She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions, about anything at all.
So, here’s the deal: I am a lesbian. My girlfriend and I have been together for three years. We have had a completely monogamous relationship. But recently, we have been talking about the possibility of a polyamorous relationship, mainly because she has been pressing the issue.
She has had polyamorous relationships in the past. She claims that she has always been an “ethical” poly and had me read a book about ethical polyamory. Although I am hesitant, I’ve been open to discussing it and maybe exploring it.
The problem is that two weeks ago she slept with someone else before we had made any agreements about this. I am extremely upset. Because she did this without my consent, I consider this cheating. She does not. She feels that I shouldn’t be so upset since we had been talking about it. But she is apparently missing the fact that I never AGREED. Now, every time I want to talk about it, she is “too busy” with work.
I am trying to figure out how I can stay in this relationship if she is going to sleep around. She says she wants to make this work, she loves me, etc. But she seems unwilling to face the consequences of her actions. She says things like “I’m not responsible for your feelings,” which I get, but my feelings are the consequences of her actions!
I’ve invested three years in this relationship and I love her but I don’t know if I will be able to do the polyamory thing and even if I did she would “play by the rules” that WE agree on. I haven’t been able to talk to any of my friends about this because I don’t think they would understand. Please give me some advice. I feel so alone.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, polyamory is “the philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time.”
There are two main issues here: First of all, she cheated. You are absolutely right in feeling that what she did was wrong. She knows it, too. That’s why she keeps avoiding the discussion and putting it back on you with the whole “I’m not responsible for your feelings” line. From what I have gleaned about “ethical polyamory,” there are agreements and boundaries that all parties participate in creating. The two of you had not done that — you had only explored the subject.
The second, and frankly larger, issue is that you don’t sound like someone who wants to be in a polyamorous relationship. Or if you were open to it, it would have to be with someone with whom you had honest communication. You don’t have that with her now.
There are two actions you can pursue. And, taking an action will give you back control over your love life.
Option 1: You break up with her, get some therapy, talk to friends to process the breakup, and move on, focusing on yourself, and attracting healthier relationships in the future.
Option 2: You insist on couples therapy with a therapist who understands and can help you process navigating polyamory. You mentioned in your email that you are in the Tri-State area. Here is a link to resources for polyamory therapists, support groups, etc in your area.
Get clear about what you want from a relationship and what she is capable of giving to this relationship. Polyamory is not for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting monogamy. You may just be at that point in your relationship where it is clear that you want different things.
Most importantly, don’t sit in this all alone. I cannot stress enough how valuable talk therapy with a professional can be. Secondly, talk to your friends about it. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never been through this before, because they care about you. Getting that stuff out in the open will illuminate things you couldn’t see before. And, I promise, you will be OK.
If you have a question for me about sex, love, polyamory, breakups, violas, ballet, or anything at all, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo