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I Thought We Were Monogamous. She Thought We Were Polyamorous.

mindfuckDear Chump Lady,

I understand that the biggest demographic in your blog are people that have entangled their lives with the cheater’s: married, have kids together, property, shared finances… So as a lesbian in my early 20s, I don’t quite fit that. Still, I believe that the amount of bullshit I’ve had to endure and I’m still enduring can be seen as a cautionary tale and how LGBT people also experience this, though I’m aware it’s not unique because cheaters are not original.

Bit of context: lesbians, early 20s. Friends for 4 years, partners for 5 months. Open and polyamorous relationship arrangements tend to be a tad more common among LGBT people, so after a bit of experience you learn to clear it before anything happens. And while I knew she had been in polyamorous relationships before, we settled on monogamy. (I probably should’ve prodded a bit more).

A month and a half ago, I found out my partner was messaging other women. I already had the suspicion something was going on because I was very jealous and insecure, which is weird for me, but she kept reassuring me that everything was okay, so I just assumed something was wrong with me.

All of these women are her friends, so it’s not like they’re faceless people online, and were her FWBs prior to our relationship starting, but she didn’t break it off with any of them when we got together. She said she understood our arrangement as basically an open relationship, and that she hadn’t even considered this would be a problem, so it isn’t cheating and she didn’t lie.

On D-Day, we talked on the phone and I eventually lost my temper, and ended up being quite cruel and I made her cry. Because of that, she became unreachable for the next few days and I confronted these women (rookie mistake, I know, I still hadn’t found your blog), and while they all claimed to not know how the relationship between us worked, I was effectively gaslit into thinking all of this was my fault for not being clear enough.

The past month and a half since then has been awful for me, since we stayed in touch. I’ve had nightmares, constant nausea and panic attacks. But two days ago, she offered a “solution”: a genuine open relationship (though I understand it’s the veiled threat of “give me cake or else it’s over”), in which she promises that this time, she will listen to me, she will communicate, and she will (get ready to be absolutely blown away by her selflessness) say “good morning”, “good night” and ask how I’m doing. Though she says she doesn’t trust me, and that she needs me to wait a few months, and maybe she’ll say something for Thanksgiving or Christmas (it reminds me of the “This hurts me too, more really!” thing).

I guess all I really need is a reality check. I know I messed up too, but it’s a huge stretch to make it seem like losing my temper on the phone is the same as lying for an entire relationship, right? It’s a really bad idea to take her up on that offer, isn’t it? And if she had valued our relationship before, isn’t communicating and things as simple as talking to me something that should’ve already been happening?



Dear Vixenière,

Here’s a solution to your communication problem — don’t.

This is a bad fit. You want different things. You want a partner, she wants a chump. Oh, you thought I was going to say “You want monogamy, she wants polyamory.”

If that were the case, she would’ve been explicit with you. “Hey, it’s Tuesday night. That’s my knitting and fucking Wendy evening.” She would’ve negotiated the terms of the relationship up front. She would’ve introduced her friends-with-benefits to you as friends-still-currently-in-rotation.

Here’s the thing with polyamory — it has rules. Just like monogamy! Only different ones, like: Who’s an acceptable partner? How much time does this take from the primary relationship? How do we manage STD risks? Etc.

Cheating is just unilaterally violating the rules of an agreed upon relationship. So polyamorists can be cheated on too. You can’t escape the ethics.

Apparently, she wants you to believe that polyamory is just the accepted norm among lesbians, and you failed to get the memo. (Turn in your lesbian card at once!) Yeah, that’s bullshit. But even if it were true (it’s not true), she would’ve talked to you about the open relationship ground rules. She would’ve mentioned the knitting circle because she had nothing to hide.

That’s not what happened. She concealed her other relationships from you. And then manufactured this mindfuckery after discovery. It’s just standard stupid cheater shit. False equivalencies. I Fail to Understand Your Hostility. Deny, attack, reverse victim offender.

Which means you cannot enter into ANY sort of relationship with this person, exclusive or not. She’s not an honest broker.

And even if you just wanted a friends-with-benefits relationship (join the chorus), she’s not your friend. Friends don’t treat friends like this. You could do a LOT better. Why gift yourself to such a person?

The past month and a half since then has been awful for me, since we stayed in touch. I’ve had nightmares, constant nausea and panic attacks.

Don’t be in touch. No contact = no new pain. Stop touching the stove.

But two days ago, she offered a “solution”: a genuine open relationship (though I understand it’s the veiled threat of “give me cake or else it’s over”), in which she promises that this time, she will listen to me, she will communicate, and she will (get ready to be absolutely blown away by her selflessness) say “good morning”, “good night” and ask how I’m doing.


Wow. Do you get entire sentences for your birthday if you’re a good girl?

Vix, you bright, young, beautiful thing, it’s been five months. Five lousy months. I’m not saying your pain doesn’t matter because you don’t have deep sunk costs with a loser. I’m saying it doesn’t get better with these people! Every story you read here started with loving some sparkly manipulator.

Learn from this! Get out! Hold out for a better quality person, someone who would be honored to be your partner.

She doesn’t deserve the honor.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Im sorry that you found yourself in a Dday manufactured by someone who you believed was a partner, it is a painful suckfest. CL gives good advise on this front.

    My suggestion is to consider that in many cases, we might still be able to navigate the difficulty in life without sinking into cruelty. Life will throw us into many different scenarios that are horrifically frustrating but I believe we can navigate a lot of them without ourselves becoming cruel. We hand our oppressors ammunition to increase their destruction when we ourselves become cruel.

    • Agreed. And another way to think of it, is “this relationship doesn’t bring out my best self.”

      • I understand how that might feel logical in many of the ghastly circumstances we find ourselves in, but it feeds directly into their “they were batshit crazy” narrative and might look like their actions were justified. My ability to argue without being cruel is a strange superpower learned in the midst of dysfunction, but it is genuinely satisfying to look back and know that I never once said a cruel thing to him and his actions truly were all on him.

        I have found that being a fair-fighter is a skill that gets easier with practice. Im not shaming, Im encouraging.

        • If I am cruel, I am just like them, and compromise my credibility.

          I read somewhere “if I stay on the high road, I strengthen my position as the wronged person”.

          I agree. My dignity is my armor and my “weapon” of choice.

          • Can’t agree with you there. The FW was cruel to somebody who was kind to her. If we return cruelty to demonstably cruel, dishonest people who ruthlessly shatter our hearts, that is not even close to the same thing.

            Prison, for example is extremely cruel, and if one is guilty of a heinous crime, the cruelty has been well earned. An unkind word to a FW is nothing. Don’t forget that they live in a world where there are really only slights to ego, not genuine hurt feelings.

          • To clarify…

            My comment above was in regards to my own conduct, not a judgement on our letter writer today.

            In my own case, being cheated on resulted in thoughts toward the cheaters which, if acted upon, would qualify me for prison. What Vix shared was nothing in comparison, and something most of us have done.

            What I learned when I lost my temper is that restraining myself
            from hitting back in any way, keeping my side of the street clean, made theirs look dirtier, and I prefer it that way.

            I don’t like tit for tat. That’s their speciality, and exactly how he/they justified their affair.

            • …..and predictably, when I lost my temper in a regrettable way, he seized on it and threw it in my face every chance he got, as if it was my regular MO, using it to justify what he did.

              Everything you do or say can and will be used against you, so do your best to stay high road is my suggestion…..


