Savage Love Letter of the Day: Anxiety Attacks at the Trio Rodeo

Comments

1
There's a chasm of life experience difference between 35 and 22 that should be addressed too. Not second guessing Dan at all, he's always on point. Theres just an undeniable maturity difference in those ages and that seems to be a component in exacerbating her anxiety to me.
2
she's not cut out for poly. no shame in that. it's not for everyone.
3
LW: dragging this out is a terrible idea. Stop now. Spend some time doing all the other things, like reading books and working on your anxiety. Let L and K do their thing, you do yours. Its VERY important that you take care of yourself.
4
BELOVED, at 22, you are just beginning to explore romantic and sexual relationships as an adult. I know that you've probably felt like an adult for awhile, and you may have been having sex for the past six or seven years. None of that matters. Emotionally, cognitively, you been maturing until really recently, and you are nowhere near ready to settle down with "The One" (or in your case "The Two").

It sounds like K and L are both somewhat older and more experienced than you. So take a huge deep breath, and tell yourself that you're just going to enjoy the ride with K and L, have fun sex when you can, learn to speak up for yourself in your relationships and during sex, see if you can happily navigate a poly relationship.

Perhaps a triad isn't for you, or perhaps K and L aren't the right partners for you to make a triad work. Maybe you'd be better off with partners who aren't dating each other, or maybe you'll find that having one primary partner and one or more secondary partners works best for you. Or maybe poly works well for you in theory, but doesn't work well for you in practice. Perhaps being monogamish might really be your thing.

At 22, it's ok not to know the answers to any of these questions, and prioritizing exploration and having fun doesn't make you immature, it means you're taking the necessary steps to figure out what will make you happy long-term.

Lastly, don't begrudge your partners for spending time together, especially when you're working. And remember. at your age, you're also trying to get a career off the ground, so don't let relationship drama rob your focus when you're at work.
5
what a hassle
6
Unless the three of them are having group sex, it might be better for the lw's anxiety level if her partners not share details of their sex life. Just because one is in a poly relationship, doesn't mean everything has to be shared. If the jealousy is arising during group sex, speak up about your wants and needs.
Also in a poly relationship, just as in life, it is impossible to treat everyone the same. It is a matter of meeting everyone's needs and those differ from person to person.
7
All aboard the drama train
8
#4
Let me sum this up:

GET A LIFE GIRL! Learn to be on your own to find out even WHO YOU ARE before hitting the commitment button!

22 years of age is REALLY young these days!

BTW Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) out of a book? The only person who gets helped here is the publishing company and author!
Perhaps read “Do it yourself surgery on yourself” too!
9
Being poly seems exhausting.
10
Go buy yourself a copy of The Ethical Slut, and read it. Come back to the relationship when you can balance work/home life, emotional juggling, time management, and knowing your own needs a little better.
11
K has told me he doesn't want to be solely responsible for my sexual satisfaction and my need for constant reassurances that he cares.

The reason you feel all freaked out is that K is in the process of dumping you.

"I think you should start seeing other people" is maybe less ambiguous in mono-land, but even in poly-land it still means "I'm not as invested in this particular dyad as you are."
12
Dan and others have addressed some of the issues fairly well (your own mental health, the age/experience differential, maybe poly isn't for you). Let's talk about how each of these relationships is going. Don't think too much about what the two of them are doing, or how often they see each other. That is not your deal.

How often do you see each partner? How often would you like to see them? You aren't having as much of the sex that you like to have, as often as you would like it. Due to your work schedule, I get it, but there are ways to compromise on these things. Can your date pick you up from work, go home, have some sex, and they fall asleep while you putter for a bit--or have sex early in the morning, and you fall back asleep after they leave for work? Think less about your feelings in themselves (anxiety, jealousy), and more about what's causing them. Your needs are not being met; you're not seeing your partners as much as you'd like, and you're not having the sex you would like. Doesn't mean there's a bad guy here, but you may not be a good match with these people right now.
13
I am an anxiously-attached person and sometimes I have panic attacks when they spend more time with others/themselves and fear that they're going to leave me.

On a philosophical level, I'm completely willing to accept Dan's general worldview on polyamory, even as it has no appeal whatsoever to me, but I really can't help but notice (IRL, and in Dan's column) how people who so obviously aren't cut out for it tend to be wildly overrepresented among those who pursue it. Hell, I loathe the idea of living a poly life, but I'm pretty sure I'd be better at it than half the people throwing themselves into it.
14
@13: In fairness, judging from the letters I get from people in monogamous relationships... very few of them appear to be cut out for it either.
15
Premature monogamy, premature sexual commitment, has been the root of vast amounts of relationship misery and billions of breakups. And it sounds like that's what's happened here, you're too exclusively dedicated to this guy who is not monogamous.

