Long post about hardships in trying to make (first time) non-monogamy work

Janro

New member
Hi!

I'm an asexual (sex-favorable or sex-indifferent mostly) pan-romantic non-monogamous cis-woman in my mid-thirties. Being somewhat socially awkward I haven't been in that many relationships, and thus far all have been pretty monogamish, and I strongly believe that openly and honestly communicating your needs and wants and listening to and respecting your partners' is essential for any type of a relationship really. I have a lot of friends representing all kinds of sexual orientations and gender identities, and ENM is quite common in my friend circles, and I've devoured tons of material online and talked to a lot of people, but don’t really have personal experience in a working non-monogamous relationship.

I am currently living with my boyfriend (cis-het-male, also in his mid-thirties). We've been together for about four years now. He comes from a much more strict and mono background than me, and was married for over 10 years (divorced now) before we started dating. When we started dating we discussed different relationship models and ways of living, and I told him that if he wanted other relationships or connections or encounters with other people, I'd be supportive of that, and only asked that he'd be honest and open about if he felt like he wanted to pursue that. He was enthusiastic, as that was something he'd felt he'd have wanted to do within his marriage, but hadn't felt that he could express those feelings and desires to his wife.

A year into our relationship I found out that he had had multiple sexual relations, many fluid-bonded, and two slightly longer ongoing relationships without me knowing anything about them during the previous six months, and all of those women thinking I knew about them and was okay with the relations. I confronted him about them, mostly wondering why he hadn't told me, as we'd had a lot of conversations about me being okay and supportive about those kinds of things if I was kept in the know. I think he was quite surprised about my reaction, and said he hadn't really believed that I'd be okay and accepting with him wanting to have the sexual relations with all those people and him being polyamorous, and hadn't dared to tell me because of that. I did feel betrayed and sad and cheated on, as I felt that trust and our agreement of honesty and respect had been severely violated. I was also very worried about the fluid-bonded sex he'd had with multiple people, though he'd taken STD tests regularly and had discussed the issues with his partners beforehand.

Nevertheless we decided to work through the issues to try to re-establish trust, and talked more clearly about boundaries and expectations, and agreed more solidly on how we wanted to conduct our relationship: honest open communication, relations and relationships with other people are welcome as long as everyone is kept informed and things are done in an ethical consensual way. He also said he'd break off the non-consensual relationships he had at the time, and I was glad, as keeping them on caused a lot of anxiety in me and had me spiraling into a nasty mental place when I didn't know what I could believe and reliving the moments he'd lied to me or woven stories about being somewhere when in fact he was seeing one of his relations.

After the discovery our relationship got a lot better, we enjoyed each other's company and got to know each other on a deeper level and connected more.

Fast-forward half a year: I find out he's again, (still?) having sexual relations without telling me about them. Mostly new people but one of them was one of the relationships he'd had previously that he'd said he'd ended. We go through the discussions about honesty and respect and consent again, and he swears I'm the most important person in his life and that he wants to try to fix things. So that is what we try, only to have the same things happen again in six months. At that point I was pretty much a wreck and a mess.

Then covid happened, and we pretty much spent the year 2020 with only each other, and committed to seeing to the end of the year what we'd make out of our relationship. We dug through all that had happened, practiced a lot of self-awareness and compassion, and had a lot of meaningful conversations about who we were and what we wanted from life and our relationships. I felt that our connection to each other got better and better, and that we finally started to heal from the trauma of infidelity and found mutual respect and empathy and team spirit. We sort of stopped having sex altogether at this point, which isn't a huge deal for me as an ace, though I do like the feeling of being desired, and miss that. We've also talked about this and he said that for some reason he just doesn't want to have sex with me and I haven't pressured him on the matter. Due to it we'd agreed to hold off having sex with other people and sleeping next to other people until we'd resolved some more of our issues. Anyways, the end of the year came and went and we were in a place where we wanted to commit to supporting each other and working together rather than against each other.

Now, this spring, as restrictions are being loosened, we started seeing some friends again, and taking a peek at the world outside. I was feeling somewhat unsure, and feeling a little anxious about how things would go based on our past. My need for security and need to trust him was colliding with his dire need to explore and be free after being cooped up for a year and we got into a few heated arguments about it, and about other people, where quite unconstructively I'd be very suspicious of him, needing more information and confirmation, and him feeling I wasn't accepting him for who he was and trying to keep him from other people, and both of us feeling the other one's experience unfair. I sill wasn't feeling secure enough and ready for him to sleep next to other people or have sex with other people, though for all our time together I've repeatedly told him, that if those things are such that he really wants to do them, then it would be his decision and he would be free to do so, and that I would keep him informed on how it would make me feel, and if it would make me feel so bad that I couldn't handle it, then we'd discuss about our options and decide on a course of action.

A few weeks ago he met a woman. He told me about her and that he's a little into her and that he'd like to see if it could evolve into something. I was really glad that he talked to me about it, and felt okay about him seeing her and getting to know her and encouraged him to do so. So he schedules a date with her. A couple days before their date he and I discussed how we want to conduct the date and what kind of things I'd need to feel safe about it. During this discussion it becomes evident that we have had a different notion of the nature of the meeting. I had been under the impression that he'd want to get to know the woman, talk to her, you know the drill. He was under the impression that I knew that he was going to have sex with her, and had already talked protection and STD stuff with her and let her know that I'm okay with them having sex. At that moment I was not okay with it. I truly want to be, and I want him to lead a meaningful life, and don't want to be the reason he has to limit himself. Yet I need time to come to terms with this thing. He says I've been taking too long and that he doesn't have the patience to wait much longer, though he did agree that to actually make this new thing work then we'd need to start doing things ethically and with consent. So he talked with the woman and she agreed that it'd be okay to not have sex if it's not okay with me, and she, too, wants to form a respectful consenting relationship and do things "right".

So, they met last week, no sex, some talking and cuddling and kissing, and I find that great! I already felt safer than I'd felt in about three years. I felt like I was being listened to and that my worries and consent were taken into account and were respected, and I was trusted in the sense that I'm trying to come to terms with this and resolve my issues, and my boyfriend finally believes I want this to work.

(Continuing on a reply, as I'm being so long-winded, sorry! 😅)
 

Janro

New member
They were to meet again yesterday. During the weekend my boyfriend and I discussed things again and he was very adamant that the next time he meets the woman he needs to have sex with her, or she won't hang around any longer and he refuses to lose people from his life. At this point I'm thrown into a turmoil again, as I haven't been able to sort myself and my issues regarding sex through during a single weekend and feel like I still need more time to process. I have scheduled an appointment with a counselor for next week to work on these issues. My boyfriend again feels like I've had the whole year of 2020 to deal with these issues, and he's tired of cancelling things because of me. I was confused about why he can't meet her without having sex with her, as he's said many times that sex isn't that important to him, but he insists that if he were to meet her without sex, he'd be letting her down and she wouldn't want anything to do with him. In the end he decides to cancel the whole meeting and reschedules to a couple weeks from now.

This morning I find out he's actually scheduled a lunch date for today with the woman to have sex with her, and told her that I'm now okay with them having sex. To me he said yesterday that his today's afternoon meeting got pulled a couple hours earlier. I confront him on this, and at first he tries to wriggle out, making excuses, but then comes clean saying that he couldn't bear the thought of not having sex with her, and had to reschedule to today right after he cancelled yesterday's date. Somehow this confession made it so, that I was actually feeling pretty okay about them having sex today, and said that it's okay with me, and just asked that he'd call me afterwards, as he has an overnight meeting and won't be home until tomorrow, so we can't really talk about this until tomorrow. I also gave him a long talk about how if he actually wants to make these things that he wants so much work, then he has to be open and honest and put real effort into it. Not just to me, but to the other woman as well, and to himself, and that he has to sort through his own issues as well. He did call me after the thing had happened, and was again surprised how well I took everything, and he said that this makes him trust me more as well.

So, phew, this is my situation now. I was feeling pretty good about this whole him having sex with her thing until about a few hours ago, and now I'm feeling very confused, overwhelmed, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, quite okay, tired, resentful, happy, coerced, and a myriad of other things in waves, and unsure what to make of all of this. At the same time I'm feeling hopeful that maybe we're finally on the right path of creating an ethical non-monogamous structure, and at the same time I'm terrified of all the things that could go wrong based on all the things that have gone wrong in our past. I'm also troubled with ideas such as Am I being controlling? Am I being too needy for needing reassurance from my boyfriend? Am I being unreasonable for not feeling completely okay with this and having conflicted feelings? Am I failing at my non-monogamy? Am I failing myself? Am I not being good with boundaries? Am I being codependent? Am I doomed to not form a proper ethical relationship from this? Am I a fool to want to trust him after all of that's happened? Am I approaching the whole non-monogamy thing wrong?

