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Open Sex, Closed Conversations

Hi Yana,

I’ve been in an on-again/off-again, oftentimes long-distance, relationship with my for-now ex-boyfriend for six years. Right now we have a “when we’re together, we’re together” arrangement and we’ve defined our relationship as open in the past.

Well, things are shifting again and we’re thinking about moving toward being more seriously together, but still long-distance and open. If we decide to get back together, I’d like one of my boundaries for our open arrangement to be that he not sleep with anyone that I know personally. But now I’m not sure if I want to know if he has slept with anyone I know during any of our in-between times.

On the one hand, I feel like I might make myself crazy if I don’t ask and am left wondering. On the other, I once accidentally found out that he did sleep with a friend of mine during a time when we were broken up that also made me feel really bad. What would you do?

— Friends with Benefits

You’ve combined some of the most challenging relationship dynamics: long-distance, open, long-term AND on-again/off-again!? Damn. Something tells me you might be a glutton for punishment, but that’s 50 shades of a different column for another week.

There’s a common Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell “policy” generally popular with folks new to non-monogamy. DADT tells partners “Do what and who you will, but I don’t want to know anything about it.” Though I get the appeal of DADT for non-monogamy newbies, it does little to shield folks from tough feelings. Instead, it sets people up to deny jealousy rather than learn from it, it closes partners off from each other rather than holding open space for others, and these arrangements typically end with everyone in worse shape than if they Did Ask and Did Tell.

Me? I would want to know. When Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the all-powerful wizard in the Wizard of Oz, she found he was just a nice, lil’ shrimp of a man. Meaning, our minds can play some terrible tricks when we’re feeling emotionally raw, downright jealous, and awfully creative; a fleeting thought that he may have slept with a mutual friend can magically become a convincing story about him randomly meeting Jennifer Lawrence at a cool underground party in NYC and having the best sex of his life with her in some glamorous penthouse because JLaw is basically someone you know right because you just loved her in Silver Linings Playbook and now your ex is going to be famous and you will be nothing. Nothing!

In reality, the people your dude has slept with are all real people — with qualities both wonderful and flawed, sex moves both explosive and meh, and their own set of insecurities and relationship baggage. But, if you never peek behind the curtain, you’ll never know this for sure…continue reading…

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Help! Poly & Jealous!

Dear Yana,

My girlfriend and I have been polyamorous for three years. We have established boundaries and as far as poly relationships go, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Usually I’m a very low-jealousy partner.

But lately she’s been flirting with this one woman that I think she wants to date and it feels like all of my normal jealousy strategies have evaporated. I can’t stand how it makes me feel and lately we’ve been arguing a lot about this other woman.

Can I ask her to stop seeing her if it’s this toxic to our relationship? Why am I so jealous all of a sudden? How can I squash it?

— Green-Eyed Girl

Dear Green Eyes,

One of the reasons jealousy is known as the green-eyed monster rather than the green-eyed bug is because sometimes it’s just not that easy to squash. More importantly, in many fables about monsters and the heroic, everyday people that conquer them, these heroic people emerge victorious not because they simply squashed the little jerk and moved on with their afternoon, but because they used some combination of life-lessons, insight and witty strategy to overcome their sizable enemies. This is what you need to do with this jealousy.

First: Learning moment! Polyamory, poly for short, is the practice of dating/sleeping with more than one person simultaneously with the consent of all parties involved — so, no, not the same as cheating.

First, no one is immune to jealousy — regardless of what type of relationship you’re in. Not even the best of the best of practicing poly folk can claim to never feel a twinge of envy every now and then. One of the first layers to shed before tackling this jealousy, though, is the shame that often comes with it. You’re not “bad at poly” because you feel jealous. Jealousy happens. It’s the actions you take in the name of jealousy that tip the scales in negative directions.

Which brings us to … No, no you cannot ask your partner to stop seeing this person because you cannot tolerate or handle your own jealous feelings. Controlling another person’s actions with your emotions and/or in order to satisfy your own emotional needs is emotionally manipulative and/or emotionally abusive behavior.

If your relationship agreements with your partner have been violated in some way — ie. Do you have agreements about how new partners are introduced? Are they lying or withholding information from you? — then speak to your partner about that violation. The difference lies in the belief that you and your partner are free agents who can make their own choices and build their own relationships within the boundaries of what the two of you have mutually agreed upon.

So, what can you do?…continue reading…


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Halp! I’m Totes Jelly.

My ex-boyfriend of five years cheated on me the whole time we were together. My low self-esteem let him convince me he still loved me despite the cheating. By the end we had opened our relationship to outside sexual partners, but it was mostly him going out to get sex.

Now I’m in a triad, with two amazing men who’ve been together nine years [we’ll name them Peanut butter and Wonderbread] and dote on me in all the best ways. Before I met Peanut butter and Wonderbread I used to see Wonderbread around town with another man who he was very grabby with. He says they’re just friends. We ran into Mr. Grabby last night and I panicked. I stormed off, told Wonderbread I didn’t believe that he and Mr. Grabby are “just friends” and a spat ensued between the three of us. My jealousy in these kind of situations is inappropriate. Advice?

Sounds like you’ve got yourself quite a green, briny pickle called Jealousy on the side of this otherwise scrumptious sandwich you’ve built with Peanut butter and Wonderbread. Explore what the green-eyed monster is telling you, Jelly, instead of cramming it into a jar where it’ll surely ferment into resentment. Continued…