You really do need to go out and find other people to have sex with, you can't let your well-being be so dependent on this nascent relationship. If you're getting satisfied elsewhere too, the behavior of the other two won't be so charged and you can enjoy what they offer without being so freaked out.
16
13-David-- That's very much the conclusion I've been coming to. We tend to think of 2 types of people in the world-- Suited for monogamy or suited for poly, but that's not it. Then we jump to good at relationships or not, but that's not it either. More likely those who have their act together to the point of being okay in a relationship or happy while independent and those who are laden with issues to the point of not being good either with someone else or alone.

Lot of vocabulary for me to look up this week. I'm not sure how the "anxiously attached" thing is diagnosed (even after taking an online questionnaire) or what it means or how it's helpful in explaining anything. I guess it means what we used to call "insecure." Also "switches" and "professional dominants." I have a lot to learn.

Still, I can't help giving advice to BELOVED: Pay less attention to all these psychological labels and categories. Pay more attention to becoming happy, stable, fulfilled, less panicky. See sex as an enjoyable end in itself, not a way to get attention or love or security or what you want in a relationship. Love should feel good, and while most of us are familiar with the sinking feeling that so often goes with it, and while I would never tell a young person not to feel that ecstatic sinking, it is possible to be in love and feel okay at the same time.

In person therapy with a human is recommended.
17
Oh, Honey.
18
22 years old. You're experiencing so many things for the first time, this poly relationship included. It all seems so IMPORTANT! and devastating if it DOESN'T WORK OUT! My advice (which will be VERY hard to take right now – but much easier in ten years) is to relax and enjoy the ride (pun intended). If it's meant to be it'll work out. If it isn't, learn from it and apply your newfound knowledge to the next seven guys and gals you fuck. You'll be happier in the short- and long-term.
19
@11 To be fair, it could also be a way of saying "you have a super high libido and I'm not going to fulfill all that for you". I don't think it's necessarily a break-up, in a poly context. Esp. if she wants loads of penetration and K doesn't like as much, for example. It could also mean he wants to ease off, but not break up. We're tea-leafing as usual!
20
Leave him/them. It won't get better.
21
Alison @11 is pointing in the right direction. If he's not dumping the LW now, he's probably heading that way. and the age difference is relevant. A twenty two year old, just starting out on her adult sexual adventures is no match for a smooth operator of thirty five.
22
I don't think they're necessarily dumping you -- but, as someone who has spent 10+ years as part of a triad (as well as other relationships), here's my advice:

Scale back the group sex and knowing the specifics of what they do together. Have mostly dyad sex with both of them, let group sex be a special treat, and one that specifically involves you getting the penetration you want.

Consider finding another (casual or serious) partner for sex, who is available around your work schedule. Don't make your existing partners your only sexual outlet, because you have a high libido and are struggling with the feeling that you're losing out when they're together without you.

I predict that these two moves will help with your insecurity and feelings of being sexually shortchanged.

Good luck!
23
I completely disagree that eight months is too soon to know whether you are in love. Conversely, if you're not in love at eight months, I think the relationship is fated to fizzle.

I do, however, agree with the commenters saying that 22 is too young to make a lifelong commitment (even if one is in love) -- and also way too young to choose one's baby-daddy. BELOVED says that this is her first serious relationship, but is it her first poly one? Less-than-eight months may also have been too soon to bring a third into the relationship.

I am poly and people like BELOVED are why I won't touch women under 30 with a ten-foot pole. Poly is hard and young people don't have the maturity or experience to let the kind of stuff go (he's penetrating her more than he penetrates me; seriously, who keeps score on that kind of thing?) that you NEED to let go in order to manage your jealousy.

I agree that BELOVED seems far more invested than the other two. She wants to be the primary, but K isn't willing to commit to this (possibly because she's so young and he doesn't take her seriously). K, if you're reading this, please gently let BELOVED go to save her more anguish.
24
Please fight your urge and vision of having children. With this guy or anyone else for at least 10 more years. Please.
25
I read BELOVED's letter again and become convinced that the poly thing and the in love with L thing are red herrings. Here's the letter the way it could have been written to Ann Landers 40 years ago:

I'm 22 and in love with a 35 year old man. We've been dating for 8 months. I'm ready to get married and have children, but he says he doesn't want that. He wants to keep dating other people. I have panic attacks. He says he cares about me but can't provide the sort of relationship I need and that we should both date other people. What should I do?

Here's my Ann Landers style answer:

Stop looking to your boyfriend to be your shining knight riding in on a white horse to rescue you. He's said that he doesn't want that role, and even if you found a shining knight, a relationship based on rescue isn't good in the long run. Listen to what he's telling you and date other people. See a psychologist about the panic attacks.

