Savage Love



@104: I agree with your translation (I was considering doing a line-by-line version myself), but this letter is from NNP (Non Normative Problems), not JWTBM (Just Want to Be Monogamous).

I think it comes out the same in the wash: she wants more openness than he does -- may even prefer monogamy, though he is trying to see it her way -- and takes liberties even beyond what is supposedly agreed on. But he isn't JWTBM. Minor point.
LavaGirl: I interpret "my partner and I are conflicted over the level of openness in our relationship" to mean that they don't agree about the level of openness in their relationship. It appears that while husband would prefer a monogamous marriage, wife not only wants polyamory, but suggests that to want monogamy is retrograde and sex-negative or backwards. She feels she has moved beyond the tradition of the presumption of monogamy within marriage. She clearly wants husband to feel the same way, whether he has extra-marital partners as she does, or not. It further sounds like she's saying things like "I can love someone else and want someone else and have sex with someone else and still love you, still want you, still have sex with you," but husband doesn't believe it because every time she gets excited by someone new, she neglects husband and their marriage.

Additionally, it sounds as if they have made some attempts to set some limits, some boundaries on how open she is allowed to be and she simply ignores those boundaries and does whatever she pleases, falling back on the idea of being "post-mononormative" as justification. He feels as if he's in the right, but she isn't going to stop what she's doing. So now he wonders if he should match her (no doubt she's offered that to him as a consolation) in having an extra-marital relationship--even thought that's clearly not his preference.
@106: Ooops! My error. But it still fits, and I think that the husband does want monogamy.
@107: I also added a "t" to "though" in the final sentence.

Moral: Proofread carefully!
@107: Further clarification/reflection: Even if the husband doesn't want to be or expect his wife to be or need his wife to be 100% monogamous, it sounds as if he's not okay with full-on polyamory. Maybe he's able to be ggg enough with the occasional couple-swap, or a threesome, or maybe he would be okay with the very occasional chance for her to have a one-off or FWB as long as certain parameters were set and followed.

But whatever degree of openness he's comfortable with, if any at all, she's exceeding it, even after they appear to have agreed on it, and then she's using language to justify her behavior and to try to cow him into letting her do whatever she wants under the umbrella of being post-mononormative.

And he's in misery.
nocutename @104, I agree that he's angry/miserable she won't stay within the "boundaries we've set." In my experience, that happens because one person was pressured or guilted into agreeing to boundaries they didn't sincerely want.

You see her pressuring him into letting her do whatever she wants; I see him pressuring her to live by his expectations.

These people just don't sound compatible. He can't make her be the spouse he wants, and she can't make him be the spouse she wants. It's sad when a marriage ends, but I don't see either as the bad guy.

further to my post @110: and if he's completely right and she's treating him terribly, it doesn't change the fact that they're incompatible.
My turn:

Dear Dan,

My partner and I are conflicted over the level of openness in our relationship.
She wants -- and takes -- more openness than I am comfortable with.

She describes herself as "post-mononormative."
She has me bamboozled with highly questionable poly theory and has me on the defensive as being unevolved.

I consider myself GGG.
I am trying to keep up with her sophistry, and her being happy does matter to me, but this is a serious stretch.

While I know that she wants me to be her life companion,
She isn't going to dump me because I'm one fucking dependable meal ticket,

she has expressed a need for novel experiences that may not include me.
but being so convenient and available, however, makes me kind of boring to her.

While I accept that there is no essential link between erotic love and long-term partnership,
While I am willing to believe that she is merely sport-fucking these assholes,

I reject the polyamorous notion that love is limitless
there are only twenty four hours in a day, after all,

when she has misinterpreted conversations and transgressed boundaries, it has always coincided with the neglect of our own relationship.
and when she is all excited about screwing her latest, she basically forgets about me, not to mention the promises she made that were supposed to keep me feeling safe and valued by her.

I have given up seeking the moral high ground
Calling her on her bullshit has no effect, she either gaslights me with more craptastic pseudo-poly theory, or agrees to whatever during the conversation and then goes ahead and does whatever the fuck she wants

and just want to find a solution.
so I am looking to either find some way to make this bearable, or I'm out of here, because this is bullshit.