              • Interesting Velvet, my FW did not “allow” my emotions. When I cried my guts out he told me to get over it and stop. When I got angry he left the room and said I had issues. When I was snappy he told me I needed to be nicer to him. I had been keeping it as neutral as possible (mostly due to the control I was under) but one day I snapped and just went blindly yelling and screaming at him – the dam broke. It was then he tried to make out that I was in need of inpatient psych treatment and he and his GF commenced to try and have me committed. It was all of this that landed me at Womens refuge for abuse support. I didn’t realize until DDay how controlled I’d been.

              • Formerly,

                What I was referring to when I regrettably lost my temper is when I kicked hole in the wall of his office.

                Not expressing my emotions.

                Your comment feels hostile toward me. Please let me know if I am
                misunderstanding you here.

              • Not hostile at all! In agreement, and just expressing how when we have our emotions, FWs make us feel like there’s something wrong with us.

              • Got it! Thanks for clarifying. I wasn’t sure. Tomorrow is my former wedding anniversary…..October in general is Hell Month because of all the anniversaries of traumatic events packed in….I get sensitive and need to check my thinking!


              • That sucks Velvet! My hell month is July…I met him in July, then I got married and had DDay in July almost exactly 25 years later. I feel for you, and it’s always good to check! It’s so hard to tell how people intend something when it’s just typed up quickly. Hang in there and October is passing quickly. Big hugs xo

              • Formerly,

                I feel you comment in my soul. I stood up against Fuckwit regarding the safety of my children. He proceeded to write a thing on his public work social media about how I’m insane I am and was inquiring about legal steps to take to have me committed. Not once but twice. I lawyered up and made a safety plan threw my local DVC before I confronted him after copies were made. First he lied, then he said I misunderstood, then when he found out I lawyered up he went ape shit and tried to DARVO me, followed by ghosting and a solid smear campaign to family and friends. Not once was there accountability or an apology. These people never change. No contact almost 2 years. Switzerland wants us to reconcile. Everyone else thinks he’s an asshole and even though it hurts me and my kids are better off without him.

              • Yeah, and I realised that my ex FW never let me have any emotions, about anything, ever. It was weird. And then when I “lost it” he just basically thought I was crazy. For years during our marriage, he was sure I had anger management issues…that was only because I was angry at him for his mistreatment of me.

              • Lundy Bancroft – “he doesn’t have a problem with *his* anger, he has a problem with *your* anger”.

                And reactive abuse. Wind someone up unbearably, and when they finally blow, sit back, smirk, and play the victim. 👿👿

          • I remember the urge to trash his clothes and the resistance to doing so was based on these principles. Well said.

        • We should strive to gain greater emotional regulation and maturity. One should not betray their own morals even in the face of something as heinous as being cheated on. That said, we should never frame this as trying to avoid giving the FWs ammunition or justification for their actions. They will ALWAYS do this.

      • I don’t believe that losing your temper is necessarily akin to being cruel, anymore than hanging up the phone on someone being cruel or unreasonable to you OR physically walking away from a verbal confrontation. Certainly, deescalation and walking away will serve you better in the long run than losing your cool, but as someone who’s employed all of these methodologies, I can tell you that no matter how thoughtful and calm and adulty you are, these disordered people will paint you as a villain.

        I was “obstructionist” when I refused to fight with him and instead chose to walk away from his screaming, but I was a “bully” when I stayed to fight. I was a “coward” when I hung up on him as he rapid-fired insults at me, but I was an “insensitive asshole” when I called him out for hanging up on me when I was trying to convey important psychological information about our daughter. YOU CANNOT WIN OR EVEN TIE THE GAME…so, withdraw your entry card altogether. AKA, no contact.

        Dispensing actual cruelty, however, is just bad for one’s soul, whether it’s deserved or not, IMO.

        • I think you can get very very mad possibly losing ones temper to a degree. Whether you were really cruel depends on what you said or did. My Cheater always thought I would make a racist comment to him (I never did). I quickly reminded him of the ghastly things he said or did to me but I never called him a name or insulted him.

    • Considering the source, I don’t believe for a second that Vix said something cruel. Most likely, she just said something true.

      • No, I totally did. I lost my temper and said something that was way out of line. I understand that most people are going to side with me in this place, but I think it’s very important to recognize I messed up. Any mistakes I have made in this situation should be evaluated and I should make sure they don’t happen again.

        e.g. Taking 5 minutes to avoid losing my temper, not contacting other people, respecting myself more, trusting my gut instincts and seeing reality for what it is, etc.

        • “No, I totally did. I lost my temper and said something that was way out of line. I understand that most people are going to side with me in this place, but I think it’s very important to recognize I messed up”

          I think you’re showing maturity and self-awareness here, and that’s really good, but don’t judge yourself *too* harshly. Lying and cheating and throwing out the DARVO are much worse than losing your temper and saying something “way out of line”. The thing is to avoid shady people, and if you do get involved with one, drop them like a hot potato, which you’ve done. xx

          • Also, to echo what others have said, is it *your* judgement that what you said was “way out of line”, or *hers*? If it’s yours, OK, but if it’s hers, (or her fwb’s) I say fuck that. 👿

        • Way out of line how? Wasn’t it the truth?

          I get that your standards for what is cruel are your own and you must act according to your own values. So good for you. I do think you’re not cutting yourself enough slack, considering the fact that your heart had just been crushed.

        • Vix, you sound exactly like someone who has been successfully emotionally abused and manipulated into blaming yourself. You’re 5 minutes into this relationship – get out now, herein lies pain and bullshit.

          I know I know, you feel intensely, you can’t imagine life without her etc etc etc. You’re a lesbian – we specialise in intensity quickly. It’ll pass. Go no contact for 6 weeks then tell us how you feel. I guarantee you will be happy as Larry that you dodged this bullet. Guarantee.

          You’re better than her.

        • Here’s the thing, you might feel like you lost your temper and were out of line, but be careful that you aren’t being manipulated into thinking that about yourself. My ex told me I was unclear and controlling. As I’ve mentioned before, I recorded myself on some of these convos. It wasn’t true. I was super clear. I was emotional, yes. But not unclear and not negative. It was all part of him destroying my confidence. We can all improve, but make sure your feedback on yourself is from trusted sources, not your ex, who is demonstrated to be trying to tear you down.

        • Vix, I had NO idea I was capable of swearing like a sailor…until I did. At my xFW and at full volume. He admitted he had it coming. Still, I was surprised at myself. Betrayal/abuse can move us to do strange things. I also don’t take my anger out on inanimate objects…until I did. I took a rather grim glee in destroying his wine glasses AND wine on the door of his barn. He never drank wine until he took up with the AP (for context). Both of these incidents happened in my late 50s. I danced for 2 years, until I caught him trying to reach out to the AP again. Done.
          Perhaps both of those incidents were markers of immaturity, but, given the extent of his betrayal(s) (7 year primary affair, at least 50 OW, hookers, and heavy porn habit, I think understandable.

          • Feeling you! So many things I didn’t do until I was pushed off the cliff. (((Hugs))) I am 1 year into the “dance” and working hard on myself to choose to call it quits and leave.

        • Vix I also responded with some cruel comments after DDay but we do the best we can in the moment we live. I was never taught nor trained to be betrayed by the person I loved and trusted for 35 years. There was no rule book for me at that moment. Give yourself grace but do not agonize over decisions made in the thick of trauma.

        • “Way out of line” how, exactly? Telling the truth? Calling her names? Google “reactive abuse.”

          You mention communication problems in your letter, but you don’t have a communication problem. The problem is your girlfriend is a cheating bitch.

          I’m a bi woman who’s been cheated on by more than one asshole who claimed I wasn’t allowed to be mad because “I’m polyamorous, babe! Didn’t you know?” and then acted like I was the asshole for being upset. Don’t fall for it. Your girlfriend flushed years of friendship and a budding romantic relationship down the toilet to fuck strange. You can’t communicate the asshole out of her. You’re incompatible. Dump and move on.