(I'll add: Keep the white horse, though. Horses are good.)
26
Nice take, Fichu @25. I think you've drilled down to the real issue here. And I also agree that horses are good.
27
@11 Ouch. So true, it hurts. Reminds me of my ex, repeatedly telling me that I should see other people, that I'd be sooo good to them... Yeah right. K., please just dump LW already. And LW, don't be afraid to ask very clearly for the amount and quality of time & sex that you want, but stop keeping score of who fucks who, and possibly don't watch 'em fuck either, that stuff is gross when you're already insecure. And as others said, PLEASE consider your own sanity and happiness, and put them WAY ahead of babies and fairy tale future plans. Listen to that anxiety of yours, embrace it, it's a sign something's not right FOR YOU, don't try to suppress it under self-help books, ask yourself what you need to feel better, perhaps that's a monogamous partner to have babies with*, and perhaps that's not K., as he has hinted to you (although to be fair "not being responsible for others crap" and "dealing with your own insecurities" seems to be a common theme amongst certain (all?) poly folks). When people tell you their truth, believe them the first time, you'll save yourself a lot of anxiety and pain. Speaking from experience.

*and perhaps you just need to be gloriously single and fuck every man and woman in your path for a while, or not, that's perfectly ok too. Being bi, single and potentially poly at 22 sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
28
This sounds to me like a relationship that is going to slowly disintegrate. (I'd be curious to know if this girl identified as poly before she met this guy or not.) I'd recommend that she consider looking for some other secondary partners herself--maybe ones closer to her age--and see if she can't find one of them to fall for while this older guy slowly backs out the door.

Also, hi @11 Alison!
29
I think the obvious solution here is to get pregnant asap.
30
Co-signing @11 on "K has told me he doesn't want to be solely responsible for my sexual satisfaction and my need for constant reassurances that he cares."

Sounds like the type of relationship you're looking for is one in which he *could* be solely responsible but he was open to your having other partners too. What he's offering is one where you putting some of your "burden" on somebody else is a condition of maintaining the relationship.

If you do primary/secondary terms, looks from here like he's probably offering secondary and you want primary.
31
@4. SublimeAfterglow. This is all kind, levelheaded advice.

My sense was that K and L should prioritise the LW's needs more, even above their own. We know that the guy is twelve years or a third of the writer's lifetime older; and L. is probably older too. They are both 'professional Dominants', which I took to be liberal professionals at work, not full-time sex workers, with an easy habit of authority or command, in life as in the bedroom, and a deal of sexual and relationship experience. They should actively tend to BELOVED's insecurities, not least around sex. Then ... maybe they are? Possibly the letter is her being super-reasonable, putting herself in their shoes and giving expression to their perspectives in a way she can't, quite, with them...? Doubtless the sense of exclusion is hard for her. But then I feel it can't be right for her lover to say that he's tired of taking sole responsibility for allaying her need to be reassured. She's herself taking some responsibility for this with the counseling and CBT.

Maybe in even five years she'll look back and think she's a better person than those two. She needn't be put much pressure on herself and on her triad--or think that poly is, or again that it isn't, definitively for her.
32
26- Capricornus-- Thanks. I like Alison's straight for jugular take on it too in 11.
33
@30 Mtn. Beaver: I agree. It sounds like she wants a primary relationship with K ("for awhile I was the partner he spent the most time with", and after that is where things got tough) and he does not want primary with her ("he has told me he does not want to be solely responsible for my sexual satisfaction"). She doesn't even talk about her relationship with L -- I assume she started dating L only because K did.

K and BELOVED want different things, and only K is being clear about it.
34
@ 28, yeah, that's what I was wondering, too. And who fell in love with L first.

My first encounters with poly were back when I was 18,19, back in the seventies. And it bore a lot more resemblance to the way I got into motocross or prog rock when I had boyfriends into those things, than to me actually exploring my own sexuality.

I agree with everyone that holding off on the babies, and getting some outside partners, would be best for her right now. Focus more on her own life than on the relationship(s) and see how she feels a year from now. My money would be on her no longer even knowing these people by that time.
35
Do. Not. Make. Babies. Before. 30
Do. Not. Make. Babies. Before. 30.
Do. Not. Make. Babies. Before. 30.
Do. Not. Make. Babies. Before. 30.
36
@33 K being clear about what he wants -- yeees technically. But BELOVED isn't receiving that communication, and I have some suspicion K knows that.

That's the vibe I get, that this is the one where K says "objectively I communicated, she doesn't get it, but I've done my job" and keeps getting what he wants from the relationship while knowing she thinks she might but never will.
37
I should admit my bias -- I have seen multiple people (mostly women) say "I'm avoidantly attached and how can I do better for my partner (mostly male, often poly, sometimes older)" and repeatedly, on learning more, it turns out that this person is not the problem here.

It turns out that their partner is someone who'd make any rational person uncertain and anxious: by blowing hot and cold, saying things their actions undercut, using logic to talk away emotions, etc.

Not that this letter gives clear signals like that, but that's where I come from whenever I hear this "help I'm anxiously attached" problem.

And let's not attribute "keeping score on penetrations" to immaturity without knowing more? That may be the way she's concretely picking up a bigger problem her gut senses but her partner(?) reassures away.
38
@4
I got together with my other half when I was 22, he was 18. Still together 20 years later.
39
There are far more failed relationships than successful ones, for various values of success. The more complex the relationship, the higher the probability it will fail.
40
Hi there @nocutename, @Cat in fez, @LavaGirl, @J.W Strange, @ciods, @Mtn. Beaver and @Fichu!

