What happens when your mutual partner ghosts you, but not your partner? Rejection sucks, but this feels a bit different.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
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So, what do you do when a mutual partner ghosts you but not your shared partner?
My long term partner and I were both singularly and severally involved with a partner. The partner just completely ghosted me but kept talking to my long term partner.
They said they had a lot going on in their life and I totally understand that, but I also feel like, if they had enough time to keep talking to my long term partner, they had enough time to say something to me. Even a ‘hey I’ve got stuff going on’ or a ‘I don’t want to see you anymore’ is better than what I got. And what sucks even worse is that they kept talking and I didn’t know. I thought they had ghosted us and not just me.
It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, like I’m not good enough. Rejection sucks but I’ve been through it before. This sucks way worse though I can’t explain why.
There’s a lot going on with this particular situation. Because the thing that I’m wondering… the long and short of it is that if you were to go with the option of confronting this person, as much as you could possibly confront them… I’m not sure what the logistics are. Does this person live really close to you both? Do you live with your partner, your long term partner? Is this person going to be physically coming over? Is there COVID stuff that’s happening with this? Since when we’re recording this, this is still in the midst of COVID.
So I don’t know if it’s likely that you’re physically going to run into this person or if you have to go out of your way to run into this person, and generally speaking I think you could confront them, but I’m wondering if confronting will get you the answers that you want. So I think it’s worth thinking about what is the answer that you want from this? Because I do think that, you know it’s… for some people rejecting people outright is a really hard thing to do. And I’m not saying that makes it totally okay to ghost someone, but to say they said they had a lot going on in their life, that sort of reads to me as a little bit of a rejection.
If not a direct one, and it could be possible that to them, they didn’t ghost you. They told you they had a lot going on in their life. And that was the end of it. There’s a variety of different reasons why they might decide to continue talking to your long term partner — and I don’t know if by talking that means that they’re dating or they’re romantically involved — and not to you but it may just be that they get along better with your long term partner than they do with you.
And considering the fact that I’m assuming that they know that you’re dating your long term partner, perhaps, they feel just as awkward about it as you do. So I don’t know what it is that you would get from a confrontation, because they may just tell you like, you know, the reasons in particular that they feel they’re not compatible with you, or they may tell you something that you don’t necessarily want to hear. And that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful for you. I think that the thing that I’m wondering about this is that, you know… you say rejection sucks. You’ve been through it before, and it sucks way worse — what wonders me about it is it does it bother you…
Is their rejection bothering you or is it actually that your long term partner is continuing to engage with them? Even after knowing I assume that your long term partner knows that they ghosted you. And maybe that’s the issue. It’s not so much that you know that they’ve ghosted you and rejected you or whatever but that your long term partner is now continuing to talk with them, and maybe you feel awkward about that and this opens up a different kind of can of worms. I think that one of the things that’s interesting about non-monogamy and polyamory is that we get to see the choices that our partners make.
And it’s quite easy especially within monogamy and especially within the way that we’re encouraged to practice monogamy to think that our partners have chosen us because we’re really special or we’re really good at something, or, you know, that we stand out, or that we are particularly good. And that’s kind of the narrative that the society that we’re in encourages us to believe. Right? That they’ve chosen us because we’re better in some way. And so, the funny thing about polyamory is that you can see the people that your partner choose and you can be less than impressed about that.
And in this particular situation it’s less about like— that you don’t like this person but it’s that your partner’s sort of choosing someone that has kind of been rude to you, and you don’t really know what to make of that. Because, you know, on the one hand, some people operate in a very compartmentalised way. And I’ve struggled with this a lot too. Some people are like “This is what has happened in between you two, and we are separate”. And I can see the validity in that and if that is how people can emotionally operate, then that totally makes sense.
On the other hand, I can also see the problem that you can have if you know someone’s been really… Well not *really* rude — I mean they just ghosted you. That’s not nice. But someone’s been not nice to you and your partner has gone, “Okay”. In a way. So have you talked about it with your long term partner? This is really tricky because it — and I’ve been in situations like this before with friends and not even necessarily with just partners. It’s like, I have had friends who have been nasty to my partner and me go, “You know what?” Even though, yes, this isn’t— We aren’t a unit, and I don’t really like to be in that kind of a unit. Like I don’t operate as a unit. I operate as me.
It’s kind of hard for me to be friends with people who are mean to people that I care about. I can’t ignore that or separate that. So it might be that this is less about that person and more about what’s going on in between you and your long term partner, because I assume that you meant you were severely involved with the same person. And the fact that you thought that that this person had ghosted both of you, and then you suddenly found out that wasn’t the case— that is really awkward. And I just think that, you just need to talk it out a little bit more with your long term partner. And it’s really important not to use your — and I’m sure you know this — but it’s really important not to use your long term partner as a way to get answers from this person.
Just say like, “This is how I’m feeling. What do you feel about the situation?” It could be that your partner feels just as awkward about it. I would really hesitate to encourage your partner to make any decisions about the relationship they have with that person purely based off of the way that they’ve treated you. Because here’s the thing about ghosting. I have done this before, in friendships. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but for me personally, I have resorted to what people would call ghosting when I have felt like having a direct confrontation with the person was either not something that I could do at the time, or if I felt like it would not result in anything beneficial.