So, hello, this is my first post here, and it looks like it turned into a novella! Writing all this out is already giving me some new perspective into it. I'm also hoping to gain insight by reading other people's experiences on the forums, and maybe get a clearer picture of what I actually want, and to maybe restore my faith a little in that ENM does exist and that people can in fact make it work, so, I'm looking forward to that, and glad to have found this site and to be here! :)
 

breathemusic

Active member
oof, you are a saint (or maybe a glutton for punishment is a better choice of words?) for staying with this liar for this long. Honestly, I think he's shown you over and over again that once he reaches a point where he's confident you won't be ok with his choices, rather than set his own boundaries and say "I'm going to do this because I'm making a choice for myself" and then let you decide how you want to move forward with that info, he will instead hide it from you. He's STILL showing you that he is that person and the only reason you found out ahead of time this time is that you managed to catch him right before he cheated instead of after. I don't really see how you think he's grown during this time, because all I'm hearing is how he hasn't grown.
 

politeme

Member
They were to meet again yesterday. During the weekend my boyfriend and I discussed things again and he was very adamant that the next time he meets the woman he needs to have sex with her, or she won't hang around any longer and he refuses to lose people from his life. At this point I'm thrown into a turmoil again, as I haven't been able to sort myself and my issues regarding sex through during a single weekend and feel like I still need more time to process. I have scheduled an appointment with a counselor for next week to work on these issues. My boyfriend again feels like I've had the whole year of 2020 to deal with these issues, and he's tired of cancelling things because of me. I was confused about why he can't meet her without having sex with her, as he's said many times that sex isn't that important to him, but he insists that if he were to meet her without sex, he'd be letting her down and she wouldn't want anything to do with him. In the end he decides to cancel the whole meeting and reschedules to a couple weeks from now.

This morning I find out he's actually scheduled a lunch date for today with the woman to have sex with her, and told her that I'm now okay with them having sex. To me he said yesterday that his today's afternoon meeting got pulled a couple hours earlier. I confront him on this, and at first he tries to wriggle out, making excuses, but then comes clean saying that he couldn't bear the thought of not having sex with her, and had to reschedule to today right after he cancelled yesterday's date. Somehow this confession made it so, that I was actually feeling pretty okay about them having sex today, and said that it's okay with me, and just asked that he'd call me afterwards, as he has an overnight meeting and won't be home until tomorrow, so we can't really talk about this until tomorrow. I also gave him a long talk about how if he actually wants to make these things that he wants so much work, then he has to be open and honest and put real effort into it. Not just to me, but to the other woman as well, and to himself, and that he has to sort through his own issues as well. He did call me after the thing had happened, and was again surprised how well I took everything, and he said that this makes him trust me more as well.

So, phew, this is my situation now. I was feeling pretty good about this whole him having sex with her thing until about a few hours ago, and now I'm feeling very confused, overwhelmed, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, quite okay, tired, resentful, happy, coerced, and a myriad of other things in waves, and unsure what to make of all of this. At the same time I'm feeling hopeful that maybe we're finally on the right path of creating an ethical non-monogamous structure, and at the same time I'm terrified of all the things that could go wrong based on all the things that have gone wrong in our past. I'm also troubled with ideas such as Am I being controlling? Am I being too needy for needing reassurance from my boyfriend? Am I being unreasonable for not feeling completely okay with this and having conflicted feelings? Am I failing at my non-monogamy? Am I failing myself? Am I not being good with boundaries? Am I being codependent? Am I doomed to not form a proper ethical relationship from this? Am I a fool to want to trust him after all of that's happened? Am I approaching the whole non-monogamy thing wrong?

So, hello, this is my first post here, and it looks like it turned into a novella! Writing all this out is already giving me some new perspective into it. I'm also hoping to gain insight by reading other people's experiences on the forums, and maybe get a clearer picture of what I actually want, and to maybe restore my faith a little in that ENM does exist and that people can in fact make it work, so, I'm looking forward to that, and glad to have found this site and to be here! :)
Very nice and I am interested in your crazyness and desires and I read your consent over and over again.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you struggle. I don't know if this helps you any. This is how it sounds to me -- an internet stranger.

When we started dating we discussed different relationship models and ways of living, and I told him that if he wanted other relationships or connections or encounters with other people, I'd be supportive of that, and only asked that he'd be honest and open about if he felt like he wanted to pursue that.

Ok, so you were honest and up front with him from the beginning.

A year into our relationship I found out that he had had multiple sexual relations, many fluid-bonded, and two slightly longer ongoing relationships without me knowing anything about them during the previous six months, and all of those women thinking I knew about them and was okay with the relations.

First time? Could be a mistake, and could be him fearing you wouldn't be as ok as you said you would be.

I don't get the not using condoms though. Either with the other people or with you. That sounds irresponsible.

Nevertheless we decided to work through the issues to try to re-establish trust, and talked more clearly about boundaries and expectations, and agreed more solidly on how we wanted to conduct our relationship: honest open communication, relations and relationships with other people are welcome as long as everyone is kept informed and things are done in an ethical consensual way.

You make new agreements.

Fast-forward half a year: I find out he's again, (still?) having sexual relations without telling me about them.

Then he breaks agreements a second time. What's the excuse now? Because ENM isn't magic. People can still cheat on their agreements.

We go through the discussions about honesty and respect and consent again, and he swears I'm the most important person in his life and that he wants to try to fix things. So that is what we try, only to have the same things happen again in six months. At that point I was pretty much a wreck and a mess.

New "I'm sorry's" and "try agains."

And here comes the THIRD time breaking agreements. Like why bother making them? Or is the thrill of cheating/getting caught the thing for him?

I think this is treating you poorly. Because not everyone would be up for ENM, and here you are willing so long as he is straight up with you about it. Seems like a reasonable enough request.

But if the "sneaking" part is the thrill for him, then I doubt he'd be up front with you.

My need for security and need to trust him was colliding with his dire need to explore and be free after being cooped up for a year and we got into a few heated arguments about it, and about other people, where quite unconstructively I'd be very suspicious of him, needing more information and confirmation, and him feeling I wasn't accepting him for who he was and trying to keep him from other people

I think that's understandable -- you feeling nervous. Because so far his track record has shown that "who he is" is someone who doesn't keep his word. Someone who makes agreements he doesn't actually keep.

My boyfriend again feels like I've had the whole year of 2020 to deal with these issues, and he's tired of cancelling things because of me. I was confused about why he can't meet her without having sex with her, as he's said many times that sex isn't that important to him, but he insists that if he were to meet her without sex, he'd be letting her down and she wouldn't want anything to do with him.

But him letting you down is ok to do? Is that you treating you well?

In the end he decides to cancel the whole meeting and reschedules to a couple weeks from now.

This morning I find out he's actually scheduled a lunch date for today with the woman to have sex with her, and told her that I'm now okay with them having sex.

So he told you one thing, and you discovered he was actually gonna do another thing. And he lied to the lady to boot. Again.

To me he said yesterday that his today's afternoon meeting got pulled a couple hours earlier. I confront him on this, and at first he tries to wriggle out, making excuses, but then comes clean saying that he couldn't bear the thought of not having sex with her, and had to reschedule to today right after he cancelled yesterday's date.

Basically you caught it BEFORE he cheated again, which is better than finding out after. So initially you felt better.

Then after a while to sink in? Maybe you realized that his plan wasn't to keep his agreements with you about being up front and honest. His plan was to arrange something behind your back and cheat again. You stumbled up on it, and had to fish details all out of him. He was not up front.

So of course this triggers you and you get upset because of his past record.

So, phew, this is my situation now. I was feeling pretty good about this whole him having sex with her thing until about a few hours ago, and now I'm feeling very confused, overwhelmed, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, quite okay, tired, resentful, happy, coerced, and a myriad of other things in waves, and unsure what to make of all of this.

I could be wrong in my impression.

To me it sounds like you were relived to know it you weren't going to be cheated on again. You knew ahead of time.

But still bummed out that it's the "same old song" here with him. Had you not discovered it? It WOULD have been cheating. Not much changed here. Not really.

It also sounds like you have done a lot of "processing" with him and talking to no avail. Maybe it's time to STOP talking? And just start DECIDING some things?

At the same time I'm feeling hopeful that maybe we're finally on the right path of creating an ethical non-monogamous structure, and at the same time I'm terrified of all the things that could go wrong based on all the things that have gone wrong in our past.

