I’m an early 30s, cis, brown, queer non-monogamous woman. My question is about a situation I find myself in with a lover and my best friend. This best friend is my Bestie, my chosen family.
The lover is my first male lover in over a decade. (I was with women exclusively and have been in therapy for male-related trauma and abandonment stuff). He’s the first man I’ve been intimate and vulnerable with in that long.
We met on Tinder and have been seeing each other for a handful of months and have a sweet, intense connection. We’re still building trust and I’m not ready for him to be enmeshed in other areas of life, which I’ve told him.
So, my Bestie also matched with him on Tinder. They chatted briefly but it died out. We didn’t realize this until I showed her a pic of him after a date. Then, they started following each other on social media. Then, they used me as a common denominator to have a conversation. And now, they have solo plans with each other.
I feel dismissed and disregarded. I would like to be introducing my best friend to my intimate lover but instead, now they have a date without me?? I calmly expressed how I felt to both of them individually. I was called controlling and a dictator, and told that I’m being a hypocrite and bad at poly.
I don’t agree. I feel like this is inadequate communication. She and I have never discussed seeing the same people and how this all happened feels weird AF to me. I don’t like it. We’re both very angry and our lives are quite entangled. We haven’t had our face-to-face confrontation about this yet so I’m reaching out for clarity.
-A Damsel in a Mess
First, being “good at poly” doesn’t equate to having zero challenging emotions. Being an emotionless ghost of a human being who just smiles through the many complications of love and sex is no genuine way to be in a relationship — monogamous or not.
There are two things at play here: that which you can control and that which you cannot. What you can control includes yourself, your boundaries, and the choices you make from here. Things that may influence this side of the street includes the trauma and abandonment history you mention. While non-monogamy can be a great context for repairing attachment wounds by facing abandonment fears head-on, it can also be very challenging.
I imagine that the very thought of losing your lover, or your bestie, or even being left out of whatever is happening between the two of them is smashing on those Abandonment and Trauma buttons real hard. Anger is a natural reaction when our unique buttons get painfully pushed, yet the bad news is anger is rarely the most effective way to communicate or connect.
What you cannot control includes what these two people do, with or without you. This is excruciating and sometimes enraging. We’ve all been in a situation where we thought, “If only they would do X then I wouldn’t have to feel Y.” So, what CAN you do, Damsel? You’ve communicated how you feel. And Mr. Lover and Bestie have responded to your feelings, it sounds like, by continuing to date each other in spite of them. What do you want to do now, from your most centered self?
My advice is to respond rather than react. A reaction is “HOW DARE YOU? NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!” A response is “Okay, I see you and in response I’m going to reconsider how I want to engage with each of you given the choices you’ve made.” In my experience, reacting always causes me more pain and exhaustion than responding.
Finally, though the threat to the Bestie relationship likely feels more dire and distressing, don’t let Mr. Lover off the hook, either. He’s also making choices here, and too often a love triangle gone awry ends in two women at each other’s throats.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, http://www.yanatallonhicks.com.