Spouses Don’t Fear The Meeper: The Necessity Of No-Fault Poly

(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.)

This is a story about the dumbest argument I have ever had with my wife. It involves meeping people on the nose.

See, if I am into you, I have a weird habit; during one of those weird silences when the conversation ebbs, I will lean over and meep you on the nose – as in, press my finger to your nose and say “Meep!”

I do not know why I do this, but I have done it for years. I have done it to all sorts of women all around the world. I am a true meepslut.

Then I married my wife.

Now, my wife and I were married for about five years before we tried polyamory for the first time. And things were going smoothly, because our first experiment was another couple who we were both dating – we could go out to dinner together! We could be super-sophisticated because we were all one big lovabunch, dating in harmony!

Then I meeped my girlfriend on my nose. In front of my wife. Her eyes sparked fire.

“WHAT WAS THAT?!” my wife thundered.

“Um… a meep?”

“THOSE MEEPS ARE FOR ME,” she roared.

Now, we had never discussed what meeps were for. From my perspective, meeps were something I did to anyone I had a fondness for. I dispensed meeps freely, fluidly, perhaps even unwantedly.

But from my wife’s perspective… I was her only meep. In seven years of dating, she’d never seen me meep another person. She had come to believe that the meep was unique to her, that it was that cute little gesture that only I did to only her nose, and she was fine with me kissing my girlfriend, making love to my girlfriend, but how dare I meep this woman.

Like I said. A really dumb argument. But also kinda vital, because I had stepped on her feelings but hard.

Now. Here’s the question:

Who was at fault here?

The answer, of course, is “Nobody.” For one thing, who thinks too deep about the meep? And I had been meeping for years, so I was perfectly justified in thinking that meeps were a for-everybody thing, and my wife had never seen me meep another person, so she was perfectly justified in concluding that the meeps were a cute ritual that only we shared.

This argument was dumb enough. But if we’d had to assign blame for this jealous flareup, determining who had done wrong? We would have torn each other to shreds.

Which is a vital skill in poly: Recognizing that sometimes, nobody’s at fault. Poly is a weird minefield because once “monogamous sex” ceases to define you as a couple, other things usually swell to fill that gap, because most humans crave a unique bond.

So you create rituals. Maybe you have sex with other people, but you call home every night before you fall asleep in your lover’s bed. Maybe you don’t give a crap what happens during sex, but Fridays are your night to watch WWE Smackdown. Maybe you have a special in-joke that’s reserved for this party of two.

And what often happens when you expand beyond your starting values of “two people” is that you discover what you thought was an exclusive ritual is actually just a thing that your partner does with anyone.

(Which applies to even subsets of sex! That’s why you see some swingers with rules like “No kissing,” which seems weird until you realize that they view kissing as the intimate thing and the fucking as the comparatively impersonal thing. Everyone gets to set their own definitions.)

Now, there’s no wrong answer here. Maybe I still meep other partners, and my wife has learned that this is just a thing I do; maybe we have determined that the meep should be our secret ceremony, something to whip out when we’re feeling insecure in public but that “meep” lets us know that we are loved. There’s a lot of approaches to dealing with jealousy, and the answer is never as simple as “always get used to it, this is what I do” or “always stop it, anything that triggers jealousy should be restricted.”

And certainly, it should be noted that some partners are bad actors and will push boundaries in awful ways. There are times when a partner should be blamed – if not necessarily for causing jealousy, certainly for acting in thoughtless ways that didn’t treat their partner like a valued person.

But! If you’re seeking blame every time a bad feeling crops up, you’re going to engineer false malice in places where there is no legitimate fault. Sometimes jealousy crops out of legitimately differing perspectives – one person really thinking “This is fine,” another person thinking “That’s part of what defines us as a couple,” and then you have to have an awkward discussion of who you actually are as a couple who sees other people.

And you will have dumb arguments. But hopefully they will be productive arguments. Because figuring out where your meeps are is a valuable thing to know, even if stumbling across them can be super painful.


  1. Liz
    Dec 30, 2020

    I love this example of the difference between “I am hurt” and “you hurt me”

  2. Lars Ræder Clausen
    Dec 30, 2020

    Ha, funny, we have exactly the same behaviour, including using the verb “meeping”, except we do it only when someone makes a pun. It’s our standard pun-ishment. It’s a wonder my nose isn’t flat.

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