What is the hope based on? Cuz the worries are based on actual past experience.

I'm also troubled with ideas such as Am I being controlling? Am I being too needy for needing reassurance from my boyfriend? Am I being unreasonable for not feeling completely okay with this and having conflicted feelings?

You are not unreasonable to feel upset and tired of the shenanigans from a chronic cheater. I would not call his approach ethical non-monogamy.

Am I failing at my non-monogamy? Am I failing myself? Am I not being good with boundaries?

You don't seem to have any hard limits or dealbreakers. You keep taking him back. You will get upset and do all this talking but in the end? You keep on staying even if he behaves poorly.

So why would he have to change anything about his way of going? It works for him how it is. He sings you the song and dance as needed, and then carries on in his unethical way. You keep sticking around anyway.

If you want ENM? Him lying to you and his potentials is NOT ethical.

So it's on you to decide if this partner meets your ENM personal standards or not.

Am I being codependent? Am I doomed to not form a proper ethical relationship from this? Am I a fool to want to trust him after all of that's happened? Am I approaching the whole non-monogamy thing wrong?

Look, if you are gonna stick with him? I think you could accept he's something of a flake with his word. Stop trying to have so many agreements. He won't keep them. Could pare it back to basics -- "If you share sex with ME? You have to use condoms." You are free to see others -- could stop expecting him to be more than what he is.

I guess you could try again to make better agreements that try to address both your needs but are actually keepable to him. Really think that out. Then see if he ACTUALLY follows through this time on being a person of his word.

But if it is the same old song? More broken agreements? And you don't want to deal with this merry-go-round, and want a different kind of ENM partner? One who CAN keep agreements with you and build trust? Dump him. Move on to seek others who wants to practice ENM in the same way you do. Someone with a code, some ethics, a person of their Word.

Play like Jedi, not like Muppet Show. Cuz the Muppet show can be fun to watch, and some of them are cute, but who wants to be LIVING in muppet backstage chaos all the time?

I think you are discovering that you may be incompatible. You want a component of honesty in your ENM. He doesn't much seem to care about honesty.

You could talk to your counselor about why you keep taking him back so many times. Discuss setting better personal boundaries and having CONSEQUENCES when people step on your toes.

I believe in second chances, but not a zillion of them. For me? 3 strikes you are out. Maybe 4 if I see progress and someone is really trying.

You can't be giving him 50, 100, 1000 second chances like you are a doormat. That is not self respecting behavior.

At some point you have to say "Ok. This is who he is. This is the kind of behavior I can expect from him. Is this acceptable to me? Do his personal ethics align with mine? Does this make the cut for what I want in an ENM dating partner? Or not? "

Galagirl
 
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SEASONEDpolyAgain

Active member
When we started dating we discussed different relationship models and ways of living, and I told him that if he wanted other relationships or connections or encounters with other people, I'd be supportive of that, and only asked that he'd be honest and open about if he felt like he wanted to pursue that. He was enthusiastic, as that was something he'd felt he'd have wanted to do within his marriage, but hadn't felt that he could express those feelings and desires to his wife.

See this to me doesnt outline exactly what you want to know and when.


I think he was quite surprised about my reaction, and said he hadn't really believed that I'd be okay and accepting with him wanting to have the sexual relations with all those people and him being polyamorous, and hadn't dared to tell me because of that.

It sounds to me like he thought you were doing the monogamish DADT many couples do and you thought he was well versed in polyamory.
I find out he's again, (still?) having sexual relations without telling me about them. Mostly new people but one of them was one of the relationships he'd had previously that he'd said he'd ended. We go through the discussions about honesty and respect and consent again, and he swears I'm the most important person in his life and that he wants to try to fix things. So that is what we try, only to have the same things happen again in six months. At that point I was pretty much a wreck and a mess.

Did you ever consider that the level of transparency you want just doesn't work for him?
for some reason he just doesn't want to have sex with me

When a sexual person says this, it usually means the magic has been absent a while.
He was under the impression that I knew that he was going to have sex with her, and had already talked protection and STD stuff with her and let her know that I'm okay with them having sex.

Well yes, they are 2 adults dating.


Look, I think you have quite set ideas on what polyamory should be like (for everyone) and that's been your side of the communication errors here.

He has been weak and cowardly, BUT that could be because you seem to think there is a right way of doing this and he has been doing it wrong.
 

politeme

Member
I am sorry you struggle. I don't know if this helps you any. This is how it sounds to me -- an internet stranger.



Ok, so you were honest and up front with him from the beginning.



First time? Could be a mistake, and could be him fearing you wouldn't be as ok as you said you would be.

I don't get the not using condoms though. Either with the other people or with you. That sounds irresponsible.



You make new agreements.



Then he breaks agreements a second time. What's the excuse now? Because ENM isn't magic. People can still cheat on their agreements.



New "I'm sorry's" and "try agains."

And here comes the THIRD time breaking agreements. Like why bother making them? Or is the thrill of cheating/getting caught the thing for him?

I think this is treating you poorly. Because not everyone would be up for ENM, and here you are willing so long as he is straight up with you about it. Seems like a reasonable enough request.

But if the "sneaking" part is the thrill for him, then I doubt he'd be up front with you.



I think that's understandable -- you feeling nervous. Because so far his track record has shown that "who he is" is someone who doesn't keep his word. Someone who makes agreements he doesn't actually keep.



But him letting you down is ok to do? Is that you treating you well?



So he told you one thing, and you discovered he was actually gonna do another thing. And he lied to the lady to boot. Again.



Basically you caught it BEFORE he cheated again, which is better than finding out after. So initially you felt better.

Then after a while to sink in? Maybe you realized that his plan wasn't to keep his agreements with you about being up front and honest. His plan was to arrange something behind your back and cheat again. You stumbled up on it, and had to fish details all out of him. He was not up front.

So of course this triggers you and you get upset because of his past record.



I could be wrong in my impression.

To me it sounds like you were relived to know it you weren't going to be cheated on again. You knew ahead of time.

But still bummed out that it's the "same old song" here with him. Had you not discovered it? It WOULD have been cheating. Not much changed here. Not really.

It also sounds like you have done a lot of "processing" with him and talking to no avail. Maybe it's time to STOP talking? And just start DECIDING some things?



What is the hope based on? Cuz the worries are based on actual past experience.



You are not unreasonable to feel upset and tired of the shenanigans from a chronic cheater. I would not call his approach ethical non-monogamy.



You don't seem to have any hard limits or dealbreakers. You keep taking him back. You will get upset and do all this talking but in the end? You keep on staying even if he behaves poorly.

So why would he have to change anything about his way of going? It works for him how it is. He sings you the song and dance as needed, and then carries on in his unethical way. You keep sticking around anyway.

If you want ENM? Him lying to you and his potentials is NOT ethical.

So it's on you to decide if this partner meets your ENM personal standards or not.



Look, if you are gonna stick with him? I think you could accept he's something of a flake with his word. Stop trying to have so many agreements. He won't keep them. Could pare it back to basics -- "If you share sex with ME? You have to use condoms." You are free to see others -- could stop expecting him to be more than what he is.

I guess you could try again to make better agreements that try to address both your needs but are actually keepable to him. Really think that out. Then see if he ACTUALLY follows through this time on being a person of his word.

But if it is the same old song? More broken agreements? And you don't want to deal with this merry-go-round, and want a different kind of ENM partner? One who CAN keep agreements with you and build trust? Dump him. Move on to seek others who wants to practice ENM in the same way you do. Someone with a code, some ethics, a person of their Word.

Play like Jedi, not like Muppet Show. Cuz the Muppet show can be fun to watch, and some of them are cute, but who wants to be LIVING in muppet backstage chaos all the time?

I think you are discovering that you may be incompatible. You want a component of honesty in your ENM. He doesn't much seem to care about honesty.

You could talk to your counselor about why you keep taking him back so many times. Discuss setting better personal boundaries and having CONSEQUENCES when people step on your toes.

I believe in second chances, but not a zillion of them. For me? 3 strikes you are out. Maybe 4 if I see progress and someone is really trying.

You can't be giving him 50, 100, 1000 second chances like you are a doormat. That is not self respecting behavior.

At some point you have to say "Ok. This is who he is. This is the kind of behavior I can expect from him. Is this acceptable to me? Do his personal ethics align with mine? Does this make the cut for what I want in an ENM dating partner? Or not? "

Galagirl
I think it is very difficult to have conversation because of your personal thinking and mindset behavior.
 