There was someone who I was friends with for ages and I just… I didn’t have — my expectations of them we’re not really fair but I didn’t know how to have a confrontation. I’m not generally very good at healthy confrontation. I’m very good at unhealthy confrontation. I’m very good at, you know— I can easily like get mad at somebody. I can easily like— if I have to really put my foot down, I’m very I’m very fine with doing that, but to be vulnerable and to say, “Hey, this hurts, and this is how I feel”. That is really really hard for me, actually.
And so when people ghost sometimes — I can’t speak for every single person in every single situation. — But sometimes the reason they do that is not because they are trying to hurt you. It might be that they just don’t know how to do rejection. It might be that they don’t how to make it clear. It might be that they thought they made it clear by telling you that they have a lot going on. And that was clear enough, and maybe you’re like, “Oh that’s not too clear.” It’s hard for me to say because I don’t know what — if you’ve sent them a bunch of messages and been like “Hey how are you?” and they’ve just totally ignored it. I mean generally that is what happens with ghosting but if you see that they’ve seen the messages it’s a bit different. But sometimes that’s what people do when they can’t really have a direct confrontation, and I’m not saying that makes it even easier for you, or that it feels nice, but it might be worth thinking about that.
There are good reasons why they may have— they may want to make time in their life for your long term partner but not necessarily with you. Maybe they’re really intimidated by dating two people who are dating each other, and they feel like or they want to make a decision instead of dating you both. We can sit here and speculate all sorts of reasons. I’m not saying sit here on an endless loop of speculation as to why they did it, but I’m saying that inot to take it personally, that it’s probably not necessarily about you personally.
And even if it is, if they’re not willing to tell you exactly why they’ve done this or exactly why they’re not interested and there’s only so much you can do. But when it comes to how weird you’re feeling, I think it sucks worse just because you know your partner got accepted and you didn’t and that’s really hard and it’s worth talking with your partner about it, or seeing a therapist, if you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist, talking to that and just also allowing yourself to be a little bit, put out by it.
Rejection does suck in general. It’s always gonna suck. But when somebody you know gets accepted and you get rejected like that sucks and you’re gonna feel a way about it, and that’s okay. Like, it will I think eventually pass, but it might be worth just having a chat with your partner — like no expectation of them to do anything in their relationship but just letting you know that you feel weird about it, and if they plan to bring that person over then you might all have to like acknowledge what’s the big elephant in the room of what’s happened.
And just, you know, laugh about it. Address it and move on because I don’t necessarily think this is going to be a big deal in the long term. It just feels a little bit weird right now because of the way that it happened, and then the fact that your partner is probably still talking to them and it feels a bit awkward, and that’s okay. So yeah, just to recap, you could confront them depending on your logistical situation but I don’t know if that will be helpful for you I think you do have to kind of just accept that.
It may not have been a very good rejection but it is clearly a some type of rejection, and it is what it is. And, you know, let go of the assumption that having that knowing exactly why they rejected you is going to make you feel better because I don’t think it will. And then the second thing is have a talk with your long term partner about it and try to explore a little a little bit yourself. Like does it bother you that your long term partner is, has, has been accepted or continues to talk with them? Ask what the plans are if this person does come visit your long term partner. How are you going to work this out?
It might be that eventually there is kind of a sit down with all three of you and you just kind of talk about it, and that would probably be really useful to address the situation. But just have a chat with your partner about it but don’t put any pressure on them to make decisions. It’s okay for you to have feelings about being rejected by a person who’s kind of, you know, accepted more or less your partner. But the last thing that you want to do is necessarily make them feel like they have to they have to do something to honour your feelings to this person. That’s not a really fair position to put them in.
And last but not least, I just think that you have to accept that you feel a little bit shit and be okay with that. You feel a bit shit and rejection sucks but this one sucks a little bit worse and I don’t think it’s going to suck forever. It’s going to suck for a little while. It’s going to be awkward. Embrace that it’s going to suck and be awkward for a while. If you have access to a polyamory friendly therapist consider having a few sessions talking through this, and eventually I think you will feel better.
But, yeah, I think it sucks, mainly because it’s one thing to get rejected. Like usually when we get rejected, we don’t know who else has been accepted. Now we know who else has been accepted. So it’s easy for your brain to start comparing and contrasting and that’s just your brain trying to like help you out. It doesn’t feel helpful at all. It doesn’t feel in the slightest but helpful at all right now, but that is your brain just trying to, especially if you’ve ever been through any kind of trauma like it’s your brain being a survival brain and going “oh well if we learn where we made mistakes and then we’ll be able to prevent rejection from happening again!”
Your brain just doesn’t want you to feel pain again but the thing is that you can’t— And I’ve said this in my columns, I’ve said this in podcast before, and I have a polyamory 101 and 102 articles. And I think specifically I talked about this in my 101 article. Your anxiety is always going to make you feel like if you make different choices then you’ll be able to prevent pain. You’ll be able to prevent the worst from happening, but you can’t accept that and accept the hyper-vigilance without also accepting that everything that has happened to you is somehow your fault.
And it’s not. The rejections you’ve had before— it’s not because you’ve made some grave error, every single time or, you know, it just happens. And your brain is, in its weirdness, trying to help you figure it out so that it can prevent pain, but, you know, sitting with it and going, “Hey, this happened”, will eventually help your survival brain calm down. But at least if you can see that it’s just your survival brain trying to help you out, then that sometimes makes it a lot easier to deal with it. I hope this helps and good luck.