I know I dumped you very dickishly for FetLife. I’m sorry: you didn’t deserve it. It looks like you’ll still talk to me though, when I show up periodically like a poly comet? You guys are supernice!

I definitely read ‘professional Dominants’ as ‘pro-doms.’ That could just be me spending too much time in the monkey house though.
41
Hope you are having fun Alison. And yes, I also read it as pro-doms.
42
Yeah, I think @11's right. LW might really be an anxiously-attached neurotic with an child's sibling-rivalry obsession with who gets penetrated most, sure. However, I'd say it's more likely that her anxiety is being directly fed by her accurately picking up on the fact that the other two people in this relationship are far more into each other than her, and have started to edge her out. She's young and not sure how to interpret her gut feelings, but her gut is right.

Also, call me cynical, but we're dealing with a 22-year-old with a 35-year old, and he's all "no baby, this is all in your head - also you should really be finding someone else for your emotional and sexual needs - even though I am incredibly patient with all your silly insecurity about my banging another woman more than you" = "It was fun to bang you and I like the fact that you're totally into me with teenage devotion, but I'm really not interested in returning these feelings you have so... I'm going to keep you on as much of a hook as I can, but you will in no way be an emotional or physical priority in my life."

So, yeah, LW. He's Not That Into You. She's not that into you either. You need to move on and find someone you can date casually or someone who can return your strong feelings. Either way, you need to move on. No good will come of this.
43
@32. Fichu. But I wouldn't as a rule think an Ann Landers problem is a Dan Savage problem. People in different kinds of situations, with different kinds of impulses, write in to those agony correspondents. A young woman in a poly BDSM triad is not a young woman of forty years ago looking for a white knight.

We have to think change is real (both at the level of mentalities and of action). Slavery seemed acceptable 160 years ago but doesn't now. Obama would not have been possible in the 50s. Trump is not Nixon redevivus. The LW has made conscious choices that set her face against the kind of lifestyle that would be comprehensible to Ann Landers. Part of me feels that if you don't know the meaning of 'switch', you should resile yourself from queer or poly themes and restrict yourself to offering opinions in the area of your insight or competence.
44
@37. Mtn Beaver. But why has K. introduced L into the triad? He must have some commitment to making a poly relationship, and possibly a primary one, work with the LW. Now the two older partners have to go the extra step and make her feel comfortable.

And how is it that L. is entering into the young LW's plans for having children with K. and coparenting, or taking some share of the domestic arrangements, with them? Is she K's age and unsure whether she'll have her own children? Does she have children and project some form of happily blended family? Why is there so little in the letter about L., other than her being onside with the family idea?

To reverse the joke, maybe it's time for L. and BELOVED to slink off for a filthy twosome.
44
@37. Mtn Beaver. But why has K. introduced L into the triad? He must have some commitment to making a poly relationship, and possibly a primary one, work with the LW. Now the two older partners have to go the extra step and make her feel comfortable.

And how is it that L. is entering into the young LW's plans for having children with K. and coparenting, or taking some share of the domestic arrangements, with them? Is she K's age and unsure whether she'll have her own children? Does she have children and project some form of happily blended family? Why is there so little in the letter about L., other than her being onside with the family idea?

To reverse the joke, maybe it's time for L. and BELOVED to slink off for a filthy twosome.
45
@37 & 42 YES. THIS. "Using logic (and self-help books and positive thinking) to talk away emotions" : nothing good comes out of that.
46

am I the only one that finds poly people intolerable?
47
Harriet @31: I too read "professional Dominants" as pro Doms, not professionals who have dominant personalities. The capital D is what did it for me. Perhaps that's why BELOVED has to work far longer hours than they do.

Beaver @36: Looking at this from K's perspective, he's in a tough position. He does not want a primary -- or at least, he does not want BELOVED to be his primary. BELOVED believed for most of eight months, based on spending more time with K than anyone else, that she was the primary. K has been as clear as he can about his ability and willingness to fulfill BELOVED's needs. When one finds oneself in a relationship -- poly or mono -- with someone whose needs one cannot fulfill, one has a tough choice. Do you step into the role of making your partner's decision for them of whether they should choose to accept your price of admission, or do you give them the kindest and most honest assessment of the situation you can and let them make their own decision? With poly, it's even tougher; not being able to meet their needs doesn't necessarily mean you need to break up, because they have the option to find an additional person to you, not an alternative to you. The age and experiential difference are key here; is he observing the campsite rule?

I think BELOVED needs to find a new primary, or even exclusive, relationship with someone closer to her age and sex drive. K and L sound better suited to fill the role of a couple she plays unicorn to occasionally.

Balmont @46: We find you intolerable too.
48
43-Harriet-- I don't entirely disagree. My experience IS with straight monogamous relationships. I weighed in on this letter for a few reasons. First, while we all have things that set us apart, we also have things in common. I know nothing about the sort of trio relationship BELOVED describes, but I know plenty about insecurity. For that reason I thought I had something of use to her.

