Insecure with my straight-ish partner's male partner

First time poster, so I'm trying to work through what information is relevant to the discussion. Please forgive me if it's a little long.

I (28F) have been with my partner (33F) for over a year and a half. We've always been open, due to a large difference in libido, but I haven't had any consistent partners outside of her. Recently, she's begun a recurring relationship with someone we both know, and I'm really struggling with it. Mainly, I'm struggling with the fact that she's consistently having sex with him, something that we struggle to do. She always said it was because sex was not a priority for her, but part of it is also that she had never dated a woman before. She has hooked up with them in the past and said it wasn't for her.

I've tried to talk to. her about my journey, how it took a very long time to be comfortable with my attraction to women, and she stated that she's just not really attracted to them. I know one of our main reasons for being open is so that I can find this desire from someone else, but I can't help but feel incredibly insecure that she doesn't feel this way towards me. It doesn't help that I haven't been able to find a consistent source of that kind of attention since my ex and I ended our relationship almost 3 years ago.

I'm really struggling with whether this is a dealbreaker or not. She said she's willing to try to foster that part of our relationship more, but the self-confidence I need in order to build up that sexy dynamic feels like it's seriously lacking.

Another note is that we're currently long distance. We have been apart since December and won't be seeing each other again until end of March. I've struggled quite a bit with the distance, but have been getting better.

I think I would more easily be able to handle the situation if it weren't someone I knew. I don't want to use a veto on the first chance she has had to explore other relationships outside of ours, though.

It's just hurting a lot to think about, and every time I feel like I'm doing better with the situation something happens to make me feel extremely uncomfortable with it again.
 
She is attracted to me, and we do have satisfying sexual encounters. It's just not as consistent as I would like.

Although I will admit that I do have a habit of overlooking incompatibilities in relationships because I feel like the person I'm with is overall a good person.
 
I (28F) have been with my partner (33F) for over a year and a half. We've always been open due to a large difference in libido, but I haven't had any consistent partners outside of her.
I am going to give your gf a nickname just for clarity. I'll use Kristen, but you can choose another one.

I am going to ask some questions before I give advice.

So you've been trying to date women in your area, but nothing has worked out yet?
Was the sex better with Kristen in the beginning, and gradually fizzled, so that was when you opened?
Have you yourself been poly all along, prior to this, or is it all quite new?

Dating is hard. It can be very hard to find someone who is right for you, for a happy long term relationship.

Are you lesbian, or do you date guys too, or trans/non-binary folks? Are you in a city with a good-sized queer population?

Do you have set dates, video calls, with Kristen now? Is there any quality time, or is she just focused on being with friends and her newer partner in her present area?

Are you two going to be staying long distance for the foreseeable future?
Recently, she's begun a recurring relationship with someone we both know, and I'm really struggling with it. Mainly, I'm struggling with the fact that she's consistently having sex with him, something that we struggle to do. She always said it was because sex was not a priority for her, but part of it is also that she had never dated a woman before. She has hooked up with them in the past and said it wasn't for her.

I've tried to talk to. her about my journey, how it took a very long time to be comfortable with my attraction to women, and she stated that she's just not really attracted to them.
I hear you. I know this can be an issue for gay women who date bi women. It's a great fear, for your partner to start preferring men, or a particular guy, and break up with you to be with him. Do you fear this "open relationship" you have is helping Kristen to get ready to break up with you? Polyamory means many loves, but perhaps she loves you more as a friend now. Sometimes initial compatibility doesn't translate to long term suitability.

That said, being poly can help partners with mismatched libidos feel more fulfilled. (It can also help couples where one is quite introverted and one is extroverted.) And of course, it can help bi or pan people feel more fulfilled. My gf Pixi and I are both pan, so is her bf Malachi, and my bf Aries is homoflexible. We all have libidos of various intensities. Pixi and Malachi have lower libidos than Aries and I do. However, Pixi definitely desires me (is definitely attracted to women/femmes, maybe even more than men/masc-presenting people) and we do have regular sex, just not as much as I personally need. She also has some physical handicaps which are getting worse as she gets older, and that adds another speedbump.