Token2

Member
Run don't walk
 

Janro

New member
oof, you are a saint (or maybe a glutton for punishment is a better choice of words?) for staying with this liar for this long. Honestly, I think he's shown you over and over again that once he reaches a point where he's confident you won't be ok with his choices, rather than set his own boundaries and say "I'm going to do this because I'm making a choice for myself" and then let you decide how you want to move forward with that info, he will instead hide it from you. He's STILL showing you that he is that person and the only reason you found out ahead of time this time is that you managed to catch him right before he cheated instead of after. I don't really see how you think he's grown during this time, because all I'm hearing is how he hasn't grown.
Glutton for punishment might actually be on the right track in a way. After my initial post I came to the realization that most of my connection with my boyfriend, and apparently his connection with me when I talked about this with him, comes from the emotional intensity of him acting up, me confronting him, and then us sorting through it and feeling relieved and connected. Then the connection starts waning as we don't really have a proper model of maintaining our connection in other ways, and in we go again to the pattern we've slipped into so many times before so it feels familiar, and thus probably safe in some twisted way despite everything. After the realization about this, I quite explicitly told him that this is not the way I want to keep creating a connection between us, as it's not a healthy and sustainable way to do it, and it is causing harm to both of us, and also any people we introduce into our lives. He agreed and seemed quite as taken aback from the realization as I was, and analyzed that maybe subconsciously for him getting to sort out the messes, the high and low emotional spikes of it all, the thrill of keeping secrets, and the huge sensation of terror and then the relief after being found out and reconnecting, is very addicting.

I also hear your point about him not changing his ways despite so many times agreeing to doing better, and not showing any growth, and I think I do need to take a harder look on how I am viewing this as well. To me it has looked like he's grown, as he has learned to communicate better, he's engaged in self awareness work and usually catches himself when he's about to slip into some other harmful habits. We've participated in programs for healing from infidelity and re-establishing emotional closeness, and to me it does look that he has genuinely and willingly tried, and has wanted to do things the right way. Yet as you pointed out the lying and cheating does keep happening again and again, and maybe I just keep finding excuses and reasons why it'll be different next time, when so far it never has been. So, thank you. I will need to observe myself in regards to this and whether I'm just refusing to take into account the facts.



What is the hope based on? Cuz the worries are based on actual past experience.
This is a good question, and not one I actually have another answer than gut feeling for now. Which in light of past experiences has been my reason for hope before as well, and that hasn't worked out. After my initial post we've discussed with my boyfriend about the things I mentioned in my reply to breathemusic as well as what would be the concrete actions that would be needed, as like you said, we've been discussing and discussing and processing things for three years, and while some actions regarding self awareness and personal growth have happened, other concrete actions or decisions have been quite absent.

Look, if you are gonna stick with him? I think you could accept he's something of a flake with his word. Stop trying to have so many agreements. He won't keep them. Could pare it back to basics -- "If you share sex with ME? You have to use condoms." You are free to see others -- could stop expecting him to be more than what he is.

I guess you could try again to make better agreements that try to address both your needs but are actually keepable to him. Really think that out. Then see if he ACTUALLY follows through this time on being a person of his word.

But if it is the same old song? More broken agreements? And you don't want to deal with this merry-go-round, and want a different kind of ENM partner? One who CAN keep agreements with you and build trust? Dump him. Move on to seek others who wants to practice ENM in the same way you do. Someone with a code, some ethics, a person of their Word.
At some point you have to say "Ok. This is who he is. This is the kind of behavior I can expect from him. Is this acceptable to me? Do his personal ethics align with mine? Does this make the cut for what I want in an ENM dating partner? Or not? "
This is a thought that I've entertained. Like, it shouldn't come as a surprise to me any more that he does this, and like you said, if I decide to stick with him, then most likely I'd need to accept and come to terms that this is what he does, and this is what I'm most likely to get no matter what we agree upon, and I need to decide if it's something I'm willing to live with, or if receiving honesty is something that I absolutely need from this relationship. My boyfriends and I are very compatible in many areas of our lives; I do trust that he loves me and wants good things for me, as I do for him, and I trust him pretty much in all other areas except the issue on hand. We have explored sides of us with each other we haven't really revealed to anyone else before, and found that we want to nurture and support each other despite and due to those inner revelations. We also do give meaning to each other, and have a deep companionship despite all our difficulties surrounding the lying and cheating. Yet that doesn't mean that we should try to force our relationship into a specific mold, and some other kind of a relationship, like e.g. platonic/romantic/non-sexual life partners/friends, might actually suit us better. I'll have to think about this and recognize what I'm really looking for and if I'm trying to get some needs fulfilled with this person when it just might not be possible with him, or if I'm trying to build this into a type of relationship that won't work. Since clearly I find it hard to let go of him totally as I keep putting up with this issue even though it makes me feel miserable when it happens.

Thank you Galagirl for all your insight. You have given me plenty of things to think about and seeds to view the situation from new angles. I truly appreciate it.
 

Janro

New member
See this to me doesnt outline exactly what you want to know and when.
Our first conversations at the beginning of our relationship about these things didn't. Which is why once I first time found out about how he'd not told about the other relations we went into a lot of detail about what we are expecting of ourselves and the other, and how we'd like to conduct these kinds of things, since clearly the first finding out revealed a lot of gaping holes, assumptions, and misunderstandings about how we'd seen things.

Did you ever consider that the level of transparency you want just doesn't work for him?
Yes. Which is why we discussed my expectations, his expectations, what we'd both be willing to commit and agree to, and that the commitment and agreement should be based on what we both want and from internal motivation instead of one person deciding how things should go and the other having to agree even if they really don't. My boyfriend agreed and committed to the level of transparency we agreed upon together. Whether or not my boyfriend has considered if the level of transparency we both agreed to actually really deep-down suits him or not, that I naturally can't say on behalf, I took him for his word when we agreed to it. Yet our agreements have also always been such that if someone feels they are not working, we open up the discussion and re-evaluate.

Well yes, they are 2 adults dating.
The way it was brought up wasn't about dating. It was about them meeting for the first time and him figuring out whether or not he'd like to date her. At the time we had also agreed that should either of us get feelings or desires about other people, we'd let each other know, and we'd discuss it and explore and examine what kind of feelings and thoughts that would wake in either of us, and especially if sex is an option we'd proceed very carefully as it is a sore subject for us. There's also a big difference in wanting to do something and doing it.


Look, I think you have quite set ideas on what polyamory should be like (for everyone) and that's been your side of the communication errors here.

He has been weak and cowardly, BUT that could be because you seem to think there is a right way of doing this and he has been doing it wrong.
Can you elaborate on these? I do have expectations and an idea of what ethical non-monogamy looks like for me, and how I want to practice it. How I want to practice it includes each participant being able to openly and without fear of judgement to bring forth their wants, needs, expectations, doubts, fears and reservations, and each individual respecting others and working together to find sustainable solutions. I fail to see how that would be me having set ideas on how polyamory should be for everyone? From what I've seen and experienced most people seem to agree that open and honest communication and consent are key factors for polyamory and ENM for them, just as well as I've seen and experienced people who expect different things from ENM that in turn work for them. In my relationships I can only ask what I'd like for the other participants to take into account, and explain what kinds of needs and hopes I have. I cannot demand that they be taken into account, I cannot demand that another person acts a certain way or has to do things a certain way. If I feel like I am not getting what I want, need, or bargained for, I can then only decide for myself whether or not I want to continue in the relationship or not. I don't know if what I wrote came off as me dictating how things "should" be run in the relationships I'm in, when that's not the case.

As my boyfriend is an adult and aware and responsible for his own actions, even though some things that he does makes me reactive and some things I do make him reactive, and we have communicated about these issues very clearly with room for both of our opinions and both of us being open to, accepting, and validating the other person's view, I have to disagree with you that his acting out would be due to what you describe.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Yet that doesn't mean that we should try to force our relationship into a specific mold, and some other kind of a relationship, like e.g. platonic/romantic/non-sexual life partners/friends, might actually suit us better. I'll have to think about this and recognize what I'm really looking for and if I'm trying to get some needs fulfilled with this person when it just might not be possible with him, or if I'm trying to build this into a type of relationship that won't work. Since clearly I find it hard to let go of him totally as I keep putting up with this issue even though it makes me feel miserable when it happens.

Then perhaps being friends IS better. Then you don't have to keep stressing about him making ENM dating agreements with you that he cannot actually keep. And you can stop going into this miserable place over it.

If you stop dating him entirely or change to platonic/romantic/non-sexual life partners/friends, then these agreements around sex share and consent do not apply any more.