  • This one seems clear to me. She wants an open arrangement and you don’t so why continue to engage her? Find one who also wants a monogamous relationship. Open arrangements might be more common in the gay community but there are still plenty of people in said community that don’t want that. I can think of a number of gay couples in my social circle that are in monogamous relationships.

    I can imagine boundaries being a bit more difficult for the gay community because it’s normal to have same sex friends, but if you’re attracted to the same sex those lines can blur.

    In the straight community opposite sex friends are automatically scrutinized for precisely this reason.

  • “I was effectively gaslit into thinking all of this was my fault for not being clear enough”

    Ugh, I’m so sorry to read that. It’s awful when cheaters play the “No, actually *you* are in the wrong but not me” card.

    • If she had not meant to deceive in an “open relationship” then she would have told you what she was doing rather than you having a DDay months later. So she promises to say good morning, etc., needs a few or couple of months…She is letting you know now who she is, BELIEVE HER!!! Go no contact. You have nothing to work with in this situation. A cheating gaslighter is not a prize! Put yourself first. All you will find with her is more heartbreak. Hugs to you.

  • I am heartened that you wrote in. It’s good that younger folk with shorter relationships are learning to see cheating – lying, manipulation and disrespect etc- as an issue. You can get out and seek a better fit now. Hugs!!

  • Cheating, lying, disrespectful behavior — all these things are common in everyday encounters in school, or the workplace, even between so called “friends”. They hurt more when you believe you are in an intimate relationship. IMHO. Some people claim they don’t want to live a life with “restrictions”. What I have found this to actually mean in my experience is they do not want “restrictions”, but they want YOU to have “restrictions”.

    There is a clear connection between being useful and being a chump. If you read the stories of Chump Nation, you will find chumps are very useful. We work, pay bills, clean, cook, raise children, make a home, handle social duties, and many other very useful things that normal people would have to pay for UNLESS they are in a relationship. Users want YOU to handle all these “restrictive” duties, while they are free to flit from one fun thing to another. Mine tended to hide behind the screen of “I have to work!” Funny fact, when I work more at my job, I tend to be paid more, and the results of my extra labor are used for something fun or constructive. I noticed that the extra money from all this “work” was not flowing into the home. That was my first clue. Not only was he not working, he was actually spending family money on frolic.

    There is a line in marriage ceremonies about refraining from all others. I think the expectations are pretty clear. I believe I explicitly stated them, too. I don’t know about other orientations, but isn’t there a time when you both say I want to become “a couple” for more than a night? Don’t roommates have agreements? Business partners? Is violation of these type of agreements acceptable to you? If your SO just decided, on the spur of the moment, to rob a bank without consulting you, would that be OK? Don’t be a chump and try to find a way to blame yourself. Work on fixing your picker. Away from the cheater. Believe me, you will feel much better sometime soon, maybe on a Tuesday!

    • You just described my entire 30 year life with my ex. Thank you for putting it into the words that I have felt, but was unable to pull out of the haze. The harder I worked for us, the more she played for herself, and I could never understand it. The she was playing with a different set of goals (she wasnt sharing with me). I should have left the game.

  • Word salad. She has diced fresh beets for red, chopped spinach for green and diced orange bell pepper for yellow. Slid into it are terms like good morning, good night and how was your day. Those have been dipped in arsenic but once it all gets tossed you smile at each other while you are slowly poisoned.

  • She NEEDS you to wait a a few months? She doesn’t trust YOU? She’ll say good morning, good night, and ask how you’re doing? And maybe SAY something for Christmas and New Years?

    This sounds like you are plan B, (or C, or D), and she wants you to wait like a faithful doggie at the door while she sees how/if other partners work out over the next few months, including major holidays.

    You say you ere friends for four years and that knowing she had been polyamorous, you “settled” on monogamy, and when you learned she was texting other women, felt uncomfortable and asked her about your concerns, “she kept reassuring me that everything was ok.” Until DDay, and when you confronted her SHE cried. And then offered to continue a relationship IN A FEW MONTHS.

    You didn’t imagine your discussion or agreement to be monogamous. If you had imagined that, when you told her you were concerned about texting other women, she wouldn’t have repeatedly reassured you that everything was OK. She would have reminded you that you agreed to an open relationship. She knew she was cheating, and she led you on. She’s planning months ahead for what you can expect from her on major holidays, and it’s simply a greeting, not even a greeting card, gift or relationship.

    I’m sorry this happened to you. You put extra effort into defining the relationship you agreed to, and she lied. She didn’t tell you then that she would continue the WB part of FWBs. Don’t fall for the gaslighting and blame yourself; blame her and move on. Give yourself the gift of no contact because it will lessen the pain.

    • I saw that, too. She was the one cheating, but doesn’t trust V. “How dare you call me names, when I lied to you and exposed you to STDs by betraying you!” And SHE has the chutzpah to say you somehow broke HER trust???

      • I guess by talking to her other girlfriends. -eyeroll- It is clear that the writer is trying to be a good person and feels bad about violating her FW’s boundaries… Shame her FW doesn’t feel all that bad about violating hers…

    • Goodfriend, I caught that too. It was like an invitation to a Pick Me Dance. Like being waitlisted by your first choice of college. “You want ME more than I want YOU.”

  • I really think you need something so much more than, “good morning, good night, and being asked how your’e doing”.

    You deserve RESPECT. It’s missing in the overall relationship.

    • I realized quite recently that I’m not asking for much. In fact, I’m asking for something that should already be there. It’s insulting that she thinks reconciliation can be achieved by offering me things that are a given in most other relationships.

      • Vix: You’ve made a phenomenal discovery recognizing that you don’t ask for much by way of respect from others. Take that single discovery and run with it. Take a break from partnering with others. Work on you. Identify the many ways you are worthy and valuable. Cherish, cultivate and develop your own sense of respect for yourself. As this grows in time, you’ll not only see disrespect more clearly in others, but you’ll realize self-respect is all you’ll ever need to be complete. Then, if at a later time, a prospective partner appears with both self-respect and respect for others, you’ll have found a treasure. Wishing you the best!

      • Very smart and good realizations. A reciprocal adult relationship is supposed to be a three-course meal with dessert and drinks, so you should be offended and suspicious if you’re only being offered crumbs.

        And, you’re right to know who you are and what you want. Just because polyamory is prevalent in a certain groups that you’re a part of does not mean you need to partake. Monogamy may be boring to some people, but I dig it. And I like that I know that about myself.

  • There was a point in my own failing relationship when I was told outright “you don’t deserve love, respect, or kindness.” This is what you are also being told in not so many words but behaviors. I was also told that I’d be thrown a few scraps and would need to be happy with those scraps.

    It’s not okay to be treated cruelly, disrespectfully, or as an afterthought. Run far away from people who are capable of this treatment. And they keep doing it. Ask me how I know.

    • Several times in my marriage, I commented to my ex that it would be nice if he said something nice about me other than a compliment about dinner and thanks for sex. He said he didn’t believe in flattery. During the divorce, he said that I had contributed nothing to his life. Several decades together, and that’s what he thought of me. No wonder I refused reconciliation.

      My paid work is in training/education, and I’d never, ever said anything at that level to a student, even one that was failing. It’s not humane.

  • Dear Vixeniere, ( love that name BTW) everything Chumplady is telling you is spot on.

    I know how much this hurts, but this woman has *no character or integrity*, and isn’t worth your spit.

