When do consent violations go too far in Consensual Non-Monogamy

adamkahn

New member
Hi Friends,

I need some advice and perspective.

My partner and I have been together for nearly 6 years now. We've been non-monogamous from the start and started identifying as poly relatively early. Not because of any preference on my part, my partner (a woman) was dating women exclusively prior to the pandemic. We closed off seeing other people during the pandemic and even after the vaccine took our time before emerging from our cocoon. To be candid our sex life collapsed during this period.

My partner went through a major life chance 2 months ago. She completed a transition form a career she was focused on for 10 years into a higher paid tech job. She also took a trip back to her home state. Shortly before she flew out we both agreed we can open the relationship up again. Our agreement was simple (1) condoms (2) we know about each others dates and partners before hand (3) no sleepovers without checking (4) no priors.

While in her home state she slept with her ex (a man) without a discussion with me. She confessed as soon as she returned. She later confessed that she ideated about leaving me on the flight home but decided it was a bad idea. For a couple of weeks after I did my best to be generous and accept her ex as a new long distance lover of hers. But the sense of betrayal hurt too much and I asked her to take non-platonic interactions with him off the table until I was comfortable. And made it clear it could be a while.

I encouraged her to see men within the structure of our agreement. I suggested that this would be a good way to model ethical and consensual behavior. However, with the first man she went home with she breached our agreement again. She slept over without a prior discussion. She texted me at 5:30am asking if she could stay past sunrise and I made it clear that I was uncomfortable just accepting another violation of our agreement. It felt like I was walking through a minefield . She simply ignored my texts and waited until her new lover woke up to drop her home.

We have uncovered that the pandemic effected both of us in ways that has led to a lack of connection and we both say we want to focus on each other. We have now agreed to seek professional help. In the interim, I have asked her to pause (not stop) seeing other men until we had a chance to work on whatever was causing her to recklessly ignore our agreement and my wellbeing. She agrees that her tendency to ignore our agreement is restricted to men and not women. She has also confessed that she was seeking connection with others instead of rebuilding after the pandemic caused our own intimacy to suffer.

It took me a lot of courage to ask her to pause (not stop) seeing other men until we get couples therapy. It took me days before I could and I felt guilt because I worry I am coming across as patriarchal. Simply put, I do not feel safe in the relationship. I am anxious that our trust will be violated again. I would like to rebuild. I am physically feeling the effects of this trauma. It has triggered dormant epilepsy on a couple of nights.

Yet, while she says she wants us to stay together and wants us to work on our connection, she has not agreed to pause seeing other men while we find a therapist and focus on our connection. I do not want her to acquiesce or deny her genuine connections with her new lovers if she prefers them. She has asked for a few days to think about this before she agrees or refuses

Questions: Am I being controlling? Is it even fair for me to ask her to pause seeing other men? How have other poly people responded to consent violations like these?
 
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GalaGirl

Well-known member
I'm sorry you struggle and feel bad.

Since she's broken the agreement twice, but confessed ASAP the first time and checked in late at nite the second time, it sounds like she is TRYING? But maybe the agreements as written don't work "out in the field?" Maybe examine each part one at a time and why put the "line" where it is.

WHY do you each want or ask these things? What is the need? Can it be achieved another way? Do the things happen at a GOOD TIME? Or is another time of day better?

(1) condoms
  • Because safer sex practices and sex health hygiene.
  • The time to put one on is before sharing sex. That just IS the time for proper condom use.
  • Additional birth control like BCP could be used but for barrier protection? That just IS the tool we like. Male condom or female condom.
Why not "Use condoms. And no sleeping with ME again without telling me if there's been new people since the last time we shared sex. We each are responsible for asking/telling."

Could that work better?

Because it allows for spontaneity on her end and might become more keepable.
And allows for safety/security on your end by telling you before you and her share sex again so you can give informed consent or not.