I know one of our main reasons for being open is so that I can find this desire from someone else, but I can't help but feel incredibly insecure that she doesn't feel this way towards me.
It almost sounds like she's not being fully honest with you, if you and she have rarely ever had sex, but she's having a lot of it with her newer male partner.
It doesn't help that I haven't been able to find a consistent source of that kind of attention since my ex and I ended our relationship almost 3 years ago.
Yeah, dating can be a rocky road!
I'm really struggling with whether this is a dealbreaker or not. She said she's willing to try to foster that part of our relationship more, but the self-confidence I need in order to build up that sexy dynamic feels like it's seriously lacking.
"Willing to try to foster a sexual desire for you" doesn't sound very enthusiastic, to me. And yes, if you've been rejected time after time, it can hurt and make you feel undesirable, and you get tired of trying.
Another note is that we're currently long distance. We have been apart since December and won't be seeing each other again until end of March. I've struggled quite a bit with the distance, but have been getting better.
Will you back be together again for real, or just a visit this month?
I think I would more easily be able to handle the situation if it weren't someone I knew. I don't want to use a veto on the first chance she has had to explore other relationships outside of ours, though.
Do you and Kristen have an agreement to be able to use vetoes? That's a pretty drastic move. Many poly couples don't have the agreement, and of the few that do, it's reserved for if your partner's partner is truly toxic. You can't turn off Kristen's feelings for her male partner just by telling her she's not allowed to see him anymore. And it sounds like just demanding she go back to monogamy with you is not on the table, so even if you veto this guy, and it stuck, she could always find another guy to date and enjoy sex with...
It's just hurting a lot to think about, and every time I feel like I'm doing better with the situation something happens to make me feel extremely uncomfortable with it again.
I'm sorry it's been hard.
 
So you've been trying to date women in your area, but nothing has worked out yet?
Yeah. I've met a girl I got along well with, but we don't live that close. So it's been slow going.

Was the sex better with Kristen in the beginning, and gradually fizzled, so that was when you opened?
We started out with hookups, but then took a bit of a break. Hung out as friends, then decided to enter a relationship after feeling like we were more than friends. We knew the libido difference was going to be a bit of an issue from the beginning, so we've always been open. It's been a bit slow going, but we have been increasing our frequency. The sex has never been bad - it's always really good. It's just never really spontaneous, which I think we both wish we had a bit more of in general and is something she's getting with her other partner.

Have you yourself been poly all along, prior to this, or is it all quite new?
My ex and I were poly, and we made a lot of mistakes with that. But we weren't open to fulfil any specific need other than we felt more ourselves without any restrictions (if that makes sense).

Are you lesbian, or do you date guys too, or trans/non-binary folks? Are you in a city with a good-sized queer population?
I'm a lesbian, but open to trans/non-binary folks. Just generally more attracted to femmes, which narrows my options a bit. I'm not currently based in a city with a good-size queer population unfortunately, but am making efforts to put myself in those spaces (about 1/month currently)

Do you have set dates, video calls, with Kristen now? Is there any quality time, or is she just focused on being with friends and her newer partner in her present area?
We do have dates, check-ins, frequent calls. She puts a lot of effort into maintaining our relationship at a distance even though she is extremely independent. She had been single for 7 years before me.

Are you two going to be staying long distance for the foreseeable future?
For the time being as my work situation dictates, but looking to hopefully close that some time early next year.

I hear you. I know this can be an issue for gay women who date bi women. It's a great fear, for your partner to start preferring men, or a particular guy, and break up with you to be with him. Do you fear this "open relationship" you have is helping Kristen to get ready to break up with you? Polyamory means many loves, but perhaps she loves you more as a friend now. Sometimes initial compatibility doesn't translate to long term suitability.
No I don't really have any fears that she's going to break up with me, which is why it's so hard to reconcile this insecurity. I know that she values my partnership qualities far more than she values having sex with this other person, but I just struggle because my past relationships have had sex as such a core part that it's a little bit confusing when it's not. However, I feel similarly as her that the value of our relationship comes from things outside of that.

It almost sounds like she's not being fully honest with you, if you and she have rarely ever had sex, but she's having a lot of it with her newer male partner.
To get specific, she's only having sex with him 1x/week. That was the goal that we were working towards, but often were falling around 1x/week or 1x every week and a half of so.

"Willing to try to foster a sexual desire for you" doesn't sound very enthusiastic, to me. And yes, if you've been rejected time after time, it can hurt and make you feel undesirable, and you get tired of trying.
Yeah, sometimes this is her language. But then other times, she is enthusiastic about our sex life. I think we just haven't had consistent enough passionate sex to compare to what she's used to with men. It's not that we're not capable of having it - both of us came up with the same specific examples where we've had that. It's just that more often it's a more intimate type of sex between us.

Will you back be together again for real, or just a visit this month?
Just a visit but for 3 weeks minimum, potentially a month and a half depending on my work allowance. We agreed not to see anyone while we're together and to just focus on us.

Do you and Kristen have an agreement to be able to use vetoes? That's a pretty drastic move. Many poly couples don't have the agreement, and of the few that do, it's reserved for if your partner's partner is truly toxic. You can't turn off Kristen's feelings for her male partner just by telling her she's not allowed to see him anymore. And it sounds like just demanding she go back to monogamy with you is not on the table, so even if you veto this guy, and it stuck, she could always find another guy to date and enjoy sex with...
No we don't have a veto rule necessarily, but I had ideally not wanted her to be involved with anyone I know. I used to work with this man. But I did concede to this as I feel like I wanted her to experience something outside of our relationship so that the openness wasn't one-sided. I do sometimes have periods of compersion, but then it's overshadowed by the fact that I know him and get some unfortunate intrusive thoughts.