Next, while people who write to Dan Savage know that they're not writing to Ann Landers, they also know that the internet is full of people in comments sections giving opinions from an anonymous standpoint when they might know nothing about the subject. I hope to mitigate my lack of knowledge by being upfront about it. At least BELOVED can consider the source when she decides for herself if my advice is any good or applies to her.

Most importantly, I can't see that either my advice or my sympathy was out of place in this instance. I concede that I might be wrong and that others will have different opinions, but that's always the case.
49
@38/JodoKast: That's cool, but are you really suggesting that many teens who say, "You don't understand, we're in love," are actually in love with their partner a year later, let alone 20 years later?
50
@47. BiDanFan. I think you're all right on 'pro Doms', but it raises a whole lot of other questions.

If K and L are so much more experienced at the sexing and the feelings, the loving, how come the LW feels so left out? Presumably K in particular has said, 'you're young, you're just starting with poly, go out and have other partners'. Fine. But BELOVED hasn't foregrounded this, and has presumably downplayed it in her letter. And how, then, has BELOVED further got the impression she's going to have his children somewhat down the road?
51
Harriet @50: Because she's 22.
52
@Harriet_by_the_bulrushes,

We can have all the opionions we like that K and L should be nicer to the LW, but that won't make them be any nicer.

The LW has asked for advice, and all the advice in the world won't make her lovers into different people. It doesn't matter what we think they should do. All that matters is what the LW should do, because that's the only thing she has any control over.
53
@14 given humans as shown by research and history, monogamish should be the default setting, and for the minority, monogamy or poly - both of which are significantly more difficult than monogamish and poly obviously the most difficult simply in terms of complexity and time
54
@48. Fichu. Your sympathy is never out of place. Anyone's advice might be right or wrong, but collectively we won't always know which is which, and the wrongness of anyone's bad advice will be softened by their good intentions.

I feel I have a different sense of the politics of it than you. A twenty-two year old woman who's chosen to have her first serious relationship in a poly context--however anxious she is, however given to jealousy or self-doubt--is making some sort of political decision. She's saying 'to hell with patriarchy and the patriarchal model of the male ownership of women', and / or the whole bundle of assumptions about men wanting sex, women wanting love, men wanting adventure, women security. However she might phrase or present it, her thought must be that another world is possible--that what's on offer in conventional heterosexual monogamy is unsatisfying, and that poly can be better. I have to think personally that her choice is a Good Thing. It’s encouraging--encouraging to queers and anyone non-normative but also to feminists, women and really for everyone. For me your voicing her fundamental problem as:

I'm 22 and in love with a 35 year old man. We've been dating for 8 months. I'm ready to get married and have children, but he says he doesn't want that. He wants to keep dating other people. I have panic attacks...

rides roughshod over her political choices and her self-understanding. 'He wants to keep dating other women'? But she's poly! She's committed to being poly; she's dating a pro-Dom! This isn't her problem. She anticipates K's having sex with other people. The issue is more specific. Or do you think that for a certain number, maybe many, young people, their interest in polyamory is a matter of modishness, of good feeling, goodwill or identification with the right side only; and that after some confusing experiences, they will gravitate back to a norm of exclusive heterosexual dating?
55
@52. Alison Cummins. I think I characterise the situation rather than always giving advice since I think, 'who am I tell this person what to do?'.

But if BELOVED wants advice, mine would be to look for sexual partners outside the triad.
56
@51. BiDanFan. So you think she just hasn't got the emotional maturity at 22 to handle her feelings of jealousy?

She's working on her insecurities with CBT and self-help books. How can it be that K hasn't nipped her impressions they'll all start a family in the bud if the older pair are being decently solicitous towards BELOVED?
57
Harriet @54. Not sure this is an example of a young woman saying fuck the Patriarchy, because she appears caught up with giving the man the power while she scrambles to contain her feelings. Same old same old.
I'm not poly, yet my understanding of ethical
poly, rather than people just wanting to date multiples at the one time and everyone is left on their own dealing with it, is that each person is looked after. This young woman is 22, and he is 35, and one would assume the older one(s), would take the trouble to help the younger one and listen to them. That doesn't seem to be happening here.
58
I want a Trio and I want one now.
59
I don't know anything about polyamorous relationships. I do know something about relationships. The LW is not getting her emotional needs met. She can easily find someone else.

From the letter, it looks like K is calling the shots, and the LW is going through a sea of emotions at the whim of K's moods or what he wants to do. If I were in the LW's situation, I would think of trying to control the initiative as much as possible, rather than having others dictate when they will see the LW at their convenience, not at LW's leisure .

Dump the situation, find someone who can be there for LW emotionally as well as physically in the relationship. I just see the LW starving for romantic and emotional attention. Sometimes, the answer is right in front of you, but it is difficult to actually change the situation, get out of the relationship, and you can find something much better. I feel you are being trained as a unicorn, aka a passive third wheel in a relationship, and then pushed aside when the LW is not needed.

