My old flames make my heart swoon

Zero0nb

New member
Hey, y'all. I'm Kes.

I'm a pansexual polyamorous person. I've been dating my high school sweetheart, Zero, for about ten years now. (For privacy purposes, imma use throwaway names.) About a year into our relationship, I told him I was polyamorous and wanted an open relationship. He didn't take kindly to that. Apparently, all his girlfriends up until that point had either cheated behind his back or asked for an open relationship and left him behind for another person. So when I asked him for an open relationship, the only reason he tried was because I was different from his exes.

At this time, I ran into an old crush from middle school and reconnected with him. Tony was every bit as cool as I remembered him. We were both happy that he was available this time. But this relationship only lasted a few months, as Zero got jealous and started arguments with me, claiming I'd leave him for Tony, even though what I wanted wasn't even a tangible thought at the time. I just wanted to learn what an ENM felt like, rather than just read about it.

I wanted to cherish my own chosen family and share love with people who'd actually appreciate me. I never wanted Zero to think I didn't care about him or was trying to leave him for anyone. So I broke up with Tony and stayed with Zero to repair his trust in me and our relationship, and also remind him I AM polyamorous and want ENM and he needs to seriously consider that if he wants to stay with me.

It's been nine years since that hiccup. I would like to believe that Zero's and my relationship has strengthened. I find myself constantly having to remind myself that he still loves me and cares for me, even though my loneliness has added to my depression.

I've stopped cooking, cleaning, and caring for myself, but he hasn't noticed because he loves to take care of me. I've been blaming it on school as it got worse, because I don't want him to feel bad if what I think is happening is actually happening...

Last time I told him I'd start to get depressed feeling trapped like this, it felt like I was manipulating him rather than warning him. But, at least we talk more openly about polyamory now. At least I get to express my feelings and thoughts with him. I still hold back because I fear my feelings may make him feel unwanted again, but if I find myself thinking too hard I actually speak up about it so as not to worry him.

So, close to our ten year anniversary, Tony comes back into my life. He's had his hardships without me and is possibly traumatized from a past relationship. I still care for him, so when he reached out looking for a friend, I provided. We had ended things very awkwardly and angrily, so talking again was, at first, weird. But I was drawn to his trauma, and I wanted to heal him somehow, so I pried and pried. I ended up discovering he still had feelings for me. It shocked me because I was still attracted to him.

I actually didn't figure out until a couple months later that I still liked him, until Zero mentioned I could have a threesome for my birthday. I don't just sleep around. I like to open up to people I've gotten to know. So when Zero mentioned this, I knew he knew something I didn't quite know yet-- that I was still head over heels for Tony.

Since then, I've confessed to Tony that I have feelings for him, but I also love and care for Zero and am still dating him. I've told Zero about this. We've been talking even more about my polyamory and how to start a non-monogamous relationship, with no current plans to include Tony. Tony has stated that he's learned from the past and wants nothing more than to be in my life, as just a friend with a complicated past.

But things have gotten a little complicated now. Last year, Tony wanted to make a thanksgiving meal for Zero and me, as a thank you for allowing him back into my life. I was so excited, I called my best friend (who's also poly) and talked about my joy in a callous manner. I said things like, "It feels like a dream I've always had," and "I'm so excited, I could have his baby!" (I should note here, I'm afraid of hospitals and birth) His girlfriend told me that I was going to cheat on Zero thinking like that, and I should just end it now since he had me trapped. I didn't like hearing that, so I've gone low contact with them both and started talking to Tony more.

After that, I slipped up. I had to tell Zero that Tony and I sometimes flirt. But it's never "Oh, I'm so bad! I shouldn't~" *wink wink flirt* but rather, "Oh, you want to make an inappropriate joke? I mean, it's not bad, right? ... Oh, yeah. Never..." *blushes* "Never say that again, okay?"

I told him it got bad once, and we haven't flirted since, but I wanted to tell him cuz I thought it was funny how it happened, and couldn't because I knew I cheated somehow. He wasn't mad, but relieved (?). I still don't get it.

Plus, when Zero and I tried shrooms together recently, and I spent half the time crying and apologizing for being polyamorous and in love with "other people," he just patted my head and kissed me and said "It's fine," over and over again, and told me how much he loves me.

