I need your help thinking through something. I've always loved the idea of a monogamish relationship. I get it: two people shouldn't be everything to each other, especially if one of them has a kink the other one isn't into. So, when I found out that my then-boyfriend had a thing for exchanging nude photos with women online, I gave him the green light.
Throughout our relationship and into our marriage, I had moments of insecurity. There were times when he was paying more attention to his phone than to me. Sometimes I had to remind myself that he wasn't doing anything wrong. Like every jealous wife, I was tempted to snoop, but I didn't, because monogamish.
We were married a little over a year when the cops showed up with a search warrant. My first thought was that the dumbass had started exchanging messages with a girl who hadn't turned 18 yet. I wish that had been the case. In actuality, my POS husband—now my ex-husband—was "involved with" (was sexually assaulting) a 14-year-old girl. The list of charges was long: importuning, sexual contact with a minor, distribution of child pornography, etc. Yep, he took pictures of her and used a web app to send them to her.
It's been two years since he was arrested, and I've done the hard work (and gotten the STI screenings) to mostly get over the betrayal and the loss. But here's a thing I get stumped on every time I think about getting into a new relationship: How do you negotiate a monogamish relationship when it blew up so spectacularly the last time? How do you learn to trust your instincts again after ignoring them in the spirit of being a GGG partner?
Sex Offender's Ex-Wife
Which instinct are you talking about learning to trust again?
Is it your instinct to be in/preference for a monogamish relationship? Or your instinct to trust your gut? I'm gonna assume the latter, SOEW, since what you ignored during your marriage wasn't your desire to be in a monogamish relationship. You were in one of those. No, what you ignored was that creeping feeling something was off. Your spidey senses were tingling when your husband started paying more attention to his phone than he was paying to you and there were moments when you were tempted to snoop.
But you didn't, of course, because snooping is wrong—and your husband didn't appear to be doing anything wrong. The terms of your monogamish relationship allowed for him to swap photos with other consenting adults and he would need to be on his phone to do that. (For the record: snooping is always wrong, of course, except when the snooper learns something they had an absolute right to know. It's a Catch 22: snooping can only justified after the snooper discovers something they had a pressing need to know—and, yeah, the fact that your partner is sexually abusing a minor would definitely count.)
But what if you had "trusted your instincts" and snooped, SOEW, and discovered your husband was sexting and sexing with a 14-year-old girl. What would you have done then? We all like to think we'd do the right thing in that circumstance and call the police and turn a person in—even a spouse—for statutory rape. But many people find it hard to pull that particular trigger. So it's possible you would've balked or given in after your husband begged you not to call the police and promised to end the "relationship" and never do it again. And he might have stopped... or pretended to stop... or stopped for a while before preying on this kid again or finding some other poor kid to prey on.
So while you didn't snoop because monogamish and things ended terribly and traumatically—they ended with that knock on the door—it's possible that snooping could've resulted in things ending even more terribly and even more traumatically if you didn't have the nerve to call the authorities.
Anyway, SOEW, you ask how you can learn to trust your instincts again after ignoring them "in the spirit of being a GGG partner." The answer to that question is easy but not entirely satisfying: When you have a feeling... when you sense something might be off... trust your gut. I don't mean, "Trust your gut and snoop," of course, because snooping is always wrong. (Except when it isn't.) What I mean is, "Trust your gut and use your words." Directly address your concerns with your partner—and it doesn't sound like you did that with your ex, SOEW. You reminded yourself he wasn't doing anything wrong instead of confronting him about whether he was doing anything wrong.
So you use your words, you confront your partner, you scream, you yell, they scream, they yell... and then you have to fire up your bullshit detectors, SOEW, and try to figure out whether or not you're being lied to. And that's what's so unsatisfying about this answer. Because if your ex was a good liar or your next is a good liar, well, they could slip their bullshit past your bullshit detectors and then... knock on the door.
You have the option of making "open phones" a condition of your next monogamish relationship. And if your new partner won't agree to that, well, then he's free to go or he can counter-propose a monogamous relationship. But monogamous relationships aren't magic—people in monogamous relationships get cheated on and some people in monogamous relationships have watched their supposedly monogamous partners dragged off in handcuffs after they got caught fucking 14 year olds.
Monogamous relationships blow up in spectacular fashion every damn day. But people generally don't conclude that monogamy was the problem—or even a contributing factor—when a monogamous relationship blows up. Nope, the problem was the lying piece of shit who lied, cheated, raped a kid, etc., not monogamy.
Perhaps I'm biased, SOEW, seeing as I coined the term "monogamish" and all. But it seems to me that we should apply the same standard to monogamish (or open or poly) relationships that we do to monogamous ones. That is, when a monogamish relationship blows up, spectacularly or mundanely, we don't regard monogamishamy itself as the problem, but rather the person who failed to live up to the terms of their monogamish relationship—or as in the case of your ex, SOEW, the person who failed to uphold basic human decency.