Should I have polyamorous relationships of my own?
Should I find someone else to fuck, to get my self-esteem out of the shitter?

Or should I focus on cultivating shared erotic experiences with my partner?
Or is there anything I can do to get her more interested in me so she stops fucking ignoring me?

And do her transgressions mean that the boundaries we've set are not explicit
What am I doing or saying wrong that she thinks she can ignore what we just agreed on?

or generous enough?
or do I just need to give up and let her do whatever, and try harder to buy into her gaslighting?

Non-Normative Problems
Nope, Not Poly
Pressuring someone to stop being poly can just as easily be seen as "gaslighting" them: "Despite your philosophical pretensions, you're just a selfish narcissist who won't behave the way everyone agrees a wife should behave."

I think "gaslighting" should be reserved for the assholes who really do try to drive their partners insane by lying about facts:

WIKI: >> Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. >>
Ok. Thanks nocute for the clarification.
Avast06; and thank you for the male perspective( though didn't see anywhere in the letter that he's a meal ticket).
They are young, one assumes no children..
So really LW, stop trying to fit yourself into a space that is not you.
And stop trying to fit her into a space that is not her..
Incompatiblility in the sexual realm is a big big problem. As hard as it may be to break up-
And it is. No way round that pain. However, it does pass .
Then find a Woman who wants what you want sexually..

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@113: Agreed, except that isn't what is happening here. If he were trying to force her into monogamy, the negotiation would be very simple, the boundary would be absolutely clear, and the violation would be unmistakable.

You can quibble over how or when or how often or with whom one can fuck with impunity, but if it's simply whether it's allowed at all -- which is what monogamy means -- then no, that's not open to debate or claims of misunderstanding.

In any case, he's not doing that. They have set up supposed boundaries that supposedly keep him happy while still allowing her outside experiences. He isn't complaining of her fucking around, but of doing so while neglecting him. So that can't possibly be him trying to force her into monogamy.

She, meanwhile, casually transgresses beyond what they supposedly agreed to, which has to have a degree of him doubting his sanity. A) what _did_ we say that boundary was going to be, that she thinks it was something so completely different? And B) how is it that we _keep_ supposedly agreeing to things that are nowhere in evidence when the opportunity arises? And C) How is it she keeps telling me I should trust her, when she keeps proving she is untrustworthy?

Combine that with the fact that she is clearly plying him with accusations of just not being evolved enough and that monogamy is so old-fashioned; that too has to have him doubting himself severely. If he didn't doubt himself about the whole monogamy thing, he would be seeking the advice not of a sex advice columnist, but of a divorce lawyer.

So no, I don't think gaslighting is such a far-fetched term. She has him doubting himself severely by her sophistry and her casual ignoring of boundaries she supposedly agreed to and then claiming they meant something else.
JWTBM - There's a subtext to your letter that I want to explore ... are you one of those people who can't really have hot sex with the person you are making a home/family life with? Four months doesn't seem like a long time to go from hot sex D/s twice a week to tepid plain vanilla once. The only thing that changed really is that your relationship with this man went from being an outside affair to your primary relationship. It sounds like he is legitimately interested in spicing things up by bringing in a third ... while you are jealous (in my experience the more jealous partner is the one who really wants to cheat more), bored with your sex life, but apparently not that interested in keeping it hot. Is it likely if the relationship continues down the road YOU would prefer that you'll eventually be going on to those "married but looking" sites behind your new primary partner's back (again)?
@Avast.. You seem set on painting this young woman in a totally negative way.
That this guy appears ready to bend over backwards, sidewards and frontwards is a bit of a problem. He wants to hang onto this girl so desperately that he keeps jumping all over the place? Not very attractive. And convinced their relationship is somehow permanent, despite his wife obviously wanting more than she is having with him.