Whenever I look at Zero, I see a giant cuddly teddy bear that saved me from my life and allowed me the freedom to breathe and discover myself and my polyamorous dreams. When I think of Tony, I'm so jealous of his nomad style and I want to learn more from him and consume his respect for life. Having these two men in my life as my chosen family would bring me so much peace. Sometimes it feels wrong lying in bed with Zero while thinking about Tony, but it's unintentional.

Even when I'm just doing normal things with Tony, I wish Zero would sit next to him as pals, rather than across the room, as cautious as possible. They both say they're just being respectful of each other, but I'm the only one who wants to be in the same room as the two. I always question them individually if they're pushing themselves, and they say no, but I see these things. It's like they're waiting for the other to ask or say something pertaining to claiming me.

But when Zero winks at me, or when Tony smirks at me, when either one of them call me by my pet name, it sends chills down my spine and spearmint to my chest. It feels like I can't breathe. I love Zero's laugh, and his mane and beard, his hugs. I love Tony's wisdom and peace, his comforting kisses. I love everything about these guys. They make my heart swoon.

I wish I could choose one or the other, if it wouldn't leave me heartbroken.
 
Greetings Kes,
Welcome to our forum. Please feel free to lurk, browse, etc.

It sounds like you are on the threshold of poly, like you know you're poly but at the same time you feel like you're cheating on both Zero and Tony. As for Zero, he seems to be slowly warming up to the idea of poly, and he is becoming more accepting of you having Tony in your life. Still, you are afraid that at any moment, Zero and/or Tony will claim you as their own. I just want to say that you don't have to belong to anyone, you can be your independent self, a gal who happens to be in love with two men. There are movies about this type of situation:
  • "December Bride" (1990).
  • "A Small Circle of Friends" (1980).
  • "Bandits" (2001).
  • "Paint Your Wagon" (1969).
You should know that there's nothing wrong with your feelings, it's just that poly isn't accepted by society at large, so we are taught to believe that monogamy is the only right way to conduct relationships. In reality, humans are wired for nonmonogamy, it is the reason why cheating so often happens in our world. Poly gives us a healthy alternative to cheating, it allows us to be honest and to do everything with mutual consent. I know Zero has had some painful experiences in the past, but this experience doesn't have to be like that. You are poly. Be proud of it.

Sincerely,
Kevin T., "official greeter" :)

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Welcome aboard!
 
It sounds like you are on the threshold of poly, like you know you're poly but at the same time you feel like you're cheating on both Zero and Tony. As for Zero, he seems to be slowly warming up to the idea of poly, and he is becoming more accepting of you having Tony in your life. Still, you are afraid that at any moment, Zero and/or Tony will claim you as their own. I just want to say that you don't have to belong to anyone, you can be your independent self, a gal who happens to be in love with two men.
I know I'm polyamorous. Sometimes I can't express it well because people think I'm whoring when I mention it, and I'm not like that at all. Also, cheating seems like such a pretty bow on my situation. It feels more like I'm leading them both on rather than cheating on one or the other. Tony had once explained that he wouldn't want to date anyone unless it was me, which to me indicates I was the last safe person he was with before we separated. But we can't date because I'm dating and living with Zero. And no matter how many times he says he loves me or how much effort I put in to being as loving as possible, whenever I try to ask Zero how he feels about letting me be open he always says I don't pay attention to him enough and allowing me my freedom makes him feel "unwanted." I've literally reverted back to the honeymoon phase from high school with a mix of depression from college, and he's still saying I'm not doing enough. I'm starting to suspect that this is his way of saying he'll never be okay with my polyamory, and if that's what he's saying then I need to end this relationship because I don't like feeling trapped and stagnant. But it does feel a lot more accepting than the first time I brought it up so I'm not sure anymore...
If anything, I'm afraid that Zero has already claimed me as his property and that I haven't been for myself for some time. Because we've been having this poly talk for more than five years now. We even started watching The Poly Couple on YouTube. I love it but I think he's just watching it to understand rather than laugh, which makes it a bit confusing for him.
 
Perhaps Zero is leading you on...
 
I'm just a stranger on the internet and I don't know you at all, let alone Zero, but:
he always says I don't pay attention to him enough and allowing me my freedom makes him feel "unwanted."
I'm starting to suspect that this is his way of saying he'll never be okay with my polyamory
I think that is a reasonable conclusion.