60
@47 true that K can't or shouldn't make her decision. I've been the one decided-for and I hated it. But in that case I understood what was not being offered, and my ex knew that I did. Here I'm not so sure of that.

Do you mean maybe K has literally said something like "babe, I don't know if I've made this clear, I do not want you on the 'life partner' track, but I'd like to date and bang" (or whatever is accurate) and BELOVED is super-dense and not hearing it? Could be, that does happen, I just think that's less common than my scenario. :)
61
@11 has it.
You're learning why unicorns are rare: there's no one making sure they get the long end of any stick ever. You are a unicorn now, there's no one here for whom you're the top priority. Even people who are perfectly cut out for poly, who can be very happy in very open relationships where at least one person in the system loves them and is looking out for them, can have a terrible time in the situation you're in.
Leave while you have some dignity left.
62
LW, it's time you hit the pause button. And take a look at yourself and see how spun out you've become. Love is not about being turned inside out. Unless it resonates with internal patterns. And you won't know that until you go talk to someone.
From what you say, these people don't seem to care about what you want, or how shortchanged you feel. Why would you waste the best years of your life, youth goes quickly, on people who don't respond to who you are, now.
And why would you want to have babies with a man who is so dismissive of who you are, now.
Dial it back, let these people slip further out of your life and go with men closer to your age. That age difference when you are just beginning to learn the love ropes, gives the man and perhaps the other woman, years of experience over you. They are tougher.
63
@57. LavaGirl. I agree with you that the older partners in the triad don't seem properly to be looking after the least inexperienced member of the set. Is BELOVED trying to rationalise away her feelings in deferring to a more powerful man? I'm not sure.

It must mean something that a 22yo woman has chosen to have her first serious relationship in a poly format. I don't want to put words into her mouth to say why--not least because 98% of the people who come across me would see me as a weirdly camp man. But it has to be, in a broad sense, because she wants no part of the monogamous cis het norm. If she comes on the thread and says 'I'd never have been open to poly if it weren't for this one amazing guy', I'll stand corrected. Now, do I think 22yo women starting off with poly a Good Thing, a Bad Thing (because they're probably deceiving themselves; because most women just want one man) or something neutral? Mostly I think it a good thing. (I'm in an open relationship which I wouldn't call poly. Gay sexual subcultures, especially in France, were kind of informally poly before the term entered currency--or at least before I heard it).
64
Alison @52: Applause!

Harriet @56: That's correct. I certainly wouldn't have, when I was 22. Would you have? Just because BELOVED is working on her issues and K and L are being gentle with her does not mean that 1 + 1 = 3 and her issues magically go away. That will take maturity, and maturity generally takes being a number of years older than 22. (Oh, if only thinking to oneself "I shouldn't be jealous" were enough to stop one from feeling jealous.)

Beaver @60: I think that K has gently said exactly that, yes: "K has told me he doesn't want to be solely responsible for my sexual satisfaction and my need for constant reassurances that he cares." "He's very good about voicing what he desires." I think that BELOVED is hearing it; she just doesn't want to be hearing it, and so she's resisting it.

Harriet @63: "It must mean something that a 22yo woman has chosen to have her first serious relationship in a poly format." What it means is she fell for a guy who is poly and decided to accept that price of admission. Possibly she didn't want to seem prudish or possessive in the eyes of her older and more experienced lover. (I'm wondering how many dates it took him to mention his non-monogamy, hmm.) Now that she has to share him, she's learning just how high a price that is. And armed with new data points from actually having lived the poly experience rather than just considering it in a hypothetical sense, she's entitled to conclude that it isn't what she wants, and walk away.
65
Harriet @63 cont'd: "they're probably deceiving themselves; because most women just want one man"

As Carolyn Hax would say: Wow.
Did you miss the fact that BELOVED is bisexual? Perhaps K is the first partner she's had who's been open to her desire for non-monogamy so that she can also date women. Perhaps that's why this is BELOVED's first serious relationship. The difficulty is that in order to have that freedom for herself, she needs to grant it to her lover, which is what she is struggling with. She envisions herself as one core member of a primary relationship, with non-primary female partners. An arrangement that can work if it's what both parties want -- but it's not what K seems to want, or at least not with BELOVED as his primary partner.
66
Harriet @63, I'm not suggesting she become monogamous. That's for her to work out, with experience, who she is. That's not what I was pointing to. And I don't see being poly is outside the Patriarchy any more than being monogamous is.
It's not the structure, it's the components I'm talking about. These people are professional Dominants, and this poor girl is drowning.
Whatever their skills, they are not taking care of this young woman or she wouldn't be in such a state. I suggest she get out now, before she does something stupid, like get pregnant.
67
Fan @64, I don't see this man has been straight with or looked after the LW, considering her age. There was just the two of them for a while and along comes another professional D and hey presto, the LW is delegated to the outer realms.
He might have been gently saying a lot of things, his behaviour is pointing to shifting the LW along. If I may be so bold, using her. Young flesh is always nice, until their minds and experience gets in the way.
68
Lava @67: I agree. I don't think a 35-year-old should be dating a 22-year-old in the first place. He may be trying to observe the campsite rule, but with multiple people involved it would be kinder to just let her go.
69
Bi @65, about Harriet @63, I read that bit (about woman wanting just one man) as a slightly sarcastic take on societal stereotypes, not a position that Harriet actually believes.

