asking for advice on monogamous relationship - acceptable here?

Hello, lovely forum users.

Long-time listener, first-time caller. I've been voraciously reading past threads for years now, and by doing so, have gained a great deal of insight and perspective on communication in healthy relationships.

I am struggling with an issue in my monogamous relationship, and wonder if it's acceptable to ask for advice here. If not, I'll respect the wishes of the forum members - I certainly don't wish to overstep.

Why not ask elsewhere? Because I find that most relationship forums which focus on monogamous relationships lack the sort of introspective dialogue I seek. My current relationship is monogamous, but I've been involved with many other styles and shapes over the years, and tend to take a broader view of relating. Many long-term posters here have been navigating issues of communication, honesty, emotional management, and personal accountability for years. I value those perspectives and would be grateful for advice.

Thanks for considering the request. What do y'all think?
 

Wiccan87

New member
So far everyone I have met on this site seems like they would be willing to give you advice and there are probably more than a few that could give you some good suggestions. Welcome to the community. I wonder if the mods even have a mono relationship corner here.
 
I'll go ahead and ask, and if it's deemed inappropriate, I'm happy to have the discussion curtailed. I'll warn in advance that I'm often set to Maximum Verbosity.

BACKGROUND:

My sweetie & I have been together for nine months. New still, but well-established. The choice of monogamy was discussed, discussed again, and rediscussed. I have a background of several long-term relationships, one lasting almost a decade. He has been married before. Both of us have done a fair bit of slutting around, though my wild days are almost 20 years behind me, and his ended the moment we got together, and not a moment before. We both agreed that we wanted a happy, stable, long-term monogamous partnership, with the unhurried option of living together and/or marriage. We agreed to honesty and calm communication.

I used to have a secure attachment style, which was shaken by an intense, committed relationship (my partner talking quite seriously of marriage & children) which ended when my partner left me coldly, abruptly, and unexpectedly, not speaking to me for five years. That's another story! But it informed my subsequent years of choosing unavailable men, and my mistrust of being idealized & told what I "want" to hear. That was six years ago, and I've done a lot of self-work since then, often choosing to be alone rather than partner incompatibly. I've largely returned to the centered, trusting person I was before.

I have an intensely high libido and a lot of experience in many styles of relationships (open, poly, happily monogamous, unhappily monogamous, cheating, being cheated on, etc.). Through years of trial, error, and introspection, I know what works for me: deliberately chosen monogamy, with honesty, trust, independence, and strong individual selves. Despite my high sex drive, I spent almost a year without partnered sex, as casual sex doesn't meet my needs for connection and intimacy.

When my current partner (let's call him Peter) and I got together, he'd had a VERY recent history of many sexual partners. In and of itself, this wasn't an issue - we discussed safer sex practices, got tested, all was well. Over time, it became apparent that he'd been less than honest with these partners. Some, he was upfront with. Many were casual bar pickups. Many more were women from a community we're both a part of. He'd deliberately withheld information, misled others, and often outright lied to his partners about the nature of their connection, or his other partners. He alluded to some of this & admitted that his communication "wasn't the best," that he'd hurt some people, wasn't proud of his actions, and was actively choosing to be a different person.

Though we're both a part of the same community, it's large, with many subgroups. I didn't know most of his friends, and vice versa. When I started spending more time with his friends, a former lover of his warned me about his cheating / dishonest behavior. This former lover caused a couple of scenes at social gatherings, cornering him & demanding to talk intensely & immediately about their former relationship. He has owned his behavior and apologized to her. Peter & I discussed & worked through it, though I still have some concerns about his judgment in choosing her as a lover / friend.

At another social gathering, a different woman warned me about Peter - this time, not about his dishonesty, but about his association with another community member. The topic isn't germane to this discussion, but increased my wariness about Peter and his judgment. I decided to talk to a mutual friend to ask for some much-needed good news about Peter. What awesome stuff could she tell me about him? Oh, she said, here's ANOTHER story about cheating & dishonesty.

I began to have serious worries about Peter's motivations & actions. All of these stories took place within three or four months of our relationship beginning. I spoke with him openly about my concerns, and didn't feel as though they were allayed.

THE CURRENT ISSUE:

At that point, I chose to act with a lack of integrity. I violated his privacy and his trust. I read his journal from years prior leading up to a few months before he & I connected. The way he wrote about women chilled and sickened me. He wrote about being comfortable with lying to them, about being selfish, about going after cheap lays, about deliberately "playing" his lovers. He wrote about looking into a lover's eyes and "lying with a smile on my face." He also wrote about his deep self-loathing, desire to love and be loved, wanting a partner to respect and care for.

I know that I acted out of line with my own values. I knew better at the time, and chose to let fear and mistrust dictate my actions. I cannot unknow what I know. I cannot go back and choose NOT to violate his privacy. Nor have I yet told him what I read.

In the months since, we have had MANY conversations about his former relationships. He has admitted to lying and cheating, has laid himself bare to me. He's told me many unflattering stories, things I would never have known if he hadn't shared them. He's deeply ashamed of his past, and firmly committed to a healthier path.