(2) we know about each others dates and partners before hand.
  • Because ______? Why is this needed? Can it be met another way? Is the tool we use to do it the problem?
  • The time to tell is _______? How far in advance is too much? How short notice is too short?
Years ago I wanted DH to call me before leaving work so I could have dinner waiting so we could eat together and see each other at least. (we had opposite schedules then.) He would never remember to call me before leaving his desk but didn't want to walk back. He also was not keen on cell phone because he didn't want work calling him all the time on it. I said how about a SECRET cel in the car. And he calls me from there and nobody at work knows he has it so they don't try to bug him? That solved it.

(3) no sleepovers without checking.
  • Because ______? Why is this needed? (ex: Don't just up and leave me stuck with kid care and chores)
  • Can it be met another way? (Do your chores ahead of time. If it is your night with kid and you want it off YOU find the sitter)
  • The time to tell is _______?
(4) no priors. (Like jail or like exes?)
  • Because ______? Why is this needed? Can it be met another way?
  • The time to tell is _______?

We have now agreed to seek professional help. In the interim, I have asked her to pause seeing other men until we had a chance to work on whatever was causing her to recklessly ignore our agreement and my wellbeing. She agrees that her tendency to ignore our agreement is restricted to men and not women. She has also confessed that she was seeking connection with others instead of rebuilding after the pandemic caused our own intimacy to suffer.

That's a separate problem from agreements being keepable. If she's basically wanting to be done here, but dragging out a break up? Maybe you both assess that before spending money on counseling? Because rather than investing MORE, it's time to stop?

Yet, while she says she wants us to stay together and wants us to work on our connection, she has not agreed to pause seeing other men while we find a therapist and focus on our connection. I do not want her to acquiesce or deny her genuine connections with her new lovers if she prefers them. She has asked for a few days to think about this before she agrees or refuses.

That's fair. You asked. She's reflecting on it. Especially if she struggles to keep them "as written."

So maybe you ask her (if she is not willing to pause) if a better place to "put the line" is tell you about new partners before sharing sex with you like above?

Questions: Am I being controlling? Is it even fair for me to ask her to pause seeing other men? How have other poly people responded to consent violations like these?

You don't sound esp controlling or demanding sounding to me. You sound scared, and wanting some stability in the relationship again. Not like sitting around waiting for another ding and all nervous about it.

You ASKED if she was willing to pause. She's thinking about it.

So... could rethink the agreements.

And make sure you both really want to give this another go. Or just be done.

If you crave stability? Knowing what this is might help that. Either repairing or just done. Firm answer.

Being all "up in the air" does not inspire stability feelings.

Galagirl
 
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adamkahn

New member
Thanks for the thoughtful response Galagirl.

I have in fact asked her to decide if she's willing to pause on other people to prioritize us or be done (in our case this means a divorce). I've made it clear that I need space and stability to rebuild and am not looking to make her stop seeing other men, just pause. She seems to want to both rebuild our relationship and explore these new connections.

While she processes until Friday, she is making an effort to rekindle our connection. As am I. I just don't know if her seeing other men right now, prior to any therapy will give me enough space and time to heal after two back to back blows.

As for the motivations with the agreement, we have discussed the why in each case. And the no priors and no sleepovers points were actually raised by her. As for no condoms, we have agreed that we can discuss fluid-bonding with people but neither of us want to have unprotected sex with others right now. Granted they were put into place pre-pandemic and its been so hard on all of us. We've all changed it seems
 
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Inaniel

Active member
I don’t know if your being controlling. I don’t like the phrasing of those sorts of questions because everyone will have a different threshold for something like that.

Your partner is violating agreements. You want to pump the breaks on the whole thing, and for what purpose? Until you figure you “what’s wrong” with your partner?

Another option is to reject the thesis that something is “wrong” with “partner+men”, and investigate what is “wrong” with the agreements.

For example, the conversation could go something like this.

You: “What is it about our sleepover agreement that isn’t working for you?”

Partner: “Because it ruins my sense of spontaneity and autonomy when I’m out, and takes me out of the moment”

Now you have something to work with… Maybe from now on the expectation is that a sleepover is permitted every night she’s out…

I know the feeling of betrayal hurts. I understand where you are coming from. There is room in polyamory for a lot of dumb agreements and rules. Carful not to prioritize rules and agreements over your partner’s humanity.