Although I have to agree with Bi @64 that this girl is very likely poly because the guy she fell for is. Now, I don't mean that women can't be honestly poly, but I think given the extensive pressure our society puts on relationship structures, it would be very rare for a 22-year-old girl to be there already. Bi (and many of you) knows more than I do about the poly community, but those few people I do know in it came to it later after they found through trial and error that monogamy wasn't for them.
70
@64 *nod*. We're all speculating, but to me this is a place where gentleness is not kindness.
71
BDF@68 Missed the golden ticket by one :( Re: campfire rule. In this case the age difference is less important the difference in level of experience. Combine the two and K absolutely failed in his responsibility towards BELOVED. He had no business seducing her. (Not surprisingly, she was overwhelmed by his dominant personality)
72
Ciods @69 (congrats!): I mostly agree, except, as I said in my next post, she is bisexual. Even at 18 I would have jumped at the chance to have a relationship that was open, at least, to same-sex dating on both of our sides. That's the factor that makes me less confident that her only motivation for poly (in her first serious relationship, at that) was that K happened to be poly.

Now, would I have been emotionally able, at 18 or at 22, to handle a relationship that actually was open? Sadly I never got the chance to find out.

Skeptic @71: Who says he's the one who "seduced" her? Perhaps he was "overwhelmed" by her 22-year-old hotness. (I agree, if this is the case, it's a mark of immaturity on his part. But we can't assume he was the predator and she the prey. She may have actively sought out a "daddy" type. Many young women do, and many men, as evidenced by IDAHO in the weekly thread, are weak in that department.)
73
Moggadeet @61: "You're learning why unicorns are rare: there's no one making sure they get the long end of any stick ever."

Sadly this is 100% accurate.
74
They both reassure me that they love me and care for me deeply, but I am an anxiously-attached person and sometimes I have panic attacks when they spend more time with others/themselves and fear that they're going to leave me. I'm working on becoming more secure via books on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I'm looking into in-person therapy. This is my first serious relationship ever, but not his (I'm 22, he's 35) and while K's been super patient with me, my worry and grasping is a point of friction in the relationship. K has told me he doesn't want to be solely responsible for my sexual satisfaction and my need for constant reassurances that he cares.

The anxiety has been flaring up most strongly concerning sex—we're all switches, and both K and L are professional Dominants. I feel neglected if K doesn't penetrate me, but he penetrates L, or if L gets to penetrate K via a strap-on and I don't. He's very good about voicing what he desires, while I'm learning to speak-up despite feeling like I'm just being needy and grasping again.
75
BDF @72

First serious relationship, professional Dominants (whatever that means), first triad, prone to relationship anxiety and insecurity, he's very good about voicing what he desires, while I'm learning to speak-up. Do you have any idea what she means by switches? Summation She is a sub (in training?) involved with two doms. She is in way over her head in a poly relationship. It would be interesting to know how LW and K started dating L at the same time. If this is her first serious relationship how did she know that she is polyamorous (wouldn't she have to have been in serious relationships before to know that (amorous = love = serious relationship). I can see her being non-monogamous, but that wouldn't necessary make her polyamorous (first serious relationship)

This is a far too advanced relationship for a neophyte (IMO, but then what do I know?) She may have been looking for a daddy/dom type, but she doesn't come across as aggressive (again, what do I know?)

76
BDF @72

First serious relationship, professional Dominants (whatever that means), first triad, prone to relationship anxiety and insecurity, he's very good about voicing what he desires, while I'm learning to speak-up. Do you have any idea what she means by switches? Summation She is a sub (in training?) involved with two doms. She is in way over her head in a poly relationship. It would be interesting to know how LW and K started dating L at the same time. If this is her first serious relationship how did she know that she is polyamorous (wouldn't she have to have been in serious relationships before to know that (amorous = love = serious relationship). I can see her being non-monogamous, but that wouldn't necessary make her polyamorous (first serious relationship)

This is a far too advanced relationship for a neophyte (IMO, but then what do I know?) She may have been looking for a daddy/dom type, but she doesn't come across as aggressive (again, what do I know?)

77
Sorry for the double post
78
@64. BiDanFan. At 22 I would have been, and would have wanted to be, a soly poly, if the term had existed. As it was, I had a knack for feeling like the proverbial third wheel in two-person relationships. I never supposed they were monogamous ... but I felt like a third wheel. Maybe not unlike BELOVED.