In OUR relationship, he is an excellent partner. He's kind, communicative, honest even when it makes him look bad. Peter is thoughtful, attentive, deeply devoted to me, funny, sexy, giving, and loving. I have no doubt of his love for me or commitment to the relationship. We've traveled together & have plans to meet family soon. He's started attending counseling (his own suggestion, fueled by my encouragement). He wants a shared life, as do I. This is a partnership that I feel deeply fulfilled by, and am committed to growing in over the years.

Here is my conundrum: I cannot shake my doubts and fears. It gives me comfort to know that all of these thoughts and deeds are in the past - I feel no deceit in our current relationship. But there is a mouse of doubt that gnaws at my happiness & keeps asking "what if?"

I admit that I would likely feel some jealousy / insecurity about his former lovers, even if all of those connections had been rooted in honorable behavior. At any given social gathering, there are maybe four recent ex-lovers. I fully own that jealousy & insecurity & am actively working on those issues in myself. My doubt stems not from jealousy, but from not knowing whether or not to trust my own experience. Did his former lovers also feel secure and taken care of? Has he looked in my eyes and lied to me? I vacillate between trusting the good & grounded love that we share, and worrying that my trust is misplaced.

I know that I need to be honest about reading his words. If I am committed to honesty, openness, and trust, I need to walk the talk. And I'm terrified. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
a broader view of relating.
Seems fine to me, particularly because of that ^ statement. IME, when someone's had positive experience outside the "monogamy box," this leaves them unable to return to seeing monogamy in the expected manner even if they find themselves totally happy with one partner.

I've long figured that poly-experienced people can offer much help in creating healthy monogamy. Things that profoundly frighten lifelong monogamous people seem to get taken in stride after a little experience in nonmonogamy. We might provide a valuable perspective.

Sure, we sometimes try to turn people away who seem to have come in the wrong door, but mostly the club is open to whoever wants to be here. Ask away. :)
 
Thank you, Ravenscroft!

I realize my post above is a fairly bog-standard monogamy issue. What boggles me about my partner's past is the lying and cheating, when there was no need for it. I couldn't understand why he wouldn't actively choose ethical non-monogamy and fuck all the ethically non-monogamous ladies (and occasional men) his heart desired.

"It's too complicated!" he said. GURL. We have differing ideas of what constitutes complication.

And I let him know that I'd done all the identity questing I needed to, and was quite happy to have one partner. That if he needed or wanted more than one sexual partner, he should choose a different person to partner with. That he should take some introspective time before committing. But he's firmly convinced that he chooses to be monogamous with me.

My fear is that, given his conflict-avoidant behavior, he will choose to cheat rather than be honest, out of fear of disappointing or hurting me.
 

opalescent

Active member
*Disclaimer - I'm a spaminator which means I zap spam so it doesn't clutter the forum. I'm listed as a moderator but I do not have the role of setting the user terms or interpreting them.

What follows is my personal opinion. I am not responding on behalf of the forum or for other moderators or spaminators.*

It is true that much advice or thoughts given here can apply just as well to any relationship style or structure. And there are quite a few folks who post who consider themselves monogamous, monogamish, or not poly, or formerly poly but now monogamous, or who tried poly but it wasn't for them, and so on. There are people who post here who don't identify as poly at all but do relationship anarchy or similar philosophy. There are swingers and all kinds of other varieties of ethical non-monogamy. There are cheaters, former cheaters, and people trying to recover from cheating in a relationships. (Admittedly cheaters who continue cheating tend not to stay.) I personally greatly value the variety of people who participate here. So clearly being monogamous or not poly is not a barrier to participating. Nor should it be.

But, OP, here is where I hesitate to wholeheartedly encourage you to post your questions. None of this is meant to be aimed at you personally. Also, I really appreciate that you asked instead of just went ahead and posted.

Both the the tone and content of this forum are rare. The tone is generally friendly and open. It's generally not attacking (although sometimes people state that being asked hard questions feels like an attack). In an internet where trolls seem to rule and actual discussion(not trading insults), that tone of friendliness, openness, and questioning is precious. We are far from perfect and conflict happens. But the tone of this place should be protected, as well as encouraged and supported.

The content is rare too. OP, you've noted this in your request. The points of view presented here, in all of their variety, are often profoundly different, or even at odds, with much of the more mainstream relationship discussion venues. There are different values expressed here, and often entirely ways of framing relationships. I can certainly understand finding that valuable and refreshing. (I used to read the Relationship subreddit on Reddit. I even posted sometimes. So I get where you are coming from.)

Basically, I want to protect the tone and content of this place. I don't want polyamory.com to turn into a general relationship forum. It would be wonderful if a general relationship forum existed that somehow replicated the tone and values of polyamory.com. But I do not want this forum to serve that purpose.

Now would one post focused on a monogamous relationship change the tone and content here? By itself, no, it wouldn't. And the presence of monogamous folks who post also doesn't change the tone or the content. (In fact, commenting on poly issues from monogamous viewpoints has generated some of the most interesting and fruitful discussions.)