    Write down everything she said to you, (including her icky fwb’s) and use it as an aide memoire when your feeling shaky and thinking, ‘maybe that wasn’t so bad, maybe I should give it another chance’, which you probably will, because we all did, in greater or lesser degree. That’s something I found very helpful when I was second guessing myself.

    And above all, go *no contact*. Don’t give her the opportunity to abuse you any further. Block her everywhere, and don’t confront her fwb’s. Speaking truth to selfish fuckwits is a waste of your time.

    You’re young, you’re loving and honest, and that, as CL would say, is a stock that trades high. You will find someone worthy of what you have to give. I also think it’s very encouraging that you were and are able to see through this woman’s gaslighting after so short a while in, although you maybe don’t think that right now.

    Hugs sweetheart. It *will* get better. Promise. 🤗💕

  • Good for you, Vixenière, for reaching out! There are a whole bunch of us poised and ready to jump on the anti-gaslighting, anti-abuse, anti-neglect, pro-respect, pro-honesty, pro-value-Vixenière side of the scale for and with you.

    Life is too short and has too many twists and turns to spend it giving all of you to a person who gives you half of themselves (and not an entirely good half). I’m not speaking to monogamy vs. polyamory here (though I agree with all of CLs words about that), I’m speaking to human kindness.

    I knew a lady once who wrote a song about riding in a car with a car with a crappy partner. It had a line that went “I’m with you and you’re with you. Let me out.” I still think about that all the time.

    You’re 100% on the right track, seeing her terrible offer as terrible. What’s she offering you? A casual toss of a biscuit just often enough to keep you hungry but not actually starving? That, my friend, is a shitty relationship.

    You deserve relationships where everyone shares, everyone’s nourished, everyone’s filled, everyone thrives. That goes for friendships and romances alike.

    A person who treats you like you don’t matter (except as a toy to be pulled out of the toybox now and then, for novelty, until you’re boring again) doesn’t even deserve your FWB let alone your actual time. Too much HPV and HIV and Hepatitis in the world for that.

    All the time you spend on her is time you aren’t spending living a much better life. Time for a redistribution of your time, says me! 😊

    • Vix: Concentrate on reciprocity when evaluating new friends and people who are more than friends. Do things that will build up your self-esteem and make sure friends and others are worthy of you. That will weed out some of the people who take others for granted, etc. I am good enough to be your grandmother. I wished I had valued myself more when I was younger and it is a lesson I still need to learn better. If I do not value myself, very few others will. Don’t go for lines like I thought you knew, I did not think, I did not know, I don’t know why I did that, etc. If it had been an open relationship, you would have been aware all along of what was going on. I hate cheating, lying and gaslighting.
      Hugs to you and welcome to our group. You can not go wrong here. CL is phenomenal with her wisdom plus she throws in the snark. Love it.

  • I am going threw a situation right now that is different from OPs.

    I have already moved on from my Fuckwit after a DDAy that endangered our child about a year after separation. I learned about Betrayal Trauma. This lead to a deep dive over the past few years into who I am and reevaluating my other relationships. Shit happens different types of epiphanies after different DDays from other relationships, not necessarily cheating but knowing that you are being Chumped and when asserting yourself and your boundaries leads to mindfuckery by a Fuckwit you learn quicker how to handle it.

    There is something about chump nation that makes you feel aren’t alone in the world and you are all trying to get threw it. It’s not a one person vs the world mentality (that would be crazy) it’s a one person vs the type of people they allow to be in their world.

  • no matter the length of a relationship, when hurt by your partner, it’s painful. and, if i can say, being vaguely misled into a relationship then gaslit is quite painful. you were honest, they were not. it’s difficult to face that someone you care about can be so fucking casual with you, it really really is.

    fuck that girl.

    it’s best to go no contact and regroup. you deserve better than this person is capable of giving. because they’re not capable of giving. once you grasp their incapacity you will feel a bit better. in the meantime, do the things that you need to make your self feel well, the healthy ones, and meditate.

  • Vixenière, she’s not polyamorous. She’s just a cheater. The norm in polyamory, LGBT or otherwise, is that you are clear with that up front (because most people assume monogamy) and that you are honest about your status with other people (because it’s dishonest to pretend that a lover is a friend, and polyamory lives and dies by honesty). The old “oh, are we monogamous? Gee I didn’t know that” retconning is a very old and common cheater’s excuse.

    If you had agreed to that open relationship, I predict that any time YOU showed interest in someone else, she would shut that down hard. Oh, it’s not that she minds you seeing other people, it’s just that this particular woman triggers her anxiety. Or it’s just not the right time, she doesn’t have the spoons, because her dad is sick / work is really stressful right now / etc. (and meanwhile, the other person drifts off because they understandably don’t want to wait). But sure, you can see other people, just not this time! Or the next. Or the time after that. (Meanwhile, you aren’t allowed to have boundaries about her sleeping around because You Agreed To This.)

    Also, please be on alert for her trying to weaponize you being LGBTQ+. The rage mindfuck channel broadcast is often “you have to put up with me because there aren’t many of us so you won’t find someone else, and you’ll damage your friend network if you leave.”

    • Yep. This is absolutely how it would have worked. ‘I’m totally into it I just think she’s not good for you….’ Rationalize, disrupt, centralize and create drama making sure she is the focus.

  • Hi, thanks for replying to my email! As always, incredibly helpful. I’m actually trying No Contact and I feel much better, even if it has not been that long. I try to get my mind off of things and I’m going to take the next few days or weeks easy. It’s a stupid situation, because had she been honest from the start, I probably would have actually considered an open relationship, but I guess the feeling of “outsmarting” someone else by taking advantage of the trust in a relationship is much better for these kind of people than genuine and clear communication. But hey, live and learn.

    • Ug, I’m sorry you are in this boat with us. And yes it is really crazy making when they could have just been honest about their needs and maybe they could have gotten what they wanted… which makes you wonder what it is that they really want and what their crap issues really are. Maybe she just wanted you to think that she was what you wanted for the thrillz or out of fear or who the heck knows. Among the many inane things my FW said was that he had ‘cheat’ – more below – because I wasn’t interested in sex even thought that was the opposite of true. It was like being told up was down. I was the one constantly turned down and physically lonely. The lie was so bizarre. Anyhow, not about me clearly.

      • .”And yes it is really crazy making when they could have just been honest about their needs and maybe they could have gotten what they wanted… which makes you wonder what it is that they really want and what their crap issues really are”

        If they were honest, they might have got no for an answer. No fun in that.

        • That’s exactly right. The ex looked at her cards and likely decided that it was too risky to play the “open relationship” card up front because she might lose that hand. Because, indeed, it is a game to these people.

        • Exactly.
          Why accept ‘no’ when they can cheat and lie to get what they want. A game of deceit. No rules.

    • No contact is the best. You won’t regret it, especially when you look back months from now and see how much better you’re doing.

      Speaking from experience. NC was a gamechanger for me.

    • I’m from a different generation, and I sometimes wonder if “open relationship” is just the new version of “we’re just dating.” It used to be common to date several people at one time until you decide whether any of them are your person. Sometimes you could date someone off or on for several months before it ended or you two committed to exclusivity.

      I understand that there are many people on this board who enjoy open relationships and polyamory. It’s a choice. However, I’ve personally never once seen a long-term “open relationship” last, including the ones my many lesbian friends have been in. Things seem to move along alright until the couple has kids and it becomes unworkable OR one breaks the rules OR plain old jealousy kicks in. But, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce anyway, maybe it doesn’t matter.

      • I’ve never seen polyamory work either, and I’m a queer woman in my 30s who’s known dozens of people in the scene (of all orientations). In my experience, the poly community is rife with abuse and sexual harassment. It’s like a cult of the emotionally unavailable and entitled. Everybody swears they’re different until they break up and somebody gets a restraining order.

