“Why Does My Partner Hate All Of My Other Partners?”: A Theory

In the beginning, my wife and I were theoretically open to having other lovers.  I say “theoretically” because whoever she dated, I pretty much said no.

Now, not everybody’s in a relationship where they can veto someone else’s new cuteness  – but I always think of that scene from LA Story, where Steve Martin’s character wants a reservation at the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles to impress his date, but the maitre’d runs a credit check on him first.  When asked what he’d have for dinner, he says he’d probably order the duck.

“With this financial statement, you think you can have the duck?  You can have the chicken.”

“What about my date?”

The maitre’d shrugs.  “You can urge her in one direction.”

Which is to say that if your old partner doesn’t like your new partner, even if there’s not a veto on the table, there’s a hell of a lot of ways they can make you uncomfortable – starting with that squirmy feeling that you know you’re making your partner upset by simply being here.  Or the pretty sensible, “I told you I didn’t want you dating this person, so I really don’t want to hear about what’s happening there.”  Or an unwillingness to compromise when schedules start snagging.

If you’re in a poly relationship where you’re used to your partners being supportive, finding that glacial wall of disapproval glaring back at you whenever you return can be, well, chilling.

And I’ve spoken a lot about dysfunction in polyamorous relationships, where one partner can’t handle the jealousy of you being with someone else for some reason.  Maybe they’re trying out this polyamory thing because they like you and realize tolerating your wayward sexuality  – always a successful approach – is the only way to get you.  Maybe they’re insecure, and no amount of special gestures will ever convince them that they have any worth to you.  Maybe they’re selfish, where they want the hot smoochins but don’t want to deal with you having the hot smoochins.

But if your partner’s seemed sensible before – loving, even – and yet they’re still sneering at person after person, as if no one you might date could possibly be acceptable to them, I’d like you to consider another possibility:

Maybe you’re drawn to assholes.

I was insecure in the early days of our relationship, yes, but my wife was also drawn to bad boys who mainly saw me as an obstacle to be hurdled in order to get with her exclusively.  And I kept saying, “No, that guy’s really fuckin bad news for us as a couple,” and Gini said, “Ah, you’re just jealous,” and it wasn’t until I finally caved and let her start dating a couple of men who, in fact, lied and gaslit her in order to undermine our relationship that she went “Ooooohhhh, I get it.”

Once she realized that some of her hot-button personality types consistently led to disaster, she came to understand that I wasn’t being a dick, I was actually doing my best to look out for her.

And you’d think – you’d think – that years later, when we officially went polyamorous, and for a while Gini started slamming down “Not her”s like they were going out of style, I would have said, “Gosh, I remember when I hated all of her potential paramours, perhaps she’s just looking out for my best interest.”

But nope.  The script flipped, and suddenly she was saying “Nah, bruh” and I was the one thundering, “DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?”

(Spoiler: she did.)

And again, it took a couple of fairly disastrous relationships for me to realize that my wife may have been insecure about people I was dating from time to time, but she was mature enough to put that fear aside and only have the talk when I was choosing women who were bad for me.

(She went for bad boys – I chose people who shared my mental illnesses.  Neither ended well.)

These days, we’re a lot better at being in sync.  Because as I’ve said before, my wife doesn’t have a veto because she is my wife – she has a veto because she has a twenty-year-long track record of looking out for my best interests, even when I was too stupid to see them.  So when she says, “I dunno about dating this one,” that’s the record-scratch moment when I pause and go, “Huh.  What has a better win record at sensing impending dysfunction when it comes to dating – my penis, or my wife’s instincts?”

So I trust her instincts.  (Not that either of us tend to date jerks these days – my theory is that everyone is attracted to three types of people who are bad for them, and the sooner you figure out who those people are the better off you are.  I’m pretty sure I’ve doped out, like, two of them.)

But that brings us around to my ultimate question, which I occasionally hear from people – “Why does my partner hate everyone else I date?”  And it could be insecurity.  It could be greediness.  It could be any number of manifest dysfunctions.

But before you investigate that, first ask yourself whether you’re drawn to people who are healthy for the  polyamorous dynamic you claim to want, and whether past partners of this type have led to internecine conflicts that made everyone involved miserable until a few breakups settled the dust one way or another.

It could be that you’re drawn to people who are flat-out bad for you, and your partner could be that canary in a coal mine, desperately fainting in the cage to try to warn your sad ass that yes, you are descending into a toxic environment once again and they may not be able to haul you out this time.

It’s not always true.

But it’s worth investigating first.

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