I’ve noticed that a lot of my women friends seem to have much more stringent standards of behaviour in a guy than I do. Too stringent, I dare say. There’s a lot of huffing about “disrespect” in situations that I honestly feel don’t merit it.
Like, over and over again I’ll hear some chick tell a variation of: “So I was chatting to this guy on OKCupid and it was pretty fun but then he vanished. Three months later he’s back in my inbox all ‘yeah I met someone I really liked and we dated for a while but it didn’t work out. Wanna keep chatting?’ How dare he! I have too much self-respect to be someone’s backup plan! BLARRRRGH!”
I can’t get my head around this vitriol. Maybe it’s a byproduct of monogamy culture where everyone wants to believe that they’re the only person their date could ever like; I dunno. My take on it is: dude is on OKCupid. Dude is casually chatting with a couple of chicks at once – nothing super-serious, no promises made. Dude meets one of these women in person: the chemistry is so great that he decides to focus on this one woman for now and see where that goes. Maybe the chemistry would have been just as good with one of the other women, you understand, but he met this one first and in monogamy-land you have to narrow things down to one partner ASAP or else you’re, I dunno, a player or something.
So he fades off OKCupid to do the socially proper thing of seeing how things with this woman play out without any other romantic distractions. It lasts a while but then it’s done. So he goes back on OKCupid to see if any of the women he was talking to before would like to pick up where they left off. Maybe one of those women will end up being the one he dates long-term. I see no issue here.
Like, seriously. If I’m not yet emotionally invested in a dude and he’s not yet emotionally invested in me and he disappears, I don’t care. And if he reappears and wants to keep talking…sure, if I enjoyed his conversation before then why the fuck not? But I feel like most other women require a guy to act like she’s the be-all and end-all, even if she’s just casually talking to him.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have the same stompy toddler in my brain pouting “But why didn’t he pick me the first time around? Why didn’t he like me the most??” that most people have. I just don’t indulge my inner toddler. I remind myself that the dude meeting the other chick in person first was just luck of the draw. I remind myself that I wasn’t head-over-heels for him, either. I remind myself that it would actually be terribly awkward for him to have been head-over-heels for me, given that I wasn’t emotionally invested in him at all. I reminded myself, back when I was monogamous, that if a guy eschewed me in order to get to know some other chick, it meant he would have the courtesy to eschew others to get to know me. Etc., etc. There is no lack of respect on the guy’s part, here. He wasn’t treating anyone like a backup plan. He was just clearing his dating queue, one by one.
If there’s an imbalance of feeling – like if I’m more into a guy than he is into me and he knows it and uses that to string me along – that’s where I start frothing about “respect.” If a guy just assumes that he can bail on me and I’ll still be there waiting for him when he gets bored of the other thing he was doing, that’s when I feel like a “backup plan.”
I’m telling you all of this to lead up to some Pedant stuff.
As you know if you’ve been reading along for the past few weeks, The Pedant has another woman he’s been seeing and things have gotten to a point where he sees “long term potential” with her and will be making her a priority. While I don’t have any specific plans to break up with The Pedant per se, I do not see “long term potential” in him in the sense that I yearn to grow old with him and all that shit. Also I’m perfectly aware – and have told him to his face – that he’s not “primary partner” material for me; he fits my life much better in the role of hot-thing-on-the-side. And yet him basically agreeing that he feels the same way about me still feels like a kick in the teeth. The stompy toddler part of my brain hates this. Having a shifting place in someone’s life is something that goes with the territory in my style of poly, though, and I’ll process my feelings and get over it. But it still fucking sucks.
And then the idiot kicks me while I’m down.
Me: So, is [girlfriend] all good with the events of the other night?
Pedant: As far as I know. Why?
Me: Because if you’re gonna have to bail on the sexual side of things I’d prefer to know as soon as possible. Sucks to look forward to something that gets cancelled at the last minute, sort of thing. I’d continue hanging out with you either way but I like clarity.
Pedant: Ah, yes. That makes sense.
Me: What exactly does “as far as I know” mean, anyway? [I had a feeling it might mean “She has no idea about any of it but ummmm it’s probably fine because reasons.”]
Pedant: “As far as I know” means that since she’s explicitly told me that she’s not concerned with who I’m seeing, didn’t ask about anything when I mentioned to her that I’d seen you, and has continued to ask that she and I use condoms until my blood screen comes back ok, then it appears very much that she isn’t concerned. Until she says something to the contrary, that’s the impression that I’m acting under.