The problem is, he can "not be ready to 'let' you date" forever and ever and ever, because "receiving attention" and "feeling wanted" are not really quantifiable. So you can give him all the attention you can and conduct ever more elaborate rituals to demonstrate how much you want him, and he can still be like "sorry, just still not quite ready for you to start dating".

It's been half a decade. How much longer would you like to wait before beginning to have polyamorous relationships? Another year? Another ten?
 
allowing me my freedom makes him feel "unwanted."
But owning you as a possession makes him feel “wanted”?

Monogamous or not, he should know that you are a person who cannot be owned. You choose who you want to be with, but apparently, choosing to be with him isn't enough?
 
It's been half a decade. How much longer would you like to wait before beginning to have polyamorous relationships? Another year? Another ten?
In all honesty, I've placed myself in limbo because having this conversation is so tiring.

Zero and I broke up once during the five year mark. I lived with my narcissistic mother and family at the time. It reminded me why I wanted to kill myself and I was on my way out, too, had Zero not said "I want to try again." Since then, I've explained that we are stagnant; even though we both want marriage I refuse to marry unless I can have an open relationship and that I'd wait for as long as it takes for that to make sense to him. And he's allowed me space to talk about my squishes and crushes in any form as long as I don't act on my feelings. It's a... nice compromise. It's kept me quiet this long.

There's also a lot of financial dependency going on, and I still haven't figured out if that was intentional or not, by him. Side note, if anyone can find me a job that isn't fast food, I'd greatly appreciate it hahaha lol
 
Yep, time to build that exit strategy.
 
Yep, time to build that exit strategy.
I have one in mind, but I don't think it's gonna get me anywhere.
Right now, I'm currently in school to get my bachelor's in illustration. With that degree, hopefully I can get a job in a publishing company that I can keep for a long time rather than working retail and service and getting fired every six- seven months. Zero is financially supporting me through school, though. So I've started crocheting a lot and plan on selling stuff to pay him back for all the things he's bought me over the years. And then, when I've saved up enough money to rent a room for about a year, I'll leave.

The problem is trying to go about this quietly. I spent many days before executing this plan arguing with Zero that I needed some kind of independence cuz I can't keep relying on him like I feel I'm forced to do. He used warm words explaining that we're a team and anything I go through he does too because he loves me and wants me to be happy. I truly tried to explain my loneliness and guilt whenever I meet someone new ... Not only do I believe he refuses to get it, but I think he still thinks he's not good enough for me and is acting as if I may leave him for someone else. I don't want to add to his trauma, so I'm kind of stuck here? If I leave him with absolutely nothing to catch myself, it does look like I left for another guy rather than my own freedom. But staying too long would make him believe I'm okay with this circumstance. So I talk a lot about how exhausting it must be to pretend the inevitable won't happen. Yeah, it's toxic. But isn't this relationship already toxic? The codependency is scary to me and every time I try to talk about it, it feels like it's being pushed away and dismissed. So now we're at a slow burn...

I don't want to leave. I love Zero very much. But I'm the only one who finds this painful and annoying. And even with my gentle reminders "Hey, I'm still poly and want to participate in that!" I feel like I'm just a noisy mosquito. Sorry if this is a lot... I came to this site to vent and make sense of this hahaha
 
You're in the right place, vent away. I feel for you, I hate that you can't leave sooner, but I'm glad you have a plan.
 
I have one in mind, but I don't think it's gonna get me anywhere.
Right now, I'm currently in school to get my bachelor's in illustration. With that degree, hopefully I can get a job in a publishing company that I can keep for a long time rather than working retail and service and getting fired every six- seven months. Zero is financially supporting me through school, though. So I've started crocheting a lot and plan on selling stuff to pay him back for all the things he's bought me over the years. And then, when I've saved up enough money to rent a room for about a year, I'll leave.

