Pandora is the first girl I ever kissed. She is the first girl I had sex with. She was the wife of Dante, and they were my first relationship after my marriage broke up. As far as relationships go, I probably couldn't have chosen a more difficult one. Long distance, polyamorous, my first experience with a girl, and it turned out their marriage was not as solid as it had seemed... any one of those things is difficult in a relationship, let alone all of them to someone starting a new relationship after 17 years of monogamy. Pandora was the first girl to break my heart.
She was very sexually assertive, flirting with me heavily online, as I was building a more romantic and emotional connection with her husband. She seemed to encourage it at first, but would have doubts and insecurities at times, which I would try to talk about with her, with some success. At least, I felt after some of our conversations, that things were acceptable to her. Our first meeting was when they came to my hometown for a visit and it was a little rocky at first, meeting one another for the first time, but ended blissfully with all parties seemingly content. We later met midway in a midway state a few hundred miles away from each of us, spending the weekend together, the three of us. That was an amazing weekend, free of drama and full of passion and friendship. Our third meeting, in their hometown, was confusing and troubling. Dante got sick, there was a hospital visit, and Pandora came on strongly to me but refused my reactions to what I thought were obvious advances. I learned that a naked woman flirting and kissing me while straddling my lap is not necessarily a sexual advance. I accepted the fact that sex between us might not be happening, and I was fine with that, but it ended up happening anyway, when just as I let go of the notion, she seemed to become interested again, and after much permission asking, we all shared some sexy times together. I left feeling slightly confused by the whole trip, but otherwise content, feeling that the two of them were feeling the same way. Navigating Pandora's emotional map was difficult, and I looked to Dante for help, but frankly, I don't think he knew the answers either.
I returned home from that trip and a few days later met Modu at a party for the first time. I hadn't been looking to meet anyone or to find myself so immediately drawn to someone, but it happened. We had met, flirted, and kissed that night which led to a fairly slowly developing relationship over the next few months. I told Dante the next day about meeting Modu, and he was happy for me, being a true polyamorous heart whose sense of compersion kicked in immediately. But Pandora was pissed. I spent weeks trying to figure out why, trying to talk with her, trying to understand. While we never discussed any sort of monogamy regarding our threesome, she angrily accused me of being promiscuous and disrespectful of her feelings.
Soon her anger turned to accusations that she never really wanted to be sexual with me in the first place. I had been very careful to explicitly ask permission and get approval from her, finding her confusing to begin with, and knowing she had a history of sexual abuse. To hear these hints of non-consent coming from her was soul crushing. One of my worst fears would be to coerce someone into doing something sexual that they didn't want to do, so I was extremely upset by these ideas. Looking back, I think she wanted to hurt me and also Dante, possibly for falling for one another. It is possible she wanted to hurt him for pressuring her into polyamory, which she may not have been fully ready or willing to engage in. In any case, it was extremely painful for me, and we spend several months not speaking... she also forced Dante and I not to speak for months. As you might imagine, the relationship ended and never revived. They have since divorced, a few years later, after drama with a new attempt at poly with a new relationship, amongst other things, I am sure.
While she never actually accused me of wrong doing, she said that she consented only because she didn't feel like she could say no. Perhaps she couldn't say no because she wanted to please her husband or me, to not cause a rift in the special feelings we had been developing. Or perhaps it was a learned behavior from her abusive past, where she froze and submitted in fear when confronted with a partner wanting to have sex with her. I don't know. But it was heartbreaking to me to have felt like I had been careful with her and that she sincerely wanted to be with me, and then those feelings were rescinded much later. I felt dirty and shameful, even though I didn't think I did anything wrong.
It is hard for me to understand these feelings of the inability to say no. My personal demons have to do with being terrified of my own sexuality, and I am quite comfortable with my fear, shame, and guilt turning my default to *no*, even when I may desperately want to express that sexuality. I can self-deny as easily as I can breathe, it is second nature, and something I am actively challenging myself to break away from. So when someone like me, trying to assert my sexuality to overcome my fear, meets with someone who tends to shut down in fear of another's sexuality, the results can be disastrous. In the few years that I have been working on open relationships and polyamory, the need for complete honesty, trust, and communication have been extremely important to me. But I can only expect those things from myself and express the desire to want them from my partners. I can't force them into it any more than I would want to force them into being intimate. At some point, one has trust that their partners have the self confidence and inner strength to be able to say no, even in complicated situations where emotions run high and they feel pressure, and it is only sane of me to expect that truth from them. It is clearly not always the case, though, and I don't know what to do about that.