        Maybe there’s a genuinely happy and healthy unicorn throuple in Portland somewhere, but I wouldn’t buy a lotto ticket on those odds.

        • “Everybody swears they’re different until they break up and somebody gets a restraining order.” Seriously LOL’d when I read this. Exactly. I’ve seen nothing but dysfunction in this paradigm. I’ve also seen plenty of dysfunction in so-called hetero-normative pairings…so…you gotta pick your battles I guess.

          • Eh, I agree to an extent. Every relationship’s got dysfunction, but monogamy and poly are nowhere near the same.

        • “I’ve never seen polyamory work either…”

          I’ve never known anyone in a polyamory relationship (that I’m aware of) but I think the problem with it is that it’s contradictory to human nature.

          On the surface it *sounds* all ‘enlightened’, and free spirity, but most people want a close and genuine connection with one person. Flitting from person to person in that way a) obviously has the potential to damage that, and b) I think creates a mindset where others are commodities just there to serve desires and wants.

          And then it all comes crashing down.

    • Vix: A lot of cheaters get off on the sneaking around, then the triangulation, etc. Many enjoy our pain, they are thrilled they could make us hurt so much. Read the past posts on this site re the topics that would be most helpful to you. There is a gold mine of posts there.

  • V, this FW of yours seems to have a very short attention span. You’ve been partners for 5 months? This isn’t going to get better, and if you stay with her, you will spend your time being the partner police. Is that what you want in a relationship? Is this acceptable to you?

    I know several gay couples who certainly appear to have had long-lasting, loving, monogamous relationships. The “Til Death Do Us Part” relationships. I’ve been at two funerals for partners, one of which had a 45 year-long relationship.

    At this point in your life, try to understand why you chose the FW, and go about fixing your picker. Don’t waste any more time with her. What I hear screaming through your letter is your desire for a monogamous partner who treats you with kindness and respect. You aren’t going to get any of those thing from the FW.

  • Good people are up front and straightforward and tell you what is going on with them.

    My therapist costs XXX.00 an hour. That’s just one of a zillion useful things she has told me since Traitor Ex blew up our life (blew up while shoveling steaming heaps of stinking BS, aka BlameShift, my way.)

    Without truth and honest and straightforward and up front, you have complete and utter BS for a “relationship”.

    Secrets and lies and deception indicate a very sick situation. People do that ALL THE TIME and call it LOVE. I don’t want to be one of them. Secrets and lies and deception are like blood on white tablecloth. The bloodstains will never ever come out.

    There are billions of people the planet. I don’t have time or energy but for a small handful of them. The smaller the baseball team is, the better the players have to be. I can’t, and shouldn’t, tolerate someone who has revealed that they are unsafe and untrustworthy.

    Oh, TRUST and SAFETY. Those two pillars of every worthwhile healthy relationship. Hold out for them. Be them.

    One of my favorite recovery authors, Charlotte Kasl, has a few books spelling out what healthy looks like. They are available on audiobook. I like listening to them. They are currently helping me understand what I did NOT have, and what to look for if there is a next time.
    She is a brilliant therapist, and a brilliant writer. Every so often I call her and chat.
    I consider her books excellent relationship textbooks.

    No matter the sexual orientation, or the structure of the relationship, HEALTHY means HONESTY.

  • Vix, if you agree with her conditions and stay with this person, she will forever see you as a burden. A thorn in her side she has to live with, an annoying little tagalong she has to assuage. Even in the “good” times she will see you as the person whose “unreasonable insecurities” she has to worry about. The person getting in the way of “fun.” Do you always want to be treated as a second thought, an annoyance, and a burden? You are worth so much more than that. You deserve someone who treats you as a joy in their life and a gem.

    The way to personal peace is to get away from her. The nightmares and panic attacks will start to become less as your body finishes processing the trauma. As long as you stay in contact with her, it can never finish because you’re constantly in the path of more gaslighting and existential danger.

    Best wishes to you. I promise getting away from her will be the best thing you can do for yourself. She doesn’t care about you and you’ve been devalued for a long time. Time for *you* to show care for yourself so your psyche can rest and heal.

    • Mighty, you are so right. I was seen as the un-fun one, the burden (I was a SAHM, dependent on FW’s income), the one who did all the boring kid “sh!t.” The AP, a prosutitute, was dangerous, mysterious, did drugs, and partied all night at the casino after she was done stripping. Watching her kids? What? No, she was encouraging FW to use drugs, telling him I didn’t appreciate him, that she didn’t need a bunch of “clients” but rather one who spoiled her and gave her financial security. I was told if I went along with FW’s outside fun, we could stay married but I couldn’t ask any questions. I was supposed to sit home, create the family holidays waiting for breadcrumbs of attention because I was not worthy (I was actually told this, “You are not worthy”). It’s been 29 months since I found out my (at that time) 29 year marriage as a sham. Some days I have barely made it out of bed. Vix, take your youth and run. You will find someone who cherishes you for the loyal, loveable person you are. Don’t be plan B, C, or D. You deserve to be plan A.

      • Divorce from x happened 3 days before 40 years. Don’t waste another moment of your precious life in bed depressed.
        These vampires suck your essence. Get free.
        Life is SO MUCH BETTER without them.

  • I got this sort of ‘excuse’ many many many many years (and children) later. My FW was never very physical, romantic, emotional (or intimate in any way) with me but I excused it away as his mental health problems and I wanted to be a good supportive partner. I shouldn’t be pressuring the poor thing about my silly needs given how hard his life was. Early on in our dating, we were in a long distance relationship and were also in relationships with other people. I was upfront and open with my partners. I assumed he was too but given what I know now… I was likely the other woman (I had no idea). Fast forward and we were finally together. A decade later after our first children were born, he started his first confirmed physical affair though that’s probably not accurate. Occasionally he’d make weird ‘jokes’ about me having a boyfriend which I told him I didn’t like and said that of course I did not have a boyfriend. Projection at its finest. Then it came out that he was in love with a family friend. I asked him over and over if he had, had affairs before as he was acting very shady about her even under the pretence of being open. Almost 2 years after that fiasco, he admitted to essentially a marriage full of affairs which he said I agreed to because I never said otherwise AND because he mentioned their names in conversation and I didn’t say anything meaning I was tacitly giving my consent. Of course, I should assume that every woman he talks about, he’s sleeping with… Pretty ridiculous.

    I was floored.

    In retrospect, I guess I should have stipulated when I moved in with him, when we exchanged vows etc… that I assumed that we were monogamous. When we were having children and I said how glad I was that I didn’t have to worry about HPV and other STIs, I should have been clear that that was because we weren’t sleeping with other people. When friends of ours were struggling with their own sexual boundaries and I made it clear that this wasn’t something that I wanted, that I meant that I didn’t want him engaging in relationships with others either. Even though an important omission like this is still a lie, I will take on blame for not straight up asking him if the reason he wasn’t interested in me was because he was getting his (sexual, emotional etc) tank filled elsewhere. Won’t make that mistake again.

    That said, his statements were clear and obvious gaslighting. As are hers given the story presented.

    • Didn’t your vows include to “forsake all others”? That’s got you covered.

      • Ironically we wrote our own vows about our relationship surviving various trials. However, we also said our vows in a different language and they were the traditional ones… Thanks for reminding me.

  • I’m sorry you were chumped. Now you know what she is: a liar and abuser. Nothing to work with. Go no contact and you’ll feel better soon and thank your lucky stars you got away from her.

  • “it’s a huge stretch to make it seem like losing my temper on the phone is the same as lying for an entire relationship, right?”