The problem is trying to go about this quietly. I spent many days before executing this plan arguing with Zero that I needed some kind of independence cuz I can't keep relying on him like I feel I'm forced to do. He used warm words explaining that we're a team and anything I go through he does too because he loves me and wants me to be happy. I truly tried to explain my loneliness and guilt whenever I meet someone new ... Not only do I believe he refuses to get it, but I think he still thinks he's not good enough for me and is acting as if I may leave him for someone else. I don't want to add to his trauma, so I'm kind of stuck here? If I leave him with absolutely nothing to catch myself, it does look like I left for another guy rather than my own freedom. But staying too long would make him believe I'm okay with this circumstance. So I talk a lot about how exhausting it must be to pretend the inevitable won't happen. Yeah, it's toxic. But isn't this relationship already toxic? The codependency is scary to me and every time I try to talk about it, it feels like it's being pushed away and dismissed. So now we're at a slow burn...

I don't want to leave. I love Zero very much. But I'm the only one who finds this painful and annoying. And even with my gentle reminders "Hey, I'm still poly and want to participate in that!" I feel like I'm just a noisy mosquito. Sorry if this is a lot... I came to this site to vent and make sense of this hahaha
This is absolutely a safe place for you to get this out in the open for some advice or emotional support.

I think it's important that you've continued to remind him that you're poly and I think it may be very important that you tell zero that this is how you're feeling.

A loving relationship is about accepting your partner for who they are and being open and honest with them about your thoughts and feelings, and while I think you've been honest with zero about who you are, you're lying to him about what's causing your melancholy. It's understandable, but it's also only going to cause pain. It's already causing you pain and when you split it will cause him pain.

The only rational way to deal with it is to approach him with the fact that constantly trying to fit into this monogamous relationship with him is making you feel trapped. Come clean about it. Let him know that you're starting to feel this way and that while you love him and want to be with him, the constant "I'm not ready" has you feeling like it's never going to be enough. Tell him that you're starting to feel like you're going to have to leave if he can't accept such a huge part of what makes you who you are. You can't reject a defining characteristic of someone's identity and love them at the same time. That's just loving what they represent. It's not fair to you and it's not fair to him. You BOTH deserve better than that.
 
I'm sorry you struggle. I mean this kindly, okay?

It kind of sounds like maybe you could benefit from living on your own. Zero loves doing stuff for you. But if he's doing SO much stuff for you that you are getting depressed living there all cooped up, a gilded cage is still a cage.

You two do not sound compatible, definitely not for living together, and from the sound of it, probably not for practicing poly together either.

This is not ten days, ten weeks, or even ten months. This is TEN YEARS.

I'm not sure how much more you want to wait on him when you could just make the call now.

"It's been long enough to call it. It's just not a joyful yes to poly from Zero, it's a working no, which means I have to move on."

No matter how many times he says he loves me, or how much effort I put in to being as loving as possible, whenever I try to ask Zero how he feels about letting me be open, he always says I don't pay attention to him enough, and allowing me my freedom makes him feel "unwanted."

Is he seeing a therapist to address that? It's okay to be there for partner in healthy ways, but this sounds very draining. If NOTHING you do helps him, stop doing. At least you'll get to rest more. Encourage him to seek counseling instead. Nothing you do is enough, and he's gonna be in a funk anyway. There's no point in spending your energy trying to fill him up, wearing yourself out, to no avail.

He used warm words, explaining that we're a team, and anything I go through, he does too, because he loves me and wants me to be happy.

Great. Then he will support your wish to move out and be more on your own. And if you two continue dating, it will be from separate flats.

I really think you two need to NOT live together.

I've literally reverted back to the honeymoon phase from high school, with a mix of depression from college, and he's still saying I'm not doing enough. I'm starting to suspect that this is his way of saying he'll never be okay with my polyamory, and if that's what he's saying, then I need to end this relationship, because I don't like feeling trapped and stagnant.

Pretty much. If it benefits him to be "forever working on it" and "forever not ready," because that pretty much creates de-facto monogamy, there's no real impetus for him to ever "arrive," if monogamy with you is what he wanted.

So, I wonder why you don't give yourself the okay to move on to poly without him.

If anything, I'm afraid that Zero has already claimed me as his property and that I haven't been for myself for some time.

All the more reason to think about no longer cohabitating. You are not property, you are a PERSON.

We've been having this poly talk for more than five years now.

How many years do YOU have to clock before YOU are ready to just get on with it?

I understand needing time to do other things, like finish school first. But you could decide that you are done waiting around for Zero to be okay with you being more independent, and that you will be starting to take steps yourself. Start by researching what that would take, without asking him if it's okay to start looking at flats online to get a sense of rentals, and what your budget needs to be, without asking him if it's okay that you are looking for a job to become financially independent. Just do it for yourself.