This young woman is playing with his mind and he doesn't seem to have much backbone..
I fail to see how his being gullible and easily manipulated makes her manipulations of him any less negative. You sound perilously close to claiming he deserves whatever she puts him through, for not having the backbone to resist.
No.. I'm just pointing out how I see both of them are caught in this dance.
If you set boundaries and one person keeps breaking them, and you stay- trying to find some new way to accommodate this person, it sounds like very desperate clinging, to me. And that's the game they play, With Each Other..
The young Man has written in - he wants to find a way out of the game
(and good on him, it sounds very neurotic and dishonest; ).. It does him a disservice to just point out all the ways in which his wife is fucking with his head.
Helping him see where perhaps he's involved, painful though it may be to see oneself as easily manipulated etc, is all we can really offer. He can only change his way of viewing and being in the situation..
useful post

I'm with EricaP - use of the phrase is an appropriate response to someone who has confused his preference for monogamy with a "moral high ground".

Still, I feel for the guy. It's got to be heartbreaking to hear that your wife isn't all in with you, but rather insists on hedging her investment.
This week in trivia: the term "gaslighting" comes from the film Gaslight, based on Patrick Hamilton's play Angel Street, in which a husband conducts a careful, methodical campaign to drive his wife insane. It stars Ingrid Bergman, sexy French actor Charles Boyer and a very young and gorgeous Angela Lansbury, and it is definitely worth seeing.
@chicago girl: the term "gaslighting" easily the most overused word in the Savage Love comments these days. Apparently, the world is filled with unscrupulous people engaged in systematic efforts to drive their partners crazy.
Communications styles

I'm with a few other people who feel that NNP (Damn! I have to keep myself from typing NNTP.) has a rather stilted communication style. It might be a simple case of him laying out his feelings and concerns to his wife in a manner similar to what we have read here. And she, interested in maintaining a loving relationship with her husband, but stuck on all the big words, just nods her head affirmatively. She lets all the big words slide by and figures that marital bliss continues on.

And now I'm going back to peruse some Usenet groups.
@123 chicago girl: I'm intrigued! I haven't seen Gaslight, but have heard that it really is a well made, brilliantly acted film.

This is trivial, just a bit off-topic, and sounding like news out of David Schmader's Last Days column but last Thursday, October 16th, nothing else happened other than the 13 year anniversary of my being free from an abusive marriage. To celebrate I went out last night for a pizza.

I'm thinking one more thing for NNP: Don't worry, be happy---and dump her.

Yikes! What is with the paragraph gaps? My computer?
Okay, Hunter78---where's your Ron Judd-like Week in Review wrap up?
[Update - While I was in the middle of booking a home repair visit that would presumably - as most of the possible problems have been eliminated, and there are only two left - have gotten me reconnected this very afternoon, the appointment was swiped from under me, and I am rescheduled to Wednesday morning]

My first hunch is that "post-mononormative" may just be an extremely optimistic reading that Mr Savage's mission in life to drag society kicking and screaming into the general expectation that the partnered are probably not exclusive has succeeded. Mine is, though, a very same-sexer perspective, having been highly influenced by the post-gays, whom I find quite disagreeable.

Question for Ms Cute - Do you agree with critics who cite Ms Austen's one venture into fat-shaming as her sole (or primary) fall from grace? I refer, of course, to *Persuasion* and Mrs Musgrove's "large, fat sighings" over her dead son for whom, when alive, nobody had cared much. The passage in question began a paragraph with some sentence along the line of a large bulky figure having as much right to be in deep distress as the most graceful set of limbs in the world, but mentioning that there are certain incongruous things which ridicule must seize.
@126: Watching Gaslight would be a curiously fitting way to celebrate ending an abusive relationship, actually. Congrats on 13 years of freedom.
Mr. Ven: I forgive Jane Austen quite a lot. The fact that she finds it funny to imagine larger people capable of truly tender emotion is less of an offense than some of her other 21st-C missteps, and thus escapes my panties getting bunched.
But to each her own.

I quite sympathize with you on the Internet front: mine has been all but non-existent for the past several days, and I’m hoping to have reliable access by Wednesday.
NNP's says he knows his wife wants him for a life partner. He doesn't say he wants her for his. If he does, well then sure, negotiate. But if this relationship has run its course, and from here it sounds like it has, DTMFA.
NNP writes exactly the way long-term victims of gaslighting talk.

Victims of abuse have a hard time standing up for themselves, and a hard time being forthright--because they're used to being punished for being forthright. NNP has a stilted communications style, just like abuse victims often do, since they're accustomed to being willfully misinterpreted. They're also accustomed to being made to look like the bad guy, particularly when they're male.