However, the majority of people who participate here consider themselves poly or are doing ethical non-monogamy in some way. Tone and content are set by the majority. I am not particularly worried about the monogamous hordes taking over the forum (unless the culture dramatically changes). What I do worry about is a slow, and completely well-intentioned, change in the content from a poly/ethical non-monogamy focus to a more general relationships focus. And allowing a monogamous relationship focused question does seem like one way to go down that road.

Now I do feel like a bit of a jackass for feeling this way. I generally support more openness and more discussion. I'm not thrilled with falling on the side of exclusion. However, I come down on the side of preserving a space for a minority that does not have a huge variety of places to openly discuss things.

OP, I hope you continue to participate here (and reading posts is participating). I hope you consider responding to threads. I don't want you to feel unwelcome or attacked although I understand how both could feel true to you.

Perhaps consider how to create a relationship discussion forum that has the values and tone you see here elsewhere? OP, I would totally join in such an effort.

*Also I wrote this without reading the later posts.*
 
I know that if I cannot eliminate doubt in myself - founded or unfounded - I will need to end the relationship. I cannot continue to hold him hostage to his past, and I cannot violate my own boundaries by choosing to stay AND feeding the gnawing Mice of Doubt.

Before a few weeks ago, I was choosing to err on the side of trust. Then, we were chatting casually one evening, and he made a statement that contradicted a former statement -one which was made during a conversation in which I stressed honesty about a subject and asked point-blank for the truth. He chose to lie about it. When asked why, he admitted to being ashamed about the behavior & worried about my opinion of him.

I don't know whether the lie is a holdover from past ingrained behavior, or a glimpse into what I can expect from the relationship. My analytical brain is grinding away on this, with no satisfaction.
 
Opalescent, I completely understand your concerns, and appreciate the thoughtful way in which you worded them. I respect the space created here, and the general tone of the discussions. It's important to have spaces for communities outside the mainstream, and I have no wish to slowly take over a polyamorous space with non-polyamory-related issues.

As I've already posted my question, I think it likely makes more sense to keep it up...? But I will be mindful about starting future threads, and respectful of community wishes. Thanks again for your response!
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
Oddly, I can kinda see where he's coming from. The secrecy, lying, subterfuge, all seem pretty common -- maybe even necessary -- in monogamy-as-practiced. Even those of us that weren't raised with the belief that this behavior is good have nevertheless seen it happening all around us for many years. It's even enshrined in film, TV, books, & music.

Game-playing is a tough habit to break. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it's an addiction, more attractive to some. All those underhanded tricks give a feeling of power over others, even if (as you describe) nobody's really surprised.

I do have doubts about your social circle. If everyone knows that Peter has been such a jerkoff, this ought to be addressed openly. Instead, it remains a whispering campaign, & works to grant Peter power within the group.
 
Ravenscroft, I agree with your points about monogamy-as-practiced. In my last open relationship, I encountered people who would've been comfortable cheating with me, but shied away from honest non-monogamy.

Peter has many "role models" in his father & uncles, all of whom have cheated on / art cheating on their wives. His father is on his fourth marriage. Peter is deeply contemptuous of this behavior, but it is the relationship model with which he grew up.

A speech impediment made him silent, ignored, and wishing to be invisible for most of his childhood. The sexy beast of a man he turned into owes a lot to external validation through sex with others.

I'm far from perfect, but he's often expressed his appreciation for our mode of communication and the way in which we talk through problems. Which makes me feel more of a shitheel for keeping this from him - violating trust & keeping secrets are anathema to healthy relationships.

And yeah, the social circle is the local bicycle scene. My crew is a little older, smart dorky weirdos, many with kids. His crew tend toward younger bike punks. I thought of her conversation with me as less of a whisper campaign and more of a warning from bitter experience. "Hey girl, this guy fucked me over - make sure you don't get hurt," sort of a thing. The fact that he DOESN'T treat me the way he treated her has been difficult for her to witness, and I wish she'd had a better experience.
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
OK, i'm gonna ask the obvious and it's not meant in a snarky way, but simply:
What makes you think that he will all of a sudden be completely communicative with you when he hasn't been totally honest with anyone else? Nobody sneaks around hiding several lovers from one another, lying about his intentions because he's just a jerk, he does it out of deep seated fear and deeply ingrained relationship survival tactics. Yes, likely learned not only by witnessing the men in his family of origin, but by being a child in a family where vulnerable feelings were dangerous to display. This level of fear doesn't disappear just because he's met a wonderful woman (you.) I wouldn't say that he is compelled to sneak and lie, but he sure has some extremely well-travelled pathways in his brain that guide his thinking. Change in these behavior and thought patterns never happens because true love comes along (as is shown in soooo many films) but because a person consciously decides to do some serious soul searching with lots of support.

In my own life, I've realized that if a person doesn't have an anxiety disorder of sorts, anxiety plays an enormously important role in our emotional navigation system. It's usually there for good reason. Same with jealousy. Jealousy means: STOP, back up, wrong way, too much. Anxiety, jealousy, fear (in an otherwise mentally healthy individual) are powerful and valuable emotions that signal to us to slow down (at very least) and back up. I have no doubt that Peter loves you to the moon and back, but he has a lifetime of hurtful coping mechanisms to examine before he really is available for the kind of long term relationship you two have agreed that you want together. Backing up doesn't mean breaking up, but it does mean respecting your intuition and your anxiety. You can't love Peter enough to help him change and he can't love you enough to suddenly be a totally different guy than he's been for so long. Some additional support and education for him is definitely warranted here before he is ready to be the mate you're envisioning yourself with.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I'm sorry you struggle.