Agreements can very easily be changed to whatever works best for people; if ego and hurt feelings don’t get in the way…
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Pandemic is still here for lots of people in the world. So being careful about who you let into your household "bubble" makes sense to me. Is that's why you want to know about new dates and overnights ahead of time? To assess your exposure risk?

Well, maybe you draw the line elsewhere. She does whatever, with whoever. Whenever. But the price of admission on that? Is she has to quarantine away from you for 2 weeks then.

Or no overnights til X number of dates in and you know the new person and how they keep their "house bubble" better. And only certain kinds of dates that minimize risk and not like running around super crowds.

As am I. I just don't know if her seeing other men right now, prior to any therapy will give me enough space and time to heal after two back to back blows.

That's something only you can decide in your heart.

Cuz you can ask her to pause. And if she says no?

Then it's basically "Do I feel like doing reconnection therapy while carrying this cheating burden thing? Or will that make reconnection therapy hard to do?" vs "I'm better just being done here and being break up sad? And no way to hurt me anymore with cheating with men things? Cuz twice is enough."

Or... you say, "OK. No agreements at all other than condoms used."

And since you and her aren't sharing much sex anyway, just NO sex between you two til you get to the therapy appointment. And you get to watch how she carries herself with no agreements at all. And you make any new agreements with a therapist's help so they are actually keepable.

Again... how you want to go with it is something only you can decide in your heart.

Apart from cheating on agreements, you might also be hurting from this.

She later confessed that she ideated about leaving me on the flight home but decided it was a bad idea.

So it's hard to believe this now.

she says she wants us to stay together and wants us to work on our connection

And what about you? Do you really want to reconnect? Or are you just going through the motions of it because that's is what one is "supposed" to do? And you are kinda numb from all the rest so moving on "auto pilot" right now?

I know these are hard soul searching questions. I don't expect you to answer any here. Just saying that maybe it's ok to take a time out for a breather and to think on them? Just sit with the hurt a while. And reflect.

Or even take the time out apart from each other if you can/it's pandemic safe to do so?

Galagirl
 
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adamkahn

New member
Thanks for the thoughtful responses and questions Galagirl and Inaiel.

This actually resolved much faster than I thought it would. She said she did not need to wait till Friday. She has clarity after sleeping on it and wants to pause seeing other men for now and focus on us. I again made it clear to her I only want to catch my breath have no interest in suggesting she not see men in the medium or long term. Just until we start couples counseling and feel like we're on a firmer footing.

We're both feeling very resolved and are excited to continue reconnecting and rebuilding. Yes, Galagirl, I too want to reconnect. She's my anchor relationship and means a lot to me. Oh and the sex has been back for the last few weeks actually. Better than it's been since 2019.

Thank you both for the wonderful advice about revisiting our agreement to make sure it actually works in the field. We did decide that we will be revisiting our agreement. I do think we were both looking at the agreement in a more rigid manner that is necessary. It's not that important that we don't sleep over. It's important that things be predictable. Appreciate you both pointing that out

💚
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello adamkahn,

It is fair for you to ask your partner to pause seeing other men. You are not being controlling, to ask (not demand). It is also fair for her to say, "No, I do not want to pause seeing other men." That is the point of asking, to accept her right to decide, while informing her of your preference. It is even fair for you to say, "I don't know if you seeing other men right now, prior to any therapy, will give me enough space and time to heal after two back-to-back blows." And finally, it is fair for you to say, "I don't think I can consent to stay anymore in this relationship."

What isn't fair, is for her to agree to adhere to four simple rules, and then go out and break those rules. If there is a rule she is not willing to adhere to, she needs to tell you so before she breaks the rule, not after. Otherwise, she is lying to you, and making it impossible for you to consent to the arrangement, because you do not know what you are consenting to.

I am not advising you to break up with her, but I am sharing my perspective, and suggesting you carry that perspective with you during your first counseling session. You have been violated. I don't suppose she could share with the counselor if and how she feels she has been violated, because going by your posts so far, I'm not seeing it. If she is no longer willing to adhere to the four simple rules that she agreed on, then she needs to tell you so. Immediately.

