I stumbled across your blog while searching for resources on polyamory and STDs. Another question that someone asked was like what happened to me and encouraged me to talk to someone.
My wife and I have been together for a little over five years and just about two months ago we decided to pursue Polyamory. It came as a surprise when she first brought it up and I was scared that she was wanting to leave me. After much talking over it, I felt/feel much better about our relationship and know that she cares about me and loves me deeply. We came to an agreement and laid out some ground rules. I am also interested in pursuing polyamory so we decided to give it a shot.
One of the rules we laid out was we agreed to not engage in sexual relationships with other partners unless we talked about it and made sure everyone was okay with it.
However about one to two weeks ago she started going on dates with this other person (a male) and ended up having sex with him (unexpectedly and surprisingly soon). She did not talk to me about it until a couple days later. It also turned out that he has had herpes for five years.
I’m feeling hurt and we have lost some trust. We have talked about it extensively but haven’t come to any sort of conclusion about it. At the moment I (really, both of us) don’t know where to turn or who to talk to. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
“We have lost some trust.” Really? Or is it that at this point, you are not feeling so trusting of your wife? And for goodness sake, if someone doesn’t do what they say they are going to do, yeah, trust is eroded to a greater or lesser degree.
I think the first thing to do is go ahead and get an STD screening, and make sure that you mention you specifically would like to test for herpes. Take care of that because it’s information you both need no matter what else happens.
The basic way to build trust is actually insanely simple. But keep in mind that simple and easy are not the same thing, okay. Not only that, but I also don’t think endless attempt to rebuild trust has any point. I think giving a person three chances to change behavior after a major problem is often plenty. But, don’t invoke a three strike and we’re done scenario unless you are quite prepared to follow through.
The person who has broken trust will need to:
- Be careful to do what s/he says s/he will do.
- Be careful not to rules lawyer.
- Never agree to or even imply agreement with something s/he does not fully intend to do. This does mean that sometimes the person will have to say “No” to things the other party might want. If you have a habit of agreeing to things you don’t want, and then going and doing what you want to do, no, you can’t be trusted. Let your yes and no be honest and meaningful. It’s a risk, I know. But take it. It’ll improve your relationships an order of magnitude.
Make sure that communication is clear. This may mean getting the person with whom agreements are made to repeat the agreement back in paraphrase to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The person who has had trust broken will need to:
- Accept the person’s word.
- If there seems to be a discrepancy between word and action, be sure to ask for clarification rather than accuse the person of breaking the agreement. If your partner has committed to eschewing rules lawyering, then you owe them a willingness to listen to explainations.
- Presume benevolence. Yes, I know this is a risk. It could be the partner is not all that damn benevolent. Repeated weaseling on the trust building exercises might mean a lack of benevolence, and it’s possible you’ll need to invoke that three strike scenario. But start with benevolence even so. The theory is you guys love each other, right?
- DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO. All the stuff the partner who broke trust needs to do? It ain’t all on that person, cupcake. You need to do the same things!
Notice that both parties need to take some risks. But you’re smart people, right? You’ve taken risks before, so you can handle this even if it can be tough to change habits.
So go for it, and let me know how it worked out. I’m hoping to hear that y’all worked things out and have developed an awesome relationship.