The Worst Thing About Bad Transitions

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’ve mentioned before that polyamory should start with a series of a genteel negotiations, but more often begins with a dramasplosion of cheating and boundary violations that settles down into “Well, actually, I’m… more okay with you fucking them than I thought I was.”
That isn’t fun.  It isn’t fair.  But quite often, the need for polyamory just sort of surges out and surprises everyone.  It happens so often it’s a pretty identifiable pattern.
Yet it gets worse when they’re not really okay with what happened, and you still need whatever triggered the cheating.
The central problem with polyamory is that yes, it’s about loving all your partners.  But self-love counts, too: you can’t keep yourself trapped in a relationship that’s destroying your soul just because it makes someone else happy.
And so though it’s severely counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to show love in a poly relationship is by an abrupt breakup.  You love them.  You love them so much that you realize that the relationship you’re able to have right now cannot possibly make both of you happy.  And when you have talked enough to realize that this is indeed the inevitable conclusion, the kindest thing you can possibly do for everyone involved is to end that relationship as quickly as possible.
What frequently happens in the beginnings of “polyamory” is that the partner cheats because they have a need – often it’s D/s, finding that online master who they have hot email exchanges with.  (And yes, an emotional/sexual commitment without a physical component is cheating in most monogamous relationships.  It’s still giving a part of your heart to someone else.)
The relationship is uncovered.  Hearts are broken.  The cheated-upon partner feels shattered, because here is their husband/wife exchanging intimacies with another person – intimacies they cannot fathom, because they don’t get this whole BDSM thing, they feel icky about hitting their partner, they have an actual negative interest in going to any kind of club.
Yet as it turns out, once uncorked, it turns out their husband/wife really fucking needs this shit.  They have for years.  They’ve been quietly starving for this experience all along, and now that they’ve had a taste of what fulfills them, they realize how shitty their life is going to be without it.
And that’s the toughest thing of all.  To say, “Yes, I cheated on you to get this thing.  That’s inexcusable, and condemnable, and I owe it to you to do better.  I want you in my life more than anything… Yet for all of that, I still need this thing.”
Because yeah.  Here’s one partner, tattered and shamed, hungering for two things: BDSM, and their vanilla partner.  And here’s the cuckolded partner, stung seriously because BDSM has come to symbolize everything that’s wrong with their marriage, and yet their partner is telling them that they can’t live without the thing that just shattered their heart.
Sometimes they bridge that gap.  Sometimes, the cheated-upon partner is extremely fucking brave and manages to transition to a working polyamory where they get their needs met too, and a healthy newer relationship blossoms.
But more often, it falls apart, because the BDSM is now this hot-button, where the partner says “NO.  You had BDSM once, and that was what made you cheat on me.  We’re never having BDSM because I don’t want it, and it made you crazy, and this isn’t anything we’re discussing.” And the cheater becomes a penitent monk, having glimpsed the promised lands just long enough to ache to the end of their days.
Or relationship shambles along a different power dynamic, with the new partner saying “I’m getting this BDSM or I’m leaving you,” and so the cheated-upon partner’s ego implodes and they stay at home, feeling like shit that they can’t give their lovers the thing they need so badly, sacrificing their self-esteem on the altar of keeping their loved one in their lives.  Just endless lonely nights at the apartment, imagining what they’re doing that you can’t give.
It’s actually a mercy if they break up.  But they often don’t.  Sometimes, they shamble to the grave hand-in-hand, one of them having given up something vital to keep the other.
That’s understandable.  And it’s sad.  Because the saddest thing in not just poly, but relationships everywhere, is where one partner has to lop off the best parts of their lives in order to stay with the person they love.
And when it starts with the sin of cheating, it’s so much harder to compromise.  So much harder.

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