It sounds like the two of you are starting to work things out. That is good to hear.
Sympathy and regards,
Kevin T.
 

adamkahn

New member
Thank you Kevin, yes we're definitely working it out. Honestly, I felt a little insane and its nice to have my perspective validated.

" If she is no longer willing to adhere to the four simple rules that she agreed on, then she needs to tell you so. Immediately."

You're right. We both realize this now. Which is why we're revisiting the agreement from before the pandemic to see what works now. We need something that we both can follow and is predictable for both of us
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
You are both wise to revisit the old agreement ... to see how it needs to be updated.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I'm glad it was resolved after she slept on it. It's always useful to put a pause on a discussion to cool off and allow clearer heads to prevail. Our adrenaline levels can go up in a difficult discussion, making us not able to think straight. Taking an hour or 2 break can help, but 24-48 hours is even better.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Thank you both for the wonderful advice about revisiting our agreement to make sure it actually works in the field. We did decide that we will be revisiting our agreement. I do think we were both looking at the agreement in a more rigid manner that is necessary. It's not that important that we don't sleep over. It's important that things be predictable. Appreciate you both pointing that out

Glad taking some time to reflect, cool off, regain bearings, etc proved to be useful. I know it takes me at least 3 days to clear any stress adrenalin dump.

Glad that you are both on the same page now and agreed to just put a pause on things til you get to the therapist appointment where next steps can unfold under guidance. I think that's a calm, sensible approach.

Also glad you can tell now that agreement making might be a process. What sounds good at first might not actually work "out in the field" and best to just bring it up if it pinches and examine and adjust. Ask things like "Ok, what's the actual need? How are we trying to solve it with this agreement? Can it be solved another way? With another tool?"

Once it shakes out, OK. NOW it is the actual agreement, and that can be kept until it no longer works or if conditions change significantly.

But there could be some "buffer room" between agreements "made on paper" and then trying the agreements "actually out in the field." Like some time to get the reality check. A grace period.

I do think we were both looking at the agreement in a more rigid manner that is necessary. It's not that important that we don't sleep over. It's important that things be predictable. Appreciate you both pointing that out

Glad you see that it maybe was too rigid and "letter of the law" ish.

Maybe you two could also have a conversation about "spirit of the law (or spirit of the agreement)" and "letter of the law (or letter of the agreement)" And how to do healthy conflict resolution. Maybe the therapist can help with that?

I watched some rerun on Netflix the other day that kinda illustrates this. Military guy was on trial for going AWOL. Did he leave without papers? Yes. The "letter of the law" dude was all about the AWOL. He broke the rule! Punish him!

Had the guy submitted leave request? Yes.
Did he have permission from his CO? Yes.
What happened to the papers? The CO forgot to sign it right so they weren't processed right. Clerical error.
Dude goes home to see the birth of his first child.

"Spirit of the law" people were like "Yes, technically AWOL but WHY? Look, he was trying to do the right thing and get his leave papers processed. He had permission from his boss. But he has no control over the CO's behavior or the clerical processing. Plus extenuating circumstances. Punish the guy on a technicality? Just because he wanted to be there for his wife and baby? Dude isn't deserting or doing hinky things. The INTENT was there to go on leave properly. Spirit if the law is here trying to be observed. Where is compassion?"

Galagirl
 
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adamkahn

New member
Thanks Galagirl.

We actually did have conversations about the spirit of the agreement. For instance I do not think it was fair for her to tell her date that our agreement required her to be cover "before the sun was up" when we had agreed to "no sleepovers". She did mess up and even stay past sunrise but our agreement (and the discussed intent) had nothing to do with the sun! 😂 We had discussed it had to do with neither of us sleeping alone without discussion

So in the process of couples counseling and in rebuilding trust and reworking our agreement i do want to double down on making sure we both follow the intent of any rule in our agreement... show each other (and our other partners) respect and compassion 😊
 
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