I'm sorry it's been hard.
Thank you, and I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I'm also in a period of instability of my life, where I think I'd be able to more easily work through this if I didn't have so many other things going on.
 
Hello banana.applegrape,

It sounds like your libido has historically been stronger than your partner's. Or at least it was, until she started dating this guy and consistently having sex with him. You seem to be saying that you and she do have sex and when you do it is very good, but perhaps it does not happen as frequently or as regularly as you would like it to.

You mentioned that you and she are long-distance right now. LDR's are usually very hard, and have lots of problems. Is there any chance that you and she could live close to each other? Do you have plans/goals to that end? It sounds like things are looking hopeful for sometime early next year, that is good to hear. It could make a big difference.

I know things are difficult right now, you feel like she is having more spontaneous sex with this man than what she is having with you. On the other hand, you indicated that your relationship with her is really good other than the sex/libido problem. You guys make good partners to each other. I hope you can work out the sexual part as well.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 
You mentioned that you and she are long-distance right now. LDR's are usually very hard, and have lots of problems. Is there any chance that you and she could live close to each other? Do you have plans/goals to that end? It sounds like things are looking hopeful for sometime early next year, that is good to hear. It could make a big difference.
Yeah we have a general idea, but haven't been able to make concrete plans due to unknowns about work and her upcoming grad programs.

I appreciate the kind words, Kevin. :)

A little update:
We have been talking a lot since this post, and I think there were a few things at play.
  • I think I have been going through the initial grieving as if our relationship was newly poly. While we have been open since the beginning, this is her first partner, and I think I have been acutely feeling the loss of our old dynamic.
  • She could have communicated a bit better around the situation that triggered the overwhelming feelings that led to this post. She apologised and has made changes around how she is communicating about this other relationship and how she reacts to my feelings about it.
  • We had a bit of a misunderstanding around my goals for desire.

When I have brought up wanting her to desire me in the way that she feels towards her other partner, she thought I was indicating that I wanted our whole sex life to change to be more "carnal," for lack of a better term. This made her uncomfortable and a bit defensive, because she's happy with the fact that our sex life is centered around intimacy. One of the big reasons is because she knows that feeling often goes away for her after a time, and she really values that she still wants to have sex with me, despite that not being the driving feeling.

When I have brought it up, she felt like I was pushing to change something that she values about our relationship, to be something it's not, and that isn't sustainable long term for her. That's why she has been putting the brakes on, which has led me to feeling rejected. I clarified that I'm happy with our baseline, but that I want to foster that dynamic so that we can feel that way towards each other more frequently than we do (think 2% of the time, to like 10%). We both agreed that we're capable of it, as we both had in our minds the exact same examples. Now that she knows I'm not pushing for 100%, and I know that she won't default to throwing the brakes on when I discuss it, we both feel better.

We also did have a discussion around language and her sexuality, and I think I have been projecting "straight-ish" on her, because she hasn't labeled herself. And that was a bit unfair of me.

I still am struggling a bit with the fact that I know the guy and that leads to unwanted imagery, but I'm trying to view those feelings of anxiety as just that - anxiety - and not project those feelings onto our actual relationship. I think it's going to take time and some trust-building, since the distance removes some of the ways we can show each other security, but we're about to spend 3+ weeks together here soon, so hoping that helps a lot!

I appreciate everyone's responses, and any further thoughts and advice are most certainly welcome!
 
I hear that you wish for more sex with Kristen. That is totally understandable. And it sounds like there was confusion about what kind of sex. But you can't have sex with her that is going to be identical to the sex she has with her new bf. There is different equipment involved, different hormone amounts, different kinds of communication. I am not sure exactly how your "intimate" sex with her is different from her sex with her bf, but I can sort of guess. (I have lovers of both genders.) Men tend to be more forthright about sex, more direct, more assertive, and women tend to be more delicate, emotional, while still passionate in their own way. That might sound like stereotyping, and doesn't allow for my own sexuality, as a person somewhere on the non-binary spectrum. But there it is.

It is nuanced. I understand. I see you are trying to detangle the skein of yarn, to get everyone's needs met, and it's not easy.

As for knowing her bf, and feeling he was on your messy list, it seems like the main problem you have is you can more clearly picture them making love. But of course, most poly people do meet their metamours, sooner or later, so the images will be there. How best to deal with that, if it's unpleasant, or makes you cry, or something else negative?

I've done different things. When I was new to poly, and my gf went to spend her first weekend away with her new dating partner, I tried to distract myself. Being me, I masturbated a lot haha. But there are many other ways to distract yourself, which I have also done: losing yourself in a hobby, exercising hard (a brisk walk always helps), going out with friends to do something super fun, like a concert or show, a museum, picnic, hiking, beach, thrifting, gardening, whatever you prefer. (Those are just things I like.)
 
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