Here's what sticks out to me from your post:

My fear is that, given his conflict-avoidant behavior, he will choose to cheat rather than be honest, out of fear of disappointing or hurting me.

That part is his problem. If he does behavior that is objectionable? He's the one doing it.

I cannot shake my doubts and fears. It gives me comfort to know that all of these thoughts and deeds are in the past - I feel no deceit in our current relationship. But there is a mouse of doubt that gnaws at my happiness & keeps asking "what if?"

This part is your problem. The mouse. Possibly because you have not decided what the consequence will be.

You seem to have already accepted that entering relationship with a former player carries the risk that he might be playing you too. Hopefully not, but there's a risk. I presume you go into it with eyes wide open and no illusions.

I am not hearing where you have decided your line in the sand or the consequences.

Something like...

"If it turns out I am being played? I don't need extra drama. I'm not merging bank accounts or listing him on my house as co-owner. (Preventative behaviors you can do to keep disaster smaller scale. Be worse to be played AND have all your banking wiped out by the joint holder.)

I'm also going to tell him that lies/cheating are a (1 strike, I am out) kind of deal breaker to me. I prefer he hard truth it to me than cheat or lie. (This is your personal boundary for behavior you do not put up with.)

Because if after all this I get played? I don't want to song and dance about it. I just want out. So he can expect me to ask him to leave/I leave to my mom's house while he gets his stuff moved out/however it is. I can expect that of me too. I will not allow my soft feelings for him to keep me in the line of fire. I can love someone a lot, but not even for them will I stay in something that hurts me. (The actions YOU can do as a consequence to poor behavior.) "​

Then you can relax that you have your "emergency back up plan" decided and set. You know what to do if something like that happens. Then you can live life as usual and hopefully it is never needed. He keeps demonstrating good faith efforts so your trust in him is well founded.

The next time the mouse gnaws you can go "Shut up, mouse. I'm know what I'm doing, he's behaving honorably so far, and there's an emergency back up plan in place to boot."

I know that I need to be honest about reading his words. If I am committed to honesty, openness, and trust, I need to walk the talk. And I'm terrified. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

That is a separate issue. Apologize, and ask for his forgiveness. Say you will respect his diary in future and not read it in future. If he accepts, honor all that and don't do it again. If he's keeping it on the kitchen table which make it hard for you? Ask him to keep it more private and put away and not all strewn about.

If he doesn't want to accept your apology and breaks up with you over it? Accept his decision. His willingness to participate in things belong to him. You are both adults. You can each withdraw consent to be here at any time.

But the outcomes should not influence (you doing the right thing) or (you not doing the right thing.) You just do it because YOU value integrity and you are going to live up to the personal standard you set for yourself. You do your side of the job.

You let the chips fall where they may and accept the outcome he picks. Let him do his side of the job.

People of integrity don't do the right thing "only if it comes out nice for me."

HTH!

Galagirl
 
Last edited:

Marcus

Well-known member
He'd deliberately withheld information, misled others, and often outright lied to his partners about the nature of their connection, or his other partners. He alluded to some of this & admitted that his communication "wasn't the best," that he'd hurt some people, wasn't proud of his actions, and was actively choosing to be a different person.

The functioning definition of intimacy that I like is one that I heard in therapy years ago: "someone having the ability to hurt me, and not doing it"

It's over-simplified and has a rather bull in a china shop appeal, but when we really think about what Intimacy actually is, I think it's a razor sharp definition for at least one important part of intimacy.

In order for intimacy to exist, at least one person has to be vulnerable with the other... the other person needs to demonstrate that this is welcome by not using that information against them in any way - showing that their intention is to come closer to the person, not fight them.

I give that brief explanation because what this guy seems to be trying to do is let you in. He's opening himself up and giving you the opportunity to decide if you are with him or against him.

When I started spending more time with his friends, a former lover of his warned me about his cheating / dishonest behavior. This former lover caused a couple of scenes at social gatherings, cornering him & demanding to talk intensely & immediately about their former relationship. He has owned his behavior and apologized to her. Peter & I discussed & worked through it, though I still have some concerns about his judgment in choosing her as a lover / friend.

The meat of your post is centered around his bitchy, gossiping "friends" who all talk shit about him behind his back. Granted, he's already told you basically what they are using as a weapon against him, but their goal is clearly to grind him over his mistakes.

Why he associates with people who are so nasty is beyond me... but that's his life, not mine.

I spoke with him openly about my concerns, and didn't feel as though they were allayed.

What was it you needed to get from him?

Keep in mind that this person is under no obligation to delve even further into vulnerability than they already have.

Were you looking for some specific thing that he didn't give you? If you want something specific from someone and actually expect to get it... you need to specifically ask for it - otherwise you're just setting them up for failure.