This does not make them deserve the abuse.

NNP: You don't deserve to be treated this way. She's made it clear she's not going to treat you better. Get out.

@EricaP: They agree on boundaries, she ignores them and tells him it's his fault. This happens repeatedly. What part of this sounds like him pressuring her?
Eudaemonic, she "agrees" to boundaries that she doesn't believe are reasonable because he pressures her to accept those boundaries. Happens all the time and leads to people overstepping those boundaries they didn't authentically want.
Some people withdraw into more formal language when they're uncomfortable. NNP sounds uncomfortable with the situation to me. He should leave if he's really unhappy, of course.

The same could be said of his wife, though. It's sad how poly women attract such criticism. The poly guys in conflicts were not similarly assumed to be crazy makers or pushy jerks.

"Post mononormative" doesn't sound much weirder than the vague "misinterpreted conversations and transgressed boundaries" to my ears.
@135: Why would that make him accept her framework for everything, and write the way abuse victims talk? And why would his letter not focus at all on getting her to treat him well?
If he were pressuring her into anything, wouldn't he ask something about how to get her to do what she wants, instead of just asking how he can better do what she wants, like he's been doing so far?

That interpretation just doesn't seem to fit anything in the letter.
He has been pressuring her, and the results have left him unhappy. He's beginning to realize he can't change her, which is a step along the way to recognizing they are incompatible.

Where do you see that he has been pressuring her? He asks if their boundaries need to be clearer or more generous.

It's pretty clear to me that avast and Eudaemonic have it right. He's been gaslit. He needs to DTMFA and learn to stick up for himself better.
I'd bet dollars to blow pops that JWTBM's letter was written by the husband, not the wife.
Let's compare NNP and PMN (post-mononormative chick) to that other couple: transman SNIP and SNIP'sBF…

NNP wants them to just swing together, while PMN insists on fucking on her own. NNP feels neglected, and establishes rules to try to feel better about PMN's outside sex. PMN breaks those rules and keeps on being PMN.

SNIP claims that they agreed to fuck around but not be poly. It's not really clear from the quote: "I made it clear that I am not interested in polyamory" whether or not the BF ever really agreed to not be poly. Now SNIP accuses his BF of breaking the rules, and they keep arguing over whether BF is "poly" with his girlfriend or not.

Rules about sex & relationships only work when both people really honestly want the rule. If one person feels like the rule is imposed on them, then sooner or later that rule will get broken.

If you like figuring out who is the holy saint and who is the evil sinner in each relationship, then rules are great. The sinner is the one who breaks the rule, obviously.

But if you want to establish long-lasting, loving relationships, then look for a partner you don't have to set rules for because you can tell they want the same things you do, or at least when they go after what they want, it doesn't make you miserable.
@131 chicago girl: Thank you so much. I have happily come a long way in these past 13 years, with a lot of love and support from many. If it weren't for my beloved parents who were thankfully alive, well, and financially able to get me out of such a horrid situation way back when, heaven knows what life would be like for me and my loved ones now.

Freedom truly is priceless.
@124: Ok, so no "gaslight." What term would you use to describe what Girlfriend is doing?

NNP seems open to sex with other people, but hurt that "she has expressed a need for novel experiences that may not include me."

In my experience that means he'd prefer threesomes or swinging.

And as for rules, do you think PMN is drafting the boundaries she can't stick to?

What's all this rubbish about jealousy?

It's an emotion, and not a particularly nice one. Like anger or fear. You don't "try to hide" them--you try to acknowledge and work with them, appreciate them for what they are, and control them as needed, so they don't fuck up your life.

Please read some poly books: they all write about management of jealousy. There's no perfect answer, but the question is "how do I deal with an emotion that, if not dealt with, hurts everyone?"

That said, if you don't want threesomes, then he'd probably rather know now than later, so he can make life decisions that incorporate full knowledge.
sorry for the silly question, but what's D/s'???
@149, not sure if you're still reading, but D/s means Dominance and submission, and it's a kink some people have. Generally, one person is dominant and the other person submits, though there are also "switches" who take turns (politely or with play-struggles for power).