I have a difficult problem and I am not sure how to go about dealing with it. I live in a quad arrangement with my husband and another couple but I do not have a sexual relationship with the other husband. We are basically roommates. I do have a sexual relationship with the other wife. I thought that a little background was needed but the problem is I hate the other husbands behavior with “our” wife. He does things that I find demeaning and disrespectful, such as groping her relentlessly if he decides he’s horny, even if I am in the room and the wife and I are having a discussion. This is after she has asked him to repeatedly stop. His other offensive behaviors are of the same type. If she doesn’t stop and pay attention to him when he wants it he pouts, gropes her or finds some other way of trying to get her attention.
This behavior is driving me crazy. My question is what do I do, if a person treated my daughter or husband this way I would not hesitate to tell them to “get the hell off of them”. In this situation I am not sure how to handle it. The Wife does not stick up for herself in any way she is so passive with men it hurts me. I would love any insight you have to offer.
I suppose the quick and easy thing to say is that you’re not responsible for protecting someone else’s boundaries. *grin* Feel free to click on “boundaries” in this site and point your wife in the direction of those posts. Good boundaries are really important to being happy in your life in general — poly or not.
It is natural to feel protective of the ones we love, certainly. The thing is, your wife is not a child under your protection, but a grown woman. If someone were treating your daughter this way, it would be one thing. It is your responsibility to protect your daughter from unwanted touching and to teach her how to do that for herself. Your husband is also an adult, and therefore responsible for his own boundaries.
This is not to say you cannot give backup to the people you love. My question would be, has your wife asked for it, or are you defending her without being asked? Learn from my bitter mistakes and don’t do that. Being protective without being asked might seem noble to you. It’s actually not very respectful because what you’re really saying is that the person isn’t a full, self-responsible adult. Grownups ask for the help they need.
This letter also brings up another point. How are boundaries respected in general in your household? Have the four of you discussed this and agreed upon what you consider acceptable behavior? Have you discussed what will happen if there is unacceptable behavior?
Assertive communication is a big help here. I strongly encourage you to check out the Boundaries article on this site, as well as checking out the links on assertive communication at the end of this article. Do remember that you cannot control the behavior of another person. You can ask for what you want. You can choose not to be around someone whose behavior is unacceptable to you, but you cannot make someone change behavior.
Assertive Communication Links:
- Assertive Communication at Mentalhelp.net — The thrust of this is more for anger management, but the ideas are still very sound.
- Assertive Communication Builds Relationships — I like this one, because it explains how to avoid weaseling and using “I statements” to beat someone over the head, which is passive-aggressive at its best/worst.
- Important issues with assertiveness and listening use in the real world — This site is a bit workplace oriented, but poly families, being larger, often play out similarly.