At that point, I chose to act with a lack of integrity. I violated his privacy and his trust. I read his journal from years prior leading up to a few months before he & I connected.

This is just fucking tragic. So this guy has been as honest as I would expect someone to be about their shitty past dating experience, he's been ganged up on by all of his "friends" about his shitty past dating experience, and his current "friend" reads through his journal looking for confirmation about his shitty past dating experiences.

I'll be honest with you, I'm not loving this guys choice in who he associates with. I hope he learns some valuable lessons from his mistakes and scrapes off the people who clearly have no use for him and just want to watch him fail. Unfortunately he and his "friends" sound very young, so I expect that kind of growth will be years and many bad experiences in the making.

I know that I need to be honest about reading his words. If I am committed to honesty, openness, and trust, I need to walk the talk.

Break up with this guy. Learn to be an individual. Take responsibility for your own feelings. Get therapy.

This is my advice.
 

Rockit49

New member
Hello.

I like Marcus's advise to just work on you!
Enjoy your friend or let it go!
Good luck
We'll be here fwiw
 
Last edited:

MeeraReed

Well-known member
Although I agree with opalescent's concerns about keeping this forum focused on non-monogamy, I don't mind your particular question because I think it does touch on issues of non-monogamy.

Specifically, Peter's explanation for why he chose lying and cheating rather than ethical non-monogamy before he met you. He said, because ethical non-monogamy would be too complicated or too difficult. You are frustrated with this response, but he's right. If he was filled with self-loathing at that time, and did not know how to be vulnerable or how to communicate, he could not have managed ethical non-monogamy.

Also, finding partners who also want ethical non-monogamy is EXTREMELY difficult. Just finding someone to date can take years. If someone just wants to sleep around, it is much faster/easier/simpler to lie and cheat. That doesn't make it right, of course. But I have definitely observed people who would run screaming from polyamory, yet nonetheless allow themselves to be deluded by an obvious player/cheater. So, a player/cheater has many more opportunities than an ethical non-monogamist.

That doesn't excuse Peter's behavior. But what DOES excuse it, in my opinion, is that he's owned it, talked openly about it, apologized for it (including to those he hurt), processed it, self-reflected on it, regretted it, etc. What more do you want him to do?

I know that reading his diary horrified you. But for me, what he wrote in his diary is actually evidence that he is now who he says he is. The fact that he was even keeping a journal at all shows that he was trying to be self-reflective at the time, was trying to understand why he was acting so shitty. What he wrote shows that he was aware that he was doing wrong-- "lying to her with a smile on my face," he wrote. He wrote it down because he felt guilty about it.

Alternately, it's possible that his journal is the diary of a unrepentant narcissist who was bragging about his conquests--but you don't describe it that way. You say it's full of self-loathing. You don't say that it's full of self-delusions or unreliable narration--it sounds like the diary of someone who hates himself, knows he is acting like a total shit, and can't understand why he is acting like a total shit. His diary was maybe the first step on his journey toward self-awareness and NOT being a shit.

The truly awful people I have known, who used other people and never regretted it, are filled with self-delusions instead of self-awareness. They do not keep diaries or try to understand their own behavior. They never change.

I don't think you should tell him that you read his diary. You know it was wrong. You just have to live with it.

I don't think you should blame the women he hurt for being crazy bitches or immature gossips or whatever. It sounds like he really screwed them over, deliberately played them off each other, and they finally banned together and got wise about it. The gossip about his past is simply something he has to live with.

I think he is being honest when he says that he wants monogamy with you. People who spend time as players/cheaters don't necessarily ENJOY non-monogamy--they are doing it because they have no idea how to have a relationship or because they hate themselves (or because they hate women, but usually self-hatred is at the root of that, too).

If Peter DOES turn out to be dishonest and cheats on you, too, it's not going to be because he essentially wants non-monogamy. It will be because he didn't actually become self-aware or comfortable with intimacy or get over his self-loathing.
 
What makes you think that he will all of a sudden be completely communicative with you when he hasn't been totally honest with anyone else?

...Change in these behavior and thought patterns never happens because true love comes along (as is shown in soooo many films) but because a person consciously decides to do some serious soul searching with lots of support.

...You can't love Peter enough to help him change and he can't love you enough to suddenly be a totally different guy than he's been for so long. Some additional support and education for him is definitely warranted here before he is ready to be the mate you're envisioning yourself with.

I don't interpret your question as snarky in the least. It is a question I have asked him, in so many words. I'm a pragmatist; I don't believe in the fairy tale of "but my LOVE will change him!!!" The only behavior I can change is my own.

He'd previously expressed his belief that unwanted behaviors could simply be quit, like smoking - that willpower alone made change happen. As a man not given to introspection, the concept of self-work was alien. Though he regrets his treatment of women, he has no idea WHY he treated them badly. The fact that he sought counseling (again, his idea, not done at my urging) is heartening to me. I think it will enrich his life whether or not I'm in the picture.
 
Last edited:
You seem to have already accepted that entering relationship with a former player carries the risk that he might be playing you too. Hopefully not, but there's a risk. I presume you go into it with eyes wide open and no illusions.

