I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer, author, and ethical Boyslut (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.
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Dear Sexplain It,
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I’m a bisexual polyamorous man in my late twenties. I’ve been dating this new guy, John, for about three months, and while he is great, his boyfriend of three years is awful. Honestly, he’s verbally abusive, controlling, manipulative, gaslights—all of it. Not only does it make me sad for John, but it also impacts our relationship. John will often have to cancel last minute. And when we get together, we spend a lot of our date talking about John’s boyfriend and his most recent outburst.
So far, I’ve been decently neutral. I’ve been trying to validate my new partner’s feelings and saying he deserves more without speaking poorly of his boyfriend. But I want to scream at the top of my lungs that his boyfriend is the worst and they need to break up. But I feel so weird doing that since I’m a new partner. (Also, I fear appearing jealous when this has nothing to do with jealousy.) I want to make an ultimatum, saying it’s him or me. But do you think that’s a good idea?
Dear Terrible Metamour,
I’m sorry to hear you’re in this tricky position. I can say from personal experience (and anecdotes from my friends) that it probably won’t end with John waking up and deciding to leave his boyfriend. They’ve been together for three years, and people often think longevity is a reason not to give up on a relationship, no matter how bad it is. I’m not sharing this to discourage you—after all, there still is a chance he’ll see the light and break things off; I’m sharing this so you can set realistic expectations.
You can’t tell John what to do—the poor guy doesn’t need two controlling partners—but you can and should advocate for yourself. Instead of proposing an ultimatum, express a personal boundary. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one, because you don’t want him to feel forced or coerced into making a decision. That’s why you’re not telling John: “It’s him or me.” Instead, you’re conveying, “If you continue to see this person, which is your decision, I’m going to have to protect myself by leaving you.”
The next time you see John, I would have a serious conversation where you’re gentle and loving in your approach. I’d say something like: “John, you know how much I really care for you and want to be with you, but it’s been challenging for me to see you with someone who makes you cry and doubt that you’re worthy of love and respect. Your relationship dynamic with him isn’t just negatively affecting you; it’s affecting us, and me. Ultimately, I can’t tell you what you should do. All I can do is decide whether I feel safe diving deeper into this relationship when I know you’re still trying to make it work with your boyfriend.”
Best-case scenario, it’s a wake-up call for him to leave his boyfriend, but he’ll most likely tell you he still wants to work on things. In that case, give yourself a timeframe for how long you’re willing to wait to see if things change. If John doesn’t break up with his boyfriend in the next month, three months, or whatever timeline you’re comfortable with, then you have to set yourself free.
Terrible Metamour, you can’t remain in this relationship forever, hoping that one day, John will suddenly wake up and decide to leave his manipulative partner. He may never, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. The only thing you can control is whether you want to continue seeing John.
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