I got caught up in some polyamorous kink drama; is there anything I could have done better?

About five years ago I had a long distance friend in the kink community; we’ll call her Z. Z & I bonded over queerness, dominance, and our shared love of “mommy play”, as well as an acknowledged mutual attraction. Z was in a relationship with a submissive girl named Q who just happened to live in my area. Q hit me up flirtatiously via OkCupid one day, and I got the enthusiastic go-ahead from Z, so we started dating. In our kink interactions we incorporated a good deal of “mommy play”, and all was going swimmingly.

Two months in, I receive an unprovoked communication from Z that she never wanted to speak to or see me again. I was both mystified and hurt, so I contacted Q, who told me that it was none of my business, that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing Z’s issues with me, and that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again. I spent years beating myself up, wondering what I could have done better. Recently I received an apology via email from Z, saying that she had been reacting to Q’s disclosure that her and I engaged in “mommy play”. Apparently Z was under the impression that that kind of dynamic was exclusive and special to her relationship with Q. Q had broken an agreement, and Z took it out on me. They’re no longer together.

What I want to know is: Is there anything I could have done differently throughout this whole engagement to prevent it ending as it did? There MUST be a lesson here!

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I’m terribly sorry that you got burned, reader. To lose a friend is regretful; to lose a copacetic partnership simultaneously just adds insult to injury, and that’s not even including the fact that you spent years in the dark! I appreciate you taking the time to lay all of this out for me. Here are my thoughts:

First of all, the only action I believe you should have taken - but didn’t - was to sit down with all three parties involved once Q had expressed her attraction and Z had given you both permission to date (whether in person, via Skype or Google Hangout, etc). In a triad-type situation like this, it’s essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the onset, and often the surest way to do so is to carve out intentional face time with all parties. On a personal level it shows that you’re committed to transparency and ethical practices, and it underlines how much you prioritize your friendship with Z. Additionally, opportunity should be taken to construct a “contingency plan” that all parties agree to, which outlines exactly what would happen were the relationship between you and Z, Z and Q, and/or you and Q to dissolve. The more preventative planning and structure, the better, even if you all don’t end up following the guidelines word-to-word once shit hits the fan.
 

Now, let’s talk about Z & Q. If I had to guess, I would say that either their relationship was a newer one, or that you were the first accessory partner to date Q while she was tied to Z. The situation reeks of a lack of pre-negotiation, both around what Q was permitted to do with other partners (obviously, “mommy play” was not one of those things!) as well as around disclosure politics (ie “How much do I tell my primary partner about my antics with other partners?”). And honestly, that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt. The alternative scenario is that Q was self-sabotaging her relationship with you by disclosing that information to Z, knowing full well that it was a breach of their power dynamic protocol. Only Q knows either way for sure. Finally, I take personal affront to how Q responded to your initial confusion and concern after Z’s maliciousness. The issue at hand had EVERYTHING to do with you, and absolutely NOTHING to do with Z’s private and/or sensitive opinions or beliefs. By claiming it did, Q removed herself of all blame.

Regardless of the motivation behind the disclosure, were you deserving of Z’s subsequent blow-up and dismissal? Absolutely not.