I am not hearing where you have decided your line in the sand or the consequences.

...Then you can relax that you have your "emergency back up plan" decided and set. You know what to do if something like that happens. Then you can live life as usual and hopefully it is never needed. He keeps demonstrating good faith efforts so your trust in him is well founded.

The next time the mouse gnaws you can go "Shut up, mouse. I'm know what I'm doing, he's behaving honorably so far, and there's an emergency back up plan in place to boot."

This is useful advice. Yes, I have accepted this risk, and we've talked about where my boundaries are & how I will behave if they're violated. Not rules for him ("if you screw up, there will be consequences!") but boundaries for me ("I can't be in a relationship with someone who cheats; if that happens, I will respect myself by choosing not to engage further").

That is a separate issue. Apologize, and ask for his forgiveness. Say you will respect his diary in future and not read it in future. If he accepts, honor all that and don't do it again.

...If he doesn't want to accept your apology and breaks up with you over it? Accept his decision. His willingness to participate in things belong to him. You are both adults. You can each withdraw consent to be here at any time.

But the outcomes should not influence (you doing the right thing) or (you not doing the right thing.) You just do it because YOU value integrity and you are going to live up to the personal standard you set for yourself. You do your side of the job.

You let the chips fall where they may and accept the outcome he picks. Let him do his side of the job.

People of integrity don't do the right thing "only if it comes out nice for me."

Yes. Much of my anxiety about this had to do with the understanding that I'd violated not only HIS privacy, but my own integrity. My desire to "know" doesn't trump his right to privacy and personal space. I didn't respect that, and was demonstrating a lack of respect for myself, as well.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Both of us have done a fair bit of slutting around, though my wild days are almost 20 years behind me, and his ended the moment we got together, and not a moment before. We both agreed that we wanted a happy, stable, long-term monogamous partnership, with the unhurried option of living together and/or marriage. We agreed to honesty and calm communication.

But he's had no practice in honesty until he met you.

I used to have a secure attachment style, which was shaken by an intense, committed relationship (my partner talking quite seriously of marriage & children) which ended when my partner left me coldly, abruptly, and unexpectedly, not speaking to me for five years...

So you are right to be wary of being dumped abruptly again. In my opinon, you're involved with a liar, who could be a sociopath. They are masters at pretending to feel normal feelings of love and caring, but it's all an act. Looking right into your eyes and lying to your face, so sweetly and convincingly? That's what they do.
When my current partner (let's call him Peter) and I got together, he'd had a VERY recent history of many sexual partners. In and of itself, this wasn't an issue - we discussed safer sex practices, got tested, all was well. Over time, it became apparent that he'd been less than honest with these partners. Some, he was upfront with. Many were casual bar pickups. Many more were women from a community we're both a part of. He'd deliberately withheld information, misled others, and often outright lied to his partners about the nature of their connection, or his other partners. He alluded to some of this & admitted that his communication "wasn't the best," that he'd hurt some people, wasn't proud of his actions, and was actively choosing to be a different person.

Though we're both a part of the same community, it's large, with many subgroups. I didn't know most of his friends, and vice versa. When I started spending more time with his friends, a former lover of his warned me about his cheating / dishonest behavior. This former lover caused a couple of scenes at social gatherings, cornering him & demanding to talk intensely & immediately about their former relationship. He has owned his behavior and apologized to her. Peter & I discussed & worked through it, though I still have some concerns about his judgment in choosing her as a lover / friend.

At another social gathering, a different woman warned me about Peter - this time, not about his dishonesty, but about his association with another community member. The topic isn't germane to this discussion, but increased my wariness about Peter and his judgment. I decided to talk to a mutual friend to ask for some much-needed good news about Peter. What awesome stuff could she tell me about him? Oh, she said, here's ANOTHER story about cheating & dishonesty.

I began to have serious worries about Peter's motivations & actions. All of these stories took place within three or four months of our relationship beginning. I spoke with him openly about my concerns, and didn't feel as though they were allayed.

RED FLAG! You heard multiple stories of his lying and cheating, and when you discussed it with Peter, you were not comforted. You were still alarmed.
At that point, I chose to act with a lack of integrity. I violated his privacy and his trust. I read his journal from years prior leading up to a few months before he & I connected. The way he wrote about women chilled and sickened me. He wrote about being comfortable with lying to them, about being selfish, about going after cheap lays, about deliberately "playing" his lovers. He wrote about looking into a lover's eyes and "lying with a smile on my face." He also wrote about his deep self-loathing, desire to love and be loved, wanting a partner to respect and care for.

Keeping a journal about his lying and cheating, even if he claims to be self hating to have done it, is a way out of his boredom. Narcissists are easily bored. They have a deep abyss of nothingness inside. They USE people to allay their boredom, idealising a new lover, until they get bored with her too. Then she is demoted and discarded for a new model. He will find some other new chick in your biking community. My fear is he uses the community as a habitat for new prey.

He is "comfortable" lying, he is selfish, he plays people. Why do you not see, he is probably playing you now? Others have tried to warn you. You're taken in by his ability to act normal. It's an act. He can't love.