    She doesn’t even believe that it is the same. That’s just some amateurish DARVO.

    “It’s a really bad idea to take her up on that offer, isn’t it? ”

    You know the answer to that.

  • Genuine honesty is a must in all relationships. Setting weird parameters to a relationship is manipulation.

    Move on. This is crazy.

  • Tracy said, “Stop touching the stove.” That comment really hits home for me today, because I accidentally touched the lid to the gas grill last night and I have a minor burn on my finger today. When I touched it, I immediately jerked my hand away and run to get it cooled off. I don’t know why people (me included) keep going back to the source of pain in our relationships. When we know that the person (or object) is actually dangerous to our health–mental or physical–it’s time to stop.

    Vixenière, it’s time to stop. Walk away and don’t look back. Be grateful you don’t have years and years of your precious life spent in this relationship. She did not make you a better person. She risked your physical health. You deserve better.

    • “I don’t know why people (me included) keep going back to the source of pain in our relationships.”

      Took a lot of pain for me to believe what my denial protected me from which is that there are people who do not operate like human beings.
      Somethings wrong with them they’re disordered; soulless; something.
      Very good at lying. And using my humanity to keep me on the hook.

    • “I don’t know why people (me included) keep going back to the source of pain in our relationships.”

      The belief that if we just try hard enough, we can fix it.

      Also I think some of us had this sort of relationship in our FOO, and if we can re-create it in the present, *this* time we’ll resolve it. It took me a long time to realise you can’t fix shitty people.

  • Hugs vix, your Sexual orientation is irrelevant to an authentic healthy relationship. Run!

  • Chump lady’s answer to your situation was the perfect advice.
    This person wants to fit you into her pre- prescribed narrative of who you are suppose to be in her solar system while revolving without complaint around her planet of entitlement.
    She will tell you how high she prefers you jump and you will learn to wait for that command with an intense grip on the outcome. She does not care how your life turns out.
    She is attempting to toss you the teeniest tiniest of bread crumbs. ( hang in there, I may even say a kind word to you by the holidays if you’ve earned it!)
    You are being strung along with the ‘false hope of a better tomorrow’ with her that is never coming, it doesn’t even exist.
    She is a bad investment in your valuable life, don’t give her another nickel of your time, energy or love.
    “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” That’s what you need to focus on. Your body struggling from the betrayal with nausea, panic attacks and nightmares are all the proof you need to realize it is definitely not.
    Your mind is caught in the fog of believing what you have is worth saving , but “ the body keeps the score”, as Bessel van der Kolk so astutely observes for us in his book. Our bodies will always know the truth and yours certainly is trying to help you.
    When you have to bargain for basic kindnesses you should already be receiving from someone who claims to love you, it’s not a solid starting point and the foundation will continue to erode from there.
    You will see it all better when you go no contact with this person. ( which is critical to healing)
    She will never see your needs as valid or more important than her own.
    She is not looking to add to your life,as you are to hers, but prefers complete control of you and will continue to take and take until you’ve forgotten who you even are.( I know first hand this to be true.)
    Then she will shockingly be able to convince you it was somehow all your fault and your ‘lack of’ something is the reason it happened in the first place.
    You will struggle to understand such bizarre manipulations and look to improve yourself as she skips happily off to destroy some more lives along her path.
    It is not you!! It is abuse.
    She will go through the world continuing to destroy lives to the benefit of her own significance, the only one that really matters after all.
    That’s not the energy you are looking to be around, no one is.
    I’m sorry you got hurt, glad you are getting out soon enough to heal.
    Good for you, not wanting to accept abuse!

  • Vix,Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sure, you did something shortly after discovering that you had been betrayed that you regret now but it is okay. I am sure most of us harbor something like that. I know I do. Once I had it used against me, I went strictly no contact with FW. He has no opportunity to hang something on me. My side of the street is like Velvet Hammer’s – nice and clean. FW side of the road, well, let’s just say there is litter everywhere and it is a shambles. Thankfully, I have so much that is being used against him that the settlement is very nice.
    Vix, be happy she showed herself before you spent years in the relationship. You have the best chance to get out and stay out. Her breadcrumbs are not worth your time and effort. There will be someone else who will respect, value and love you. Find that person or let them find you. Of course it hurts, you were invested in a relationship and she was not. It is good that you know now. Stay No Contact, heal and know that there are better days ahead.

  • You made a cheater – a cheater who said YOU weren’t trustworthy – cry, Vix. YES!!! Chump Nation is cheering for you for that one.

  • I’m married to a wonderful woman now. But I was cheated on in the past and the woman who did that actually tried to use the fact that I had been in a polyamorous arrangement in the past as a reason why I shouldn’t care.
    I do know more polyamorous people than most having lived in the SF Bay Area and as Chump Lady says, there are always agreements. I knew a woman who got mad when a guy she liked who was in a polyamorous marriage turned her down for sex because he and his wife were taking no risks during the wife’s pregnancy. The upset woman was not held in high esteem in that social circle, but there are plenty of jerks out there who I’m sure told her she was in the right.
    You stay NO CONTACT with this ex and work on yourself.

  • “she offered a “solution”: a genuine open relationship”
    Which begs the question, why didn’t she, self-professed Poly, offer that right from the start? Answer: Cake. She got your exclusive attention and committment while sneaking around. Her friends helped.

    In my opinion, her friends wouldn’t know a genuine open relationship if it jumped up and bit them. In a genuine open relationship, she would have been very clear with both you and her FWB’s, to make sure that everyone was clear on the new rules, rules that you as her primary partner would have helped to lay down. And her FWB’s would have talked with you separately, and you with them, again to make sure everyone was on the same page about things like how people felt about other partners new or old, allocating time, degree of safe sex protection, etc etc. There’s a lot of negotiation with everyone involved that goes on in a real open relationship before anyone gets naked. It can be tedious and awkward at times, but it is necessary for the sake of honesty and respect Obviously she didn’t do any of it. All those people in the dark around her, and her the only one knowing what was going on? NOT Poly!

    “they all claimed to not know how the relationship between us worked, I was effectively gaslit into thinking all of this was my fault for not being clear enough.” If you had been in an open relationship with her, It would not primarily be your job to tell them, it should have been her job to state the new rules (if any) of her primary relationship to them, since they were her friends/lovers, not yours. And their job to reach out to you as the new partner, to make sure things were clear.

    let’s suppose that you had not been legalistically clear during the “let’s be exclusive” conversation; in that case, a real Poly person would have asked you to clarify. It would have been important to a real Poly person to understand what you wanted exactly and to work out ground rules clear and acceptable to both people. Your ex instead benefitted from the ambiguity to get a level of intimacy and attention from you that you might not have given if you knew it was not an exclusive relationship. Not good. It takes moral courage and grit and empathy in order to be a good Poly partner, just like it does to be a good monogamous partner–she does not have sufficient of these qualities.

    I’d say throw that fish back, no contact. Monogamous mermaid is out there waiting for you!

    • I’m not sure how the “ettiquete” around this stuff works, to be honest. It did baffle me that NONE of them considered talking to me to make sure I was aware and okay with the arrangement, or even clear it up with her (or her with them for that matter). I admit contacting them was breaking boundaries, but they should also realize their mistake and understand (not necessarily apologize to me or forgive me) why it’s so awful.

      • >It did baffle me that NONE of them considered talking to me to make sure I was aware and okay with the arrangement

        Hon, you’re still operating on the assumption that this was an oversight, that they honestly forgot or thought it wouldn’t bother you, that they’re decent people who fucked up versus the lying cheating fucks they are.