Then you can enjoy each other's company without all these hassles.

Just because people two people are up for ENM, or open, or poly... doesn't mean they are automatically compatible in how they practice it.

Yes. Which is why we discussed my expectations, his expectations, what we'd both be willing to commit and agree to, and that the commitment and agreement should be based on what we both want and from internal motivation instead of one person deciding how things should go and the other having to agree even if they really don't. My boyfriend agreed and committed to the level of transparency we agreed upon together. Whether or not my boyfriend has considered if the level of transparency we both agreed to actually really deep-down suits him or not, that I naturally can't say on behalf, I took him for his word when we agreed to it. Yet our agreements have also always been such that if someone feels they are not working, we open up the discussion and re-evaluate.

Fair enough. You cannot be a mind reader. You have to go with what people say.

When he makes agreements, presumably he HAS considered and knows himself and what he can and cannot deliver.

Like... he could have just said "No, I don't agree." from the beginning.

He could have offered a different agreement like... "No, not that agreement. I can't tell you before I share sex with someone. I like spontaneity and want to take other connections as they come. Instead, I can promise to use condoms with you. I can promise to get regular labs. Before you and I share sex? I can promise to tell you if there's been new people since the LAST time you and I shared sex so you can give informed consent." And you decide if that is acceptable to you or not.

He still gets to be spontaneous with other people. You still get to know if there's been new partners before you share sex with him again so you can make decisions about your sex health and give informed consent.

Or if he THOUGHT he could keep agreements and then when "out in the field" he discovered it was too hard? He could have exercised self control long enough to tell you "Look, I can't keep this agreement like I thought. We have to renegotiate."

Does he have impulse control struggles? Maybe that plays into it some?

But if the excitement for him is the drama up and downy? Good that you recognize this "up and down" thing is becoming a habit, and it is not healthy or sustainable for you.

After the realization about this, I quite explicitly told him that this is not the way I want to keep creating a connection between us, as it's not a healthy and sustainable way to do it, and it is causing harm to both of us, and also any people we introduce into our lives. He agreed and seemed quite as taken aback from the realization as I was, and analyzed that maybe subconsciously for him getting to sort out the messes, the high and low emotional spikes of it all, the thrill of keeping secrets, and the huge sensation of terror and then the relief after being found out and reconnecting, is very addicting.

There are other, healthier ways to get a rush. Roller coasters, rock climbing, zip lines, BDSM, learning to fly a helicopter or ride a horse... things that are exciting, but either don't need other people's consent or are consensual and aren't hurting people.

Thank you Galagirl for all your insight. You have given me plenty of things to think about and seeds to view the situation from new angles. I truly appreciate it.

Glad it helped you some. I hope you are able to figure some stuff out.

Galagirl
 
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Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Your bf seems to have a kink. He has quite clearly told you. You should believe him.

He ... analyzed [himself:] that maybe subconsciously for him, getting to sort out the messes, the high and low emotional spikes of it all, the thrill of keeping secrets, the huge sensation of terror, and then the relief after being found out and reconnecting, is very addicting.

There is an adrenalin rush for him. I think some people (maybe men especially) had to masturbate or maybe have sex on the downlow as teens, with the risk of being found out by dominating authority figures, especially by Mom. Then they get found out, scolded, feel guilty, are told not to do it again, apologize, decide to be "good..." and then repeat the pattern.

Lots of teens do stuff that is against the rules, smoke cigarettes or weed, drink alcohol, for example, and part of the fun is doing something they shouldn't be doing, or is actually illegal.

I was recently approached by a guy on FetLife whose profile indicated he had a fetish for doing risky things, such as having sex in public, or without a condom. The fear of being found out, or of getting someone pregnant was what he wanted! I turned him down, of course. I can enjoy sex without needing some kind of weird guilt/shame trip to add spice.
 

SEASONEDpolyAgain

Active member
and had a lot of meaningful conversations about who we were and what we wanted from life and our relationships.

This was my first red flag. I've said on this site numerous times that I've been the one who was actually having meaningful conversations with myself, while the other person was kind of lambasted into agreement. I've said it to other people here, too, because I can see the potential for it in others. It's a mix of personality type and strong belief in particular principles.


I confronted him

See this is what I was going to pick up on. Originally, there just seemed to be an agreement that he can see other people. You found out he was seeing other people, and you "confronted him". I'm sure that you wasn't aggressive or anything but it does denote that you feel he had already betrayed you by "doing it wrong". When in fact I don't think you had discussed nearly enough "poly philosophy" to understand if you are on the same wavelength about how you want to do things.

You see, not everyone is comfortable outside something close to a Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And that's ok. It's still poly. Maybe his upbringing makes it too difficult and weird to be all chatty chatty like we are.


relations and relationships with other people are welcome as long as everyone is kept informed and things are done in an ethical consensual way

This is another way you give away your poly philosophy. Without going too deep, some poly people think that your language here of "are welcome" depicts a certain ownership over each other. Others look at it as if you are two individuals with your own autonomy and free to use it as you wish.

If he is new to poly but in the latter group (without knowing it), the words you were saying may sound logical, but also cause discomfort at some level he doesn't have the language or knowledge (yet) to explain. So that makes him more likely to just say "yes" because it is the closest thing he has encountered to how he feels.
We've also talked about this and he said that for some reason he just doesn't want to have sex with me and I haven't pressured him on the matter. Due to it we'd agreed to hold off having sex with other people and sleeping next to other people until we'd resolved some more of our issues.

I said about this earlier. Sex is often a way sexual people say "things aren't right with me and/or us". Limiting him from other people who things could be right with to try and fix something that isn't working won't have the desired effect. I'm sure you'll say that you were having conversations and agreement and I'm sure these exist, but under these conditions, they become about as useful as information extracted via torture.
A couple days before their date he and I discussed how we want to conduct the date and what kind of things I'd need to feel safe about it.

See I know people who would probably feel triggered by a question like "How are WE going to conduct the date YOU'RE going on?". I mean for me, I'd laugh in your face because I'd think you were joking but others would feel like it is the beginning of other toxic poly situations they've been involved in. Toxic because they were so ill suited to a set up with those norms. Sometimes they didn't know there were other "ways" to do it at the time.


He was under the impression that I knew that he was going to have sex with her,

It was about them meeting for the first time and him figuring out whether or not he'd like to date her.

See for a lot of people, they don't agree to "date" someone until they have figured out compatibility in many areas. For most of my poly network, a date means "50% chance there will be sex" just because we tend to date in a way where we talk a lot first which makes a first date more like a move into meatspace than a real first meeting.

It isn't that what you want is unusual but maybe he is the unusual one. There are other ways to do this that might be more suited to him but might mean he is not a good match for you.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello Janro,

I think that you are on the right path of creating an ethical nonmonogamous structure; however, I do not think that your boyfriend is on the same path. In poly, there must be consent, and in order for there to be consent, there must be knowledge. You cannot consent to your boyfriend's multiple sexual relations and ongoing relationships if you don't know about them. And you can't know about them if he doesn't tell you about them. He is conducting these affairs without your consent. He is cheating on you.

I think you have many torn emotions because on the one hand, you see the value in open/poly, and you want to aspire to that way of living. So when it seems like you are getting closer to that ideal, you feel happy and excited, but then when you sense that your boyfriend is going about it dishonestly and in secret, you feel confused and upset. You don't understand whether you are moving into ENM, or just into a brand of cheating dressed up as ENM (missing the "Ethical" part).

Your boyfriend has admitted that he is addicted to the thrill of sneaking around, getting caught, and cycling around to reconciliation. Three times he led you through this cycle, and the only reason he didn't do so a fourth time is because you caught him in his lies beforehand. I don't know if maybe you are thinking if you get better at catching him ahead of time, he will become conditioned to being more honest in the first place. I guess you could call that a kind of progress, if it works.

I hope you can somehow break out of the cycle.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

Janro

New member
Like... he could have just said "No, I don't agree." from the beginning.

He could have offered a different agreement like... "No, not that agreement. I can't tell you before I share sex with someone. I like spontaneity and want to take other connections as they come. Instead, I can promise to use condoms with you. I can promise to get regular labs. Before you and I share sex? I can promise to tell you if there's been new people since the LAST time you and I shared sex so you can give informed consent." And you decide if that is acceptable to you or not.

He still gets to be spontaneous with other people. You still get to know if there's been new partners before you share sex with him again so you can make decisions about your sex health and give informed consent.

Or if he THOUGHT he could keep agreements and then when "out in the field" he discovered it was too hard? He could have exercised self control long enough to tell you "Look, I can't keep this agreement like I thought. We have to renegotiate."