In the months since, we have had MANY conversations about his former relationships. He has admitted to lying and cheating, has laid himself bare to me. He's told me many unflattering stories, things I would never have known if he hadn't shared them. He's deeply ashamed of his past, and firmly committed to a healthier path.

So he says. It's a red flag that you're only 9 months into this, and have had MANY conversations about his former lies and cheating. Of course he's laid himself bare. He probably gets a thrill out of telling you how badly he treated others, and yet there you are, a sitting duck, trying to trust him.
In OUR relationship, he is an excellent partner. He's kind, communicative, honest even when it makes him look bad. Peter is thoughtful, attentive, deeply devoted to me, funny, sexy, giving, and loving. I have no doubt of his love for me or commitment to the relationship. We've traveled together & have plans to meet family soon.

Read up on narcissists. They are invariable charming, often good looking, sexy as hell, etc., etc. They start out being so attentive. Chatting online or texting a lot. Nice dates. Flowers. Compliments. You feel like you've found the perfect man. Until he gets bored. This can take a varying amount of time, usually it's when he feels he's well and truly hooked you. I don't think he feels he has yet, so he's "going to therapy" to further gain your trust. I question whether he really is going...
He's started attending counseling (his own suggestion, fueled by my encouragement). He wants a shared life, as do I. This is a partnership that I feel deeply fulfilled by, and am committed to growing in over the years.

Here is my conundrum: I cannot shake my doubts and fears. It gives me comfort to know that all of these thoughts and deeds are in the past - I feel no deceit in our current relationship. But there is a mouse of doubt that gnaws at my happiness & keeps asking "what if?"

Your experience of him as a great person is just too much in conflict with what you've heard about his immediate past. Just before you he was a lying slut. Now suddenly he's going to be all honest and true? Hmph.
I admit that I would likely feel some jealousy / insecurity about his former lovers, even if all of those connections had been rooted in honorable behavior. At any given social gathering, there are maybe four recent ex-lovers. I fully own that jealousy & insecurity & am actively working on those issues in myself. My doubt stems not from jealousy, but from not knowing whether or not to trust my own experience. Did his former lovers also feel secure and taken care of? Has he looked in my eyes and lied to me? I vacillate between trusting the good & grounded love that we share, and worrying that my trust is misplaced.

I know that I need to be honest about reading his words. If I am committed to honesty, openness, and trust, I need to walk the talk. And I'm terrified. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Go ahead and tell him you looked at his journal. He might've left it lying around as bait anyway, to make you seem the bad guy so he can use that against you when the lying and gaslighting and fights begin.

Please check out this website and forum.

https://www.psychopathfree.com/

That's the main page. Go read at the forum and see hundreds of stories like your own.

Read the articles here

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/

Which tell of warning signs and red flags about how to spot a narcissist.

Here is a sample article.

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/why-sociopaths-idealize-and-devalue-people.370/

Top 7 ways to spot a narcissist

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/top-7-ways-to-spot-a-sociopath-psychopath-or-narcissist.342/

10 warning signs you're dealing with a narcissist

https://www.psychopathfree.com/arti...ith-a-sociopath-narcissist-or-psychopath.340/

30 red flags you're with a narc

https://www.psychopathfree.com/arti...ith-a-sociopath-narcissist-or-psychopath.340/

Unlike here, it is geared towards the type of person your SO seems to be. If I seem so sure he is a sociopath, it is because I was with one for 2 1/2 years... I have learned to look out for red flags. I was so hurt by how I was treated. They can seem like the perfect person, until suddenly they start to pull away. My guy was a self described poly guy, but it didn't prevent him from unethical behavior and a lack of real humanity.
 
Last edited:
This is just fucking tragic. So this guy has been as honest as I would expect someone to be about their shitty past dating experience, he's been ganged up on by all of his "friends" about his shitty past dating experience, and his current "friend" reads through his journal looking for confirmation about his shitty past dating experiences.

Break up with this guy. Learn to be an individual. Take responsibility for your own feelings. Get therapy.

This is my advice.

Most of your advice is spot on and welcome, even the bits that sting a bit. The tingle means it's working, right? I don't plan to break up with this guy. My post here is a snapshot of my worst self, not the self which is a healthy grounded individual always striving for improvement. As of this month, I finally have access to therapy again, after losing my health insurance earlier in the year. I posted here in lieu of access to a counselor, as I didn't wish to share his personal business with our mutual friends or my family.

I'd like to offer some more background, to better explain this sequence of events. This is not done to justify my violation of his privacy - which wasn't justified - but to give context.

I knew about his many recent lovers, because he'd been up front with me about them. He turned down six booty calls from six different lovers in the first two weeks of our relationship. He's hot & in demand! ;) I hadn't (and wouldn't have) asked for that information; he was telling me in the interest of open communication. I finally told him it wasn't my business, and I'd prefer not to be informed unless it affected our relationship agreements. He committed early on - it was his enthusiastic suggestion, and he fell hard and fast. I was smitten, but a slower starter.

