, and not just thinking with his dick.

I dunno. My newly ex bf was in stupid NRE with one person or another the last year and a half of our relationship. I was speaking up for my needs and preferences, but he'd keep making the same stupid mistakes. I kinda wish his last 2 lovers (a married MF couple) would've advocated more for him spending more time with me instead of them! But they were total poly noobs and barely got the concept of sharing him with me. They wanted to monopolize his time and schedule because of their infatuation.

Lol if they even sleep on sheets! Ewww.
 
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