I talk a lot about how exhausting it must be to pretend the inevitable won't happen. Yeah, it's toxic. But isn't this relationship already toxic? The codependency is scary to me. Every time I try to talk about it, it feels like it's being pushed away and dismissed.

Again, you could stop talking. Move on to taking actions yourself.

It may be that he LIKES being codependent. It sounds like as you have become healthier, you don't like being so codependent. You could look into resources at:


That is an action you could take on your own.

I've started crocheting a lot and plan on selling stuff to pay him back for all the things he's bought me over the years. And then, when I've saved up enough money to rent a room for about a year, I'll leave.

Why? Were the things not freely given? Did they come with "strings attached"? Didn't you do any work in the home while together? Does only "actual cash" count? You don't want to be beholden?

I think you could deal with saving up the room rental first, so you get to move out first. I'm not sure there's anything to pay back, but if you do want to pay him back, it could be after you leave. It doesn't have to be before you leave.

Whenever I look at Zero, I see a giant cuddly teddy bear that saved me from my life and allowed me the freedom to breathe and discover myself and my polyamorous dreams.

Great. You were saved. It's okay to live your life now, right? Or are you waiting around on Zero to say it's okay for you to live your life now, like you think you "owe him forever," or something?

Maybe you want to talk to a counselor about your depression, this codependence that you wish to be free of, and when you're healthier, moving on to practice poly. YMMV, but could start searching at:


You have a lot of layers going on there. Internet people might be able to help with 1 or 2 things, but I think you really could benefit from talking to a professional. Since you are a student, could you go to the student health center and get a referral?

I could be wrong in my impression, but to me, it sounds like you are outgrowing Zero, and you know it, and you know that probably means a break-up. So you are experiencing anticipatory grief and feeling sad about it. Could that be true?

Galagirl
 
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I think you could deal with saving up the room rental first, so you get to move out first. I'm not sure there's anything to pay back, but if you do want to pay him back, it could be after you leave. It doesn't have to be before you leave.
This jumped out at me, too, OP. Is "paying him back" something Zero wants/demands, something you want, or something you think you owe? Because it sounds like another great way to never quite be ready to end the relationship, just like how he's never quite ready to be okay with opening it.
 
This jumped out at me, too, OP. Is "paying him back" something Zero wants/demands, something you want, or something you think you owe? Because it sounds like another great way to never quite be ready to end the relationship, just like how he's never quite ready to be okay with opening it.
I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to leaving long-term relationships, like, when I left my mom, I wasn't allowed to take a lot of clothes, books, or my art supplies, because she bought them and threatened to call the police on me for stealing them. I know she would've, even if it was an empty threat. I don't know if Zero would be like that, but I don't want to find out.

As for the job part, I mentioned that I can't keep one, for some reason. It's easy to apply and find a service retail job, although I only get hired at fast food joints. But after a few months, the burnout gets to me and I have anxiety attacks so bad it leaves me ostracized from the staff or fired. After losing my umpteenth job, I cried to Zero, exclaiming that I can't make a living, and all I want to do is die, but people won't let me. At this point, he's watched me find jobs, lose them, and spend months crying over applications, starting the process all over again.

I guess in his mind he was helping. But I also have anxiety about being too reliant on others, as my mom would nag me to get a job as young as fourteen to help pay bills so we'd have money to buy me clothes. She'd make me feel guilty for not being able to provide for myself, let alone our family.

So... I know how important it is to have money and how expensive everything is nowadays. When I was seventeen, rooms were as low as 500 dollars a week. I don't have that kind of money, never have, with the cell bill and subscriptions I used to pay for. Once I lost my last job, all my finances were passed to Zero, who more than willingly took them on. I feel responsible to pay him back, at least.
 
I'm sorry your mom treated you this way. Parents are supposed to provide for the children they chose to have without being so controlling and mean about their upbringing. No wonder you are worried that the things Zero gives are going to come with "strings" -- your Mom was like that.

It sounds like you have a lot of baggage from your past and also a lot of anxiety. Are you able to see a doctor for the anxiety and maybe see if meds are appropriate in your case? Perhaps get a counseling referral?

In order for you to keep a job long term, I think you have to deal with the anxiety first.
 
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