Does he have impulse control struggles? Maybe that plays into it some?
I think this is partly the reason why I'm having a hard time with this whole thing. What you describe is something I wish we had had. Had he said something like that from the beginning then things would have been much clearer all around, and both of us would have been in a much better position to make decisions and negotiate our needs. I feel like had he framed his side like that then he, too, would have been communicating his boundary and what he's willing to commit to, and own it, and then I could have used my own authority to communicate my own boundaries. For instance had I known he'd had unbarriered sex with other people (he did take regular labs, but still) I would have had a hard boundary in no unbarriered sex between us. Now I didn't know, and I actually feel violated because of that, because I was taken away the choice and power to make informed decisions about my own sexual health. It also feels somewhat like he hasn't really made decisions regarding his relationships (with me or anyone else) but instead it's always the other person who has to make the decisions for him, and for his other relationships. He's asked me many times "Can I go see this and that person" and I always refuse to answer, and ask him not to ask me such things, as it is an unfair question, and he sets me up in a power dynamic I don't want to be in, and it puts the responsibility of his actions on me instead of making and owning his own choices.

He does struggle with impulse control. He's concerned about missing out on things if he doesn't do everything right away, though he's also recognized that many times his eagerness to sample new things and be swept away by them may stem from not wanting to face or get stuck in negative emotions or thoughts, so he distracts himself. He's been trying to learn to be more grounded and savor the moment through self-awareness work, though.

Your bf seems to have a kink. He has quite clearly told you. You should believe him.
I'd be happy to scold him from a more emotionally safe standpoint if he's into that. :sneaky:

What you describe about the dominating authority figures might actually be sort of a relationship pattern or internalized belief he has, now that I think of it. Before our relationship he's only had one relationship and that was in a very traditional monogamous escalator model, marry your teenage sweetheart and so on and so forth, and his wife would be the one to pretty much commandeer how they'd live their conjoined life. Once they divorced and I started dating him and introduced him to the idea of non-monogamy and that you can share your life with multiple people simultaneously, he latched onto that without giving it much thought. His whole life before that someone had pretty much always told him what he should do, how to be, and what kind of an image to project, so maybe he didn't quite know what to do with this new-found freedom and had to unconsciously find ways for someone to do that again.


See this is what I was going to pick up on. Originally, there just seemed to be an agreement that he can see other people. You found out he was seeing other people, and you "confronted him". I'm sure that you wasn't aggressive or anything but it does denote that you feel he had already betrayed you by "doing it wrong". When in fact I don't think you had discussed nearly enough "poly philosophy" to understand if you are on the same wavelength about how you want to do things.

You see, not everyone is comfortable outside something close to a Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And that's ok. It's still poly. Maybe his upbringing makes it too difficult and weird to be all chatty chatty like we are.
As I said in my previous post, yes, in the beginning we hadn't defined nearly clearly enough what each of us meant and wanted and expected, and our assumptions differed from one another, which is why after the first discovery we went into more detail and outlined what our expectations were. Had my boyfriend indicated that DADT was something he'd prefer, as that was also an option we went through, then naturally that would have been a thing we'd discuss to see if and how that could work so we'd both be comfortable to go along with it, same with the amount of detail we did end up agreeing upon. Yet he did not indicate that. He told me very clearly he wants to be transparent, he told me he wants to tell me if he gets feelings for someone or wants to have sex with someone, or e.g. finds someone interesting and would like to explore if it could turn into something. He told me he wants to share these things with me. If that was something he didn't really actually want to do, I still fail to see how that would be me being set on a specific way to do poly "correctly" and thinking other ways would be wrong.

This is another way you give away your poly philosophy. Without going too deep, some poly people think that your language here of "are welcome" depicts a certain ownership over each other. Others look at it as if you are two individuals with your own autonomy and free to use it as you wish.
See I know people who would probably feel triggered by a question like "How are WE going to conduct the date YOU'RE going on?". I mean for me, I'd laugh in your face because I'd think you were joking but others would feel like it is the beginning of other toxic poly situations they've been involved in. Toxic because they were so ill suited to a set up with those norms. Sometimes they didn't know there were other "ways" to do it at the time.
Isn't the most important thing in this, however, the way me and my boyfriend see it and what we mutually agree upon, not how some poly people see a certain term that I use in a post where I try to summarize three years of events? I do agree that the words and language used is important, and terms shouldn't be used ambiguously and left laying on assumptions people may make based on the words used. In these cases "are welcome" and "how are we going to conduct your date" are not the exact wording used between my boyfriend and I, and while I appreciate getting responses with different perspectives, I feel like your comments are picking apart things you assume based on the specific words I've used in this thread instead of asking me what I have meant or my intent behind the words. I'm also not a native English speaker, so it is also possible I use some words without being aware of all the connotations attached to them as words, and especially in regards to polyamory.

I said about this earlier. Sex is often a way sexual people say "things aren't right with me and/or us". Limiting him from other people who things could be right with to try and fix something that isn't working won't have the desired effect. I'm sure you'll say that you were having conversations and agreement and I'm sure these exist, but under these conditions, they become about as useful as information extracted via torture.
To me this reads that you interpret that when I say we talked about this and agreed upon it, it was me who asked him not to have sex with other people and he simply complied to keep the peace. The suggestion came from him. He himself brought up the issue of not having sexual desires towards me and it possibly being due to the difficulties we had, the lack of trust, and the emotional distance that had grown between us due to his secrecy and lies. He said he'd like to feel sexual desire towards me, and offered to put a hold on having sex with other people, which he described as not being very meaningful for him anyway, to build our relationship stronger and safer so that it would be possible in the future to open it up ethically. I agreed to this after confirming with him if this was really something he'd be willing and ready to try.

From what I've understood regarding sexual desire in relationships is that the desire may also diminish even if there isn't anything "wrong" per se, but for example if the people involved get too intertwined instead of remaining separate individuals. I think Esther Perel has advocated for this train of thought quite a lot.
 

Janro

New member
I think you have many torn emotions because on the one hand, you see the value in open/poly, and you want to aspire to that way of living. So when it seems like you are getting closer to that ideal, you feel happy and excited, but then when you sense that your boyfriend is going about it dishonestly and in secret, you feel confused and upset. You don't understand whether you are moving into ENM, or just into a brand of cheating dressed up as ENM (missing the "Ethical" part).
Thank you. I feel you've managed to put into words exactly the contributors to the conflict going on inside me.

Your boyfriend has admitted that he is addicted to the thrill of sneaking around, getting caught, and cycling around to reconciliation. Three times he led you through this cycle, and the only reason he didn't do so a fourth time is because you caught him in his lies beforehand. I don't know if maybe you are thinking if you get better at catching him ahead of time, he will become conditioned to being more honest in the first place. I guess you could call that a kind of progress, if it works.
If nothing else I think I've just become so much more paranoid and hyper vigilant that I get a gut feeling of everything not being quite like it seems more easily than before. Catching him before the would have been fourth time was pretty much by accident. He of course swears again that this time things are different. This time he'll put in effort. This time he's realized things about himself and relationships and what matters in life. I don't know if I believe him. Sure, he seems genuine in his belief that this time things are going to be different. But he's seemed genuine in his belief about it all the other times before and those haven't worked out, so... I don't know. :D

Thank you for your kind words. I too hope I can break out of this cycle.

---


For the past few days I have been doing a lot of soul searching and thinking, trying to dig into what I want, what line I absolutely refuse to cross, why certain things feel bad, what am I afraid of, what internalized beliefs are being poked at, on so on and so forth. I'm feeling pretty exhausted by all this. My emotions still go up and down. I'm still confused. I'm still indecisive. At times I feel like everything's starting to become the way it should be, at times I feel scorned and refuse to accept anything only to round back to trying to pinpoint what caused that emotion and that reaction. Most of all I feel like I didn't get enough time to sort this all out, so now I have deal with everything on the go and I don't know if I can keep up. I'd have liked to ease into this, or at least have a say so about whether or not to jump head first into the deep end. Normally this wouldn't be a problem as I'm quite flexible and resilient, but lately the difficulties in my relationship have taken a toll on my mental resources.

I also met with the woman who my boyfriend's been seeing a couple of times now. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not, or if this was the right time to do it or not, but I felt like it might be a good thing all around. And I think it was. We share similar values and while we are quite different as people we share an acceptance and respect towards one another, which I find is important to me even though most likely I'll hardly ever see her. It makes me less anxious, it makes me feel safer, it makes me feel like all parties have more of an equal footing and say in matters, because to me that is also an important aspect.