You're saying she fell, by chance, for a pro-Dom? This would be as likely as my falling for a beach volleyball player, or you falling for a particle physicist or brass band bandmaster. Maybe you like those avocations, but my point is that someone seeks that world out. The LW may be an innocent, or she may be exploring things that are wrong for her ... but it never ceases to amaze me that people don't think 22 year-old women capable of considered political choices.
79
1) As others have noted, there are potential issues here, e.g. the age issue, although I'd say they aren't automatic doom for the relationship.
2) 'You've only known each other for eight months so you can't say they're the love of your life'. No. No, no, no, no, a million times no.

My late wife and I were married on July 26, 1993. She died four months ago... and I can't see myself ever marrying, assuming I somehow manage to live more than a few more years, because we had the Hollywood fairy-tale, and I won't settle for something less than that.

Our marriage was delayed by over a month thanks to various hoops we had to jump through (we were in New Orleans -- as an example of how bad the bureaucracy was, I heard horror stories of people being in line at the DMV to renew their drivers licenses at 6am... and being too late to be seen that day). Which means I asked her to marry me after three months.

Yes, most people who think they know they've met the love of their life after three months are wrong. This does _not_ mean that everyone is.

It would be nice if someone, somewhere were to acknowledge that fact.
80
@65. BiDanFan. She's always entitied to walk away, especially since her insecurities are not being alleviated in her current arrangement.

I think I was fair in ventriloquizing the views of those skeptical, or phobic, of poly relationships. I think you're saying that K. is the first potential partner (maybe the first male partner) she's come across prepared to countenance her sleeping with women. I don't know whether you could be right or not. She might find it easier to find a bi man, but I'm not sure here; she doesn't sound a natural match for a cuck, but here again generalisations may be tenuous and unhelpful. I do know (of) a welter of straight poly men who have no aversion to their primary having lesbian secondaries--who prefer it, in fact.
81
@66. LavaGirl. Maybe you're right. Maybe the advice should be, 'get out; you're in way over your head'.

Sometimes poly setups can resume unequal features of the gender politics of heterosexuality. I don't disagree there. But someone who _only_ says that about them would seem to me jaundiced about their being Another Way--a liberation, in principle, from a compulsory het monogamous norm.
82
@ 78 " it never ceases to amaze me that people don't think 22 year-old women capable of considered political choices. "

I think the chances are fairly good that this is, indeed, a considered political choice, rather than a considered "this is what my body and brain and emotions are telling me" choice.

My guess is that poly is something she wants to be - either because she believes in a poly philosophy, because she fell for her boyfriend and is carried along by his "polyness", because it's trendy..... or some other reasons, some more valid than others.

But her emotional reaction, the way she is approaching these relationships, the way she is actually *feeling* - none of that points to poly being right for her, at least not now, or maybe not with these two.

People who have found a way of life that is a good fit for them tend to say things like "I'm so happy" and "I finally feel comfortable in my skin" and "it's all falling into place so nicely", rather than being anxious and needy and bean county.

83
Skeptic @75: A "switch" is someone who enjoys both domming and subbing. K and L may dominate for a living, but privately they like being on both sides of the D/s coin.

Dstar @79: See my first post @23. I'm sorry you lost your wife.

I think we all are in agreement: we don't know the details of how they met, when in their relationship he revealed he was poly, when he revealed what he does for a living, but all of those are semantics. The fact is that she thought she could handle a poly relationship with an older, more sexually experienced man, and she can't. She should accept that not being able to handle this kind of relationship doesn't make her an immature failure, and look for an arrangement where her needs are being met.
84
BELOVED here!

So...hi, everybody! I read all of your comments. And I wanted to clarify some things, if you're at all curious, haha.

1) Pro-Dom: yes, they are both professional sex workers
2) I came into the relationship saying "I want a poly relationship"
3) K treats me like a primary - we talk more than anyone else, and it was a few months ago when he told me he can't be the only one responsible for my sexual satisfaction
4) He is also encouraging me to enjoy the relationship for what it is, but he realizes he can't be my therapist
5) He and L ask me what I want/need very often, and he encourages me to speak up for myself. It's a long-term issue for me that I have a hard time speaking up for myself. He's not trying to silence my voice

I'm in therapy now, and it's going well. Our relationship is changing, but we're happy. And I'm realizing that even if we do break-up, he observed the Campsite Rule, and that we'll be friends going forward.
85
Well, we broke up. The gap in life experience was insurmountable for a romantic relationship to sustain.

K&L are living together. I helped move them in.

But we're all hoping to be friends. I'm giving myself a month of zero contact (no text, no phone, no face-to-face) with him, and then maybe, maybe, we'll start defining a friendship.

This is my first heartbreak. It feels like I'm walking around with a gaping wound in my chest. Throbbing.

But it's an opportunity for me to define myself outside of him (as I've started to do too much). Rediscover myself. He did leave me with the seedlings of self-confidence and self-love which I'm beginning to cultivate. We agreed we both did very good things for each other.