The history of lying & cheating wasn't so easily shared. One might argue that it's none of my business, either, as long as it didn't affect our relationship. But, as Utah Phillips says, "the past didn't go anywhere."

When you've abused the trust of a lot of the women in a social circle you're still an active part of, those women talk to each other. I don't necessarily view that as bitchy gossip. It wasn't until his former lover pulled me aside that I had the full story; most of the disclosure on his end happened AFTER the fact. (His apology to her took place after her disclosure, as well.) I both appreciated the warning - "I haven't seen you around much, and I'm not sure what you know about this guy, but here's how he treats women" - and understood that I was having a different experience.

The second woman had been physically abused by her ex-partner (Peter's ex-best friend), and chose to place a lot of that on Peter's shoulders. She felt he'd known about the abuse & chose not to support her when she reached out for help. I'd never met her before. I offered her snacks at a gathering, and she grabbed me and told me her story. Again, it didn't fit with MY experience, but I was rattled by being warned off by two separate women. I err on the side of believing abuse survivors.

In both cases, the women were drunk. A lot of these social gatherings tended toward dumb high school-style shenanigans. The ex-lover seemed to be unstable as well as an alcoholic (I'd briefly met her before, and never had positive interactions). This is when I started to question Peter's judgment about choosing friends & lovers. I started to doubt the validity of the good experiences we'd been sharing. If we'd gotten to know each other in the context of bike punk blackout drinking, there would have been no relationship. (I'm forty! I want a couple of drinks, silly fun, have sex, sleep at a decent hour, wake up & tend to the garden. I have other shit to do!) But we'd been together for a while at that point, and we'd shared enough positive experiences for me to feel torn.

My question to our mutual friend, "Beltane," came from my desire to hear good stuff about Peter. I wanted a counterbalance to the vitriol & hurt that had been shared with me. I didn't know that Peter & Beltane had a past sexual connection, and was disappointed to hear that it was also laced with mistrust. Her accounting was matter-of-fact, not related with ill will, though she'd witnessed his shitty behavior toward others, and confirmed the stories I'd heard. THAT'S when I violated his privacy.

Again, it shows a weakness in self. I was seeking information that would help me come to a decision, instead of trusting what I knew and felt. As you can read in my first post, the only result was that I eroded trust & made myself miserable. I know myself; I know this was a one-off event. I'm ashamed of my behavior.

...what this guy seems to be trying to do is let you in. He's opening himself up and giving you the opportunity to decide if you are with him or against him.

What was it you needed to get from him?

Keep in mind that this person is under no obligation to delve even further into vulnerability than they already have.

Marcus, here's where your advice resonates most. This is where I had a blind spot. Thank you for the insight!

My experience with my ex-partner, "Beast," left me incredibly wary of unexamined past behaviors and limited coping mechanisms. Beast had a history of walking away from happy, stable relationships (and committing to the toxic ones). I was assured this could never happen again. He loved me, let's make babies, get married, raise his children together, right until the day he left, moved out of state, and cut off all communication for five years.

I know that shit wasn't about me. I couldn't have changed or affected it. More than six years on, he's still stuck in that pattern. But I was the one who chose to partner with him, knowing his past (my former pattern was to stay in untenable situations past their sell-by date). I feel happy & comfortable being alone - I don't "need" a partner to validate or "complete" me. Every intimate association with another person brings risk of hurt. I'm not afraid of being vulnerable. I AM afraid of ignoring red flags & putting myself in a bad situation.

When I spoke with Peter last night, I owned my violation of trust and assured him it wouldn't happen again, that I would end the relationship if I couldn't quell my fears, that I understood if he chose not to engage further. He was disappointed, but compassionate. I realized that, by not telling him, I was robbing him of the opportunity to make his own decisions. Despite this story, I tend toward stability & calm. I'm used to having relationships in which each partner has a full & separate life & acts with autonomy, in which the decision to be together is a daily choice - a "joyous yes." My worries were shrinking my life, and his, by proxy.

You brought up vulnerability and hurt. I'd been providing a safe place for him to share everything BUT this topic. His honesty and openness with me is a gift that deserves to be honored. I hadn't realized how much I'd been hurting him, and apologized for it. He'd been quietly laboring to prove himself to me, and I'd been "dissecting" him to understand his motivations, acting as a parole officer. Not a desirable dynamic! He asked that I trust in what we do share, and "just let me love you." I promised to address only current issues, and not shackle them to his former self. It feels as though our conversation freed something that had been stuck.

So, as GalaGirl says, I will choose to relax, leave the past in the past, and focus on building trust in the present. If my worst fears come to pass, then: they do. Constantly worrying about what might be will only destroy the good stuff we could be sharing in the present.

Thank you all for the advice and perspective.
 
Last edited:

MeeraReed

Well-known member
Hmm...for some reason I didn't realize you'd only been dating Peter for 9 months...I was thinking you'd been with him a few years and that he had changed a lot from his behavior prior to meeting you.

But 9 months isn't really long enough for someone to get over massive self-hatred. And you say that he's NOT really self-reflective...hmm...well, there's a risk that Magdlyn's assessment is right...but you sound like you're self-aware enough to accept the risk.
 
Top