I do think the year 2020 has made me somewhat codependent of my boyfriend, as we did pretty much everything together all the time. And now we're not, so that plays into it along with the fears from the past and fear of getting disappointed again if I still choose to trust this time. So now I've also been consciously trying to work on things I notice myself doing in regards to that.
 

SEASONEDpolyAgain

Active member
Isn't the most important thing in this, however, the way me and my boyfriend see it and what we mutually agree upon, not how some poly people see a certain term that I use in a post where I try to summarize three years of events?


I'd say yes. But you obviously do not mutually agree because the fact is that if the terms of the relationship were mutually satisfying, neither of you would be operating outside the expectations of the other.

When someone is new to poly, they often lack the language or knowledge to describe what would work for them. They don't know it exists. For example, plenty of people really struggle with strict hierarchical polyamory and were terrible partners in that structure. They then found that other non monogamous people practice Relationship anarchy or other forms of non monogamy that remove the barriers to them being a decent and compassionate partner.
To me this reads that you interpret that when I say we talked about this and agreed upon it, it was me who asked him not to have sex with other people and he simply complied to keep the peace

I think that many times when a person's words and actions are misaligned, they've felt coerced (reasonably or not) into saying the words.

In my experience, the way to stop them from saying whatever words they want is by giving them space and reliving that pressure
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
He of course swears again that this time things are different. This time he'll put in effort. This time he's realized things about himself and relationships and what matters in life. I don't know if I believe him. Sure, he seems genuine in his belief that this time things are going to be different. But he's seemed genuine in his belief about it all the other times before and those haven't worked out, so... I don't know. :D

What is the NEW agreement going to be? Because you've had 3-4 failed attempts at the old ones.

What you describe is something I wish we had had. Had he said something like that from the beginning then things would have been much clearer all around, and both of us would have been in a much better position to make decisions and negotiate our needs.

Well, you could have it now if you plan to continue with him.

1) He can be spontaneous with other people.
2) You prefer he use condoms with all people, but he HAS to use them with you.
3) He has to get regular labs.
4) Shared responsibility.
  • He will say "Since they last time you and I shared sex there was X other lovers."
  • You will say "Since the last time we shared sex... have there been other lovers?"
  • Then 2 people are looking out for that rather than zero.
I feel like had he framed his side like that then he, too, would have been communicating his boundary and what he's willing to commit to, and own it, and then I could have used my own authority to communicate my own boundaries.

He doesn't have to go first for you to be firm about your own boundaries.

For instance had I known he'd had unbarriered sex with other people (he did take regular labs, but still) I would have had a hard boundary in no unbarriered sex between us.

Did you ask? Was there an agreement around going bare with you, but using condoms with others? Or was this assumed?

Now I didn't know, and I actually feel violated because of that, because I was taken away the choice and power to make informed decisions about my own sexual health.

If there was an actual agreement, and not like people making assumptions and mistakes? But actual agreement that he broke? Then maybe this is a dealbreaker for you. And you stop trying to date him.

What ARE you hard limits or deal breakers in your relationships? Has he crossed the line? When do you stop giving second chances?

It also feels somewhat like he hasn't really made decisions regarding his relationships (with me or anyone else) but instead it's always the other person who has to make the decisions for him, and for his other relationships. He's asked me many times "Can I go see this and that person" and I always refuse to answer, and ask him not to ask me such things, as it is an unfair question, and he sets me up in a power dynamic I don't want to be in, and it puts the responsibility of his actions on me instead of making and owning his own choices.

Well... I guess you get to pick. You either

a) Try to trust. Make new different agreement that are more keepable. He actually follows through on keeping them.

b) Stop trusting. Keep dating, but run his life for him. Take the responsibility and start running his life for him since he can't seem to do it himself so you can date him and feel more comfortable. (<-- I don't love this, but some people do that)

c) Stop trusting his words. Keep dating. Do NOT run his life. Decide he's a good natured flake, and take your OWN precautions around sex. Then expect him to promise all sorts of things but not really follow through. He can be a booty call or FWB, but not a nesting partner. Less drama for you because your expectations match what actually happens. He says lots of stuff, but in actions it is X. But his actions don't affect you as much because he's not a nesting BF any more.

d) Stop trusting his words. Stop dating him. Because you want to date someone who can take personal responsibility for themselves and follows through consistently. And he doesn't make the cut for that.

I can't see other options right now.

I don't know if that's his personality in general, or leftover habit from his marriage because the wife ran things, or he got married to his teen sweetheart too soon and didn't get to figure out who he was first, or what.

I don't think it matters.

If RIGHT NOW he is a partner who does not meet your personal standards for what you want in a relationship? And it's been 3-4 times of big broken agreements?

You have to decide whether or not you want to keep investing here with changes to agreements and/or changes in you running his life for him. Another second chance. Or if you just want to be done. All second chances have been used up.

For sure you can't keep doing the SAME agreements that he keeps failing to keep. Because no matter his renewed good intentions? 3-4 failing? Is 3-4 times failing. If there's no real change, and you stick around? I would guess a 5th failure would happen somewhere in the future. That's been the track record so far.

I encourage you to do your soul searching. FWIW, this stuck out to me before.

Yet that doesn't mean that we should try to force our relationship into a specific mold, and some other kind of a relationship, like e.g. platonic/romantic/non-sexual life partners/friends, might actually suit us better. I'll have to think about this and recognize what I'm really looking for and if I'm trying to get some needs fulfilled with this person when it just might not be possible with him, or if I'm trying to build this into a type of relationship that won't work. Since clearly I find it hard to let go of him totally as I keep putting up with this issue even though it makes me feel miserable when it happens.

If you are putting up with chronic issues even though it makes you feel miserable when it happens because you have a hard time letting go of him?

ARE you trying to make this relationship be something it is not?

What causes you to be THIS latched on to him? You don't think you'd find another partner who is up for ENM? Something else?

Galagirl
 
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Janro

New member
So, during the past three weeks things have sort of both progressed and not progressed. To make it easier to keep track I'll call my boyfriend Chad, and my metamour Mandy.

I have been looking into love languages as well as disentangling and detaching myself from Chad's things that aren't really any of my concern. I've adjusted my expectations towards him, and poked at some of the assumptions I've had without realizing it. I have determined that in actuality I don't have a boundary in that Chad would have to tell me things beforehand. I think due to the trauma caused by Chad's repeated cheating and untrustworthiness, miscommunication and all that jazz I had become hypervigilant and in dire need of some security, stability and control in my relationship with Chad, and my way of wanting to know every single detail and preferably before anything happened was my way of trying to get that security. After working on detaching and taking back my own strength I've been feeling a lot stabler and a lot more like the me I was before all the hurt, which I do find wonderful and want to keep fortifying. The unconstructive patterns I've developed during past threeish years are naturally still very close to the surface and sometimes rear their ugly head, and I expect it to take time for me to truly find myself again as the person I feel I am, and get rid of the trauma-induced behaviours like controlling, self-sabotaging, and plunging myself into the throes of re-reading old messages and getting sucked into the vortex of past hurts.

So, while being mostly okay and feeling like I've come a long way in relatively short while, I still feel a little overwhelmed with Chad's relationship with Mandy. It's been going on for about 5 weeks and they've seen each other a few times. Yet I feel like I'm losing all of Chad's time and energy as he's so head over heels for Mandy, and intellectually I realize it's because she's new and they're in the NRE phase, but it still hurts. It hurts that I feel like have to fight to spend any time with Chad, partly because I foolishly got so used to spending so much time with him during being cooped up almost all of 2020, just the two of us. Lately he's also been away from home quite a lot. He has a camping type hobby that he's been very engaged in with different groups of friends since the end of May, being mostly away ever since, a day or two every now and then home in between. After the closeness of 2020 and this spring, now all of a sudden not being able to spend almost any time with him feels bad. I have told him that I feel loved when he spends thoughtful quality time with me, staying present with me, and by physical touch, and luckily lately he's been a bit better at providing those to me, but I still feel very demoted due to the sudden shift in how time is spent in all these other activities.

I'm also questioning whether I even am poly myself or only wish for myself to be, as I can't seem to handle all the things related to Chad and Mandy's relationship with grace. I feel weak and inferior for not being completely okay with their thing. I do feel joy for him for their relationship most of the time, but then on occasion I get a wave of insecurity and sadness and wish that they'd take things a bit slower to allow me a bit more time to adjust to things and process my inner turmoil without piling new things on top of the ones I'm still working through. And at the same time I know it's not my place to ask them for that, and realize that in a way maybe it wouldn't help anything in any case, as these are things that I personally need to come to terms with. I just don't always know how, and the constant self-reflecting is making me quite exhausted.