Me: That seems reasonable. [To be honest I actually still don’t see how it adds up. They decided to be monogamous for the time being. She broke up with some people in order to make that happen. It may well be that the idea of him fucking other people doesn’t upset her – but if he hasn’t said “hey forget the monogamy,” then…isn’t she sitting around not fucking other people for his sake when he’s not doing the same? And isn’t that probably going to piss her off once she realizes it? Meh, whatever, that’s his problem.]
Pedant: Keep in mind that *I* am the one who said I’d feel more comfortable with staying monogamous to her for a short while…and that she’s going to be my priority. [I swear to god if he talks about her being his priority or uses the phrase long term potential one more time I’m gonna punch him in the fucking dick. Yes, I get it, I’m chopped liver, now STFU so I can work on getting over my hurt feelings kthx] There’s a chance that sometimes you and I might have a night planned that I’ll end up cancelling on in order to do something with her. So if you want clarity and guarantees, that’s something to keep in mind.
[WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!?!? See, this is where things clicked over from “this is unfortunate” to “he is being a prick,” for me and I was completely ready to tell him to go fuck himself and walk away from this whole thing. But first I would try to ask for what I wanted and see if he’d be willing to give it to me.]
Me: Ah. Well, cancelling on me to hang out with someone else (ANYONE else) unless there are extenuating circumstances is total bullshit to me, so there’s that. “I know I was going to come over but my friend who lives in Kenya is in town for the day” is acceptable. “I know I was going to come over but my other partner feels like seeing me so I’m gonna scamper over there now” is not. I accept that in any poly relationship I may have, my partner may need to go attend to another person he’s seeing. Maybe she’s being evicted and needs help moving. Maybe her grandmother died. Shit happens. [I was ramping up to add a “but don’t fucking ditch me any old time on a whim” here when The Pedant interrupted me]
Pedant: I’ll make a point of only making plans when I know I can stick to them.
Me: Fair. I’m big on consistency. [a few minutes later] Do other people cheerfully consent to being used as your backup plan? Genuinely curious. My mom taught me that breaking plans is terribly rude and I should never do it even if someone else made me an offer I like way better. Perhaps this is not as universal an idea as I was given to believe. So do you have people where you could say “let’s hang out on Tuesday except I might bail on you for my girlfriend” and they’re cool with it? Is the rage I feel at this idea mostly a me-thing?
Pedant: …No, although that’s not how I intended any of that to be meant. [How can he be so stupid as to think it means anything else?] I can see you’re upset. Look, I’ve always been really laid-back about plans and I never give it much thought if people cancel on me, so I tend to forget that it angers others.
Me: I just realized, I DO know people who’d be okay with a proposition as above. Because they’d interpret it as “cool, we’ll hang out if neither of us is doing anything else.” Whereas I reserve timeslots for people. That guy I had the date with? That was actually his second chance. Six months or so ago he was like “let’s do something on Sat” and I said “sure, where and what time?” and I didn’t hear from him for days. Which puts my overthinky mode into high gear. Like if someone else wants to see me on Sat, do I go? Will he be mad I broke plans? Does he expect me to hold the WHOLE DAY until His Highness deigns to select a time? Drove me nuts so I finally messaged him back saying forget it – concrete plans or GTFO.
Pedant: duly noted.
Me: Let’s frame it this way: I totally get that you’ll be spending more time with [girlfriend] than with me, and feel more strongly about her than me. I can live with that. As long as I feel like the centre of attention when I AM with you, and feel respected in general – doing what you say you’ll do, keeping commitments, etc.
Pedant: I follow.
Me: Does that sound like something you can do?
Him saying he was willing to give me what I asked for made me feel better for a while, but now I don’t know how I feel. Will only making plans he knows he’ll keep mean I only see him once a year? I guess we’ll see how it plays out.
I’m not actually so sure he has deeper feelings for this other chick than he does for me, btw, despite what I said. I get a vibe that he’s more compatible with her than he is with me, and therefore really wants to preserve that relationship, but he’s not necessarily more into her.
He was the one who proposed the temporary monogamy with her, and he said something the other day about doing so because he figured he and I were doomed to blow up eventually (what with him being a dumbass who doesn’t understand human feelings and me needing things from a partner that he can’t or won’t provide…like an understanding of human feelings). He’s right; we might very well implode sooner or later. But why the monogamy? Why not date her and keep seeing me for as long as that lasts?
I think he wanted time away from me because he’s into me enough that it distracts him from her. And he knows that she’s the one less likely to get pissed off at him and bail, so he’s trying to focus on her. To “build a foundation” as he explained when he broke up with me.
But the very first time he and I tried to hang out as “just friends,” he still couldn’t keep his hands off me and reneged on his whole monogamy idea. So I WIN.
(I know, I know. Just humour me.)