        Of course you’re ruminating on it, because the betrayal hurts, and our minds try to make sense of chaos as if it’s a puzzle.

        But there’s really nothing to figure out here. Your ex and her partners knew and elected not to tell you on purpose, because they’re assholes.

        >I admit contacting them was breaking boundaries


        Oh, girl, I get madder the more I read here. This woman really had you gaslit and headfucked nine ways to Sunday. I wonder how else she was messing with your head, even before the cheating, if you really feel that contacting her fuckbuddies was somehow a faux pas on YOUR part. If you want to talk about boundaries, what about YOURS when your ex cheated?? Or are HER boundaries the only ones that matter in her sick little world?

        Contacting affair partners to figure out the truth is the most normal response in the world, by the way, and it beats showing up at someone’s door with a shotgun. Your ex is just an entitled cheater, desperate to have her cake and eat it too.

        • Yeah, I know contacting the APs is a pretty normal reaction. How is it not a faux pas on my part, though? Like, they’re bad people, sure. But isn’t contacting these people wrong?

          • “But isn’t contacting these people wrong?”

            Absolutely not. But it *is* a waste of time and energy, it’s spitting in the wind. Listen to what Cam and Poly are telling you. Wise and true.

      • You did nothing wrong. Really – nothing. They were all gas-lighting you. I live in a city and within a social circle that is highly polyamorous but it is problematic as many of them see abuse and cheating and betrayal as “trying out polyamory”. Good people make agreements and stick to them. Good people care about their partner’s feeling PERIOD – there are too many selfish losers. You know what to do. You said it all in your letter. You’re just seeing if there is a little wiggle room to avoid the pain wall. I had to get a therapist to walk me through and hold my hand through no contact. But once I did it I could breath again and my mind stopped spinning. First week was awful. 2 weeks – I’m like I can do this. one month was a whole new life. It was still hard but I could see a way out.

  • My lying cheating drug addict ex said this same exact thing when I found her pot smoking device, when her 16 year old daughter found her pot stash in a cabinet, when I found a different phone number on her mobile account; in fact every single time someone confronted her after we caught her she said this same exact thing: “…she doesn’t trust…” whoever caught her. Sorry you are going through this situation but you have nothing to work with no matter how hard you try. These people thrive on false equivalencies that actually get twisted to sound right – until you try to figure out that what they did is not even close to the same as what you did…

  • I saved this from somewhere a long time ago.

    Read with adjustments for your pronouns and the word you use for the kind of committed relationship you were in.

    “I don’t care if he’s married.  I don’t care about his wife—that’s her problem.”  The notion that you’re sleeping with another woman’s husband is her problem is a lie you’re telling yourself.  It’s your problem, too.  If you were healthy, you would never be hooking up with someone who’s married because you would know that he was NOT healthy.  When you sleep with a married man, you tell yourself that you’re not good enough to be someone’s number one.  In addition, if you don’t care about the impact you have on other people in the world, that makes YOU the cold, uncaring witch you think his wife
    is. Being hurtful to others has a way of coming back to haunt us.  The more integrity you have in this lifetime, the better you and those around you will feel.  Start caring about who you impact because ultimately that will impact you.“

  • Dear Vixenière,

    You wouldn’t know it from a lot of the mainstream corporate media spin that seems to be beatifying affairs and cheating (loud promotions of Esther Perel, Suleika Dawson’s sappy memoir of affair with spy-cum-novelist John Le Carre, etc., etc., etc.), but there’s scientific evidence that humans evolved to be mostly monogamous or at least to *expect* monogamy from a partner. Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham– who caused a stir with his first book, “Demonic Males: Apes and the Evolution of Human Violence” and got himself branded a radical feminist– compellingly argues that the development of speech in early humans first evolved from a driving territorial need to keep tabs on mates’ sexual activity through gossip which suggests humans– since the time we branched off from ape ancestors– have progressively evolved towards monogamy.

    That doesn’t mean that all are equally wired for monogamy– vive la difference– but does suggests it may be the overall species’ norm. It may be the norm even without religious or authoritarian prohibitions or levels of individual political grooviness. Where sexual violence, inequality and injustice come into the picture is when some individuals or societies attempt to institute double standards in terms of monogamy. Traditionally the standard was more freedom for men and none for women. As some societies begin to at least give lip service to equality, the criminalization of and violent punishments for infidelity have faded while social objections to infidelity– again, at least in lip service– are more evenly applied. But those objections don’t go away with progress. A 2013 Gallup poll which was repeated more recently found that of 19 top controversies in the US, adultery was consistently viewed as the least acceptable even as the same people polled were reporting more acceptance of gay relationships and even abortion than in past polls. If something were merely a moral construct and not a hard wired human tendency, then acceptance of it would wax and wane in keeping with other constructs (such as prohibition of gay marriage).

    This isn’t to argue that all “norms” have to be enforced but just to say that even those who opt for forms of ethical non-monogamy would likely be lying if they said it took no effort to combat their own territorial instincts if they form an intimate attachment. Maybe some don’t have any territorial instincts but I imagine that’s pretty rare or might be a red flag for severe attachment disorder. As CL reminds us, that’s why there are rules even within ethical open relationships and why there can still be “cheating” within those dynamics. It’s not an easy thing to pull off and would require a lot of discipline and constant, careful communication. But of the people who expect or would prefer monogamy from a partner, some apply the golden rule and act in kind while others deceive, trick and coerce in order to exact double standards, meaning they demand sexual freedom for themselves while engineering it so that partners have less or none. That way the double-standard-bearers don’t have to bother being disciplined about their own territorial instincts in the spirit of fairness.

    To me, the latter is the definition of intimate partner abuse. As a former advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I developed a theory that enforced sexual double standards define battering in a nutshell, that it’s the central MO behind domestic violence. It’s protracted rape in which a perpetrator systematically robs a victim of sexual consent and agency while demanding total freedom for themselves. It may start incrementally with the abuser, say, expecting the victim to pick up the abuser’s dirty laundry or other “shit tests” but this is all training and frog-boiling in service of the main MO. For one I never met a survivor who’s batterer didn’t also cheat. Most survivors don’t talk about it because of the tendency of negative bystanders to willfully mistake this as evidence the victim had a “jealousy motive” to fabricate stories of abuse. So it’s grossly under-documented but the view that cheating is one of the weapons in the typical battering arsenal is becoming progressively more common in DV research and advocacy (

    Personally I think the game your STBX played by first wounding you through gaslighting and deception and only THEN “offering” you the supposed freedom to act sexually outside the relationship is a typical tactic in covert abuse. If someone wants to maintain the image of a groovy social justice type, they’re unlikely to come right out and demand double standards: “Here’s the deal, bitch. I fuck randos and you stay in your damned box and don’t even think about straying.” That wouldn’t look so groovy. In fact, that looks downright patriarchal and retrograde.

    Within feminism there are discussions of women or minorities who “internalize” the value system of the dominant paradigm but very often this internalization of patriarchal standards would be called out within minority circles. So one way to get around this is for abusers who like to maintain groovy public and self images to play dumb about or “forget” agreements regarding equitable relationships. That’s why it irks me that others in your social context are encouraging you to berate yourself for not being “clear” enough about your boundaries. If you’re talking to a reasonable and fair person, you would only need to set a boundary like this once to have it understood. Why would someone have to repeatedly say to a partner, “Don’t call me names/raise your voice to me in rage/stomp on my toes, dump your dirty laundry on the floor” unless the partner was prone to do all of the latter?

