A Reader Asks:
My boyfriend told me that he was polyamorous two years ago, and I really liked him and I also liked the idea. I was the first to ask him if I could see another person, but he said that he didn’t feel comfortable about it and I understood. But then he had sex with one of our friends and told me after it happened. He actually asked me if we could include her in our relationship the day after they had sex and I was excited because I like her a lot and still do, but I asked him if they could not have sex just yet. I wanted to get to know her better. But then it came out that they had already done this. My question is:
What should I do to make sure he is being honest with me?
Do you have any reason to believe he’d lied to you? From what you’ve said, honesty isn’t a problem here. Not only that, volunteering information isn’t the problem, either. You report that he told you when he had sex with someone. That’s honest in my book.
If you’re not familiar with the Simple Guide to Relationships, I’m going to strongly encourage you to take a look at it. A lot of it revolves around two things – being honest yourself, and believing your partner. Taking one’s partner at his or her word is a great way to train them to be straight with you, if that’s a problem. It doesn’t seem to be in your case. Going around trying to hunt down lies in a relationship is treating your partner as an adversary, and I think that’s an unproductive way to approach relationships. The theory is you love each other, yes?
I do want to address something, though. He seems to be okay with having other relationships, but is not okay with you doing it. Are you okay with that? If so, everything’s all good. But think about that one. The One Penis Policy of Polyamory has never really struck me as equitable or particularly respectful of women. I’ve always twitched at any relationship where only one partner had to face insecurities or do any self-exploration. Polyamorous relationships often have lots of people, and all of ‘em need to be pulling their own weight on that score, in my very strong opinion.
 Don’t worry. It’s not too long, and it’s a good read.
13 thoughts on “Ask the Misanthrope: Polyamorous Lie Detector?”
I don’t know. It seems like he told her about sleeping with their mutual friend AFTER he already had. And asking to include the mutual friend in their relationship the *day after* they had sex would have me feeling that emotional connection AND sex were waaay far along without me being in the loop about how that relationship was progressing. To me, besides not being willing to sign up for a One Penis Policy, his behavior would scream red flags about proactive honesty. I might not be digging for lies, but in the little bit that is shared, I would be needing to see if he is willing to be more honest in advance about how his connections were developing, and I’d *really* need to clarify about whether he’s aiming for a One Penis Policy.
Yes, he did mention sleeping with the friend after having done so. That’s hardly dishonest, unless there had been a prior agreement to do otherwise. Even so, he did volunteer the information. The question was about honesty, rather than about any agreements they may or may not have had.
“But then _it came out_ that they had already done this (had sex)” doesn’t sound like to me that he happily volunteered. It sounds like honesty at the last minute or even a bit of lying by omission that he got caught in.
I know I’m picking at words here but it really read to me that he was not treating her the way she was treating him or even the way he would like to be treated regarding forthrightness.
I am a full subscriber to ‘You partner is not your enemy, they are your ally.” I have literally had it posted on my fridge. 😀 But it doesn’t seem to me that she is digging for lies or trying to trap him in a lie, it seems that he is dancing a with being a liar but doing the bare minimum to not be called an out and out liar. Honest and forthcoming. They have to go hand in hand for me.
I just reread again and there is a total double standard here:
I asked him (about having another relationship)
He said no, I don’t feel comphy
I told him I’d prefer if he didn’t have sex with his new relationship yet
He said he already had.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an OPP. I would love to hear his accounting of the story too. Maybe it’s totally different. 😀
Commented in LJ, and then saw there’s already a similar discussion going on over here, so I’m going to C&P my comment:
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Hmmmm. I’m going to disagree with you on this one.
The advice that you gave in the last two paragraphs is spot-on — however, I’m concerned at some of the phrasing in the OP’s letter and how you’ve interpreted it. (If the letter was longer and has been edited, you may have more info than I do.)
To me, if someone says “I want to have a poly relationship, but *I’M NOT READY YET*,” they have an affirmative obligation to speak up when they feel like they ARE ready, BEFORE they engage in sexual contact with someone outside the relationship.
When the OP asked her boyfriend (before acting on the desire!) whether she could see someone else, he said that he wasn’t comfortable about it.
When the BOYFRIEND wanted to have sex with someone else, he just went ahead and did it, with no prior consultation. I’d have a problem with that even if he’d called the OP five minutes later.
The part that concerns me even more, though, is that it sounds like you’re saying he’s being honest and volunteering information . . . but the way the OP phrases it, the story sounds like he had sex with the friend, THEN asked about “including her in the relationship” (and this is phrased like he was asking *permission*), the OP said “Absolutely, but could you please hold off on sex until I’ve had a chance to get to know her,” and THEN it “came out” that the deed had already been done.