Chad and Mandy are supposed to spend a week together in this camping like stuff in the upcoming weeks, and I'm having huge amounts of anxiety about it. I don't even really know why, no matter how hard I try to look inside me. I suppose maybe it's because of my love language of quality time and physical touch, and Chad having been away so much, and him also being completely away the whole week preceding his and Mandy's trip, so it won't be possible for me to connect with Chad prior to their trip, a thing that's been very important to me on other times that they've met. Our anniversary is also during their trip week. I'm supposed to go continue the trip with Chad right after Mandy leaves, and this too feels really wonky to me. I don't want to get constant visual or other sensory reminders of them having spent the week together. I'm very sensitive to smells, so smelling her on him sometimes makes me physically sick. And there aren't that many opportunities to wash in that setting, so I'm fearing it'll be icky. I also don't want to sleep in the same bunk as they do, and I definitely don't want to sleep in the same sheets. I'm even thinking of cancelling my trip with Chad because of how impossible this feels to me, as I don't know if I can handle it, and it makes me really sad as it was a trip I was really looking forward to, as some of my friends are going as well, and if I don't go it's yet another week that I don't get to spend any time with Chad. It's also a bit weird in the sense that first I was under the impression that Mandy and I would be going on the trip during the same week, so we'd both have been there at the same time. And I was completely fine with that and even joyously expecting it! Now, as I don't have any romantic or any other feelings whatsoever for Mandy, I'm confused with myself with why would I be totally okay with her being there while I'm there, and them having sex and sleeping next to each other on a trip where I'm also on, but not okay if that same thing happens during the week before. Chad was of course excited about the idea of both of us being there at the same time, as his ideal is kitchen table poly, but Mandy didn't want that, so Chad rescheduled the trip with her for the earlier week.

I guess I also fear that Chad's assumptions of me (like me not "allowing" him to form connections to other people, and me not managing to be nice with other people due to some past incidents) can't ever change if he doesn't allow me the chance to prove that I'm okay with these things, and him acting on these fears of his, only reinforces them. I fear he's so smitten by how easy it is to be with Mandy (versus all the baggage we have) and how she's accepting of everything (without being all "oh, hey, apparently this thing caused some difficult feelings in me, let me process them", like me) that he decides he doesn't want to be with me any more. I've been trying to observe myself to see if what I'm feeling is jealousy, but I guess mostly I just feel sad and like I'm losing all the little I have left. I have this fear that he isn't in fact polyamorous, and his relationship with Mandy makes him realize that, and again, ends up in me losing him. And despite all the shit that's gone down between us, I don't want to lose him, as I do love him and do get a lot out of our relationship despite the issues we're having.

On the other hand I'm thinking that maybe Chad would actually be better off with Mandy, as things seem to be going smoothly. He wouldn't have to be weighed down by my miseries and insecurities, and he wouldn't feel like he'd have to limit himself because it takes me time to process things. Not that he ever actually limits himself, he's pretty big on the "I do what I want", but he still feels like he'd be giving in to my fears if he did.
 

Janro

New member
Did you ask? Was there an agreement around going bare with you, but using condoms with others? Or was this assumed?

Our original agreement was to discuss and agree upon practices before anything concrete happened, though we probably weren't even nearly clear enough about it with each other. I didn't know Chad was having sex with other people during our relationship, so it never occurred to me to ask. Once I found out, first time, that he'd had sex with multiple people during the preceding six months, then I did ask if he had had unbarriered sex with those people, and he said yes, with two other people he had a sort of relationship going on (who apparently didn't know about each other either). So basically for about those six months I wasn't able to enforce my boundary of no unbarriered sex between us if he has unbarriered sex with others. Then again, our sex life had started to diminish, which he later told me that was because he wanted to save his energy to be able to "perform" for all the other people, and because he felt guilty and weighted down by secrecy and couldn't connect with me due to that. Anyways, after that first discovery we made a clear agreement that unless otherwise specifically agreed upon, a condom was to be used with other people. He also said he'd end all the other relationships and having sex with other people in order to focus on making things better for us and to help both of us heal from the cheating. So after a while we go back to having sex without a condom. On occasion I get a weird feeling I can't explain, and ask him if he's having sex with other people or anything of the sorts, and he says he isn't. And then later I found again that well, actually he *was* having sex with other people the whole time, and again without using a condom with some of them. After this he said that well if he couldn't have other relationships (which was his assumption, and I couldn't convince him otherwise) he wasn't going to have sex with anyone, including me. So we stopped having sex altogether, and he started using porn quite a lot.

Then just a little while before covid hit, we'd started to have sex again on occasion. In early 2020 he confessed to having had sex with a woman I'll call Brenda, on a trip he recently had, and that he'd had sex with her once the previous year as well. He said the experience was a little daunting for him as it felt like Brenda didn't take into account anyone but herself, and he felt pretty bad about having had sex with her, but at least they'd used a condom. Then covid hit and we were locked in for the rest of 2020, and again he said that if he couldn't have sex with other people, he wouldn't have sex with me either. So basically we've already been non-sexual romantic nesting partners for a bit over a year. He kept saying that he wanted to want me but just didn't, and didn't want to talk about the issue more and he's refused to try out couple's counselling or individual counselling for himself, which of course is his choice to make, regardless of how it makes me feel (a bit anxious).

The agreement of assumed condoms with others, unless specifically otherwise discussed, is still in effect, though in a way it's a moot point for me, as the two of us aren't having sex together anyways. Yet when he told me that he's not using a condom with Mandy (while telling me he just had sex again with Brenda (with condom) the other night, and the experience again made him feel terrible, just like a ear and a half ago...), but if there are any others then he'd use a condom with them, made me feel like that agreement was broken, again, as we never really discussed re-evaluating it even though our circumstances changed. This to me strengthens my fear that he's just building up the relationship with Mandy in order to leave me. Or alternatively that it's pointless to make any kinds of agreements with him as he doesn't seem to be able to act according to them anyways.

What causes you to be THIS latched on to him? You don't think you'd find another partner who is up for ENM? Something else?

My friends tell me I should just leave Chad. Mandy tells me I should just leave Chad. Yet I feel there is still a lot of love between us, regardless. Barring the things I've written here, pretty much all other parts of our lives and values are very compatible, and we support each other in many aspects and keep learning to better communicate with each other, and be both feel like we're getting more out of our relationship than what it's taking from us. I do also acknowledge that part of me is just so tired of this constant roller coaster surrounding this one issue, that I don't have much energy to actually leave and so I keep hoping things will get better and trying to work through stuff to make it better at least on my account. Chad and I own a house together and I absolutely love the house and would hate to leave it. I cannot afford to buy him out, though, so most likely breaking up would mean we'd have to sell the house. Trying to find a new place to live, let alone the whole ordeal of moving feels completely overwhelmingly too much for me now. Now, I am not afraid of being alone, and don't think of myself as a person who would stay in a relationship "just to be with someone", as I know I have the means to be fully happy on my own as well. I do think I may be afraid of not being good and desirable enough for anyone to actually want to be with me (Chad included), though. Me being somewhat socially awkward and anxious, the prospect of having to get to know someone new also feels like too much at the moment. So if we were to break up I wouldn't be seeking anyone new for the foreseeable future, or at least until I'd gotten myself back to a healthier mental place where I like to be with myself, and maybe not even then. As an asexual I don't feel sexual attraction to people, which I find makes dating harder as well, as in order to have sex with someone I'd have to know them pretty well. I do enjoy having sex, and sometimes crave for being the target of sexual desire myself. It's just the sexual attraction to other people that I don't have at all.

Chad keeps on insisting that he wants to be with me, wants to make this work, wants to build a life together, wants me as his life long partner, and says that no-one's ever been this much on the same wave-length with him as I am. At the same time he's recently brought up more frequently if it would be easier for me if we weren't nesting partners, though I get the feeling it's not really me he thinks about, just that it'd be easier for him, not having to constantly deal and process and talk and soul-search etc. but when I ask him if that's what he wants he doesn't really know how to answer.

So all in all, we're still together as of now. Of course I'm seeing if there will be any changes due to my own detangling, and him obviously being more transparent and at ease with me. I've browsed the forums and this thread and gotten a lot of things to think about, and I'm very well keeping in mind the past and track record I've had with Chad, as well as the present moment as I'm evaluating where I want to go from here should the changes take a turn I'm not willing to have in my life.
 
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