    Maybe if something were not a common norm– like asking a partner to do back flips dressed as a zebra– you might have to explain and repeat yourself a bit more as you make the request. But the point of illustrating how monogamy may be a social norm is by way of saying that for common sense issues, it should not be necessary to repeat and explain and clarify until your throat goes dry. Because we live in such a victim-blaming society, many survivors fall into the “JADE” trap of thinking they have to “justify, argue, debate and explain” basic human decency to others as if these things are so hard to grasp. Nope. You should only have to say some things once and calmly to have them heard. If someone didn’t openly object, it means they agreed to the terms. Pretending they didn’t understand later is gaslighting. Gaslighting is abuse. One stage darker is the common “DARVO” tactic of pretending the victim did something terrible to “make” the abuser break the agreement, but selective hearing and playing dumb are still categorical gaslighting. I remember one common slogan on Reddit’s Female Dating Strategy was that “It’s not that s/he doesn’t understand, it’s that s/he doesn’t care.”

    In short, I think the unstated agenda of this FW was to injure you so that this abusive partner could enjoy sexual freedom while remaining confident you would not. And she wasn’t just leaving it to chance and entirely trusting that you’re just not wired to play around. She hedged her bets by damaging your self esteem to keep you in your box. By gaslighting someone, you hobble their ability to “move on” to form other attachments, thus assuring that the victim is less likely to avail themselves of other romantic options while the abuser can continue to “explore.” Most battering victims describe coercive control– the emotional manipulation, abuse and coercion typically involved in DV– to be the most paralyzing aspects of domestic abuse. Cheating checks many of the boxes of “coercive control.” It’s pretty universally devastating. Some abusers become MORE sexually active with randos while in committed relationships than they were when single which suggests that betrayal is the abuser’s way of “diluting” their uncomfortable dependency on a primary partner which in turn smacks of super fucked up attachment disorder (which, btw, all batterers “suffer” from).

    Personally I also think the current corporate media campaign to normalize cheating is really just covert backlash against #MeToo and the lesser publicized movement to add coercive control laws to domestic violence statutes. ( It wouldn’t be the first time the media has done this– sought to undermine progressive advancements that either threatened the corporate bottom line or threatened the values and personal agendas of the types of people who tend to run global corporations. If you haven’t already, read Susan Faludi’s “Backlash” for past examples of this. Faludi’s documentation is stellar.

    Back in the 1980s the backlash seemed to mostly involve media campaigns convincing women that if they didn’t marry and breed in their twenties, their ovaries would dry up and they had more chance of being hit in a terrorist strike than of marrying beyond age thirty. This was because baby and housewares producers were angered at losing money as women deferred marriage and having children in favor of getting advance degrees or working on careers. But today the stakes have changed as survivor narratives of rape, DV and workplace harassment are– in never-before-seen ways– felling titans of society. This also puts media under the gun of at least feigning allegiance for victims. Like your STBX having to mask her double standards, I suspect that normalizing cheating could arguably be an oblique way to blur the lines of what constitutes consent in sexuality. Again, cheating, like battering, is primarily about robbing consent from an intimate partner. Blurring what constitutes consent– particularly if you can get groovy progressive groups to wave that banner– could conceivably undermine the movement of calling perpetrators to account. There was a recent study finding an association between “rape myth acceptance” and “infidelity tolerance.”

    In other words, eroding objections to the one can erode objections to the other. And because cheating is rarely “just cheating” and also typically involves progressive emotional abuse and control, I suspect the status quo or Batterers United or the League of Workplace Harassers or Guild of Those Who Internalize Patriarchal Values While Pretending to be Groovy Social Justice Warriors or whatever are concerned that coercive control laws may spread and, even if these don’t specifically outlaw cheating, those laws may outlaw the behaviors which most cheaters rely on to enforce double standards.

    At some point I’ll be able to make a better argument for the above but on a gut level I smell wag-the-dog media influence to erode concepts of consent and I think the younger generations are the main target of the spin. At the very least, it’s a huge distraction for other sex-related issues like the gender pay gap, the fact that 5-15% of college students– mostly women– have to engage in prostitution to pay college fees and debt and the increase in sex trafficking in the age of streaming porn just for a few examples of more pressing concerns than whether Americans slut shame cheaters.

  • I’m really happy you posted this chumplady. I have been in the monogamous world. I have been in the poly world- and by that I mean the honest and a lot of hard work kitchen table poly where I talked with partners other partners and we discussed boundaries, guidelines, and how to throw a flag. It can be great. It is also hard. It is definitely NOT skulking around not talking about who you are still sleeping with to the person who thinks you are their only partner. It’s not accidental or just a missed queue. That’s a whole fucking pile of her life she has HIDDEN ON PURPOSE. My friends in the poly world post pics of their partners and themselves on holiday. They post pictures of their wives and their girlfriends who planned a party together for their birthday. They don’t tell their wife that they have to work late and go out with Suzy from tinder.

    Cheaters give a bad name to poly. They think it’s the same but it’s not. They can’t tell the difference because they don’t understand ‘genuine’ and ‘real’. They think they want poly because they don’t understand it, just like they want their partner to be monogamous- because they keep centrality. It’s just more counterfeit money to them. To them a 3 dollar bill would be completely legit, because they don’t know what real is. You can’t pass fake currency past someone who knows what they are looking for. They will see the $3 and know it’s hokum. Similarly, the cheater- they try to swing it. “Oh it’s something legit” and it gives people who actually understand poly and work to build compersion (feeling joy from someone you love finding more love) within their partnerships a bad name, and that’s fucking bogus.

    Run like your hair is on fire, there is a good woman out there waiting to love you properly.

  • This was just mentioned at the zoom meeting I was in (AA) and I share it here because FORGIVENESS is a topic that gets kicked around after DDay, with lectures from others about it and definitions shoved down our throats.

    Forgiveness means I forgo getting even with you. That’s my understanding of it and I’m sticking to it. In that regard, yes I have forgiven.

    Or my bank analogy….if a bank forgives a loan, they don’t pursue collecting the money from you. And they end their relationship with you.

    Just this afternoon I got a text from a long-term acquaintance telling me I “need to get to neutral” and advising me to forgive (I guess according to her definition.) I said the forgiveness is that I did not harm them after what they did.

    Just because you still have strong feelings and pain around what happened doesn’t mean you aren’t processing what happened.

    My ears go waaaaaay back when I feel others imposing their recovery time line on me. 🤬

  • I know that one thing keeping me trapped with the EX was my competitiveness. I didn’t want him to win. I didn’t want him to be able to force me to sell the home, to move, to lose friends, and so on. I wanted him to instead learn his lesson and be sorry for what he did and admit he was wrong. This may be part of what you are experiencing, even if you don’t realize it. And it really sucks that a cheater can destroy your relationship and then just walk off into the sunset with half your stuff and many of your friends. But I think time is on your side. My ex is now broke, drives an Uber (even though he has a college degree, but he refuses to work a job where he has a boss and set hours), and spends all his time and money in casinos. When I checked his Facebook recently, I noticed that the only people liking his posts are his mom and his sister. In the meantime, I now have a good career, a nice little home, paid bills, lots of friends, and my adult kids call me almost every day. I don’t feel like I lost. I got away from the giant vacuum hose that was him sucking all the joy, resources, and time out of my life. That’s winning.

  • I know it’s hard to give up a relationship when your mindset was that you were in it and it’s a thing that you’re supposed to fight to preserve, but in this case it turns out that you weren’t in it, or at least you weren’t in the relationship that you thought you were in, and there’s nothing here to save. Cut bait and let this one go.

    I’m not poly but I have friends who are and, yes, seeing other people without making it very clear between you and all partners involved that a) this is going on and b) we’re all OK with it, is still cheating. The rules of consent still apply, and they have to be agreed on by everyone involved.

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