That sounds more like a reluctant admission than “volunteering information” — he didn’t come straight to the OP and say “I had sex with [Friend],” he asked *IF* [Friend] could be “included in the relationship,” but it sounds like the only answer he’d be willing to hear was “Yes, and I’m totally retroactively cool with you having slept with her before we’d talked about it.”
I totally understand that not everyone has prior-notification boundaries in their relationships . . . but I do think it’s a bit skeevy that Boyfriend said that he was uncomfortable with Girlfriend having another partner, but when *he* felt like it, he just dived right on in, with the philosophy that it’s better to apologize than ask permission.
In my book, that qualifies as neither honesty nor volunteering information.
It could be bad communication vs. intentional dishonesty, I’m not saying that the guy *deliberately* kiboshed his girlfriend’s potential other partner and then *deliberately* failed to inform her that he’d had sex with someone else until the “I’d rather you not have sex with her just yet” part of the conversation came up . . . but I wouldn’t applaud the guy just yet as someone who is unlikely to lie or deliberately omit information in order to get his way.
Love to hear more of your thoughts on this . . .
— A <3
Oh, I think the guy is skeevy as hell, and manipulative to boot, don’t get me wrong.
I was trying to put the cabosh on the idea that there is any way at all to make this fellow behave differently than he is. I am not applauding him. I just don’t think he LIED.
I think this dude is pretty sketch, frankly, but I also think that the issue isn’t just whether or not he’s lying. I’m seeing a HUGE issue here, and that is that the OP is new to poly and hasn’t figured out her boundaries yet.
OP, figure out your boundaries. Figure out what is and isn’t okay WITH YOU within the bounds of your relationship. Include stuff like communicating about potential partners, how you want to handle STD testing and screening of said partners, safer sex practices when you or your partner are with other people, etc. How you want to handle social situations with more than one partner. Set down how you want to be told about stuff, what things you need to know vs. what stuff you don’t, and negotiate for that. Talk about that stuff, it really matters!
Then, negotiate for those things, clearly. Know that it’s a NEGOTIATION. You don’t get to just throw down blanket rules, or dictate terms, because it’s a give and take. But by the same token, know your dealbreakers – those things that have NO room for compromise (for me dealbreakers include knowing someone is on the table before they’re ON the table, as it were, also certain safer sex practices and STD testing of new partners before they are on the table), and know what you are willing to wriggle on. And remember what Dr. Phil says (I actually do not care much for Dr. Phil but this actually is really smart) which is that things change, people change, and it’s important to be able to talk about and renegotiate or at least revisit your agreements as your relationship evolves, and make sure they’re still what you want.
If you have no boundaries clearly established, no one knows they’re breaking them until it’s too late. And you really can’t go in after the fact and say, “You broke that boundary.” if you never set it clearly in the first place.
This is way less about honesty than it is for respect. It is disrespectful to have sex with an outside partner without bringing it up with your primary partner, first. Yes, sometimes the passion overwhelms, but it has the potential to be a setup for dishonesty, hurt and unfair behavior. I personally hate when I hear this story, whether the offended partner cares orbit. It’s gross.
@Melody I think whether or not it’s respectful depends on your relationship agreements. My partner and I agree that if we know or suspect ahead of time that there is going to be sex with another person, we’d like to know about it then; but if it’s spontaneous, we’d like to know about it as soon afterward as possible.
What works for you may be different, but this is what works for us.
I do not think that the boyfriend honestly had no idea that the letter-writer expected discussion beforehand. His behavior shows that he knew very well, but it’s to his benefit to pretend he didn’t.
@allburningup I’ve found one of the nastiest things you can do to someone who habitually lies and chooses to be evasive about their behavior is to take them exactly at their word. It’ll either cure ’em of it, or they go away.
So, mostly a win-win. You really, really don’t have to spend time ferreting out lies in relationships. Acting on what they say gets ’em in the end if they aren’t forthcoming.
He lied obviously by not telling you until after having sex with your friend, unless you had a prior arrangement that it was ok for him to do so without consulting you first. He just another man with a double standard if he will not allow you to do the same, he is not polyamorous unless it benefits him only. Utlimately there is no way to know if someone will continue to lie to you, but I would assume that he will.
Polyamorous – way to dodge commitment and deny once’s promiscuity and assholeness aka whore; can be female or male.
Sounds like you’ve been hurt. I’m really sorry about that, as it sucks.
It is my strong opinion that individual character has a great deal more to do with how one treats one’s relationships than the brand name we may or may not put on them.